This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #49 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was air.

Topics

Statements by MembersPrivilegeOral Questions

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is the hon. member seeking unanimous consent to table this document himself or to have it tabled? Of course, the government can table any document it wants whenever it wants. If the government has possession of the document, it can table whatever it likes in the House without unanimous consent or anyone's consent. I do not think we need to fret or worry about that.

I will hear first from the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas on this point.

Statements by MembersPrivilegeOral Questions

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I just want to comment briefly and reserve the possibility of making further comments later.

I want to stand as a member of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. I want to stand in support of the chair of that committee and let him know that he has my full confidence on this issue.

I want to speak briefly about the specific issue raised and whether there was some interference in the privileges of the Minister of Human Resources at the standing committee meeting when she appeared.

When the witness, a member of her staff, was called to appear at the committee, the minister appeared and tried to be the witness for that meeting. At an earlier meeting of the committee, as part of the same study, the minister had already been called and had appeared as a witness. The committee had already had a meeting where the minister offered her testimony and answered the questions of the committee.

When she appeared, when her staff person had been called on the same matter for the same study, there was some dialogue with the chair, needless to say. This was unannounced and was a surprise to most of us on the committee.

I have to say that I agree with the ruling of the chair at that time that the witness who was called was Mr. Sparrow, the staff person, and not the minister, in this case, and that the committee would hear from the witness who was called and put its questions to that witness.

The chair did something that I think was helpful in the circumstances, as well, when he allowed the minister to remain and allowed the witness to consult with the minister on his answers to the questions posed by the committee. I think that did two things. It allowed a very visible expression of ministerial responsibility for her political staff. It also retained the right of the committee to hear the witness it had called and who it thought was important to the study.

I think there was a very important compromise reached by the chair. I think it addressed both the question of ministerial responsibility and the rights and abilities of a committee to hear from the witnesses the committee deems necessary.

I want to compliment the chair for his swiftness on his feet in that circumstance, because chairing a committee in this place is often a very difficult thing.

That is just something I would like to add to this discussion this afternoon to indicate that my confidence in the chair of the committee, although I do not always agree with him, remains unabated.

Statements by MembersPrivilegeOral Questions

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, as you can tell from the debate, really we are talking about a point of order, not a question of privilege. As chair of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, I have my own ideas about the rules. I always use O'Brien and Bosc, and before that Marleau and Montpetit, as the basis for all my decisions as the chair. I am talking about House of Commons Procedure and Practice.

It is important that we stay rules-based and that we have that debate. That is what is happening here. We are having the debate.

However, on the issue, I do not believe that I used any unparliamentary language in my discussion, nor do I believe that I have impugned the reputation of the member for Mississauga South, but I do want to make sure that my rights and freedoms and my freedom of speech are protected.

I just want to quote Speaker Fraser, in his ruling in 1987, which is quoted in chapter 3, page 97 of O'Brien and Bosc. It says:

There are only two kinds of institutions in this land to which this awesome and far-reaching privilege of [freedom of speech] extends—Parliament and the legislatures on the one hand and courts on the other. These institutions enjoy the protection of absolute privilege because of the overriding need to ensure that the truth can be told, that any questions can be asked, and that debate can be free and uninhibited.

That is exactly what we are doing here.

To go on:

Absolute privilege ensures that those performing their legitimate functions in these vital institutions of Government shall not be exposed to the possibility of legal action. This is necessary in the national interest and has been considered necessary under our democratic system for hundreds of years. It allows our judicial system and our parliamentary system to operate free of any hindrance.

Therefore, it is important that my ability to speak in here and to raise questions about the practices and procedures of certain committees and certain committee chairs is respected and that we have a fulsome debate on those issues.

Statements by MembersPrivilegeOral Questions

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I thank all hon. members who have made submissions on this point, and I will get back to the House in due course with a decision in respect of the matter that has been raised.

Securities RegulationRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, today the government indicates its intention to release the proposed Canadian securities act. This marks a step towards a long-standing commitment to establish a Canadian securities regulator. I would like to table, for information, in both official languages, the proposed Canadian securities act, here in the House, for the benefit of all members.

I further note that the proposed act is also being distributed electronically to all members, concurrent with its public release.

