House of Commons Hansard #415 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was area.


Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Mario Beaulieu Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

moved that Bill C-421, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adequate knowledge of French in Quebec), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I introduced a very simple bill with a clear objective, and that is to enable newcomers who want to become citizens and reside in Quebec to integrate into their host society.

In order to integrate, newcomers must be able to communicate with members of their host society. In Quebec, the common language is French. The purpose of the Charter of the French Language is to make French the official and common language of Quebec.

As a result, newcomers must learn French in order to integrate into Quebec society. This matter is in keeping with the commitments of the current Quebec government and enjoys a broad consensus in Quebec. According to a recent survey, 73% of Quebeckers believe that a basic knowledge of French should be mandatory in order to live in Quebec and 84% believe that newcomers should be required to take French classes.

In 2017, the Auditor General released a report in which she concluded that efforts to encourage immigrants to learn and use French had failed. Under Canadian law, knowledge of one official language, either English or French, is required for citizenship. The Bloc Québécois introduced Bill C-421 to make knowledge of French mandatory in Quebec.

That is no more coercive that what is already in place: knowledge of one of the two official languages is mandatory for obtaining Canadian citizenship. Many members of the Council of Europe require knowledge of the adopted homeland's language either as a condition of entry, to obtain permanent residence or to become a naturalized citizen, yet the federal Liberals seem to find the idea unacceptable and inconceivable.

When Bill C-421 was presented to the subcommittee on private members' business, the members declared that it was unconstitutional and therefore non-votable. We appealed the decision, but because they have a majority, they refused to budge even though the law clerk and several members of other parties disagreed.

An extremely rare secret vote was held to save Canadian parliamentarians the trouble of publicly stating their position on this issue of importance to Quebeckers. Democracy was hijacked, and the people need to know.

The Premier of Quebec said:

We would want newcomers to pass a French test before getting their permanent resident status or citizenship. That is what the Bloc wanted. I think it is unfortunate that the debate is not being allowed to move forward with legislation.

Bill C-421 will not be voted on, but we have not been given much time to present it, so I will focus on the substance of the debate, rather than on the constitutionality of the bill.

As I alluded to earlier, Quebec's blueprint for linguistic development, as defined by the Charter of the French Language, also known as Bill 101, is meant to establish French as the official and common language of Quebec. This approach is based on collective territorial rights. As the common public language, French in Quebec should not only be the language used by francophones when speaking to one another, it should also be the language used in inter-linguistic communications, the language spoken between people with different mother tongues.

Making French the common language is essential for integrating newcomers into Quebec society and ensuring the future of French in Quebec and in North America.

When the language of the majority is the official language and the common public language, newcomers naturally tend to learn and use that language in order to participate fully in their host society. That is what happens in many western countries.

Research on language development models around the world shows that this approach is the only one that is able to prevent the assimilation of minority languages in countries with several national languages. The only countries that have multiple national languages and no assimilation are those that use language management models based on the principle of collective territorial rights, like Belgium or Switzerland.

For instance, in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, the only official language, the language in which public services are provided from kindergarten to university, is Dutch. For newcomers, learning Dutch is compulsory.

The same thing goes for French in Wallonia, and people there can still learn any number of second languages. The fact that French is the common language in Quebec seems to be unacceptable or even unthinkable to varying degrees for all the national parties. We saw how the member for Honoré-Mercier completely overreacted. For him, making knowledge of French a requirement for citizenship is the same as segregating people based on colour.

The Liberal member for Laurentides—Labelle, a staunch defender of “hello, bonjour”, and the Liberal member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles gave some examples of people in Quebec who do not speak French, adding that it would have been unacceptable for those people to be forced to move to Ontario for not passing the French test. They do not seem to agree that learning and using French could be considered a tool for integrating into Quebec society.

A Conservative member of the Standing Committee on Official Languages said that if a condition were created requiring people to speak basic French, the anglophone minority community in Quebec would have a much harder time surviving within our province.

The Canadian model, defined by the Official Languages Act, is based on fundamental principles that differ from the Quebec model and its approaches that recognize territorial collective rights. For one thing, the Official Languages Act excludes Quebeckers as an integral part of Canada's francophone minority. The act governs official language minorities designated by province. In that sense, Quebec anglophones are considered a minority just as much as francophone and Acadian communities, when in fact, they are part Canada's anglophone majority, as was even confirmed by the UN Human Rights Committee.

The best example is that the federal government and the predominantly English speaking provinces have no problem weakening Quebec's legislation, including by imposing a Constitution in 1982 against the will of the Government of Quebec, a Constitution under which the Charter of the French Language was weakened in every key area of application. As a result of the principle of linguistic minorities per province, Quebec's anglophones, who already anglicize five times the number of new citizens than their demographic weight, receive steady support to promote more services in English not just for anglophones, but for everyone, including allophones and francophones.

The official languages program allocates more than $75 million a year in support of anglophone communities in Quebec, including lobby groups such as the Quebec Community Groups Network, alias Alliance Québec, which successfully led a legal battle to restore institutional bilingualism. The other major founding principle of Canada's official languages legislation is a bilingualism policy for federal institutions based on the linguistic rights of individuals across Canada.

