Mr. Speaker, for one minute, you did not understand anything. Imagine that for a whole life. Personally I find it harrowing. That is why my struggle for captioning remains so actual and crucial.
As I was saying in LSQ, May is Better Hearing Month. I take this opportunity to remind the House that over three million Canadians live with a hearing problem, 750,000 of them in Quebec alone.
This problem now affects one in ten individuals. Deafness is the handicap that affects the largest number of people and, what is more, it is invisible. We cannot remain unconcerned about that alarming fact.
More than ever we must become aware of this fact and take concrete actions we must not only express pious hopes but take concrete legislative actions.
Need I remind the House that television plays an essential role in the lives of a very large number of deaf and hearing impaired people, and for good reason: because some of them have no other means of communication not everyone can have a computer and access to Internet.
To deny them access to this source of information and entertainment could lead to isolation, not to mention all the various safety aspects.
Since these persons cannot hear the radio, television remains the only media of information in real time for them. Just think about weather warnings or disasters. Without captioning, these people will have no idea about what is going on. To learn about the events through the newspapers the next day would be too late in many instances and that could have serious consequences on their safety.
In Quebec, the deaf or the hearing impaired remember quite well the ice storm because they had no access whatsoever to real time information.
These are but a few examples to illustrate the very complex difference between those who are fortunate enough to hear properly and those who are not. I remain optimistic however and my goal is to obtain 100% captioning for television programs. Overall, I find the report of the Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages to be a good start.
I am very happy to see that the motion on captioning that I tabled in 1999, and which received unanimous consent of the House, is finally echoed within parliamentary committees. The analysis of the Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages and its recommendations for mandatory captioning of all debates in the House are a clear example of that.
However, it is only a start, only one tool among others to truly facilitate the integration of deaf or hearing impaired persons into our society.
I was also pleased to hear the last Speech from the Throne because the federal government promised to increase its support for the CBC/SRC in order to help that corporation better play its role as public broadcaster serving all Canadians.
That is the end of the good news because, despite this fine inclusive speech, I still wonder about the priority given to those three million people with a hearing disability.
I am also concerned about the deaf and hearing impaired francophones who have access to a meagre 38% of the French network's programming of Radio-Canada, while the figure is 90% for the English network. These statistics are disturbing, to say the least.
It is totally inconceivable that, in a country that brags about respecting the two official languages, French closed captioning lags so far behind closed captioned programming provided in English.
I believe there is only one way to solve this sensitive issue of access to communications for those three million people: legislation to require broadcasters to provide closed captioning for their video programming in both official languages and to give the same rights to hearing impaired people. The federal government has full leeway to legislate quickly on this.
I remind the House that I introduced a bill, Bill C-306, which would amend the Broadcasting Act to require every broadcaster to provide closed captioning for its video programming. Unfortunately, my bill is still not on the House's priority list.
Since this is hearing and speech month, I challenge the government to show its true intentions regarding the priority it intends to give to deaf and hearing impaired people. To that end, I offer the government the opportunity to take over my bill so that members of parliament can debate it as quickly as possible.
For those very legitimate reasons, and I am sure members will agree, I ask unanimous consent of the House so that the second report of the Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages be concurred in now. In conclusion, I hope that the federal government will understand that closed captioning allows deaf and hearing impaired people to read what we hear.