Evidence of meeting #37 for Official Languages in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was c13.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Michel Bastarache  Legal Counsel, As an Individual
Yves Giroux  Parliamentary Budget Officer, Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer
Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Michelle Legault
Patrick Taillon  Professor and Associate Director of the Centre for Constitutional and Administrative Law Studies, Faculty of Law, Université Laval, As an Individual
Pierre Asselin  President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

12:20 p.m.

Professor and Associate Director of the Centre for Constitutional and Administrative Law Studies, Faculty of Law, Université Laval, As an Individual

Patrick Taillon

We could do better.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

That's why we're working together.

You said that the preamble wasn't strong enough.

Would you say a preamble to a bill has the same force as regulations?

12:20 p.m.

Professor and Associate Director of the Centre for Constitutional and Administrative Law Studies, Faculty of Law, Université Laval, As an Individual

Patrick Taillon

No, we aren't sure of that.

For example, the preamble to the Constitution Act, 1867, which states that we have a constitution based on the same principle as that of the United Kingdom, is a preamble to which the courts have attributed enormous effects and consequences.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

I understand.

12:20 p.m.

Professor and Associate Director of the Centre for Constitutional and Administrative Law Studies, Faculty of Law, Université Laval, As an Individual

Patrick Taillon

The courts disregard the preamble in other cases.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

All right.

You're saying that a preamble isn't the same thing as regulations. They don't have the same force or function in a bill or in its application.

Can we amend regulations quickly without making a new law? Are regulations based on a government's intentions?

12:20 p.m.

Professor and Associate Director of the Centre for Constitutional and Administrative Law Studies, Faculty of Law, Université Laval, As an Individual

Patrick Taillon

Yes, regulations can readily be amended without any contribution from parliamentarians. That's why, when parliamentarians delegate powers to the government, they have to use specific words to frame those provisions. That's why I think this requires a little refinement.

The preamble can be very useful but may also be serve no purpose. It's the court that decides. So it's unpredictable.

October 27th, 2022 / 12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

That's why we want to take the time to draft the act correctly so it can stand the test of time and so other parliamentarians and members of government who follow us will further the three objectives, which are to stop the decline of French, and to protect and promote both official languages. That's why we're emphasizing this.

However, the government party says it intends to draft an acceptable bill and that, if anything requires improving, it can do so by means of regulations. The Conservative Party doesn't agree with that, and you just confirmed that our vision is probably very sensible.

Mr. Asselin, earlier you said that urgent action is required.

The Liberal government has been in power for 2,000 days, if my calculation is correct. What does the word "urgent" mean to you? Does it mean a week, month, six months, a year or 10 years? Can you give me a timeframe?

12:20 p.m.

President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

Pierre Asselin

Yes.

We've been talking about this since 2016, and I absolutely don't want it to take a generation. I frankly think we're getting lost in the details. Perfection is the enemy of the good. It's time to pass the bill. One year is far too long. In 10 years, I hope we'll be on to the next review of this plan, even if it's imperfect.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

All right. I understand you want us to take action, to pass the bill and to make corrections as we go. You're signalling no.

12:20 p.m.

President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

Pierre Asselin

There are significant elements, those stated by the Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta, that we would like to see included in the bill. If the bill contains those elements, it can move matters forward, even if it's imperfect.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal René Arseneault

You have less than 30 seconds left, Mr. Godin.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

All right.

Is it an essential condition that the Treasury Board be the central agency responsible for ensuring that each of the government departments discharges its obligation of result?

12:20 p.m.

President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

Pierre Asselin

That's what will really change matters—

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Is it an essential condition? I'm asking you the question, Mr. Asselin.

12:20 p.m.

President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

Pierre Asselin

No. The condition is really the language clauses issue—

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

All right. So it's the language clauses that are the essential condition, and the agency is less important.

However, are the language clauses your priority?

12:20 p.m.

President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

Pierre Asselin

Absolutely.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal René Arseneault

Thank you, Mr. Godin. Your time is up.

Thank you, Mr. Asselin and Ms. Laurin.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Thank you, Mr. Asselin.

12:20 p.m.

President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

Pierre Asselin

Thank you.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal René Arseneault

You may be able to discuss this further later on.

Mr. Iacono, you have the floor for six minutes.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Angelo Iacono Liberal Alfred-Pellan, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thanks to the witnesses for being here this afternoon.

I'll go to Mr. Taillon first.

The protection of linguistic minorities and the promotion of the French language have always been a priority for our government since our first term. In that spirit, we strongly opposed any cuts to funding for the Université de l'Ontario français, and we're making every effort to support the vitality of the francophones of New Brunswick, Manitoba, Alberta and elsewhere.

In the interview you gave journalist Philippe Murat, you said that Quebec's wish that the Constitution of Canada also provide that Quebec is a nation and that its language is French constitutes no threat to the language rights of the francophone and Acadian communities of Canada or those of the anglophone majority in Quebec.

If New Brunswick, for example, decided tomorrow morning to take the same action as Quebec to establish that its sole official language was English and that no public services could be offered in another language, how would you plan to protect the francophone minority in accordance with the Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

12:25 p.m.

Professor and Associate Director of the Centre for Constitutional and Administrative Law Studies, Faculty of Law, Université Laval, As an Individual

Patrick Taillon

Mr. Chair, I would like to answer the question, but it's based on false assumptions.

The provinces have limited capacity to amend the 1867 act. Quebec has the capacity to define itself but not to amend the rights that are guaranteed to the anglophone minority under section 133 and that are, in a way, intangible. So—

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Angelo Iacono Liberal Alfred-Pellan, QC

I apologize for interrupting, Mr. Taillon, but how do the provinces have that capacity?