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House of Commons Hansard #52 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was language.

Topics

Employment Insurance ActRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-509, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act and the Canada Labour Code (extension of benefit period for adoptive parents).

Mr. Speaker, I am introducing this bill today, an act to amend the Employment Insurance Act and the Canada Labour Code, to ensure that an adoptive parent is entitled to the same number of weeks of leave as a biological mother of a newborn child.

Adoptive parents require time to bond with their baby or their child. In cases of adoption of an older infant or a child, it is essential to build that relationship. By providing the extra 15 weeks to an adoptive parent, the bill would allow them the time they need at home with their new child.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Food Products Labelling ActRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-510, An Act respecting the labelling of food products.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Winnipeg for seconding the bill.

I am tabling a bill to improve Canada's food labelling practices that would provide every day Canadians with full disclosure of ingredients in the food items they purchase.

The bill would require the mandatory labelling of the use of hormones, antibiotics and rendered slaughterhouse waste in meat and poultry products, and the use of pesticides or genetically modified organisms in all food products.

When Canadian families put food on their tables, they want to make sure the food is nourishing them and not making them sick. We want mandatory labelling on food products, so we know what is in our food.

Both the current and previous federal governments have refused to improve the laws in order to give full disclosure of food ingredients to Canadians.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 15th, 2008 / 12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I move that the second report of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, presented on Wednesday, December 12, 2007, be concurred in.

I am pleased today to support my colleague by moving adoption of a very important report of the Standing Committee on Official Languages. This report is the result of many meetings with many witnesses over a considerable length of time, which led the committee to make two main recommendations.

Before I read the two recommendations, I would like to mention some of the witnesses who appeared. This is important, because it shows the quality of the work the committee did on the Conservative government's wrong-headed and unjustifiable decision to eliminate the court challenges program.

Gisèle Lalonde, who is known in the area and even across the country, appeared before the committee as an individual. She is the former president of the SOS Montfort movement, and she spoke very eloquently. The committee also heard people from the Quebec English School Boards Association, the Association des parents fransaskois, the Canadian Bar Association, the Centre for Cultural Renewal, the Commission nationale des parents francophones, the Fédération des associations de juristes d’expression française de common law and the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada. We received other representatives of the Montfort hospital and the administrators of the court challenges program: Noël Badiou, Guy Matte and Kathleen Tansey, who was vice-president of the board of directors. Representatives of the Société des Acadiens et Acadiennes du Nouveau-Brunswick and the faculty of the University of Ottawa, as well as jurists and constitutional experts from the University of Moncton and McGill University, also testified before the committee.

Basically, the committee heard everyone who really wanted to be heard. The committee's conclusion is very simple, and it made two recommendations. I will read the first recommendation from this second report of the Standing Committee on Official Languages:

That the government clearly explain to Canadians its reasons for cancelling the court challenges program.

This recommendation is very clear and very simple, and provides the government with an opportunity to explain this decision. It has tried to do that several times. In the beginning, when it announced the abolition of the court challenges program, among others, the government told us there were four categories of abolition. That was the announcement made by the President of the Treasury Board at the time, the member for Ottawa-West—Nepean, and by the Minister of Finance, who were bursting their buttons with pride for having abolished the court challenges program. They classified that decision under the heading of useless expenditures, or even a waste of public funds, a description that was insulting to the public and the people who had benefited from the program.

What was even more insulting that it was an amount of less than $3 million that produced extraordinary results, not only for minority language communities but also for minority communities all over Canada. Moreover, this was only a tenth of what was spent that year on surveys and focus groups. Yet, the government called the court challenges program a waste. That was nonsense.

Later, when we started to ask questions in the House, because we could not accept the decision or the alleged reason for it, the Prime Minister and some other ministers of his government tried another tack. They claimed that the bills they were introducing in this House would respect the Constitution. That is an interesting argument but it is totally false. It is not up to the government to determine the constitutionality of its proposed legislation.

In our legislative structure, two parties determine the manner in which Canadians are governed: the courts and the legislature.

