Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Official Languages talked to us about the inevitable changes that come with globalization, the capacity of Canadians to adapt, but in terms of language, the primary change we have seen in Canada from day one is the decline of French.
After all sorts of assimilation measures, after successfully making francophones in Canada the minority after 1867, we went from 29% to 20.5% of francophones in Canada from the point of view of language spoken at home in Canada.
For francophones outside Quebec, those hit the hardest by all the assimilation measures, they went from 4.3% of francophones in terms of language spoken at home in 1969 to 2.3%.
The rate of assimilation, of anglicization of francophones outside Quebec increases with every census. The rate is now 40%. It is completely unacceptable and it proves that the Official Languages Act is a complete failure.
What Quebeckers and Canada's francophones have demonstrated throughout history is not a capacity to adapt, but resistance. We have resisted assimilation and English Canada's repressive laws against francophones.
The history of language in Canada is nothing like the fairy tale the Minister of Official Languages presented. The British and Canadian governments knowingly used anglophone immigration and laws prohibiting French schools to anglicize francophones and keep them in the minority.
As francophones rose up and the independence movement grew in Quebec, the federal Official Languages Act was like a band-aid on a gaping wound. Under this legislation, services in French were inadequate and spread too thin to counteract the assimilation of francophone communities. In Quebec, the legislation essentially reinforced the use of English.
When Pierre Elliott Trudeau became prime minister, he was quick to dismiss the demands of André Laurendeau from the famous Laurendeau-Dunton commission. André Laurendeau was calling for the collective rights of francophones and Quebec's special status to finally be recognized.
The federal government does not recognize French as a minority language in Canada and North America, even in Quebec, so federal funding for official language programs in Quebec is provided only to the anglophone community and its institutions, which are already well funded, even though it is the French language that is at risk and on the decline in Quebec. That is how things were 50 years ago, and that is how they are again today.
Yes, Quebeckers, not the federal government, rallied to protect and promote their national language. The Quebec government, led by René Lévesque, adopted the Charter of the French Language on August 26, 1977. Since then, the Liberal Party of Canada has been a fierce opponent of Bill 101. The current Prime Minister's father denigrated it from the start, fighting it and weakening it with his strategy of repatriating the Constitution in 1982. The federal Liberals rejoiced every time a Canadian court struck down our law.
The numbers do not lie. Between the 2001 census and the 2016 census, French as the language spoken at home dropped by 2.5% in Quebec. The numbers have never been so low or dropped so much over such a short period of time. Charles Castonguay's book clearly shows this. The cause is not immigration but the anglicization of allophones and, increasingly, of francophones in Quebec.
Quebeckers know it and are legitimately concerned. They are clearly expressing their attachment to the language and their desire to strengthen Bill 101 and the Official Languages Act to improve the status of French in Quebec.
According to the most recent survey, 77% of francophones want those laws to be strengthened, and 78% support the Bloc Québécois's proposal to apply Bill 101 to federally regulated businesses. The Liberal Party of Canada has opposed Bill 101 for 40 years. However, today, armed with this opinion data and despite the doubts expressed by many of its members, the party recognized two things that Quebec has known for a very long time.
They are two very obvious things. First, French, unlike English, is a minority language in Canada. Second, French is in decline in Quebec and outside Quebec. The minister needs to take action.
We have the right to ask why the Liberal government is refusing to respond favourably to the Government of Quebec's official position on the modernization of the federal Official Languages Act. What Quebec is asking for is clear and reasonable. It wants the federal government to recognize that the Quebec government must have sole authority over language policy within Quebec. That means that the federal government must fully respect Quebec's legislative authority and recognize that the Charter of the French Language takes precedence over the federal Official Languages Act. In no way and at no time should the federal policy undermine Quebec's language policy. However, the opposite is happening.
Before implementing any language measure in Quebec, the federal government should have to get the consent of the Government of Quebec. That is what the current Government of Quebec is calling for.
Workers in Quebec should all have the same rights. That is a fundamental principle. The minister's proposal means that this value will not be respected. The solution, a simple and logical one, has the support of the majority. The Liberal Party is all alone. It alone is refusing to let the Charter of the French Language protect the rights of all Quebec workers. People across Quebec have spoken up, demanding one simple thing from the federal government: apply the requirements in the Charter of the French Language to federally regulated businesses located in Quebec. It is not complicated. This is what is being called for by the Government of Quebec, a unanimous National Assembly, the mayors of our biggest cities, major unions, the Union des artistes, the Union des producteurs agricoles, and the list goes on.
The Bloc Québécois has been asking for this for a long time, and it is bringing the issue forward again by introducing its bill, which clarifies the application of the Charter of the French Language in Quebec. The Minister of Official Languages is against it. We are dealing with more than just a disagreement over public policy. Language is the basis of Quebec's uniqueness and the identity of the Quebec nation. It is the glue that binds us together as a people. We would be more than happy to see the Government of Canada finally fulfill its responsibilities towards the francophone and Acadian communities. It is all well and good to have bilingual judges and to fund immersion schools, but these schools often serve to assimilate francophones outside Quebec. Should the federal government not start ensuring that all francophones outside Quebec have access to French-language schools run by and for francophones? That is even more important for universities and post-secondary institutions.
It is all well and good to promote francophone immigration outside Quebec, but what is the point of that if the newcomers are anglicized once they arrive? As the only francophone state in North America, Quebec has a huge responsibility towards francophones across the continent. The leadership of Quebec, along with a change in approach at the federal level, would benefit all francophone and Acadian communities. For this to happen, the federal government will have to recognize, in its own legislation, that Quebec has sole authority over linguistic planning and development in Quebec and that Quebec, with or without Canada, is the sole master of its own destiny.
On November 27, 2006, the House unanimously adopted the following motion:
That this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada.
Even though that motion has never resulted in anything concrete, and even though I think Canada has never been a united Canada, this government's choices continue to diminish the words of the Quebec National Assembly. By refusing to recognize Quebec's cultural and linguistic sovereignty and by refusing to accept the consensus of the Quebec National Assembly, the Government of Canada is proving that its recognition of the Quebec nation was nothing but a decoy, a trick, a sham.
Ottawa continues to deny the collective rights of Quebeckers, their right to self-determination, their right to ensure the future of their language, and their right to truly live in French in the only state where they consider themselves the majority and feel at home.
In fact, the Minister of Official Languages made a fine speech full of good intentions, but there is really nothing tangible for Quebec, just crumbs.
Will the federal legislation on official languages stop justifying the watering down of Bill 101? Will the federal legislation recognize that French is the only minority language and the only official and common language of Quebec, instead of always promoting more services in English and institutional bilingualism?
Bill 101 was established to counter institutional bilingualism and to make French the common language of all Quebeckers. It is not a factor of exclusion, but of inclusion. Bill 101 is the biggest gesture of integration and inclusion that the Government of Quebec has made. That is why we speak proudly of the children of Bill 101.
However, French is steadily losing ground in Quebec and Canada. If we do not make any major changes, it will become increasingly more difficult to turn this around and make French the common language in Quebec. The federal government needs to acknowledge that fact and acknowledge that Quebec has to be the master of its language policy. That way we could make French the true common language of Quebec and ensure the future of French in Quebec.
In the wake of the speech by the Minister of Official Languages, the only thing that will happen is that the federal government will show once again that the only path to ensure the future of French in Quebec is independence, which would in fact allow Quebec to fully support francophone communities outside Quebec.