The proposed act will be the foundation for the creation of a national Canadian securities regulator. The proposed act reflects the input of 10 participating provinces and territories, and the government invites the remaining provinces to join the initiative.

The government has also referred the proposed act to the Supreme Court of Canada for its opinion on the following question: Is the annexed proposed Canadian securities act within the legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada? Should there be a favourable ruling received by the Supreme Court, the Government of Canada intends to introduce, for the adoption of Parliament, a securities act , which would then, of course, go through the normal parliamentary legislative process.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's responses to 68 petitions.

Canadian Food Inspection AgencyRoutine Proceedings

May 26th, 2010 / 3:35 p.m.

Battlefords—Lloydminster Saskatchewan

Conservative

Gerry Ritz ConservativeMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to present to this House, in both official languages, a document from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that indicates that at the end of fiscal 2009-10, CFIA inspection staff has increased by a net total of 538 members since this government was formed in 2006. That is an 11% increase.

Industry, Science and TechnologyCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology regarding the main estimates for 2010-11.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eleventh report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

In accordance with its order of reference of Wednesday, March 3, 2010, the committee has considered Vote 5--House of Commons, under Parliament, and Vote 15--Chief Electoral Officer, under Privy Council, in the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2011, less the amount voted in interim supply, and reports the same.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present today, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on International Trade in relation to the Canada-United States agreement on government procurement.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders ActRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

moved that Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts, be read the first time.

(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, as per the notice of motion that you have just read, which was presented to the House on April 19, I move, seconded by my colleague from Hull—Aylmer, that the first report of the Standing Committee on Official Languages be concurred in.

This short report contains a motion moved by our colleague, the member for Rivière-du-Nord. It is asking the government, specifically the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to introduce a bill regarding the application of the Official Languages Act to Air Canada, its subsidiaries and partners so that the committee may study the bill this spring. That is the essence of this report. The committee felt that this matter was urgent enough to encourage the government to introduce such a bill this spring so that it can be studied in committee.

This is very timely. My colleagues all know that yesterday the official languages commissioner, an officer of Parliament, tabled his fourth report, which at times is quite critical of the government. The report refers to the laissez-faire approach by the Treasury Board Secretariat, which has a key role in the government’s official languages policy. The Treasury Board Secretariat is supposed to play a leadership role for the government when it comes to language policy but seems to have completely abandoned the job. Among other things, the report also mentioned the difficulties experienced by certain official language minority community organizations.

But I want to return to last year’s report, which referred in particular to Air Canada and recommended that the government take immediate action to introduce an appropriate bill.

A bit of the historical background might help people understand why the situation is so urgent.

Air Canada used to be a crown corporation, but in 1988 it was privatized. At the time, its linguistic obligations were maintained by Parliament, which even specified a little later, in 2000, that these obligations applied as well to Air Canada subsidiaries and any airlines it acquired.

In 2003, Air Canada was forced to seek protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act and underwent a restructuring process. We all know how that turned out. The restructuring resulted in a regulatory vacuum regarding Air Canada’s linguistic obligations because ACE Aviation Holdings Inc. took over 75% ownership of the company. In addition, some of its former subsidiaries, specifically Air Canada Jazz and Aeroplan, became limited partnerships, responsible henceforth to ACE and not Air Canada. As a result, Air Canada Jazz, for example, could say it was not subject to the Official Languages Act.

Three times Canadian governments tried to make legislative changes spelling out the linguistic obligations of Air Canada and other subsidiaries of ACE, but every time the bills died on the order paper.

The first bill was introduced in 2005 by then minister Jean Lapierre. It died on the order paper. In 2006, another bill was introduced under the new government by the minister who is now the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Then another bill was tabled in 2007, so far as I remember. Three attempts were made, therefore, to clarify the situation. None were successful, though, all of them dying on the order paper.

In 2007, the situation became even more complicated because ACE, the umbrella company, liquidated Air Canada Jazz and Aeroplan shares. As I mentioned, the two former subsidiaries are now held independently by two separate income trusts. Air Canada Jazz and Aeroplan are therefore no longer either Air Canada subsidiaries or even companies whose shares are held by the majority shareholder in Air Canada. The situation has therefore become even more complicated and the regulatory vacuum has worsened. That is why it is so urgent to take quick action.