As soon as Bill C-421 was introduced, former official languages commissioner Graham Fraser stepped in. In his opinion, requiring adequate knowledge of French would contravene the Official Languages Act, as it would supposedly prevent individuals from communicating with the government in the language of their choice. Even though some members openly stated that the bill was votable, no member in the House openly supported the bill.

Whether the bill is constitutional or not, the crux of the problem is that most of the federalist members in this place do not accept that French is the common language in Quebec, the language of convergence, the language of interlinguistic communication. This implies that people can communicate with the government in the language of their choice and that English and French have equal status and privileges with respect to their use in the institutions of Parliament and the Government of Canada. That is the foundation of the Official Languages Act. French cannot be the common language, the official language, the language of convergence in Quebec, but there must be two common languages. Some researchers, for example Jacques Leclerc and Marc Termote, have noted that equal rights granted to unequal groups inevitably lead to inequitable results.

In some way, it is as if there were no laws to protect workers or the environment. It would leave it up to market forces to decide.

Marc Termote said, and I quote:

Most countries abide by what is known in linguistics as the "law of the land" whereby for every given territory, only one language is used in the public sphere....

However, in some Anglo-Saxon countries, such as Canada and therefore Quebec, individual rights prevail over societal rights in many instances...individual freedom to choose does not mean that the individual's choice will not be influenced by external factors. For Quebec, being the last majority French-speaking society in North America and a tiny minority "surrounded" by 300 million English speakers is certainly not a minor factor. Additionally, free choice paves the way for a fair balance of power.

As Lacordaire said, “Between the strong and the weak, between the rich and the poor, [we could say ‘between the English-speaking majority and the minority’] it is freedom which oppresses and the law which sets free”.

This explains why across just about all of Canada, outside Quebec, nearly all language transfers for allophones happen in English. If you go to Toronto or Ottawa, you quickly see that it is difficult to function without speaking English.

However, in Quebec, the majority of newcomers settle in Montreal, where all services are accessible in English at all levels of government. Since English is the majority language in Canada and even more so in North America, there is a natural tendency to use English.

In addition, access to the official languages in federal institutions is not equal. By design, services are provided in French where numbers warrant. As we saw once again in the report from the Commissioner of Official Languages, even when the numbers warrant, services are not always offered in French.

Fifty years ago, before the Official Languages Act, francophone and Acadian communities had suffered through assimilation policies in all of the provinces that are now primarily anglophone. For them, bilingualism was a huge step forward in accessing the public services in French that were severely lacking after being prohibited for years.

The “where numbers warrant” principle means that, if the number of French speakers in a region decreases, fewer services are offered. In some way, it is as if the government were to reduce EI benefits or job creation measures in an area that is prone to unemployment. This way of doing things officially misrepresents Canada's language situation.

Francophones are therefore strongly encouraged to increase their numbers if they want even basic services in French. However, it would be much more logical to change the “where numbers warrant” criterion rather than misrepresenting the language situation, as the government has been doing for the 50 years that the Official Languages Act has been in force.

In the beginning, intergenerational language transfers were measured using mother tongue as an indicator. When the decline in mother tongue became too pronounced, the indicator was changed to language used at home and then to first official language spoken. Today, the government is coming up with new indicators to inflate the number of francophones and justifying that action by saying that it is going to offer more French services to official language minorities. That does not make any sense.

A study on language planning around the world showed that an approach based on institutional bilingualism and portable individual rights is unable to counter the assimilation of minority languages. That has been proven over the 50 years that the Official Languages Act has been in force. During that time, the assimilation of francophones has increased with every census.

In short, the Canadian language planning model runs counter to Quebec's model. Most MPs and all of the parties in Parliament support the Canadian model rather than the Quebec model.

As Jacques Leclerc, an expert who worked on the language planning study, said, and I quote:

As soon as the demands of the francophone province of Quebec offend the sensibilities of the anglophone majority, they are denied. Discussions then become pointless and come to a standstill....Under the current regime, Quebec is always democratically penalized and cannot impose anything on the majority across Canada.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-421, which seeks to amend the Citizenship Act to require that residents of Quebec between the ages of 14 and 64 have an adequate knowledge of French in order to obtain citizenship.

The bill also proposes that these same citizenship applicants be required to prove their knowledge by passing a French test.

The government places tremendous value on Canada's linguistic duality, and we oppose this bill for several reasons. However, it is worth pointing out that we do provide support to encourage francophone immigration across Canada.

The Government of Canada welcomes newcomers by providing a range of services, from pre-arrival information to supports within the community, settlement services, language training and skills development.

This investment is paying off. Given that language training is the settlement service that is most often requested, it is obvious that Canada's linguistic duality must remain an important factor, for francophones and anglophones alike, in every region of the country.

Over the past few months, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has met with people who are dedicated to helping French-speaking newcomers settle and integrate into francophone communities outside Quebec.

The Government of Canada knows that immigration has a positive impact on Canadian society and our economy. We also strongly believe that newcomers to Canada contribute to the vitality of Canadian communities, including minority francophone communities outside Quebec. That is why we are taking numerous measures to increase francophone immigration outside Quebec, support the integration and retention of French-speaking newcomers, and build capacity in francophone communities.

The government has emphasized this support as part of our new five-year action plan for official languages, and this priority is already having an impact on immigration in Canada. For example, we are seeing positive results from the changes made to the express entry system in 2017, when we started awarding additional points for strong French language skills.

