House of Commons Hansard #240 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.


Official LanguagesAdjournment Proceedings

November 28th, 2017 / 7:55 p.m.


François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is always a privilege for me to rise in the House of Commons to talk about the importance of official languages and the role of the official languages commissioner, Canada's bilingualism watchdog and protector of official language communities across the country.

On June 21, everyone was talking about the botched appointment of Madeleine Meilleur, which was a disaster for official languages and official language communities all over Canada. At that time, I asked the Prime Minister a question about this extremely important position and the Madeleine Meilleur appointment fiasco because it did not take us long to realize how partisan the appointment was. We asked the Prime Minister and the heritage minister why she continued to outdo herself.

As I said yesterday evening, we were without an official languages commissioner for four days. Finally, the heritage minister woke up and extended Ghislaine Saikaley's term as acting commissioner for another six months. That time is almost up. If I am not mistaken, her term expires on December 15, which is in three weeks, and we still do not have an official languages commissioner.

This is what former commissioner Graham Fraser, whose own term was extended and who held the position for some 10 years, had to say about it:

I think that this is an example of a bungled appointment process. I can only think that it reflects a lack of attention, lack of concern for the issue...for the question of official languages.

Graham Fraser dispensed with neutrality and used harsh words. “Lack of attention” and “lack of concern” are very serious words, but they are fitting because he had sent a letter to the Prime Minister a full year before his term expired advising him of his departure and recommending that he take the appointment process very seriously and not wait until the last minute.

Unfortunately, almost one year after his departure, we still do not have a Commissioner of Official Languages. There are barely three weeks left to fill this position, to properly consult the opposition leaders, to appear before the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages and the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages, and finally, for the House to be able to vote in favour of the next Commissioner of Official Languages.

My question is quite simple. Why is the government dragging its heels? Why did it take the government a year to do things properly? What is going on? Why is it so difficult to follow this process properly?

Official LanguagesAdjournment Proceedings

8 p.m.

Charlottetown P.E.I.


Sean Casey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Drummond for the question.

As my colleague knows, on July 28, the government relaunched the process for appointing the Commissioner of Official Languages. We sent a document to the leader of his party.

My colleague complains about a lack of consultation with his party and his leader, but we sent him a document that I have here with me entitled, “Commissioner of Official Languages — Selection Process to Appointment — Key Stages”.

As the NDP critic for official languages, my colleague from Drummond received a copy of that document. It is not some big secret.

The document indicates:

Selection Process—Launch

A selection committee is established to manage the process with the support of a search firm

The selection committee members, a majority of whom are public servants, is composed of one representative (senior official) from each of the following:

the Privy Council Office

the Treasury Board

Justice Canada

Department of Canada Heritage

the Prime Minister’s Office

the Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage

...Leaders of the parties in both Houses of Parliament are invited to promote the opportunity to potential candidates, provide their input on stakeholder engagement and highlight qualities the selection committee should consider. This input will be shared with the selection committee.

That is a quotation from the document that he and his leader both received. The document indicates that we invited his leader to provide input at the beginning of the process. It is very clear in the document.

Once the process has been launched it then goes forward to an assessment, where the search firm screens the applicants against the criteria in the notice of appointment opportunity. There is a recommendation from among the qualified candidates upon review of the documentation provided by the selection committee. The Minister of Canadian Heritage submits the recommended candidate to the Minister of Justice, who then recommends the candidate to the Prime Minister.

There is then a parliamentary process. Consultations take place with the leaders and with the official languages critics, including my friend from Drummond, to inform them about the proposed candidate for nomination and to seek their input. Then there is the nomination and then the appointment.

All of this is clearly set out in a two-page document that was provided to my friend and to his leader back in July. There can be no lack of clarity around the process. It is there in black and white.

It is in process and we will, through this process, find the person who is best qualified to be the Commissioner of Official Languages.

Official languages are at the core of our identity as a country and are a priority of this government.

Official LanguagesAdjournment Proceedings

8:05 p.m.


François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, in reply to my adorable colleague, who gave a good explanation of what he did, I then sent a letter signed by my leader. I never received a response to my suggestions and to my main recommendation concerning compliance with the Official Languages Act.

My colleague said that we were informed. It is not about informing us, but about consulting the opposition leaders. That is in the law and it was not done.

At #ONfr, journalist Benjamin Vachet said the following, found in the section “The Process Called into Question”:

Despite this future appointment, in the hallways, many are questioning the appointment process that was relaunched in July. Candidates who applied in this second round have said that they were not contacted and are wondering if new applications were considered, or if it was simply a public relations exercise.

There are barely three weeks left in the appointment process for the Official Languages Commissioner.

Does my hon. colleague believe that, in three weeks, we can do what section 49(1) of the Official Languages Act asks us to do, that is, consult the leaders of the opposition and not inform them? That violates the Official Languages Act. The leaders of the opposition must be consulted.

Official LanguagesAdjournment Proceedings

8:05 p.m.


Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, as I said, we have already indicated that the leaders of the parties in both Houses of Parliament were invited to promote the opportunity to potential candidates, provide their input on stakeholder engagement, and highlight qualities the selection committee should consider. That is what we did in the beginning.

Following the appointment, parties will be consulted again, as per the requirements of the law and the process. We have already informed my colleague and his party about that. Yes, we have enough time to complete the process, and that is what we are going to do.

Official LanguagesAdjournment Proceedings

8:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 8:07 p.m.)