House of Commons Hansard #115 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was report.


Alleged Breaches of Privilege Presented in the Second Report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsPrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. He relayed how difficult it has been for SMEs and how the Canada emergency wage subsidy helped them out. It also helped other organizations, namely the political parties.

The government just proposed an amendment on that because it realized that it is inappropriate for political parties to use this program.

I would like to know what my colleague thinks. The government says that this practice will be inappropriate after August 2021. Why not sooner? Why not make the amendment retroactive, so that the political parties are retroactively not entitled to the emergency wage subsidy?

Alleged Breaches of Privilege Presented in the Second Report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsPrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I believe my colleague and I are on the same wavelength on this and many other issues.

It goes without saying that this was an assistance program for struggling businesses and that the filthy rich major parties are not struggling businesses. This was inappropriate from the get-go. It would only make sense for this to be retroactive to cover the entire period.

Alleged Breaches of Privilege Presented in the Second Report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsPrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege and honour today to rise and speak to the bill.

As we know, we are dealing with four crises right now. We have a climate crisis, an opioid crisis, a homeless crisis and of course the COVID pandemic, which we have all been battling together for over a year. Many people have been living daily with the anxiety of losing their jobs. They are worried about their health and the health of their loved ones. In the meantime, the wealthiest Canadians have grown their wealth and Canada's largest corporations have benefited from this pandemic, and we have a Liberal government that has been resistant to having them pay their fair share and contribute to the cost of the pandemic. We know this is going to fall on the backs of everyday, middle-class Canadians and the most vulnerable, as services will be cut in future years because of the government's lack of courage to make those who should pay for the pandemic contribute more.

On the other side, the Conservatives are using delay tactics to get support to Canadians. In this budget there clearly are very important pandemic supports that small businesses need. As the federal NDP critic for small business and tourism, I know all too well from talking to entrepreneurs how important it is that they continue to get supports such as the wage subsidy and the emergency commercial rent assistance program. While we were glad to see the government extend those programs through the summer, the cuts to those programs as they are slowly and gradually phased out will impact those businesses, especially in the tourism industry.

Many businesses that rely on international tourism likely will not see international guests this season. Any tourists who planned on coming to Canada have cancelled their bookings, so these businesses have been asking for the wage subsidy and the rent program, which are lifelines for them. As members may recall, these are programs that the NDP fought to have increased. The wage subsidy was initially going to be 10%, and we pushed so the government would increase it to 75%. The commercial rent program is a program for which the government took our idea, but of course it rolled out a flawed program that was landlord-driven and forgot about the tenants.

We kicked and screamed to get these programs fixed. We got the wage subsidy up to 75% and the rent program to be tenant-driven. These benefits are absolutely essential to those tourism businesses and small businesses that are going to have to go through fall and into next spring. We heard from the Tourism Industry Association of Canada at committee, and other tourism industry organizations such as the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, that said they needed those programs to go to the spring.

While I am mentioning it, the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada has seen a cut of 83% to its core budget. At the time when we needed it most, ITAC delivered over $15 million in loans to indigenous-led businesses, because it has that intimate relationship with its member businesses. It saved over 1,900 indigenous businesses with over 40,000 employees. These are going to be the most vulnerable businesses as we come out of the pandemic.

I am encouraging the government to come back and try to save these businesses. Time is running out. They need help.

In terms of the Canada emergency business account loan, we were glad to see the government finally fix the last increase of the CEBA loan during the second wave, but businesses are saying it is not enough. They have gone through a third wave. They need more funds. They need help and liquidity to get through the summer and beyond. The repayable timeline of next fiscal year is absolutely impossible for almost any small businesses to meet, in order for them to get the rebate of one third of that CEBA loan. We are asking the government to extend the terms of that repayment at least to the end of 2025, so that these businesses have a fighting chance to get back on their feet.

The government also keeps talking about credit card merchant fees. We know that the government is in bed with the big banks, but the reality is that small businesses are being constantly ground down by the banks. We just saw the banks increase their fees for consumers and small businesses again, during a time when they are having record profits. This is completely unacceptable to Canadians. In Europe, when it comes to merchant fees and interchange fees, they are paying 0.3%. Right now in Canada, 1.4% is the voluntary rate that credit card companies say they are paying.