As of November 2018, 4.5% of express entry invitations to apply were issued to French-speaking candidates, compared to 2.9% in 2017. Promising trends like these support our goal of increasing the proportion of French-speaking immigrants outside Quebec to 4.4% by 2023. In short, we are on the right track.

We are collaborating with communities to ensure our approach is designed by and for francophones. That approach will guide the development of policies and initiatives related to the promotion and delivery of settlement services.

Stakeholders want to support refugees, so we are taking steps to develop an action plan that will strengthen our approach to resettling and integrating refugees.

We are also consolidating our francophone integration pathway, as announced in the action plan for official languages. Thanks to an additional $40 million over the next five years, the francophone integration pathway will help French-speaking newcomers connect to francophone communities, settle in and integrate.

I would like to share more details about certain aspects of the francophone integration pathway that the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship announced in November during National Francophone Immigration Week.

First, we are investing up to $11 million over five years in pre-arrival settlement services for French-speaking newcomers. La Cité collégiale is leading the initiative in collaboration with four regional Canadian partners.

They help connect newcomers and francophone service providers across the country.

Furthermore, we have addressed the need for newcomer services in French at Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto. As of this spring, the Centre francophone de Toronto has been providing services to French-speaking newcomers who arrive at the airport.

In November 2018, we launched an expression of interest process seeking an organization to deliver official language training for French-speaking immigrants and allophone newcomers who have declared French as their official language of preference.

Furthermore, the Centre international d'études pédagogiques has been designated as a second French-language tester for economic immigrants, which will make the tests more accessible to French-speaking immigrants and applicants.

Lastly, with the support of the Réseaux en immigration francophone, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne and the Comité atlantique sur l’immigration francophone, we have launched the welcoming francophone communities initiative. This initiative aims to find and create spaces where French-speaking newcomers will feel welcome.

The Government of Canada is committed to supporting the development of francophone minority communities and increasing the proportion of French-speaking permanent residents outside Quebec.

The initiatives I mentioned are designed to meet these objectives.

To do so, we will continue to work with various stakeholders to support linguistic duality in Canada and to support dynamic francophone communities across the country. This will help French-speaking newcomers settle in Canada and help them integrate into francophone communities outside Quebec. Overall, these measures will help French-speaking newcomers build a new life in Canada and will reflect this government's support for linguistic duality in Canada.

Given the fundamental importance of linguistic duality across Canada, the government cannot support a bill that could jeopardize a permanent resident's ability to request citizenship in the official language of his or her choice.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is not without a certain bitterness that I join the debate on this bill.

Of course, we can tout the merits of Canada's two official languages. I rise in the House with all due respect for francophone minority communities outside Quebec and anglophone minority communities in Quebec. There is no denying, however, that, over the past few years, there has been an effort to relegate the sovereignty issue to the dustbin of history; to downplay the importance of acknowledging Quebeckers' quiet nationalism, which concerns me greatly. I have observed firsthand that the French language is at the heart of culture.

Last week, we debated the bill on indigenous languages. We heard from several people who stated just how important indigenous languages are to the indigenous identity and culture, and how it is very important to preserve them. The situation in Quebec is obviously not the same because Quebeckers have had the opportunity to take strong positions and to implement measures such as Bill 101. It was highly controversial at the time but it ultimately played an important, structural role in Quebec culture, and is a critical part of French's resilience in Quebec.

I am talking about our national question being turned into a bit of folklore, because, I would remind hon. members, Quebec is a distinct nation. I immediately think of simple things like the fact that our parliament is not called a legislature, but a national assembly, like in France, to reflect the fact that we adhere to the Civil Code instead of common law. We have a republican-like way of thinking, a way of seeing society that is more reflective of France, but includes a healthy mix of our status as Canadians and North Americans in the Westminister system.

My general impression when it comes to defending the interests of Quebec is that there are not too many Quebec MPs who want to talk about quiet nationalism, an expression that I quite liked and adopted. It was coined by Alain Dubuc, and economics columnist at La Presse. This is a nod to the Quiet Revolution and a characterization of our nationalism. In Quebec today, in 2019, this is a consensual nationalism, in the vast majority of cases.

Some hon. members represent largely anglophone communities where people are not inclined to be open to this idea. I forgive those members for not rising often enough to stand up for the quiet nationalism we are seeing in Quebec. As for the other MPs, I honestly have to say that I am very frustrated. For four years now, I have been front and centre at all times. My party, the NDP, gives me room to talk about how vital culture is to our television and popular music industries. Quebec's cultural industries are thriving. Every time we talk about a Canadian filmmaker doing well internationally we are proud of that, but often that filmmaker is from Quebec. We are so proud we might as well be talking about an Olympic champion. However, this does not come from nothing.

In the Olympics, there are programs such as own the podium. In Quebec and Canada, Quebec culture was allowed to thrive in television, film and music. How did we do that? By enforcing regulations; not letting ourselves be colonized and stepped on like doormats; and telling industry stakeholders interested in developing international culture that we had a weakness and that we needed to be a part of the story. If there is foreign content, there will have to be local content. This goes for all Canadian content, and everyone knows it, but it takes on a whole new meaning in Quebec. Both Canadian and Quebec content are hugely successful and have exceptional ratings, and ultimately, they also have a positive impact on society.

