House of Commons Hansard #12 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was documents.


Canada Labour CodePrivate Members’ Business

6:20 p.m.


Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Madam Speaker, my Bloc Québécois colleague, the member for Compton—Stanstead, who has been fighting to have this bill passed for three years now, introduced Bill C-343, which would provide assistance for the families of victims of crime or suicide.

As a mother, I am very honoured to speak to this bill. I must mention that this bill has the support of a number of individuals and groups, including the Murdered or Missing Persons' Families' Association, whose current president told me that he supported the bill and wanted to see the Conservatives support it.

I think that when we are talking about human life and suffering, partisanship no longer matters. This bill is based on the recognition of a fundamental human reality, since up until now, families of victims of crime or suicide had to continue to work through their suffering, as though nothing had happened.

In a modern society like ours, workers who are confronted by tragedies like this must be able to have their jobs guaranteed. The federal government must follow Quebec's lead. Two years ago, with the passage of Bill 58, Quebec helped guarantee the jobs of these family members for up to two years. With Bill C-343, workers under federal jurisdiction will be protected, as are workers in Quebec. It is a matter of justice.

The bill does even more than that. As I said, the bill helps guarantee jobs, but it also allows these families to take a leave from work and to receive employment insurance benefits for up to 52 weeks. That would enable these people to deal with their suffering and work through their grief, although that can take a very long time. At least something would be done for them. Accordingly, the bill also proposes changes to the Employment Insurance Act.

On the face of it, this bill is not only important, but absolutely crucial for the families of victims of crime. How could anyone vote against it? I simply do not understand. Who could vote against this kind of bill, which proposes important measures for these families? Who? The so-called champions of law and order, who claim they want to work for victims and help victims? As usual, it is nothing but words, words, words. When the time comes to take real action and support a bill that, logically, should be supported, they do not want to. They do not show up.

Personally, and many Bloc members think the same thing, I would have thought that this bill would get the support of at least one Conservative—not two, one—at least the person who has publicly supported it from its inception and even helped create it. That would be only too logical. But yesterday we learned that the senator, the one Conservative who could have supported this bill, had gone back on his word. Suddenly, the bill was no good and, according to him, it was completely useless. He added that the Conservative solution, mentioned in the throne speech and the budget, is much better and that the Conservatives no longer needed to support this bill, which is completely useless.

But that is not true. What the Conservatives are proposing and what this bill proposes are two completely different things. What they are proposing—or what we think they might propose—is an ombudsman, as my colleague mentioned earlier. So far, he has said the ombudsman position has been created, but upon reading, we learn that it will be created. It has not even been created yet.

I do not know what he is talking about. I am not sure he even knows what he is talking about. There is no ombudsman, and if there is one, I would like to know. We would all like to know.

What are we being offered? $3.3 million. An ombudsman would cost $1.5 million. This would leave $1.8 million for the families of murdered children or other family members. There is nothing, however, for the families of family members who have been kidnapped. Naturally, there is nothing with respect to suicide. There is nothing for children who might have suffered severe injuries. Nothing. Can it be said that our bill and these proposals are one and the same? No. Logic dictates that they are not the same.

Our bill is much more generous. Incidentally, I thank the other two opposition parties for recognizing it outright.

Our bill was drafted with this person. To say that it is completely useless is tantamount to saying that the bill is useless to those having to cope with the disappearance of minor children, the death by suicide of a spouse, common law partner or child, and the families with minor children who have become disabled as a result of a crime, that it is useless and irrelevant to them. To say that this bill is completely useless shows contempt for all the families of victims of crime other than murder. I am sorry to say that I would never have expected such a degree of partisanship in this House.

Let us be clear. The Conservatives' proposal set out in the throne speech and the budget is a clunker, as they are called in the automotive industry. The reality is that we do not want their clunker.

As I said, we have the support of the new president of the AFPAD, the murdered or missing persons' families' association.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members’ Business

6:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. The hon. member can continue her comments when this bill comes back.

As I said, the time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:30 p.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to set the record straight. It seems that I dared to question the minister about certain things and I got a rather disagreeable response today to effect that his party was the only one that was proud of the performance of our athletes at the Olympic Games.

That is absolutely not true. Hon. members will recall that when Parliament resumed on March 4, the hon. members of the House from all parties celebrated and gave our athletes a standing ovation.

Hon. members will also recall that it was the same thing when Barbara Ann Scott came to the House with the Olympic flame. Everyone, without exception, was happy.

Today I heard the minister say that his party was the only one that was proud of the Games. Let us be clear: we were all happy.

My question on March 4 was on the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games. I dared to quote the minister himself, who said the next day in all the newspapers across the country that there should have been more French. Those were his words, not mine. I was quoting him. He was not the only one to say so either. The Premier of Quebec, Jean Charest, made some comments as well. I watched the opening ceremonies and I can say that, as a francophone, at one point I did not really identify with the ceremonies.