When the government comes before the House and introduces legislation, it is not the government's place to determine whether its bills are constitutional or whether they respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We always hope that the government does its homework and verifies with the appropriate authorities that its legislative proposals would meet the Charter test—to use a legal expression—but it is not up to the government to determine that. It falls first to the legislators, all of us here in this House and in the other place, the upper house, and, finally, the courts.

When the government rises in this House and says the reason it abolished the court challenges program is because it will not introduce any legislation that goes against the Constitution, it is, in the final analysis, ridiculous and unacceptable.

There are other reasons in addition to the fact that it is not up to the government to decide. The objectives of the court challenges program are not limited to bills being introduced by a government. It also applies to all existing legislation. We are talking about laws that have existed for more than 125 years. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been embraced by the country and it has been hailed for 25 years now. The evolution of our legal and legislative system has moved forward because of the decisions of the Parliament of Canada and the judgments of the Supreme Court of Canada. For that reason, it cannot be claimed that, because the government says it will introduce bills that respect the Constitution, we do not need a court challenges program. All the other existing laws are subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is why the court challenges program is still necessary.

That is not all. There is all of the provincial legislation, because the Charter of Rights and Freedoms contains language rights and equality rights that apply not only to federal legislation, but also to provincial legislation. There is the whole body of provincial legislation that comes under this aspect of court challenges. Even if the government were truly careful to introduce only bills that, in its view, were consistent with the Constitution, there remains all the other federal and provincial legislation.

And that is not the worst part. Even the bills that this government has presented after canceling the court challenges program are being challenged under the Constitution by other levels of government. In this category there is legislation that has been presented by the government that would change aspects of the Senate and that is being challenged in the courts by the provinces.

All down the line, the government’s arguments for eliminating the court challenges program do not stand up, whether because of existing federal legislation or because of provincial legislation.

There is yet another factor that I can cite to demonstrate that there is no justification for eliminating this program: the question of decisions. Decisions that are made by governments often deserve to be challenged. I can give several examples, in fact, that involve decisions made by the Government of Canada or the governments of the provinces.

One of the most famous examples, to my mind, is the decision in the case of Arsenault-Cameron v. Prince Edward Island. Prince Edward Island has signed the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and enjoys the language and education rights that result from them. The province, however, for some reason, refused to provide schools for its francophone community. The francophone community won its case by bringing the matter before the courts, with the assistance, although not exclusively, of the court challenges program.

In point of fact, the francophone community of Prince Edward Island now has schools because the courts had to rule and state that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies and its scope has been defined. The government of Prince Edward Island has had to get on board and ensure that the francophone population of the province has access to its own schools.

That is a very famous case. It revolved around the absence of a decision, that is, a government decision not to build. That decision was challenged and ultimately we won the case. We could cite the example of the famous case of Mahe v. Alberta. That is a very important case in the development of the right to manage schools in Canada.

In Mahe v. Alberta, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the rights of parents who belong to an official language minority group to manage minority language educational facilities.

I have another example of a decision we are all familiar with. In this Parliament, I have the privilege of representing the electoral district of Ottawa—Vanier, where the Montfort Hospital is located. In that case, the Government of Ontario, the Mike Harris government, decided to close that hospital, the only francophone teaching hospital , the only one that offered training. It was not the only francophone hospital; there was also the hospital in Hawkesbury, we must not forget. Montfort Hospital, however, was the only teaching hospital. In that case, we were faced with a bad government decision that would have done enormous harm to a community. We won that case as a result of a hard-fought battle in the courts, waged over six or seven years, in which the court challenges program played a role in helping the litigants to make their case. Other decisions also played a part in this outcome.

It is interesting that this decision makes reference to two other decisions by the Supreme Court. One was related to the reference re secession of Quebec, where the novel principles underlying the Constitution, including the protection of minorities, were written down for the first time—I believe. In the decision that saved Montfort Hospital, there was a reference to yet another ruling where the Supreme Court recognized the basic rights of the French language community in Canada.