I have met with Visa and Mastercard. They say that it is actually not their issue and that it is the big banks that are setting the rates on the interchange fees. We have seen the big banks having record profits. Why are they not stepping up to the plate and providing some relief to small businesses and consumers? We know that merchant fees are often put on the backs of small businesses.

As members know, I can speak for a long time about small business. The other piece is start-ups. The Liberals have completely abandoned start-ups, and those who started a business after March. They may have signed leases months and months, or even years, before. They have paid their employees and their rent through the pandemic. They have a record of receipts they have paid.

There are many different tools the government could use and industry standards it could look at. They have had leases and made these payable expenses. Liberals should set some criteria to save these businesses, or we are going to lose a generation of businesses. Throughout every riding in our country, we are hearing from people who have been abandoned by the government.

As members know, the other file I carry as the federal critic for the NDP is for fisheries, oceans and Coast Guard. We were happy to see the government finally listen to our call. Members heard me kicking and screaming in the House of Commons, calling on the minister to declare a wild salmon emergency and to make this a wild salmon recovery budget.

We are happy to see the Liberals put a significant allocation to wild salmon recovery, but we still have not seen the fine details. We have heard the broad framework of what they want to use to guide them in terms of delivering that funding, but we have not had the details of how they are going to spend that money, and time is of the essence.

Also, we have not had a commitment to reconciliation with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and we need a wild salmon secretariat that is government to government with the province, with indigenous leadership and communities, the nations on the coast and the federal government working together in co-management. We know what Liberals mean by “consultation”. They check a box, then they leave and abandon communities without listening and implementing what they have been told by those communities.

The other pieces we have not seen are the transition funding supports for those that were in the salmon farm industry. The government is hopefully following through with its commitment to move away from open-net salmon farming and to support those workers, their families and the communities in which those fish farms are in. The government made the right decision on Discovery Islands, but it did not come back with a plan to support the workers. This is something the NDP has been calling for. I have been calling for it. I tabled a bill about moving away from open-net salmon farming to closed containment, and the government abandoned it. I want to see the government do something significant around that.

Friday was the one-year anniversary of the death of Chantel Moore, a Tla-o-qui-aht member from my riding who was shot by a New Brunswick police officer. She was a Tla-o-qui-aht member, and she was killed on a wellness check. I think all of us can join together in offering the family of Chantel Moore our condolences, along with the nation and the Tla-o-qui-aht tribal council, especially as they seek justice. We need to work together to ensure that no one else suffers the same fate Chantel did during a wellness check. Canada needs comprehensive police reform.

In this budget, the Liberals put forward $100 million for mental health. That is not even close to enough. They put forward $108 million for first nations policing, which is not even close to what is needed. Police are supposed to be there to serve and protect people from our communities, but instead, the federal government has not acted to address the disproportionate amount of violence indigenous people are facing at the hands of police.

I will continue, and the NDP will continue, to advocate in Parliament for indigenous participation in investigations into police violence, ongoing mental health assessments of police officers, enhanced vetting of new recruits and cross-cultural training for police forces in all levels of Canadian society. There needs to be reforms to the police act.

I can speak in great detail about many other things. There is the opioid crisis, as I touched on earlier. There is the government's blue economy. The fact is that it is completely tainted and tilted toward industry, instead of doing the right thing, which is protecting our oceans. Our oceans are critical right now, especially as we are seeing a warming planet and a warming ocean.

Alleged Breaches of Privilege Presented in the Second Report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsPrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we go to questions and comments, I see the hon. Minister of International Development rising on a point of order.

Bill C-30―Notice of time allocation motionPrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Burlington Ontario


Karina Gould LiberalMinister of International Development

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately an agreement could not be reached under the provisions of Standing Orders 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the report stage and third reading stage of Bill C-30, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on April 19, 2021 and other measures.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a minister of the Crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at the respective stages of said bill.

If you will allow me, I did not have an opportunity to thank you for all of the service you have provided us. I wish you well in your retirement. I hope you do not mind allowing me to take a moment to thank you and tell you that it has been a pleasure to work with you.

