That, in the opinion of the House, recognition that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada means, in particular, that Quebec has the right to ensure that immigrants to Quebec must learn French first and foremost.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by noting that I will share my time with my friend and colleague, the member for St. John's East.
Last week’s Supreme Court of Canada ruling on language of instruction in Quebec reopened the debate on how to protect the French language and help it thrive in Canada.
Since the 1960s, there have been several attempts to require immigrants to go to French schools in order to protect the status of French as the common language in Quebec.
Following the resounding failure of freedom of choice under the Union nationale exactly 40 years ago, in 1969, Robert Bourassa's Liberals attempted to resolve the situation with Bill 22 in 1974. Images of children in tears being subjected to language tests to satisfy the law's requirement that children have sufficient knowledge of the English language to go to English school resulted in the law being repealed.
There was a shift from freedom of choice to sufficient knowledge of English, which was eventually dropped by three successive governments. It is worth noting that linguistic and language of instruction in Quebec issues contributed to the downfall of the Union nationale in 1970 and the defeat of Bourassa's government in 1976. Changes were made in 1977, under the Lévesque government, when Dr. Camille Laurin introduced Bill 101, the Charter of the French Language, and that is the legislation in force today.
Instead of the highly subjective language tests mandated under Bill 22—which we should make a note of because it will come up again—objective criteria were instituted. Bill 101's Quebec clause restricted access to English-language schools to children with at least one parent who had received English-language instruction in Quebec.
Following the unilateral patriation of Canada's Constitution without Quebec's consent, the Quebec clause was replaced by a Canada clause that allowed access to English-language schools for children with one parent who had received elementary schooling in English in Canada and children with a sibling who had received or was receiving English-language instruction.
The change to the Canada clause might be understandable because of the need for mobility within a country, but it is the last bit about brothers and sisters that throws everything off because of a completely unrealistic judgment from the Supreme Court of Canada.
Now, an immigrant family need only have enough money to pay for private, unsubsidized English school for one of their children, in order to be able to send all of their children to English public school in Quebec.
Not only is this ruling a monumental social error, allowing well-off immigrants to buy a right, but it is ill-advised constitutionally.
The seven judges can pay lip service to the importance of protecting French in Quebec, but in reality, they are killing any possibility of that. The judgment passes the buck to the Quebec parliament to find a solution. I sat on Quebec's Commission d'appel sur la langue d'enseignement, and I worked as a lawyer for the Conseil supérieur de la langue française and Alliance Quebec, and I know that it will be practically impossible to evaluate the good faith of every immigrant family and to conduct, as the Supreme Court suggested, a global qualitative assessment to determine whether the educational pathways in English—those are the terms they used—are genuine. It is completely absurd.
Unless we can protect Quebec's ability to direct the children of immigrants to French school, all of this will be a waste of time. That is why I encourage all the members in this House to support our motion today.