I have just listed a series of reasons why it is useless for the government to say that it will not introduce unconstitutional bills. But that is not the real issue. The issue is that we need a court challenges program that will help enforce the law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We wondered if it was because of poor administration. The Standing Committee on Official Languages, and also the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, asked if it was because the program had been badly managed or if there had been conflict of interest or perceived conflict of interest. After hearing witnesses and examining the way the court challenges program was managed, we came to the conclusion that such was clearly not the case. All evaluations and audits concluded that the program was well managed, that there was no conflict of interest and that the program had been structured in a way to avoid all risk of conflict of interest.

We must then conclude that the Government of Canada, the Conservative government, decided—in fact for the second time—to abolish the court challenges program for purely ideological motives. That is disturbing. That is why the committee asked the government to give some explanations. We are still waiting for those explanations.

The other recommendation is interesting. It reads like this:

That the Government of Canada re-establish the Court Challenges Program under the terms of the contribution agreement that was in effect before its cancellation was announced on September 25, 2006.

While it is a bit technical, there are reasons for that recommendation. First, it deals with the full program and not just the language aspect. The court challenges program consisted of two elements. About one-third of the money, slightly less than $1 million, was spent on language cases.

The other two-thirds, a little less than $2 million—I believe it came to about $800,000 in one case and $1.6 million in the other—was devoted to equality cases. It is extremely important to take that into account. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary for Official Languages, the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell had tabled a resolution in the House seeking to restore a type of language challenge program. That is troubling because it shows the real reason why the government eliminated this program.

During the first session of this Parliament, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage did almost the same thing as the Standing Committee on Official Languages. The committee met with a number of groups, not only on language issues but on issues of equality rights between men and women and issues of discrimination based on race or sexual orientation. Groups representing persons with hearing impairment and those with disabilities solemnly vouched for the undisputed value of this program. They had some success right after the program was abolished. It must be said that the case was already before the courts. They told us that VIA Rail, an agency of the Government of Canada, was not respecting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because they operated railway cars that people using wheelchairs could not use. That is a very solid case. It is not theoretical; it is real. It is about people’s lives. There are also issues of equality. Other cases that were supported by the court challenges program before the courts involved aboriginal women and pay equity.

We suspected that the reason the Conservatives abolished the program had something to do with same sex marriage. Indeed, the courts had ruled that the current law does not respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That upset the most “conservative” members of the party. We suspect it was the reason behind the abolition of the court challenges program. That was truly heart-breaking because this was an exemplary program, not only at the national level but internationally. Canada had been congratulated by the United Nations and by many countries for its forward-looking constitutional approach in creating a court challenges program that helped citizens to defend their rights in their country’s courts. Why are they so mean-spirited?Why did they abolish the court challenges program? It breaks our hearts.

However, I am pleased to be able to say the Leader of the Official Opposition has made a commitment to restore the court challenges program when we form the next government. We will not only restore the program; we will double the funding.

I hope we can restore the program in such a way that, 30 years from now, if there ever is another Conservative government, they will not be able to abolish it a third time. I also hope we can make it independent because the Canadian Constitution is not carved in stone; it is a document. I believe that the members of the Supreme Court themselves have described it as a “living tree”. If we want to maintain and nourish this living tree, we have to feed it. The food for our Constitution, for our rights, for our way of doing things in this country, came in large measure from the court challenges program.

I find it absolutely shameful that the Conservative government, out of obstinacy,because of a mean and narrow spirit, has decided for a second time to abolish this program. They refuse to explain their reasons because there are none. On behalf of my colleagues in the official opposition, I can promise that we will restore this program and that we will continue to defend the rights of Canadians.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Gatineau is rising on a point of order.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I might seek unanimous consent of the House to table a petition. Could I? It is very succinct.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Does the hon. member for Gatineau have the unanimous consent of the House to present this petition?