Bill C-30―Notice of time allocation motionPrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

You are very kind. Thank you.

I am sure the hon. members present will indeed be thankful of the notice given with respect to the advice the minister offered this afternoon.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-30, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on April 19, 2021 and other measures, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Report StagePrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Leona Alleslev Conservative Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know that my hon. colleague's riding in B.C. on the island, the gorgeous Courtenay—Alberni, is suffering like mine from a severe housing shortage.

Could my hon. colleague give some insight into his perspective on whether this budget adequately addresses the national crisis in housing affordability and availability of supply? What measures would he argue are missing from the budget?

Report StagePrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, this budget does not address the housing crisis we are in. Young people have lost hope. We are hearing that people have to work 12 years to have a down payment to buy a house in many cities across the country.

In Europe, 30% of housing is non-market housing. In the seventies and eighties, the housing stock in Canada was over 10%. We know it is much less than that. The private sector has not delivered in building the housing that Canadians need. We need non-market housing and the government needs to build over 500,000 units: We know we are 300,000 units short now but we are losing units every day. As we commit to building more units, we are falling short. The gap is actually widening, so people are living in fear about where they are going to live.

Everybody should have the right to adequate housing. This is an opportunity for the government to get back into non-market housing, because the free market is not going to resolve these really important issues. It is a crisis for many Canadians right now, and it is getting much worse. The government has not dealt with it in a way that demonstrates the crisis that we and many people are facing right now in our country.

Report StagePrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

There will be three minutes remaining for questions and comments for the hon. member for Courtenay—Alberni when the House next gets back to debate on the question.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business, as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from April 28 consideration of the motion that Bill C-254, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Official Languages Act and the Canada Business Corporations Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Sherbrooke Québec


Élisabeth Brière LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec)

Mr. Speaker, I want to start by reminding members of some important points we all agree on in this House. It is important to give Canadians the real facts and the real issues so that we can find common ground and common solutions.

First, we agree that French is a minority language in North America and that we need to do more to protect and promote it.

Second, we agree that Quebec deserves special attention within the Canadian francophonie, as the only majority francophone province in the country. The Prime Minister told the House that if we want to ensure a bilingual Canada, we must ensure that Quebec is first and foremost a francophone Quebec.

Third, we agree that the vitality of Canada's francophone communities from coast to coast to coast plays a key role in growing the Canadian francophonie, especially in terms of living and working every day in French.

Last, we agree that the Official Languages Act must be modernized to make it more responsive to the challenges of our time, and we also agree that federal and provincial jurisdictions must be respected in this process.

I would like to invite my colleagues to refocus our debate on the fundamental facts and issues behind Bill C-254. I agreed with my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou when she stated during the first debate that the recognition of the importance of promoting the use of French must come from all sides, including citizens, businesses and also all levels of government.

Since we are in agreement on these fundamental issues, then we just need to debate the most effective means of achieving our common objectives and propose reforms for Canada's language regime as a whole. We also agree that reforms that apply to all federal legislation, in both the economic and the cultural sectors, are more effective than a single provincial law.

I want to be very clear on that point. Some of our colleagues believe that language of work is strictly a provincial jurisdiction and that only the provinces should pass legislation in that regard. Our government disagrees. We firmly believe that if we are to ensure the vitality of Canada's francophonie, it is imperative that we have a strong Canada-wide language regime that protects French both within and outside Quebec.

As Canadians, we are deeply attached to our two official languages, which are an integral part of our collective identity. We also agree that, although the passage of the Official Languages Act in 1969 transformed the face of federal institutions, it did not put an end to the evolution of the Canadian linguistic landscape. We all know that, despite the great progress that has been made at the federal, provincial and territorial levels over the past 50 years, significant challenges remain.

That is exactly why our government initiated a far-reaching effort to modernize the Official Languages Act after much consultation with francophone and anglophone Canadians, communities, businesses, experts and partners in order to propose a modernized and strengthened act. This act will be effective at countering the decline of French, protecting our communities and guaranteeing the vested language rights set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It is important to remember that the modernization of the Official Languages Act and its related instruments also applies to federally regulated private businesses, the same ones that are targeted by Bill C‑254. The modernization of the act affects these businesses both within and outside Quebec.

