Mr. Speaker, I rise today to share with the House a few remarks about Bill C-254, which was introduced by my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou, with whom I have the good fortune of serving on the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. We are missing a committee meeting right now because we are both giving speeches here in the House.
I heard my colleague mention francophone and Quebec culture, and I also want to point out the work and accomplishments of a great Franco-Ontarian, Bob Hartley, who just won the Gagarin Cup. He is from Hawkesbury, in my community, and I want to congratulate him before I begin my speech.
Bill C-254 was introduced before our reform document on the Official Languages Act, which was released in February 2021.
That is an important consideration in determining our strategy, as a government, on the best way to protect French across the country, including Quebec, in the workplace and in our cultural and community life. Our strategy was developed following exhaustive analyses of the concerns expressed by Canadians, stakeholders, and provincial and territorial governments, as well as on the studies of parliamentary committees.
Our strategy essentially aims to strengthen our official language communities across the country, but also to protect the vitality of the French language wherever it is spoken in Canada, from coast to coast to coast.
These are not just intentions or wishful thinking, but a formal recognition of the undeniable fact that French is a minority language in North America and that it deserves to be protected by any means necessary. We have followed through by making 56 proposals, including 33 concrete legislative proposals to reform Canada's official languages regime as a whole.
These proposals include options for modernization specifically to strengthen the place and status of French across Canada, as well as to protect this language in workplaces with a strong francophone presence, including in Quebec, where French is the official language.
I am sure my colleagues have had an opportunity to scrutinize the document we released on the reform of the Official Languages Act. I would still like to highlight a few of the key measures proposed by our government to strengthen the place of French within our businesses and in service to Canadians.
Our first proposal is that the next version of our act recognize linguistic dynamics in the provinces and territories, including the official status of French in Quebec, bilingualism in New Brunswick, and all the provinces' efforts and accomplishments relating to official languages.
We then put forward no fewer than five legislative and administrative measures laying out how we will work with the provinces and territories to improve opportunities to learn both official languages, including French, of course.
Third, we proposed a suite of legislative and administrative measures to strengthen institutions in official language minority communities across the country, with a special focus on francophone communities from coast to coast to coast.
I really want to highlight the fourth proposal in our modernization document today. It relates directly and specifically to the issue of protecting French throughout Canada, including in Quebec. Our proposals include recognizing the predominant use of English in Canada and North America and the fact that, given this context, it is imperative that French receive increased protection and promotion.
We also proposed strong, concrete measures that list areas in which the federal government can take action to protect and promote French in Canada, such as broadcasting, culture and diplomacy. That is not all. Another of our proposals is to recognize the importance of the contribution of francophone immigration to the vitality of French and francophone minority communities and to legislate the government's obligations in this specific area.
This last point is so important to my community. We have to increase francophone immigration outside Quebec and attract francophones to our communities, including the one I represent. I am proud to have a welcoming francophone community, Hawkesbury, in my riding.
All of the measures identified and detailed in our modernization document will help achieve my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou's objectives, those of Bill C-254, and much more besides.
In this case, I think it is worth highlighting our proposal about official languages and federally regulated private businesses, including those established in Quebec.
Our government fully understands the key role that Quebec plays within the Canadian francophonie, and we believe that the private sector in Quebec has a role to play in protecting and promoting the French language in Quebec and in the rest of the country. Our government primarily expects federally regulated private business to play this key role.
Our reform document is crystal clear. Specifically, we are committed to specifying the federal government's power to encourage federally regulated private businesses to promote the equal status of the official languages in order to increase the use of French as a language of service and work everywhere in the country.
We propose some concrete measures to achieve this commitment. We will give workers the right to carry out their activities in French in federally regulated private businesses established in Quebec and in other regions with a strong francophone presence in the country, including in my community. We will also oblige the employer to communicate with its employees at least as much in French as in English in federally regulated private businesses established in Quebec and in other regions with a strong francophone presence.
We will vigorously prohibit discrimination against an employee solely because he or she speaks only French or does not have sufficient knowledge of a language other than French in federally regulated private businesses established in Quebec and in other regions with a strong francophone presence in the country.
The Government of Canada, its public service, its businesses and its Crown corporations must be exemplary in their implementation of the Official Languages Act across Canada, including Quebec. The issue of businesses under federal jurisdiction in Quebec and in regions with a strong francophone presence in the country is important to us, particularly to give consumers of goods and services the right to be informed and served in French.
Our reform document mentions the creation of a committee of experts to develop recommendations with respect to the implementation of these commitments, after consulting with unions, employers and relevant stakeholders on modernizing the Official Languages Act. This committee is at work and will wrap up by April 30, a few days from now. We are certain that it will submit meaningful recommendations for a modern act that will be up to the challenge of protecting French for years to come.
In addition to all these major legislative and administrative measures, it goes without saying that the Government of Canada, its public service and its Crown corporations will have to ensure an exemplary implementation of the act across Canada and Quebec.
As we study Bill C-254, we cordially invite the House to consider the broader context of modernizing the Official Languages Act and its related instruments to protect French from coast to coast to coast.
As a Franco-Ontarian, I am pleased to share my opinion and the government's opinion of Bill C-254 with you.