I will stop there to return to the bill introduced by my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île.

In Quebec, protecting culture means ensuring that the stories we tell reflect peoples' lives. I often give the example of the show Fugueuse, which had great ratings and a profound social impact. Every day after an episode would air, social workers and screenwriters would come to Longueuil station to talk about child prostitution, which is a blight, especially in my constituency. The show is having an impact.

In Quebec, we have invested in this particular way of telling our stories and expressing our love to one another, of greeting the world and welcoming new communities that come here. Last year, at a televised gala, we learned that Fugueuse helped 20 or so young people get out of prostitution after speaking to their parents. How marvellous is that?

Some people might say they are sick of hearing about the bloody Quebec culture and would rather watch Netflix anyway because the content is more relatable and much better. Is it though? I myself obsessively watched 13 Reasons Why, a series about teen suicide, before my daughters watched it, because I wanted to make sure it was appropriate for them. Then I learned that, according to American studies, youth suicide rates rose by 27% after the first few episodes were released. That is a huge increase.

The reason I bring this up is that we need to defend the Quebec nation in a constructive way. That is why we in the NDP strongly objected when this bill was designated as non-votable. Incidentally, I tip my hat to the member for Hamilton Centre, who fought to convince all his colleagues to vote to debate the bill. This bill represents an idea that could be immensely improved by the work of all the legislators in the House. I do not want to hear anyone telling me this bill is silly. If there is one bill that was sloppily cobbled together without constructive input from all members of Parliament, it is the omnibus bill that contained a certain little provision about SNC-Lavalin. We know all about the disastrous consequences for that company, which is Quebec's leading engineering firm, and above all for my dear Liberal colleagues, who really messed up.

The NDP believes this is an important issue because we are acutely conscious of the significant contributions that these new cultures make. They are going to help us build a stronger Quebec. Naturally, teaching French to newcomers is the central issue. We actually adopted a resolution on this topic at the last NDP convention in Trois-Rivières: Whereas immigration is essential to address the labour shortage, which is hurting the economy; whereas the Conservative and now the Liberal governments did nothing to support francophone immigration and make French language classes more accessible—God knows that is true; and whereas francophone immigration is indispensable for ensuring the future of Quebec and francophone communities across Canada outside Quebec; be it resolved that an NDP government will commit to providing adequate funding to increase the required percentage of French-speaking immigrants and will adapt existing immigration programs to Quebec's unique economic, social and labour needs.

That is why the Quebec caucus would surely have voted in favour of this bill at second reading so that it could be sent to committee. We are not getting anywhere by cutting ourselves off and talking past one another. It is shameful and disrespectful for any Quebec MP to ignore the vulnerability and value of Quebeckers' quiet nationalism and to fail to proudly defend Quebec's distinct identity.

In closing, we are very disappointed that we are not able to vote on this bill. This really is a dialogue of the deaf. It seems like members just want to put a lid on this issue and not talk about it. I would urge my dear friends to wake up. There is a quiet nationalism in Quebec, and it is high time we helped it along rather than stand in its way.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, my speech will focus on three important things: the situation of French in Quebec, the important role French plays in social cohesion, and parliamentary democracy as it applied to Bill C-421.

What was the most important news about the language issue in Quebec in recent years? It was the record drop in the demographic weight of French speakers and the unprecedented rise in the demographic weight of English speakers.

English is not threatened in Quebec; French is. We are not the ones saying that. It is Statistics Canada, and it cannot be said that Statistics Canada is an organization that supports Quebec nationalism.

Here is what is being said:

The Language Projections for Canada, 2011 to 2036...indicate that, if the demographic conditions observed since 2011 continue, the balance between French and English in Quebec will continue to quickly tip in favour of the latter. According to those same projections, between 2011 and 2036, the weight of French-home-language speakers is expected to drop by approximately seven percentage points, while that of English-home-language speakers is expected to rise by two percentage points.

On the 40th anniversary of Bill 101, Guy Rocher, a sociologist, professor and renowned speaker, quoted some figures from Statistics Canada, as well. These figures relate to the census, which showed that French is declining in Quebec, as a mother tongue, language of work and language spoken at home. This has become a language crisis. We cannot keep turning a blind eye, because we now have figures showing how bad it is. Once again, I remind members that Statistics Canada as an organization is not very supportive of Quebec nationalism or independence.

The situation is critical. Play time is over and now is the time to act. French is under threat in Quebec. I am not fearmongering here. I am simply stating the facts, and everything that can be done to protect the French language must be done. This is what my colleague's bill was designed to do.

Here is another quote from Statistics Canada that demonstrates how important the French language is to social cohesion:

The ability of immigrants to speak one of the official languages is considered an important condition for their full participation in Canadian society.

That is what Statistics Canada says about Canada, and rather emphatically at that. It seems to me that what is good for the goose should be good for the gander. French in Quebec should also get special consideration.

The government is trying to brainwash us into believing that the battle for French is won and that we no longer need to worry our pretty little heads about it. The fact remains, though, that mastering French is less beneficial to immigrants than mastering English. There are social reasons for all that, of course. There are unilingual English brand names and the Internet. Information and communications technology has exploded in recent decades, and with it the use of English at the expense of every other language in the world.