As I mentioned, the Commissioner of Official Languages commented on this last year in his report—I think an entire chapter was devoted to it—and specifically recommended that the government bring forward new legislation to clarify this situation and ensure that Air Canada, its subsidiaries and partners—that is, any companies and individuals with whom it may contract to provide services—must meet all linguistic obligations that would normally apply.

People have often wondered if Air Canada should continue to be subject to these obligations.

On April 13 when representatives of Air Canada came before committee they hinted at that matter. One of the representatives had been with Air Canada since 1989 and therefore had a very complete history of the corporation. She was asked if back then Air Canada had in any way, shape or form expressed any reservations that the linguistic obligations of serving the Canadian travelling public in both English and French would apply to it at the moment it became a privatized corporation. She clearly responded that was not the case.

At the time of privatization it was quite clear that Air Canada would continue to have the responsibility of offering service in both English and French to the Canadian travelling public and travellers coming to Canada from abroad. Air Canada accepted that because it goes willy-nilly with a corporation that would carry the name Air Canada.

My colleague from Rivière-du-Nord presented this motion which was supported by all parties. I would hope that all parties would support the adoption of this report, because it is important that Parliament send a clear signal of its will to see the government introduce legislation. It is also important to send a clear signal to Air Canada that we are serious about its obligations that flow from as far back as 1988, the time of privatization, and before.

I would like to quickly address another subject. The Commissioner of Official Languages promised to help the committee improve the bill if necessary. I also asked the minister responsible if he could argue in favour of sending it to committee before second reading. This would give the committee some latitude and capacity for action that it would not otherwise have.

The Commissioner of Official Languages and the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, when he appeared before the committee, recognized that overall, the committee works very well and is responsible. I therefore urge the government to seriously think about sending us this bill before second reading, so that we may examine it critically and constructively.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier for introducing this motion in the House. That motion had previously been proposed by the hon. member for Rivière-du-Nord. The House has been debating this issue for a long time, in fact since 2005, as the hon. member pointed out.

Does the member find that the Conservative government is sitting on this bill and is not doing anything because bilingualism is not important to it? Is that the problem, or is it because this bill could divide Canadians?

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, two years ago, I would have answered that the Conservative government seemed as quick as the previous Liberal government to act, considering that something needs to be done. However, for the past two years we have been hoping for a bill that is not coming. Therefore, it is important that the committee make a decision. And I hope that the House will also do so. If that is the will of this House, then it should ask the government to introduce a bill. We hope that the government will quickly comply with that wish, so that we can deal with this issue, because it is long overdue.

I want to thank my colleagues from all the parties, particularly the member for Rivière-du-Nord and the member for Acadie—Bathurst, who both sit on the committee, and also other members for their critical but constructive support regarding this issue. It is a very important matter, because every year Air Canada is the target of the largest number of complaints to the Commissioner of Official Languages.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier for improving my motion, since it made it to the House of Commons.

Does my colleague believe that the lack of legislation governing bilingualism at Air Canada poses a risk? For example, passengers on an aircraft could face some danger and have to react quickly. If the staff does not speak both official languages, this could result in a chaotic situation.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, as far as I know, any airline in Canada is required to provide safety instructions in both languages, whether it is Air Canada, Porter or any other company. All are required to do that. That said, I agree with the hon. member that any business that uses the word “Canada” in its name, and particularly Air Canada, should meet its linguistic obligations. That was the case when Air Canada was privatized. This requirement reflects the Canadian linguistic duality.

Therefore, it is perfectly normal that the legal vacuum that has existed since Air Canada's internal restructuring be corrected. We must pass legislation to monitor ACE Inc. and its subsidiaries, and also the partners of these subsidiaries that provide services to the travelling public, and we must also ensure that the latter are well aware of their legal obligation to provide their services in English and in French.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Vincent Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is important to understand that, in an emergency situation, the personnel must be bilingual. For example, VIA Rail experienced an emergency situation while there was a lack of French language personnel. It is French-speaking passengers who took charge during that emergency. It is the same thing with air transportation. If an emergency occurs during a flight and the staff only speaks English, then the passengers who only speak French will have a problem.