In this age of globalization and labour market integration, protecting French as a language of work needs to happen from the top down with a clear, strong, coherent Canada-wide language regime. That is our government's position.

In that regard, our position has been clearly and publicly articulated. We announced a suite of very concrete legislative and administrative proposals with one clear objective: to promote the equal status of the official languages in federally regulated private businesses and, most importantly, to protect the right to work in French in Quebec and in all regions of the country with a strong francophone presence.

In addition, with respect to language of service, the government is proposing to give consumers of goods and services the right to be informed and served in French in all federally regulated private businesses in Quebec and in regions with a strong francophone presence.

To ensure that the new language of work and service rights are meaningful and effective, they will be supported by recourse mechanisms. The government took the time to listen to the expert panel tasked with developing recommendations regarding possible recourse for workers and consumers, the criteria for recognition of regions with a strong francophone presence, and the implementation of the government's commitments and the relevant legislative instruments.

As a result of all these analyses, the government's proposals for Canada's next language regime clearly go much further and extend beyond the framework proposed by Bill C‑254. Specifically, with respect to federally regulated private businesses in Quebec and in regions with a strong francophone presence, we will give workers the right to carry out their activities in French. We will require employers to communicate with their employees in French and to publish job postings, collective agreements and arbitration decisions in French. We will prohibit discrimination against any employee solely because they do not speak French. We go even further. With respect to language of service to the public, the next Official Languages Act will ensure that consumers of goods and services of federally regulated private businesses will have the right to be informed and served in French, in Quebec and in regions designated as having a strong francophone presence.

To promote French in Canada, it is important that the federal government maintain its power and encourage private businesses under its jurisdiction to implement measures. In turn, these measures will have to increase the active use of French as the language of service and the language of work across the country.

I would like to reassure my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou that, when it comes to protecting French in Quebec, her objectives are also ours. She agrees with our government that this is not about taking away the rights of English-speaking Quebeckers, but about protecting and promoting French.

For that reason, I cordially invite her and our opposition colleagues to join us in our efforts to modernize the Official Languages Act and to support our bill, which will soon be introduced in the House. This means agreeing to abandon Bill C‑254 and its provincial limitations.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise as you preside over the work of the house. This is surely one of the last weeks before the summer break. I would therefore like to say hello to the people of Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, and tell them that it is such a privilege to represent them.

Today we are debating a bill that the Conservative Party intends to support, as mentioned at first reading stage. It is Bill C-254, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Official Languages Act and the Canada Business Corporations Act. In my opinion, there is cause for concern.

As we know, Canada is based on a vision of cultural diversity, but also of linguistic identity and duality, and this duality is threatened.

I have some news articles here with me.

An article from the Journal de Montréal entitled “The situation of French in Montreal: a catastrophe. Interview with Frédéric Lacroix” states, “We are in an unprecedented situation where the relative weight of francophones in Quebec is rapidly declining whereas that of anglophones is increasing.”

Charles Castonguay is a leading expert on this issue. He appeared before the Standing Committee on Official Languages. In his hard-hitting book, he bemoaned the fact that the use of French is declining rapidly in Quebec and that French itself is in an unprecedented free fall. Quebec is not the only place where this is happening.

I have here an article by Benjamin Vachet, an excellent journalist with ONFR+, entitled “Déclin du français au Québec: un danger pour tous les francophones?” He notes that only 20% of the country's population speaks French. I am a member of a committee that studied minority language post-secondary institutions, and I can say that all our institutions, be they in northern Ontario, in Saint‑Boniface, on the Campus Saint‑Jean, in Alberta or in Moncton, are experiencing financial pressure. It is time for a complete overhaul of the Official Languages Act, which we have been calling for for years. As we near the end of the session, and with Saint‑Jean‑Baptiste just around the corner, the Liberals are telling us they might introduce a bill. That is nice and all, but we will not be able to pass it.

French is in decline. Canada recognizes French and English as its official languages, but the two are not represented equally.

I am proud to belong to a party that is taking action for official languages and has done so all the way back to Brian Mulroney.