The Government of Quebec also has its own unique problems, such as the language of administration, which is often English; the sign law, which is often disregarded; and challenges related to officially bilingual municipalities. Those are all consequences of the many attacks on Bill 101, our language charter.

Knowledge of French is fundamental to successful integration and access to employment. Knowledge of French is fundamental to strong social cohesion.

Marina Doucerain, a researcher in the area of immigration psychology, has done studies on this. She has indicated that all studies of immigrants in the greater Montreal area that she has been involved in have been unequivocal. It is very clear that the majority of participants, whether they come from the Maghreb region, Russia or elsewhere, want to make Quebecois friends and integrate into the majority culture, which means they must learn French. However, the francization and cultural integration of immigrants remain problematic.

Let us now look at what happened here, in the House of Commons, with my colleague's bill. The exceptional procedure applied to the bill introduced by my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île prevents the bill from even being voted on in a recorded division. This is basically just another attempt to relegate the Quebec nation to a minority status just like every other ethnic minority in Canada.

Canadians, who are still 100% behind Pierre Trudeau's charter, will not stop until there is linguistic free trade from coast to coast to coast.

In closing, what we want is for French, the common language of Quebec, to have the chance to counterbalance English, the common language of Canada, the United States, and globalization because our distinctness is important to us.

I will take a few moments to read a motion that was moved at the end of November 1995 by Mr. Jean Chrétien, who was prime minister at the time.

The motion moved:


Whereas the People of Quebec have expressed the desire for recognition of Quebec's distinct society;

(1) the House recognize that Quebec is a distinct society within Canada;

(2) the House recognize that Quebec's distinct society includes its French-speaking majority, unique culture and civil law tradition;

(3) the House undertake to be guided by this reality;

(4) the House encourage all components of the legislative and executive branches of government to take note of this recognition and be guided in their conduct accordingly.

In his argument, the former prime minister said:

The purpose of the motion we are debating today is to have the elected representatives of Canada recognize that Quebec is a distinct society within Canada. As a Quebecker and a francophone [we know that Mr. Chrétien is a Quebecker and a francophone, of course], I understand and share the desire of my fellow Quebeckers to have our difference recognized.

Today I call on Canadians who demonstrated their attachment to Quebec during the referendum campaign to support our government's initiative to recognize Quebec explicitly as a distinct society.

This was adopted on December 11, 1995. Is the quiet nationalism mentioned by the member from Longueuil—Saint-Hubert possible in this country? It would seem it is not. This motion should have been applied to Bill C-421, but it was not.

Federalists are upset by our desire to have our own nation, a nation that proclaims loud and clear our pride in speaking French, and to give it the tools needed to keep our language alive. It also bothers them that we want to base our identity on the common values that bring us together and unite us. “The moment Quebec stands up for itself, federalists become outraged.” These words were spoken by my colleague, the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île. He said them in 2015, and we fully endorse them.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have some thoughts on this bill's subject matter. I come from the province of Manitoba, where the French language is actually loved and cherished, and it is in fact expanding. When making reference to immigrants, we should think of those hard-working immigrants who truly care about contributing to our society. Often, we will find that their children are going to immersion schools. A number of people speak French, which is a beautiful language and one I wish I could speak. When people hear my surname, most assume that I can speak French. Unfortunately, we did not have the same sort of schooling back then that we have today in the province of Manitoba.

There has been a genuine growth of a beautiful language, a language that should be treated as equal to English, with a high sense of pride. Often, when I go to many events in my constituency, I am amazed when I run into someone of, let us say, Filipino, Punjabi or Indo-Canadian heritage who can speak not only Punjabi or Tagalog, but also English and French. More and more we see what I believe is a very healthy French community in Manitoba. When one really looks at it, one will find that it is a growing community.

I believe that in the province of Quebec, where French is spoken more than English, it will continue to be that way. I am not naive. I understand that there are pressures outside of the province of Quebec with respect to languages, but I do believe that the language itself is something that will continue to be exceptionally well spoken outside of the province of Quebec, where it continues to grow and prosper. Within the province, there are very strong personalities who will ensure that Quebec continues to lead the country and demonstrate to other countries around the world where French is spoken or continues to expand that Canada can be a role model. We can look at the very character and the vibrant society of the province of Quebec and what it has been able to contribute in the past, and it will continue as a community leading on the francophone file.

I do not think that it is all bad news. I was listening to the members opposite, who recognized French for the beautiful language that it is. It will always be an official language of Canada and respected in all regions of our country. As I protect the minority rights of francophones in the province of Quebec, I also encourage others to recognize that so many good things are happening outside the province of Quebec in ensuring that the French language is growing and becoming a larger part of Canadian society. I see that as a good thing.

With respect to citizenship issues, the only thing I would say is that as a government we have done exceptionally well in speeding up the immigration process. It takes nowhere as long today to acquire citizenship, because of the work of the current Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. I see that as a positive thing. We have a minister who really looks at the ways in which we can use immigration as an effective tool to enhance and complement our francophone communities, whether working with Quebec or with other provinces, to see a minority language continue to grow and prosper. I just say that for what it is worth.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. member for Bécancour—Nicolet—Saurel has five minutes remaining before the hon. member who moved the motion can close the debate.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Louis Plamondon Bloc Bécancour—Nicolet—Saurel, QC

Mr. Speaker, we all want to rise to defend the French fact in Quebec. We all want to propose solutions to ensure that this beautiful language remains a living language.