When an emergency occurs, it is really critical that the personnel on board be bilingual. I wonder if the hon. member could elaborate on this.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, it goes without saying that Air Canada—just like VIA Rail, which has the same obligation—must ensure, first and foremost, that its passengers are taken to destination safely. This implies the ability to communicate with passengers, with its clients, not only through videos, as is sometimes the case, but in person if an unforeseen situation occurs. This means that there must be staff members on board who speak English and French.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues and am pleased to have this opportunity to discuss the Standing Committee on Official Languages’ first report on the Air Canada Public Participation Act.

First of all, we should understand how important Air Canada is. Including Jazz, it is a major economic catalyst that facilitates Canada’s economic growth and its trade objectives. Air Canada has 28,000 employees and more than 23,000 retirees and is the largest airline in Canada. It has more than a 50% share of the domestic market and provides about a third of our international flight capacity. Its economic impact was estimated in 2009 at more than $6 billion in direct contributions and more than $20 billion in indirect spin-offs.

When Air Canada was a crown corporation, it was subject to the Official Languages Act. In particular, it had to serve the public in both official languages and ensure the right of employees to work in the official language of their choice. When Air Canada was privatized in 1988-89, its official language obligations were renewed under the Air Canada Public Participation Act.

Other carriers also provide bilingual service on the basis of customer demand and market considerations. So far though, Air Canada is the only carrier subject to the Official Languages Act. All airlines, of course, must provide safety and security information in both official languages, as my Liberal colleague mentioned.

In 2000, the Air Canada Public Participation Act was amended to ensure that Jazz, as an Air Canada subsidiary at the time, served the public in both official languages. Air Canada sought protection under the Bankruptcy Act in 2003-04 and was subsequently restructured, but the Air Canada Public Participation Act continues to apply, including the obligation to provide bilingual service.

Similarly, any future subsidiary of Air Canada providing airline services will be bound by its official language obligations under the Air Canada Public Participation Act, as it currently stands. However, as a result of organizational restructuring, Air Canada’s official language obligations do not apply to entities that are no longer part of it, such as the former Air Canada Technical Services, now known as Aveos Fleet Performance Incorporated. In addition, the Air Canada Public Participation Act does not apply to ACE Aviation Holdings Inc., which has been Air Canada’s parent corporation since restructuring.

Although the number of complaints is quite low in comparison with total passenger numbers, the Commissioner of Official Languages noted that Air Canada still has some challenges to meet in fulfilling its official language obligations.

As the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities said when he appeared before the Standing Committee on Official Languages in April, we must consider introducing a new bill. Although many years have passed since Air Canada became a crown corporation, and a lot of things have happened since then, Canadians still feel that Air Canada's official language obligations are important. However, before moving forward, we must ensure that we take appropriate measures and carefully examine the situation.

Even though Canada's economy has been showing solid signs of recovery, our industries are still struggling. The air industry has to deal with events that are out of its control, such as the ongoing closures of airspace over the European Union as a result of volcanic activity.

I think that we need to better understand the challenges the company faces in meeting its official language obligations.

After Air Canada representatives testified before the committee, we learned that Air Canada has improved its official language performance by offering comprehensive training sessions and by advertising to attract other bilingual candidates. Air Canada's testimony showed that it is committed to meeting its official language obligations under the Official Languages Act, in light of the challenges and pressures that I have mentioned.

I was also happy to learn that the Commissioner of Official Languages will conduct a detailed audit of Air Canada and its obligation to provide bilingual services to the public. I look forward to seeing the recommendations, which will no doubt be very instructive, for how Air Canada can limit the number of complaints in the future.

The member for Acadie—Bathurst shared some stories about the quality of services offered in French by Jazz.

Because Jazz is a private company under contract with Air Canada, Air Canada, under section 25 of the Official Languages Act, has the duty to ensure that services made available to the public by another organization on its behalf are provided in both official languages. However, since Jazz is not a federal institution under the Official Languages Act, the Official Languages Commissioner cannot intervene directly with Jazz but can with Air Canada, which is responsible for meeting official language requirements. In this context, the commissioner has been asked to obtain more information about the types of complaints received about Jazz.