The Official Languages Act is just over 50 years old. Brian Mulroney's government was the one that really gave this legislation some teeth and enabled official language minority communities to become free and independent with the major reform of 1988. That reform entailed much more concrete action than the lip service of 1969.

We can also think about Mr. Harper. He gave Bernard Lord the mandate to come up with the roadmap. The Harper government invested $1 billion, which was then re-invested to support our communities. It also made it possible to recognize Quebec as the cradle of French, francophone culture and French-Canadian culture. Mr. Harper and the Conservative government recognized that Quebec forms a distinct nation within Canada.

I would like to use my time to correct a Liberal mistake.

The Liberals are always saying that the Conservatives did away with the court challenges program and that the Liberals reinstated it. They are forgetting a very important part of the truth: When Stephen Harper's government abolished the court challenges program, it established the language rights support program, which sought to support francophone communities.

Then, the Liberals took office. For 20 months, the communities no longer had an organization to turn to that would defend their rights. It is always important to distinguish between the narrative and the facts. The Conservatives are there to support francophone communities.

Bill C-254 seeks to support the large francophone minority in the English ocean that is North America, namely the Quebec nation. That is based on a choice that Quebec made, the much-talked-about Bill 101 or Charter of the French Language.

In my opinion, the Conservative Party was a little quicker off the mark. This is not the first time the Bloc has introduced this bill. Two months before the bill was introduced, our leader said that it was important that federally regulated institutions in Quebec be able to enforce the Charter of the French Language.

Why is this important? It is important because this linguistic duality is fragile. As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, French is in decline in every respect across Canada. The federal government has a constitutional responsibility, and a quasi-constitutional responsibility under the Official Languages Act, to ensure that French has the support and structure it needs to continue to be a tool of vitality and development. In that regard, I can say that there are significant needs at the post-secondary level, even in Quebec. Some big decisions will have to be made.

When our leader met with the Quebec premier in September 2020, he announced his support for the full application of Bill 101 to federally regulated private businesses in Quebec. The bill we are debating was introduced in November 2020.

Our leader promised something that goes much further than the private member's bill we are debating today.

Our political party is committed to modernizing the content of the Official Languages Act and renewing the spirit of the act. The Liberals are telling us that that is what they want to do, but they have not introduced a bill that would do it. We feel it is important to create a new funding envelope for francophone universities in minority settings in the first 100 days of our term.

This is what my leader said about this subject:

As it stands, the act is based on the principle of reciprocity between the two official languages, but if we are being honest, that statement does not reflect reality.... The federal government must develop an asymmetrical approach that prioritizes protecting the French language.

We are seeing a paradigm shift. Not only does the Official Languages Act protect francophones in minority situations, that is francophones outside Quebec, but it also supports Quebec's anglophone minority, which certainly deserves to be supported. The bill we are debating today recognizes this.

However, it is also important to take positive measures to support French and the emancipation of French in Quebec and across the country. That is what fundamental change is all about. On that note, I should mention that the Standing Committee on Official Languages has embarked on this enormous task, and this is just the beginning. We are coming to the end of the session, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

I would also like to mention that the bill that is in front of us would amend the preamble, part VII and section 55 of the Official Languages Act, to have the federal government commit to “enhancing the vitality of the English and French linguistic minority communities in Canada and supporting and assisting their development” and “fostering the full recognition and use of both English and French in Canadian society.”

Essentially, that means that the federal government must not be given this additional responsibility to the detriment of Canada's minorities, whether they are anglophones or francophones. As the saying goes, we must not rob Peter to pay Paul.

Again, it is important to ensure that minorities are promoted in a proactive and asymmetrical way, including francophone minority communities, but it is also important to promote linguistic duality.

In closing, I would like to reach out to the Liberals. Currently, there is only an English version of the fundamental law of our land, the Constitution of 1867. The government is fighting a lawsuit demanding that our country's founding document be accessible in both of our country's official languages. I am calling on the Liberals to ensure that we have a legal French version of the 1867 Constitution. Instead of promising the sun and the moon, they should do something meaningful.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to say that we will support Bill C‑254. I personally support it, and my party does as well.