Contrary to what the previous speaker said, the use of French is declining in Quebec. Our language is at risk. We are not saying that immigrants are bad people. However, the conditions for welcoming them do not currently include the obligation to learn French. That is what my colleague's bill is proposing.

Naturally, we agree with protecting francophone minorities outside Quebec, and the government should take action on many fronts in that regard. However when we compare this to what is provided to the anglophone minority in Quebec, we are completely off course.

I did a little experiment. I went to Crescent Street in Montreal. I went into six restaurants and I was first greeted in English at each one. When I spoke French, they spoke to me in French. English is far from being at risk in Quebec.

There are two major hospitals in Quebec, each with a $2-billion price tag. One is French and the other is English. In Montreal, there are more English than French movie theatres, and there are more English publications than French ones.

We polled immigrants, who make up 50% of Montreal's population. According to the poll, most believe that francophones only make up 25% of Quebec's population. They are not aware of the French reality. That is why we must establish mandatory measures to ensure they learn French, integrate into the francophone majority and ensure the survival of French in Quebec.

Bill C-421 does that. It is a very moderate bill. It would inevitably be accepted by immigrants if they knew before arriving in Quebec that they had to comply.

My colleague, who also wants to address this bill, will speak for the two minutes remaining.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to repeat what my Bloc Québécois colleagues have already said, but in light of what has been said, I would like to look at the subject from another angle, with concrete examples.

I would remind members that the comments made by my colleague from Winnipeg North did not exactly respond to what we were saying. Perhaps some of what we said was misunderstood, misinterpreted or misconstrued, for when we talk about the minority, as my colleague from Bécancour—Nicolet—Saurel said, Quebec is already a minority within North America. That is what my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île noted earlier. The threat to the French language is concrete and real.

I said I would give the House a concrete example. I am the member for Manicouagan. The riding of Manicouagan is located in eastern Quebec, bordering Newfoundland and Labrador and the Maritimes. There are, of course, immigrants in my region, although sometimes people think that immigrants would not want to settle on the North Shore, an administrative region of 350,000 kilometres that is often thought to have nothing but spruce trees, snow and whales. People do live there. People have settled in Sept-Îles, Havre-Saint-Pierre, Baie-Comeau and Haute-Côte-Nord, for example. They are settling in lots of places. These immigrants do not speak either French or English as their primary language, but they choose to settle there and learn the language. I see them as success stories. These people are welcomed by the community, which is happy to teach them French, the language they need to know in order to live in those regions, where English is nearly non-existent. Anglophones make up only about 1% of the population, with the exception of the lower north shore, where the proportion of anglophones is a little higher.

Those are excellent positive examples of people who go to school in French, work in French and receive all their services in French. That is what enables people on the North Shore to live their lives in French and play an active role in society. Just like the rest of Quebec, Manicouagan has programs designed to help immigrants integrate. Language is the doorway to culture, as my colleague from Longueuil—Saint-Hubert said earlier. By learning the language, which is the best way to learn about culture, newcomers can play a full and active role in the community.

I know that because, having taught literature at university, at CEGEP and in a bunch of other places, I have seen it. Having access to a body of literature connects people to history, sociology, the arts, music and more. People who can access the language rapidly also become part of the community very rapidly. That is what we want for everyone. That is what I would want for myself if I were to move to another country. I would want access to everything that country had to offer—for newcomers, that means everything the Quebec nation has to offer—and that is really the purpose of the bill introduced by my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île.

In conclusion, I wish we could debate this bill in the House. Beyond the issue of language rights, which the bill introduced by my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île defends, this is an exercise in democracy that demonstrates to me the contempt—I do not want to put it that way, but it is what first came to mind—that my fellow MPs and also my colleagues from Quebec have for the French language issue.

I mentioned contempt, but I believe that transparency is also lacking in this process. In fact, since elected officials are accountable to voters, I wish they could rise in the House to indicate whether they support or oppose this bill, which is a bill for all Quebeckers.

Montreal was mentioned quite a bit. Montreal may simply be a symptom of what is not working in terms of the French language, because we must protect it.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

It is now time for the right of reply.

The hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Mario Beaulieu Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Longueuil—Saint-Hubert.

What happened today is another black mark on Parliament. Today, on May 13, 2019, the House of Commons of Canada behaved as if it were the House of Commons of English Canada.

It decided that taking steps to integrate immigrants into French Quebec was unconstitutional despite the well-known fact that the integration and inclusion of newcomers is critical if we want to continue to live and thrive in French. The member from Honoré-Mercier and others said that making French the common language is socially divisive when, in fact, the opposite is true. Making French the common language allows us to include everyone and build a coherent and inclusive society so that everyone can fully participate in Quebec society.

The Canadian model of institutional bilingualism does not work. We know this. Over 85% of newcomers in Quebec live in Montreal. In Montreal, all services are provided in English, upon request, or, in the federal government, by default. Newcomers come to Canada, where the majority speaks English. They come to North America, where an even greater majority speaks English. As a result, they are naturally inclined to choose English.

