Mr. Speaker, several of our government members have already had a chance to voice their opposition to Bill C-482. The only possible conclusion is that this is a bill intended to solve a non-existent problem. The 2006 census shows that French is doing well as the language of work in Quebec.
The census has been collecting data on the language of work since 2001, and the 2006 census shows that 99.2% of Quebec francophones use French most often or regularly at work. This figure speaks for itself. It is very hard, therefore, to claim that English poses a serious threat in Quebec and the federal government is responsible. The facts show that this is simply not the case.
Some 94.3% of all Quebec workers use French, with varying frequency. In addition, between 2001 and 2006, the percentage of immigrants who said they use French most often at work, either alone or together with another language, increased from 63% to 65%. There was also an increase in the proportion of anglophones who use French at work most often or regularly. I also want to remind the House that 69% of Quebec anglophones are bilingual now, in comparison with 63% just ten years ago. Under the circumstances, we really do not see the point of Bill C-482.
If we look at the results of the 2006 census on mother tongue and the language spoken at home, it becomes apparent that certain people have a tendency to draw hasty conclusions about major trends in our society, which in themselves do not pose a threat to the French language. It is true that many immigrants speak their language of origin in the home in order to pass it on to their children. Nevertheless, most of these people work in French and frequently use it in public. In addition, their children attend French-language schools and will eventually find it easy to migrate to this language.
Some concerns were raised last December and January about data on how easy it is for unilingual English staff to get hired in Quebec businesses. Everyone who is familiar with the statistics knows that this was not a serious study and it was undertaken mostly just to stir up trouble without really improving our understanding of the linguistic situation.
We also need to know that the situation in Montreal is not evolving in a vacuum. Every day some 270,000 people from the northern and southern suburbs of Montreal, most of them francophones, cross the bridges to go and work on the island. Nine out of ten of them use French at work: 73% most often and another 16% regularly. Under the circumstances, there is no reason to fear the worst, especially as the data show that the use of French in Montreal has remained stable.
In Canada as a whole, because of immigration, we see the same linguistic diversification and reduction in the proportion of people with English as a mother tongue. Given the importance of English in the world, it is hardly surprising that this is a consequence of our very necessary immigration.
The second good reason to oppose this bill is just as important, since is has to do with a truly Canadian value: the equality of status of English and French, and the commitment of the federal government to enhance the vitality of English and French linguistic minority communities in Canada. Our government cannot emphasize enough the principle that both official languages are equal.
With this bill, the Bloc is implying that the federal government is a threat to the French fact in Canada, when nothing could be further from the truth. Yet again, the Bloc proposes a backward-looking vision, where the knowledge of one language is necessarily a threat to another.
Through its official language policies, the government encourages not only francophone minorities, but also all Canadians, to learn French. That is why we now have a record number of Canadians who are able to speak both official languages.
The government supports the French fact throughout Canada and particularly supports francophone minority communities. There are more than one million francophones in our own country. This opens the door to the international Francophonie.
This year, the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City, some important international Francophonie events will be held. Quebec City will host the next Sommet de la Francophonie from October 17 to 19, 2008. It is no coincidence that francophone heads of state and government are turning to Canada to hold their discussions. Canada is a beacon of support for the dissemination and promotion of the French language.
Canada is proud to be a partner in the celebrations, which highlight an important chapter of our history. We want the 400th anniversary of Quebec City to be a celebration all Canadians will remember. It is a great opportunity to celebrate the event, the francophone presence in the Americas, and the vitality of the French fact.
The two official languages of Canada are also languages with high standing internationally, let us not forget. French, which is one of the ten most commonly spoken languages in the world, ranks second for the number of countries where it is spoken, and in influence. Like English, French can be found on every continent, and it has official language status in 29 nations.
The Prime Minister has often said it, and I quote him without hesitation: we share a long-term vision of a Canada where linguistic duality is an asset both for individuals and for institutions across Canada.
The future depends on learning the second language, and even other languages, in a global economy and a spirit of openness to the world. Languages are the key that enables us to understand and appreciate other cultures.
The Canadian language framework that has been developed in recent decades originates in and is based on the principles and provisions found in our Constitution. Canadians today still say that these values are widely shared, and we will make sure that future generations have an opportunity to enjoy the benefits of bilingualism, one of Canada’s fundamental characteristics.
Our language industries are helping to position Canada on the international stage and they will continue to thrive in the years to come thanks to the cutting-edge research that is being done and will continue to energize this entire sector of the economy and thereby Canada as a whole. I would like to take this opportunity to note that Canada continues to be a world leader when it comes to translation and other activities of that nature. We are also a model for many countries in the management of linguistic duality.
In conclusion, we are determined to continue working to help the official language communities flourish, in a spirit of open federalism and in a way that respects the jurisdictions of the provinces and territories. Our approach to developing a new strategy is therefore aided by our continuing dialogue with the provinces and territories, and in particular by the work done by the Ministerial Conference on the Canadian Francophonie.
The provincial and territorial governments are the ones that can take direct action on issues of crucial importance to the vitality of official languages communities throughout Canada, and our government looks forward to working with them to promote Canada’s linguistic duality.
In recent years, the Government of Canada has developed a number of policies on official languages, and our government is working actively on the next phase of the action plan, in order to take into account social and demographic changes in Canada. We want to offer Canadians the support that is best suited to their needs. We want to help them preserve their linguistic and cultural heritage and reap the full benefits of that heritage and pass it on to future generations.
Our government will continue to build on existing accomplishments so that Canadians can benefit from all the advantages our country has to offer because of the unique cultural wealth our two official languages represent in North America.