I would like to share some of my own personal journey, but before that, I would like to say that, under our leaders, from Jack Layton, Nycole Turmel and Thomas Mulcair to the current NDP leader, the member for Burnaby South, the NDP has always supported strengthening the French language. One of our members, Yvon Godin, whom I can name because he is unfortunately no longer in the House of Commons, was one of the most passionate champions of strengthening the French language.

It is clear that this is a common-sense bill that deserves our support. I will get back to that shortly, but it is clear that it makes perfect sense for a worker working in a francophone environment in Quebec to have the right to communicate and have a collective agreement in French, and that is precisely the goal of this bill.

Mr. Speaker, you are a francophile yourself. As you know, I grew up in British Columbia on the traditional territory of the Qayqayt First Nation in New Westminster, right next to Maillardville, home to one of British Columbia's biggest francophone communities. Since childhood, I have seen signs in businesses where everything was written in French. I was fascinated even though I had no way to learn French at the time. There was no immersion school. When I was young, there were French classes, but we all know that one French class a week is not enough to master the language of Molière.

Today, in British Columbia, just a few blocks from where I live, where I am speaking from right now, there is an immersion school, one of the hundreds in British Columbia. Parents often line up for an entire weekend to register their children to learn French and do all their schooling in French. Our passion for the French language is alive and well in British Columbia. With the network of immersion schools, it is clear how well British Columbians speak French, much better than I do, because they completed all their schooling in French, whereas I only started learning French when I was 24.

Also, thanks to a previous NDP government, we have an entire school system, including elementary schools, high schools and schools following the French curriculum, in other words, French-language schools for francophones. I must say that the status of the French language in British Columbia is much better than it was when I was young. I hope that it will be strengthened and that French will be even more present after all these years.

At 24, I finally decided to learn French. I decided to do it in the best possible place, so I went to Chicoutimi. I arrived on January 3 in the middle of a storm. We do not often get storms like that in British Columbia, especially in New Westminster, which is in the greater Vancouver area. I loved learning French and living in Chicoutimi, in the beautiful Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region. Then I moved to the Eastern Townships, to Sherbrooke. After that, I went to Montreal, to the east end of the city, Laurier—Sainte-Marie, and finally to the Outaouais, in the riding of Hull—Aylmer. In each of those places, I saw the importance of the services that are always offered to the English-speaking community, everywhere, even in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. I had the choice between the two official languages, even with the Quebec government. I thought it was extremely important that these services be offered in the minority language.

However, I also learned that, right now, if a worker wants to work in French in a federally regulated business, that is left to the discretion of the business. So long as this bill is not in force, businesses have no obligation to provide collective agreements in French or ensure that employees can communicate in French with their employer. We need to address this. We need to provide a framework so that all workers can work in French. It is only natural, and that is why we must support this bill.

I loved the 12 years I spent in Quebec. I had the opportunity to travel all over the province. I learned about how important it is to strengthen the French language, not just in Quebec, but across the entire country.

This brings me to the important point I want to raise about the modernization of the Official Languages Act. This act was adopted 50 years ago, and things have certainly changed since then. We must all work on this issue and develop tools to modernize the language situation across the country.

In my professional life, before becoming a parliamentarian, I often had the opportunity to travel to Atlantic Canada, across Ontario, especially in the north, and through western Canada, in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. There are many francophone communities throughout. You might think of Maillardville, or the Saint-Sacrement neighbourhood in Vancouver. There are many francophone neighbourhoods and towns across the country.

However, the Official Languages Act does not meet their needs the way it used to 50 years ago. We have to strengthen and support these communities no matter where they are. Whether in Saint Boniface, in Hearst, in the beautiful and extraordinary region of Acadie—Bathurst, in Shippagan-Lamèque-Miscou or in Edmundston, we can see there is a remarkable francophone presence there.

Modernizing the Official Languages Act will make it possible for these communities to not only to continue to exist, but also prosper and attract newcomers, new people who will also speak the language of the Molière.

As I mentioned, our late leader Jack Layton, our former leader Thomas Mulcair, our former MP Yvon Godin, our former acting leader Nycole Turmel and, of course, our current leader have all advocated for strengthening the French language.