That is why Bill 101 sought to make French the language of the government, with exceptional measures to allow anglophones in Quebec to continue to thrive and live in Quebec. We did not want a repeat of what happened to francophone and Acadian communities outside Quebec. They were prohibited from having French-language schools. For years, French was completely banned from institutions.

Now that the Official Languages Act has been implemented, we must move on to another stage. The House of Commons is demonstrating that it is impossible to do that in Canada.

I thought that getting my bill passed would be difficult but still possible. It is not being given a chance. The most shocking thing is that, despite the opinion of Parliament's legal counsel, the bill was deemed unconstitutional. The truth does not matter, what matters is that the majority can impose its will, like it imposed the Constitution in 1982. It was the Constitution of English Canada and we never signed on to it. Today, the Liberal MPs are hiding behind the Constitution, and it seems there are not too many Conservatives who are interested in this.

We built an original society in Quebec. By rejecting my bill as non-votable and refusing to discuss it seriously, the House of Commons is showing its true colours. Hon. members are sending us a very clear message today. They are telling us that French Quebec is unconstitutional. They are telling us to stop striving for it because it is unconstitutional, illegal and impossible, and it is time to move on to something else. They are saying that if we really want a French Quebec, we should do that by leaving Canada.

I got the message loud and clear, and I hope that more and more Quebeckers will too. The only option, the only way forward for French, is independence for Quebec.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business



The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. As the motion has been designated as non-votable, the order is now dropped from the Order Paper.

Bill C-55—Time Allocation MotionOceans ActGovernment Orders

May 13th, 2019 / noon

Waterloo Ontario


Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons


That in relation to the Senate amendment to Bill C-55, an act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the Senate amendment to the bill; and

That fifteen minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration of the Senate amendment of said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

Bill C-55—Time Allocation MotionOceans ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wonder whether we have quorum in the House at this time.

Bill C-55—Time Allocation MotionOceans ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I will check that out right now.

We have quorum. Thank you for pointing that out. We were very close.

Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1, there will now be a 30-minute question period. I invite the hon. members who wish to ask questions to rise in their places so that the Chair has some idea of the number of members who wish to participate in this question period.

Bill C-55—Time Allocation MotionOceans ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am disappointed to be rising in this House to discuss the fact we are once again ending debate early on an important item.

I think this will be almost the 70th time the government has had to use this tool to move its agenda forward. As an opposition member, I feel my privilege to be able to bring forward my constituents' points of view on bills and laws that are going to affect their lives is being unduly harmed in this way. I am very disappointed we once again find ourselves not able to fully debate a bill for which there was a lot of public input and opinion that is not included in some of the amendments. I am again standing up to voice my concern that democracy is struggling in this House when time allocation is called for by the government time and again.

Bill C-55—Time Allocation MotionOceans ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

North Vancouver B.C.


Jonathan Wilkinson LiberalMinister of Fisheries

Mr. Speaker, let me start by outlining the facts.

Bill C-55 was introduced June 15, 2017. Five days in total were spent debating this bill at second reading and three days in total spent at third reading. In total, there were nine House committee meetings and eight Senate committee meetings. In the House fisheries committee, five amendments were proposed to the bill by Conservative, Green and independent members, which were adopted by the House on April 25, 2018. The House committee heard from 36 witnesses, representing a range of different stakeholders. The bill spent over a year in the Senate. It was first read May 26, 2018, and was sent back to us just two weeks ago.

Therefore, I think the record shows that a significant amount of time and discussion have gone into this bill.

Bill C-55—Time Allocation MotionOceans ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is coming from a minister who now has protests outside his office and has to be escorted. It is because of a lack of consultation and a lack of engagement.

Closure of debate has been levied on this House 59 times. This represents the 59th time. There is a number for my hon. colleague across the way. It was the 10th day of the 2015 campaign when the member for Papineau, now our Prime Minister, said that he would let debate reign. He promised Canadians, and that was one of the promises that he broke.

On a piece of legislation as important as Bill C-55, I will grant that our hon. colleague, the minister across the way, was not involved in the debate at that time; it was the former fisheries minister, who has been quietly shuffled out because of a corruption issue over surf clam harvesting. It was the former fisheries minister who also said that he would truly consult and engage Canadians, but we have seen time and time again from this government and this minister that consultation and engagement were not there.

I would like to ask our hon. colleague a question. Debate has not reigned free or supreme, but has been closed 59 times. On such an important piece of legislation, on which reasoned amendments have come back from the Senate, why do the Liberals feel the need not to engage the 338 members of Parliament who have been elected to be the voices of those who put them here in this House? Why? Why is that the case with the government, time and time again? Why does it continue to invoke closure?

Bill C-55—Time Allocation MotionOceans ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, with respect to my colleague's introductory comments, he has actually never come to talk to me about this bill. I would be more than happy to have a conversation with him about the issues to which he is referring.

This particular bill was introduced in June of 2017. It has now been almost two years, and Canadians are counting on the government to pass this bill so that we can better protect our marine environment.

The Conservative Party has no plan for the environment and no plan for climate change. If it were up to them, we would never finish debating this bill, because they simply do not want environmental protections.