It is important that Air Canada continue to fulfill its obligations under the Air Canada Public Participation Act and the Official Languages Act. That said, the best way to maintain and ensure progress on official language rights in the airline industry is to have a healthy, viable industry.

I would like to reaffirm our government's firm commitment to promoting and protecting official language rights in Canada. As was said in the throne speech, Canada's two official languages are an integral part of our history and position us uniquely in the world. Using examples from the road map to Canada's linguistic duality, the throne speech indicated that our government will continue to take measures that will further strengthen Canada's francophone identity. These statements are a strong testimony to our government's commitment to official languages in Canada.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Vincent Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech given by the hon. member for Saint Boniface. Her speech was very black and white. I am not sure how well she understands the issue, even though she is on the committee.

It always amazes me. The throne speech talked about bilingualism, but we still need a bill to ensure we have bilingual Supreme Court justices. This does not seem consistent with what the hon. member was saying.

The complaints have been rather weak, but even one complaint is one too many. As she said earlier, all safety instructions must be given in both English and French. However, in the event of an emergency, there is no time to play the recording that gives the safety instructions. The personnel on board must be bilingual in order to deal with an emergency.

Bills requiring that employees on all Air Canada flights be bilingual were introduced in 2005, 2006 and 2007. I think such a measure must be implemented immediately. Those people must be bilingual. We should not need a bill for this. The member said that all safety instructions should be bilingual. In that case, the staff should be bilingual too.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my Bloc colleague for his question.

I want to begin with a sincere response to the matter of our government's commitment and my own commitment to the Committee on Official Languages. I can assure my colleagues that our government has a firm commitment. That is why we invested $1.1 billion in the roadmap to support official language minority communities and our country's linguistic duality. That amount is unmatched by any government in Canada's history.

Our commitment is firm. My commitment is firm. I understand this issue well. Perhaps my colleague did not hear our Liberal colleague, who answered the other question about safety instructions twice. That is already in the Act. This is the third time I have answered the question. It is already in the Act. All airlines must give safety instructions in both official languages.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Saint Boniface says that her government's commitment is firm. I happen to think that the government is firm in its resolve to shut down bilingualism because it said that the subject of bilingual Supreme Court justices was dividing Canadians.

But that is not the issue here. We are talking about Air Canada. Air Canada is responsible for providing service in both official languages. Service does not mean a tape recording. Do they plan to play a tape if a plane falls out of the sky?

Jazz is not subject to the Official Languages Act. In 2006, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, who was the transport, infrastructure and communities minister at the time, introduced Bill C-29. Then in 2007, the same minister introduced another bill, Bill C-36. It is now 2010.

When will the government be firm and pass a bill to make Air Canada respect the Official Languages Act?

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my NDP colleague. No matter how he shouts his question, my answer is the same.

Our government is looking at and preparing a bill, as we said in committee. We hope that bill will be introduced in the House of Commons in the fall.

I want to reiterate not only our government's firm commitment, but also that of all the Conservative government members. We all do our best to always promote both official languages in this House. It is very important to promote both English and French, and we are very proud to do so.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, it was an honour for me to move this motion at the Standing Committee on Official Languages. I thank my colleague from Ottawa—Vanier for improving my motion by wanting to bring it here to the House for debate.

The problem has existed for a very long time. My colleague, Benoît Sauvageau, who is no longer a sitting member of the House, was talking about it a decade ago. People were filing complaint after complaint back then, because Air Canada did not provide service in both official languages. Now it is 2010. I have been an MP for 16 years, and we have been talking about this for 10 years. For 10 years, we have been talking about a law that would ensure that Air Canada provides service in both official languages. It is not rocket science. A bill was introduced by the then minister of transport, Jean Lapierre, on May 2, 2005, but an election was called and the bill died on the order paper. The Conservatives introduced two bills, one on October 18, 2006 and the other on December 10, 2007, but there has been nothing since then. We do not hear about this anymore. The biggest danger is that the government will do nothing.

I think it is outrageous that Air Canada does not realize that on an Air Canada Jazz flight, a recording is played to provide in flight safety instructions in French. Imagine if something bad happens. They will need a DJ to figure out what recording needs to be played next. It makes no sense. People need to be able to provide service in both official languages.