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Official LanguagesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am tabling today a petition signed by 367 citizens from Quebec who support Bill C-482, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act (Charter of the French Language) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

These petitioners demand that the federal governement actively respect the Quebec nation and Bill 101.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I did not get the entirety of the comments by the member opposite on this question of the court challenges program but this is a subject that has been covered in considerable depth by numerous committees of the House over the last year, including the committee on which I am a member.

One of the key questions that came out of that discussion was the fact that this was a program that initially was intended to help and support minority language rights in different communities right across the country, but less than 10% of the challenges that were heard under this program in fact had anything to do with minority rights. Minority language rights, if I can clarify, represented less than 10% of the challenges.

What has happened is that this program has blown up into something much bigger and different from what it really was intended.

I wonder if the member would have some comments on how this program lost its legitimacy in respect of minority language rights.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, the program did not lose any of its legitimacy, quite the contrary. In my speech, I indicated that the program had two major thrusts: language, representing about one third of the program's funding envelope, and equality, including equality between men and women and equality before the law.

It is conceivable and it makes perfect sense that most cases fought with help from the court challenges program, as they used to be, fall in the equality category. Minority francophones and anglophones in Quebec have absolutely no objection to that other thrust of the program. On the contrary, they support it. In fact, minority language communities say they would not want to see a program that would be based strictly on language issues.

Even in minority language communities, people assert their equality rights. What the member is suggesting is nonsense. I am convinced that was not the reasoning behind the cancellation of the court challenges program. The decision is more likely to have been prompted by the homophobia of certain members of that caucus, that government.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, first I want to congratulate my colleague from Ottawa—Vanier on his excellent speech and on the work he does to ensure that minorities across this country have their rightful place in our society.

My colleague talked about the court challenges program. Clearly the Conservative government has absolutely no understanding of the needs of minority communities. Sometimes we think that it will finally understand, reason and see the light at the end of the tunnel. But it is not happening. It even seems to be getting worse.

Let us look at the situation. The government cancelled the court challenges program. Those most affected by this decision are francophone communities outside Quebec, francophone minorities. We wanted to believe that maybe it would end there, but it does not. It makes us wonder whether the Conservative government despises francophones.

In fact, we just learned that no mention is made of the national holiday of Quebeckers on June 24 on the Treasury Board and finance department calendars. The government does not even have enough respect to ensure that this holiday appears on its calendars, as well as Acadian Day, August 15, which is even worse. Yet other holidays appear on its calendars. The government does not even respect these communities. It despises them.

In examining the situation, we realize that maybe what we are seeing here is just the Conservative philosophy. Imagine if this government had a majority: a Conservative philosophy that favours eliminating the rights of francophone minority communities, a Conservative philosophy that breeds contempt for francophones.

I wonder if the member for Ottawa—Vanier agrees with that. It is not only one thing, but several things that have been happening one after the other. The Conservatives keep blaming others, but they alone are responsible for the contempt they feel for francophones outside Quebec.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been in this House for 13 years—in fact, I entered into my 14th year yesterday—and I have always been very cautious in my speeches. I will answer the hon. member, but he might not like my answer.

I do not know if that is contempt, but one thing that is certain is that there is a lack of understanding that some might take for contempt. I will leave it at that. The government does not understand the tools official languages minority communities need. I belong to those communities.

I had the honour to be the minister responsible for official languages. I have also been parliamentary secretary to the minister responsible for official languages. I had the chance to see all the issues first hand and to realize the importance of certain tools. One of those tools, which is really indispensable, indisputable and essential to the promotion and the development of the rights of those communities was the court challenges program. However, it has been abolished by the government whose only explanation was that it was a waste of money. That is totally unrealistic. One can only conclude that the government does not understand the situation.

I will give another argument. Once or twice already, three times with today's motion, there were votes in this House where a majority of elected representatives of the Canadian population asked the government to re-establish the court challenges program. But the government simply does not care about the will of the majority of elected representatives of the people. It also shows a lack of respect and a lack of transparency and also disrespect for democracy and for the will of the majority of democratically elected members of Parliament.