Bill C-55—Time Allocation MotionOceans ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, if it were not so sad, it would almost be laughable to hear my Conservative colleague complaining about the number of time allocation motions we have been imposed since the Liberals took office. I thought the previous Conservative government's record could not be topped. That being said, at the rate the Liberals have been going for the past few weeks, I cannot help but think they are making a point of breaking the record. However, my question is not about that.

My Liberal colleague listed the various interventions that have been made on this bill, and he apparently wants us to think this is something out of the ordinary, whereas the truth is that the bill is following the normal process. What is not normal is that the Liberals are now disrupting the normal process to achieve their ends by force. It is probably because they have just noticed that the session is about to end, that the election is fast approaching and that, due to their bad planning, they do not have enough time to fulfill so much as a small fraction of their promises. I could list all the promises they have not kept, but it would take hours and hours.

Time allocation must and should remain an exceptional measure used to meet an urgent need. That is what the Liberals used to say when they were in opposition. However, what we are seeing now is that a bill is following the normal process and the Liberals' bad planning may have led them into a blunder.

Where is the urgent need for this new time allocation motion?

Bill C-55—Time Allocation MotionOceans ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, there has been significant and sustained discussion of this bill in this chamber, at committee and in the other House. Bill C-55 was introduced two years ago.

As I said, there were five total days at second reading debating this bill, three total days at third reading, nine total House committee meetings, and eight Senate committee meetings in total. The House committee introduced amendments that were accepted in this House. The House committee heard from over 36 different witnesses, representing stakeholders across the piece. The bill was in the Senate for over a year, in part because of stalling on the part of the Conservative Party, and it was sent back to us two weeks ago.

There has been comprehensive debate and discussion of this bill, and now it is time to move forward.

Bill C-55—Time Allocation MotionOceans ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Mr. Speaker, I found the comments from the minister about our environmental track record to be ludicrous. This is clearly a government with an environmental and fisheries policy that is show over substance. I can prove that.

When the Conservatives were in government, we introduced the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program, which funded 800 on-the-ground fisheries conservation projects by local communities. The minister and the government cancelled that program. Fisheries conservation communities and organizations from across the country have been denied the support they so desperately need from the government, and the fish stocks are suffering. I will prove that.

Under the government and the minister, Atlantic salmon fish stocks have collapsed and Pacific salmon stocks are in jeopardy, all because of the inaction of the government. This is a government that has denied local people the right to consult.

The minister presides over the most arrogant department in the history of Canada. He says that marine protected areas are something local people want. Given his and his department's track record in terms of dealing with local communities, as well as their dismal track record in conserving fish stocks across Canada, why should we believe him?

Bill C-55—Time Allocation MotionOceans ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am more than happy to talk about the environmental track record of this government relative to that of the Harper Conservatives.

The Harper Conservatives gutted the protections in the Fisheries Act and gutted the environmental assessment process. They had no plan to address the most significant issue we are facing on an environmental basis, which is climate change.

This government has developed a plan to address climate change. We have put in place measures to address the decline in biodiversity and to take care of species at risk. We have put in place a new Fisheries Act, which hopefully will be coming to this chamber in the short term. We are also putting in place a new environmental assessment process.

This government has done an enormous amount to ensure that on a go-forward basis, the environment and the economy will go hand in hand. That stands in stark contrast to the terrible environmental record of the Harper Conservatives.

Bill C-55—Time Allocation MotionOceans ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Before we move to the next speaker, I want to remind hon. members of the procedure. It is not screaming during the question. Members should wait their turn, and then they can ask a proper a question.

The hon. member for Courtenay—Alberni.

Bill C-55—Time Allocation MotionOceans ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to correct my friend from Cariboo—Prince George. This is actually the 71st time the government has invoked time allocation and shut down debate.

It is important that Canadians have an opportunity to have their voices heard. This is a very important piece of legislation. The bill clearly fails to set the minimum targets and standards that have been set by the international community. We were hoping to bring forward some of the concerns raised by Canadians that are very important and that the government should be listening to.

I share the concerns of my colleague from Cariboo—Prince George with respect to consultation. It has been inadequate, especially on Vancouver Island regarding recent fishing closures.

However, I share the minister's view that a lot of damage was done under the Harper Conservatives. There was a decade of cuts to science and a decade of cuts to fisheries. However, the Liberal government dragged the puck with respect to fixing the damage done under the Conservative government. It has not been getting money into our communities. This is an opportunity for the Liberals to do something right to help protect our fish, especially at a time when our chinook and sockeye are in trouble in certain areas. We were hoping to bring these concerns forward.

I hope the minister can address concerns about the 71 times time allocation has been used to close debate and shut down the voices of Canadians, who should be respected and heard.

Bill C-55—Time Allocation MotionOceans ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, the bill is about interim protection. It will enable us to move forward with respect to the protection of our marine environment.

With respect to my hon. colleague's comments regarding standards, about two weeks ago, I announced Canada's approach to marine protected areas and other effective area-based measures at a conference in Montreal. They are world-leading in the context of how we go about ensuring that standards exist. I am more than happy to review those with the hon. member if he has not yet seen them.

Bill C-55 was sent to the Senate last May. A year later, it has finally been sent back to the House. Many senators in the other place have noted that we need to pass the bill now. We have put in an amendment to their message that captures the intent of their message. It is time for us to finish debate so that we can start protecting our marine environment more effectively.