The NDP believes that strengthening the French language is not something that is done solely at the federal level. NDP governments in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba set up school systems that offer umbrella programs in French-language schools for francophone students and immersion programs so that people can learn French.

NDP members such as Léo Piquette, Elizabeth Weir and Alexa McDonough, when she was the leader in Nova Scotia, also strengthened francophone institutions. It was the former NDP government that did the most for francophone rights in Ontario. It is therefore not just federal NDP MPs who advocate for the need to strengthen the French language. It is the entire party and all of its members, at both the federal and provincial levels.

For all those reasons, I am pleased to support this bill, and I hope that the right to work in French in Quebec will be strengthened.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, even though I have not had the pleasure of knowing you for very long, I, too, would like to begin my speech by thanking you for your services and wishing you a very well-deserved retirement.

I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C‑254. I would like to digress somewhat and even look back in time to explain. I apologize in advance if this feels like Groundhog Day for members, but I want to reread some excerpts from question period on November 18, 2020.

The leader of the official opposition asked the Prime Minister the following question through the Chair, obviously, and I quote:

Mr. Speaker, Chelsea Craig is the Quebec president of the Liberal Party of Canada. Ms. Craig recently called Bill 101 oppressive. The Liberals continue to flout Bill 101, 43 years after it was adopted. Why do Liberal leaders continue to undermine French in Quebec?

The Prime Minister answered, and I quote:

Mr. Speaker, I do not need any lectures from a party that still refuses to commit to appointing only bilingual justices to the Supreme Court. We have always done what is necessary to defend the French fact in Canada, including in Quebec, as we said in the throne speech. We know how important it is to promote the French language across the country and also to protect the French language in Quebec, in partnership with the Government of Quebec.

The leader of the official opposition asked the Prime Minister another related question. He said, and I quote:

Mr. Speaker, the member for Saint‑Laurent showed considerable contempt for francophones, but no Liberal members from Quebec have spoken out against that. These members are doing nothing to defend the French language. No action has been taken on official languages in five years. Will the Prime Minister introduce a bill on official languages before Christmas, yes or no?

The Prime Minister replied, and I quote:

Mr. Speaker, if the Leader of the Opposition wants to show his commitment to the French language, will he promise today to appoint only bilingual judges to the Supreme Court of Canada? That is something he did not want to do and we will see whether he agrees to do that. We will always be there to defend the French language and defend the French fact in Quebec and across Canada. That is why we deplore the comments made by the member for Saint‑Laurent and that is why we are pleased that she apologized for what she said.

I was so taken aback by that exchange that I felt compelled to post the following on Twitter: “Fascinating question period. The Liberals and Conservatives are arguing over who is the biggest defender of French.” I thought that was excellent proof of the need for a strong Bloc delegation in Ottawa. I would be willing to bet that if the Bloc did not have 32 members in the House, this debate on the issue of protecting the French language would not have happened, or at least certainly not in such a lively manner, hence the importance of having a strong delegation in what is, for us, a foreign parliament.

A little more recently, on the more specific issue of protecting French as language of work, I had the pleasure, if I can put it that way, of an exchange with the Minister of Official Languages as recently as May 25. Once again, I would like to go back in time and have a bit of a groundhog day by quoting that exchange directly:

I said the following:

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of Bill 96, an act to protect French, the official and common language of Quebec, is to ensure compliance with Bill 101. Clause 65 clearly states that any enterprise or employer carrying on its activities in Quebec is subject to the act, and that includes federally regulated enterprises. We know that the Minister of Official Languages is working on her own language reform. Will she clearly state that she has no intention of interfering in any way whatsoever with Quebec's intention to apply the Charter of the French Language to federally regulated enterprises?

To which the minister replied the following:

Mr. Speaker, I thank my esteemed colleague for her question, which gives me an opportunity to remind the House about the government's position on official languages and specifically the protection of the French fact in Quebec and Canada. I want to remind my colleague that we will of course protect the right to work in French and the right to be served in French, as well as francophones' right not to experience discrimination in federally regulated enterprises in Quebec and in regions with a strong francophone presence across the country. I would be happy to work with her to achieve that vision.