That is what my question was about. Today, again, the minister quoted the Commissioner of Official Languages with regard to the Olympic Games. Let us not forget what the Commissioner of Official Languages said about the opening ceremonies, “What I saw at the opening ceremonies was a concert which had been conceived, developed, and presented in English, with a French song. It wasn't what I expected”.

That is not at all what the minister told us today. I wanted to start by setting the record straight.

I wanted to know why the minister had given in to the Conservative habit of going into hiding and hiding documents instead of sharing information with Canadians. In this case it is somewhat understandable, because the specifications that I was looking for and that journalists were looking for were only available in English. We can understand why the government and the minister were embarrassed.

We had to ask the Standing Committee on Official Languages for the document. I would like to thank all the members of the committee for unanimously agreeing to this request. However, we had to wait an extra week for the document so that it could be translated. I can understand why he hesitated to make it public, but let's move on.

The specifications for the ceremonies, which we now have, say only one thing, and I will quote it. I think it is important that people know this. I am referring to point k in annex E of the document, a contribution agreement that committed Canadians to chip in $20 million for the ceremonies. That is a significant amount. This is what it says:

k) Opening and Closing ceremonies will be in both official languages and the national anthem will be sung in its bilingual version; the program will include participants and events which represent both official language groups;

I believe that this is a bit minimalist, and it makes no reference to the equality of the two languages. We will await the conclusion of the study that the Commissioner of Official Languages is now conducting after receiving 40 complaints about the games and a number about the opening ceremonies.

6:35 p.m.

Beauport—Limoilou Québec


Sylvie Boucher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. We too would like to set the record straight.

Canada's Olympic Games were magnificent. Even our minster found there was not enough French during the opening ceremonies. Everyone agrees. Nevertheless, Canadians have every reason to be proud of the organization and presentation of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Canadians and Quebeckers will be left with lasting memories of the Games.

One of those memories will undoubtedly be the performances of our athletes from all over the country, francophone and anglophone alike, representing Canada, a country that is proud of its linguistic duality.

In that regard, throughout the games, both official languages were reflected in an exemplary fashion. The Canadian government and the organizers took every possible measure to make room for both of the official languages of the International Olympic Committee.

In terms of our accomplishments, I would point out that all signage, including directional signs, were in both official languages. Oral announcements were made in both official languages, first in French in accordance with the protocol. Documents and information on the Web for the public, media, athletes and dignitaries were also provided in both official languages.

The biographies of athletes and the daily updates were also written in both French and English. Bilingual volunteers were available and could be identified by the “Bonjour” pin they were wearing. Almost one million people visited Place de la Francophonie, which won a gold medal for the best place to celebrate.

The Government of Canada appreciates the positive comments of the Grand Témoin de la Francophonie and the Commissioner of Official Languages concerning the use of French at the games. The Grand Témoin de la Francophonie had this to say:

With regard to the French presence, expectations based on the promises that had been made were met.

He added that all promises were kept, particularly those with respect to competition sites and building signage. The Official Languages Commissioner added that French was well represented at the games. He concluded that it was very positive.

Even some Francophone journalists had good things to say about the use of French. A columnist with La Presse wrote the following:

I cannot remember a recent Olympic Games where French was as visible at the sites. The introduction of athletes, their short biographies, times and explanations were all given in excellent French. In fact, without swearing to it, at both places, there was more French than English.

We did what was necessary to ensure that the objectives of the Government of Canada with respect to official languages were met and we ensured that the games were for all of Canada. These games were the most bilingual of any to date, according to observers, and the bilingualism of a number of our athletes—

6:35 p.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Madam Speaker, I cannot deny that some things were well done. No one is denying that, but that was not my question. The parliamentary secretary is contradicting herself. I heard her say that everything was perfect, but at the beginning of her speech, she acknowledged that everyone agreed that there was a serious lack of French in the opening ceremonies.

Billions of viewers across the world saw the image we projected of our country, and that is where Canada's linguistic duality was not accurately represented. That is how I feel, but there are many others who feel the same way, including the Premier of Quebec, the Commissioner of Official Languages, and even the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, who had promised us something different.

The government needs to set the record straight and acknowledge that something went wrong. We want to know who is responsible for this and how they will ensure that it will not happen again in the future.

6:40 p.m.


Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, the minister was very clear today. In terms of the document we were talking about, we had to respect the language of the person who requested it. It was requested in English, so we provided it in English.

We had the francophone games, of which French was very much a part. As a true Quebecker, I hope that, should the Olympic games ever be held in Quebec, French will be a part not only of them but of all of Canada so that the Francophonie will flourish.

6:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:41 p.m.)