One can wonder: is it contempt? I will let others answer that question, but there is certainly a profound lack of understanding and a great insensitivity on the part of the Conservative government towards minority communities.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, some of the comments we have heard from members opposite in regard to contempt were nonsense. This government has pledged and is actively listening to comments from Canadians right across the country on the re-examination or re-entry of an official languages program.

The former premier of New Brunswick is just about ready to report on that, as I understand. This is a commitment to francophone language rights and official languages right across the country.

From the size of the court challenges program, members would have us believe that this was somehow the epitome of equality challenges in Canada. Canadians have many avenues they can explore to bring these kinds of questions, not excluding bringing these issues before their own members of Parliament.

Would the member not suggest that there are in fact many other avenues that Canadians can use to bring these important questions in front of the government?

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, again this shows a lack of understanding of the very essence of the court challenges program. This program was created to ensure equal access to justice because lawsuits are expensive.

The member opposite says that even if the program is cancelled people will still have equal access to justice. That is not the case. Some communities need financial assistance to have access to the courts. That is exactly what the court challenges program did: ensure equal access to justice.

The member opposite talked about the consultations conducted by Mr. Lord. Newspaper reports today indicate that he has tabled his report. Let us hope that the government will make it public because invitations to these consultations were limited. One could not attend unless one was invited. The discussions happened behind closed doors and the topics to be discussed were determined by Mr. Lord.

I was told that the issue of the court challenges program was raised in these meetings with Mr. Lord. Will he have the courage to report what he heard and include comments and recommendations regarding the reinstatement of this program in his report? I hope so, but when we are dealing with consultations that may be bogus—we did not see how it was done because, as opposition members, we were not invited to attend—forgive me for being skeptical—

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate, the honourable Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and for Status of Women has the floor.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.

Beauport—Limoilou Québec

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, our government is playing its role. It is acting as a leader alongside citizens, provinces and territories in order to strengthen our democratic institutions and to promote our collective heritage, including the two official languages of Canada.

Our government recognizes the importance of promoting both official languages and Canada's linguistic duality. Our accomplishments and our commitments in this area which were stated recently in the Speech from the Throne are proof of that. According to the most recent census data, these efforts are giving results. There are now 5.4 million bilingual Canadians. Never has there been so many Canadians reporting their ability to speak English and French.

Let us talk about the commitment of the government regarding the official languages as well as the future of the Action Plan for Official Languages. I would like to focus on the programs implemented by the Department of Canadian Heritage to support official languages and on the contribution of these programs today.

These programs pertain to minority language and second language learning, service agreements with provinces and territories, community living support as well as the development of both official languages.

I would like to go over each of the targeted programs.

Official languages education is one of the pillars of the government's official languages program. The government has ambitious goals: to improve access to education for francophone and anglophone minority youths in all the regions of Canada and to double the number of young Canadians who, at the end of their secondary school education, have sufficient knowledge of their second official language.

The Government of Canada has been providing financial assistance to the provinces and territories for over 35 years now so that they can discharge their minority-language education responsibilities and offer second-language instruction programs. This relationship is governed by a multi-year protocol negotiated between the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, and Canadian Heritage. For the period from 2005-06 to 2008-09 there is federal envelope of over a billion dollars.

Our investments, combined with those of the provinces and territories, have made it possible to introduce education programs tailored to the particular needs of minority communities. The goal of these investments is to keep the highest possible number of students in minority-language instruction systems and to offer Canadians in minority language communities the opportunity to get an education in their language that is as good as the education offered to the majority.

The department has contributed to the development and support of minority-language education programs; the promotion of French first-language education to eligible students; the recruitment, training and professional development of teachers in official-language minority communities; the enrichment of students' cultural life through artistic activities; the delivery of educational services to improve students' first-language skills; and access to post-secondary education through new technology. These investments also helped draw on new communications technologies and improve the way students' skills are evaluated.

