Mr. Speaker, today we are debating Bill C-315, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (French language), introduced by my hon. colleague from Trois-Rivières.
The bill aims to harmonize the language requirements that apply to federal businesses operating in Quebec with those in force in that province. These businesses, which include banks, shipping companies, port services, communications companies and so on, must guarantee francophone employees the same language rights as are provided by the Charter of the French Language in Quebec.
I strongly support this bill. It is important to state that there are no losers with this bill. It would simply guarantee all workers the same linguistic rights. All workers in Quebec must enjoy the same right to work in their own language.
The bill provides that federal businesses carrying on activities in Quebec will be subject to certain requirements, including the following: using French in their written communications with the Government of Quebec and with corporations established in Quebec; giving their employees the right to carry on their activities in French; drawing up communications to their employees in French; preparing offers of employment in French and publishing them in a daily newspaper at the same time, and with at least equal prominence as any offers published in a daily newspaper in a language other than French; preparing collective agreements and their schedules in French; and finally, ensuring that arbitration awards made following arbitration of a grievance or dispute regarding the negotiation, renewal or review of a collective agreement shall, at the request of one of the parties, be translated into English or French, as the case may be, at the parties' expense.
Those are very reasonable provisions. In addition to ensuring a better work atmosphere for workers in Quebec, this bill would greatly assist the translation profession.
I should also point out that the intent of this bill is not to prohibit the use of another language, but no other language may take precedence over French. This bill would make it impossible for an employer to dismiss, lay off or demote an employee because the employee demanded that a right arising from the provisions of this bill be respected.
I have an example. A woman works at a bank. She is a francophone who speaks a bit of English. Her boss is more comfortable using English. What language takes precedence? We would guess English. Under this bill, that woman could receive her communications in French and would no longer have to be uncertain about what the memos in English mean. Does this stop the boss from speaking English? No, not at all, as long as French takes precedence.
The employee will be happier at work now that she finally understands all the memos she receives; the boss will be sure to have better communication with his employees without having to limit the use of his language of preference.
This bill will be beneficial and will help maintain a healthy and convivial work environment for everyone.
The types of businesses that will be affected are governed by the Canada Labour Code: banks, airports, transportation companies that operate between Quebec and one or more other provinces, telecommunications companies and radio stations.
One provision in the bill allows for exemptions. For example, an English-language radio station working for the anglophone community in Quebec and operating in English obviously would be exempt. This business could even ask the Governor in Council to grant some exemptions to reflect this business's reality.
This is more proof that this bill is not dogmatic, but that it was designed to reflect a majority of Quebeckers and to ensure that they feel acknowledged at home in Quebec and also within the Canadian federation.
It is important to note that there are no losers with this bill. It will allow Quebec workers to work in their language and have access to all the necessary work material in French.
It is difficult to understand why or how an employee working in a bank in Quebec, for example, does not have the same language rights as his counterpart working in a credit union on the other side of the street, when both are working in Quebec.
My colleague's bill would remedy this situation. I do not understand why my colleagues opposite would vote against this bill, which is so well thought out and so important to us.
We are talking about respecting workers and their community in Quebec, without taking anything away from the other community. Furthermore, this bill does not apply to federal institutions, but to businesses. Institutions are subject to the Official Languages Act. Thus, it is very important to understand that communities throughout the country have nothing to fear and nothing to lose with Bill C-315.
Their language rights will always be protected by the Official Languages Act. Five years ago, this House adopted a motion recognizing the Quebec nation. Since then, very little real action has been taken to validate that motion. In 2011, this government appointed a unilingual anglophone to the Supreme Court and named a unilingual anglophone auditor general. What message is this government sending to francophones?
French is the language of the Quebec nation, a nation that the House of Commons and the Harper government recognized. Bill C-315, like other NDP bills, is an important contribution to the recognition of Quebec as a nation within Canada. I believe this is important and therefore I will repeat it. Bill C-315, like other NDP bills, is an important contribution to the recognition of Quebec as a nation within Canada.
The time has come to take real action. We have to show francophones in Canada that the federal government will defend their language and defend their rights as francophone workers. This government claims to be the champion of working people and people looking for jobs, at a time when the economy is in precarious shape. Here we have a way of helping those people.
This bill also protects working people. This legislation would prohibit an employer from dismissing or demoting an employee who demanded that a right arising from this legislation be respected. About 200,000 people do not benefit directly from the protections set out in the Charter of the French Language. In Quebec, it should go without saying that French will be used in businesses under the jurisdiction of the federal government.
The riding I represent is Montcalm, and it is over 95% French-speaking. For those people, this is a labour right. When a person goes to work to support her family, to make ends meet or to earn her living, she has the fundamental right to work in her language. That should be an even more concrete reality as a result of the recognition of the Quebec nation. These are language rights and issues that have dragged on for too long already.
To my constituents, the French language represents our Quebec culture, and it is unique. It is reasonable for them to want to protect it and preserve it and for them to want to work in French. I strongly urge all members of this House to vote for this bill, to show the importance of the French language. This bill is an excellent opportunity to send a clear message to francophone working people in Quebec. Let us show that we are concerned about their work environment and their right to work in French.
I congratulate my colleague, the member for Trois-Rivières, for acting on this proposal. This bill is an art in itself, since it is an art to reason clearly and try to protect a language that is recognized as an official language. By voting for this bill, the federal government can finally demonstrate its intention of acting. Let us take action; let us support this bill, a bill that is extremely well reasoned and, let us say it, extremely well thought out.