My colleague from Acadie—Bathurst can tell a few stories. He asked for something to eat on a plane and even pointed to a picture on the menu. The flight attendant kept saying, “I don't speak French”, even though there was a picture right in front of her eyes. There is ill will. In my opinion, there truly is an unwillingness to enforce the legislation.

This government is also displaying bad faith since it has been doing absolutely nothing to change the situation since 2007, which is going on four years now. Does the government want us to draft the bill? We have three versions. The opposition would only need a few days to draft a bill. We could introduce it in committee. I even asked the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities about it when he appeared before the committee. I asked him whether it would help if I moved a motion that he could present to cabinet to put pressure on the ministers and on the Prime Minister to ensure that legislation is introduced in committee as soon as possible. He answered yes on two occasions. And that is what we did. The committee has done its work and the vote was unanimous. All parties were in favour. There were no abstentions. I do not understand why nothing is happening.

I have read Air Canada's regulations, and what worries me is that Air Canada is increasingly relying on subcontractors. The subcontractors are not subject to any bilingualism laws. This means that people will not be able to receive services in French. That is worrisome. There are more and more small companies. I have nothing against subcontractors or new companies popping up in order to serve different regions. There is now an airline that can get you to Rivière-du-Loup, but you may not even be served in French. That makes absolutely no sense. In Baie-Comeau, Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec City and Montreal, services need to be in French. The same goes for Acadie—Bathurst and Moncton.

A Liberal member told us that it took three years to get a sign taken off the washroom door in Moncton that incorrectly said “Ne fumez pas les toilettes”—Don't smoke the toilets—in French. That is unbelievable. He saw it every weekend when he returned home. He complained every weekend to get them to change that sign, and his complaints were ignored.

I get the impression that Air Canada could not care less about what the government does here, because it is doing absolutely nothing. We are the only ones who can put pressure on Air Canada. Even Air Canada said that parliamentarians are the only ones who can change the legislation to require them to take action. Air Canada itself told us that. I have it right here in front of me.

It is not the Commissioner of Official Languages who can do so. He only has the power to conduct consultations and make recommendations. As parliamentarians, we can do something. What have we been waiting for since 2007? It would only take a small bill, three, four or five pages in length. I am convinced that the opposition parties can sit down together to draft a bill, discuss it in committee and pass it as quickly as possible, to ensure that Air Canada does its job. It is beyond comprehension that we cannot be served in our own language, especially by Air Canada, a company that the government has helped over the years and continues to help on occasion. It is a company that people are proud of. However, we are no longer served in our language.

I am infuriated every time I see that blasted little cassette with French safety instructions. Can we not find bilingual people or force Air Canada to provide their unilingual employees with real training, not just teach them to say, I don't speak French? They must learn the basic French they need to do their job well. That is what we need. We must force Air Canada to provide this training.

It is not very complicated. However, the government does not have the will to do it. It does not care or is not interested. It is not a priority and never has been for the government. We see it in the issue of the bilingualism of judges, a battle that has been waged for a long time. We see it in the interest of the committee chair. We see it in many things. The government must look at this question very carefully because things will only get worse and that concerns me. Air Canada flight attendants will be increasingly unilingual Anglophones and it will be disappointing for us. This company is important here. It does manage to generate a great deal of money, but it must absolutely provide bilingual services.

I do not want the experience of VIA Rail to be repeated, even though it has since changed course. People were unable to speak their language in a crisis situation. Passengers were not told in their own language what to do. That must never happen again. The opposition is not afraid to take action and hopes that the government will do so also. That is why we presented a motion in this House. Let us take action and prepare a bill as quickly as possible.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Rivière-du-Nord for the motion she presented to the Standing Committee on Official Languages. I really wonder how serious the government is when it comes to bills like this.

We just heard the parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for St. Boniface. She talked about the legal notice from the court and the history of the bankruptcy in 2003. She talked about all of Air Canada’s problems. When people start talking about someone’s problems, it is because they are looking for excuses.

Then she said the government is firm and complies with the Official Languages Act and she was busy seeing how to introduce a bill in the House. We already had Bill C-47 in 2005, Bill C-29 from her colleague at foreign affairs, and another one, Bill C-36.

Does the hon. member for Rivière-du-Nord think the government has no computers? We can all copy and paste nowadays.