In addition, the Department of Canadian Heritage devotes $80 million a year to second language education programs. Thanks to this funding, more than 2.4 million young Canadians can learn their second official language. Everyone agrees that bilingualism is an advantage for individual Canadians and an asset for our country. More than half of the students across the country today are learning French or English as a second language. We need these young bilingual Canadians so that our institutions can continue to provide services in both languages across the country.

In 2006, the Department of Canadian Heritage also signed a higher number of service agreements with the 13 provinces and territories. The provinces and territories are responsible for delivering a number of important public services. These agreements allow for service delivery in certain sectors of interest to official language minority communities, such as early childhood development, health, and social, legal and economic services.

The program's base budget is $13 million per year, or $65 million over five years. In 2003, the budget received a $14.5 million boost over five years. A service agreement for the anglophone minority was signed with the Government of Quebec, which had not been done in years.

Every year, $36 million is spent to help organizations that are dedicated to developing minority language communities.

For more than 30 years, the Department of Canadian Heritage has directly supported official language minority communities all over the country. Furthermore, our investments have helped thousands of anglophones from all regions of Quebec preserve their culture through the services provided by community organizations.

The agreements signed between the representatives of the 13 communities and the Department of Canadian Heritage provide the framework for the department's financial support. The current agreements cover the period ending in 2009. The current budget of the Cooperation with the Community Sector component is $36 million per year, including the money contributed since 2003.

Members of these communities are now able to pass on their culture and their language to future generations. We are also seeing that learning a second official language is becoming more popular among young people, who realize the opportunities that this may afford, in both their personal and professional lives. These initiatives are just some of the accomplishments of our government. The next strategy regarding Canada's official languages will be announced following consultations. It is important to take the time needed to develop an effective plan. That is what any good government would do and that is what we are doing.

Our government also introduced Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal procedure, language of the accused, sentencing and other amendments), which guarantees access to the courts in either official language in criminal cases. That bill was just passed.

Thanks to these initiatives, we are giving Canadians the tools they need to improve their lives in the short and medium term. We are thereby creating a more equitable, open and prosperous society for all Canadians, regardless of their language, religion, cultural origins or any other defining characteristic.

We have to make some choices—sometimes difficult choices—regarding how to best serve our fellow citizens. When our government considers these choices, Canadians can rest assured that our decisions are not taken lightly.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her speech.

She said how important education was at all stages for the advancement and improvement of our youth. However, the education opportunities are not always there for French language minority communities in Canada. It is one thing to make nice speeches on the importance of education, but the reality is that our communities do not always have access to education in their language. Because they are in minority situation, they have to fight to assert their rights and to be able to give their children an education in the language of their choice, which is often French.

I will ask the member to mention just one way, not 25 but just one, that French language communities outside Quebec can have their right to an education and to schools in their language enforced.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect for my colleague opposite, I will not discuss the CCP because it is before the courts. However, I will say this. We allocated an additional $30 million in the 2007 budget and you voted against it. You are telling us that you are defending the official languages?

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Before giving the floor to the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier, I would like to remind the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and for Status of Women to use the third person and not the second.

The hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to the member for Beauport—Limoilou, a parliamentary secretary, provide a lot of figures—hundreds of millions, may even more than one billion dollars.

I have a very simple question. Why then did they eliminate the $2.7 million demanded by everyone for the court challenges program? If they are prepared to spend hundreds of millions, why cut $2.7 million?

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would say to my colleague opposite that we put $30 million in the budget, which they voted against. Official language minorities will remember that.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will ask the same question.

Why eliminate the $2.7 million demanded by everyone if, as the member said, so many millions were handed out?

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would say to my colleague that our record is better than theirs. Ours is several million dollars while theirs is zero.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my hon. colleague concerning the court challenges program.

The member from the Liberal Party asked why we cancelled a program costing $2.7 million annually to run.

I think there is an argument to be made that after almost three decades of jurisprudence in this area the program had helped build a foundation of case law to support not only minority language rights, official language rights, but also other rights as protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Does my colleague agree that this program had been in place for almost three decades, had substantially built this foundation in case law, and therefore was no longer needed as it was back in the 1970s when it was originally introduced?