Once again, what is the government's vision for protecting the French language? The fact is, its vision protects institutional bilingualism. As I have said in the House, their vision is to do to federal institutions what they did to Air Canada.

The government's white paper provides for the protection of the right to work in French. However, Bill 96, which was enacted in Quebec, does not do that. Bill C‑254 embodies the principle of Bill 96, in other words the fact that the language of work in Quebec is French.

I asked the Minister of Official Languages countless times if she would interfere in what Quebec is doing. I never got a clear answer, hence the importance of Bill C‑254, which I hope will be put to a vote in the House. This vote will leave the government no choice but to clearly express its will, say whether it intends to interfere in what Quebec is doing and challenge its will to apply Bill 101 to federally regulated businesses.

The government will also have to clearly state whether it is for or against changing the Canada Labour Code to reflect that the federally regulated businesses operating in Quebec are subject to Bill 101. It will also have to indicate whether the preamble to the Official Languages Act will be amended to recognized that French is the official language of Quebec and the common language of Quebec. We will finally know whether the federal government agrees to commit in the Official Languages Act to not obstruct the application of the Charter of the French Language in Quebec. We will finally see whether it agrees to change the Canada Business Corporations Act to clarify that the name of a corporation that conducts business in Quebec must meet the requirements of the Charter of the French Language.

We have been talking non-stop in the House about reforming the Official Languages Act. This is something that the minister wants to do and that the official opposition is asking her to do, and these reforms are not inherently good or bad. It all depends on what that they look like. The devil is in the details, as they say. The role of the Bloc Québécois here is to ensure that the reform of the Official Languages Act does not end up consisting of platitudes that lead nowhere.

We must act quickly to reverse the trend that is taking hold in Quebec. The percentage of Quebeckers who speak French as a first language has dropped below 80% for the first time in more than a century, and the Office québécois de la langue française estimates that this figure could be in the area of 70% by 2036. The use of English among young francophones aged 25 to 44, on the other hand, has doubled in the past 15 years in the greater Montreal area. In Quebec, only 55% of allophones switch languages to French, but that figure needs to be 90% if we want to maintain the relative weight of French.

As the only French-speaking nation in North America, Quebec not only needs to be intransigent, but it also has a responsibility to keep its language alive and well. I want to share a quote from Pierre Bourgault, who said, “when we defend French here in Quebec, we are defending all the languages of the world against the hegemony of one.”

Bill C‑254, introduced by my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou, will not resolve the fate of the French language and its vitality all on its own, but it is a step in the right direction. It is a meaningful step that neither the House nor the French language can afford not to take. That is why I will be very pleased to vote in favour of this bill.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Orléans Ontario


Marie-France Lalonde LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (FedDev Ontario and Official Languages)

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to make some remarks about Bill C‑254, introduced by my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou. I am very pleased to see that the promotion of French is a priority for her, and I sincerely wish to continue working with her on this file.

This is a priority for our government. That is why, since 2018, it has been working hard to modernize and strengthen the Official Languages Act and its related instruments in order to protect the French language from coast to coast.

The reform document entitled “English and French: Towards a Substantive Equality of Official Languages in Canada” was tabled in the House last February by my hon. colleague the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and proposes concrete legislative and administrative solutions to protect French across Canada, including in Quebec.

We recognize that there has been a decline in French in this province and across the country. Our bill to modernize the Official Languages Act seeks to remedy this.

This reform document presents a modernized vision of bilingualism to ensure the future of Canada's linguistic duality. It attests to our government's ambitious vision for the protection and promotion of French, whose survival we care about deeply.

Six proposed guiding principles can be found in this document. First, we are committed to recognizing the linguistic dynamics in the provinces and territories, as well as existing rights regarding indigenous languages, to promote a respectful Canada that is committed to building on its diversity.

We are also asserting our willingness to provide more opportunities for learning both official languages, which will help support English-speaking parents who are enrolling their children in French immersion classes to bolster the presence of French across the country.

We will be supporting the institutions of official-language minority communities, including post-secondary establishments, so that they keep reflecting the strength and resilience of these communities.

We are committed to protecting and promoting the French language throughout Canada, including in Quebec, as we recognize its particular situation within the North American context. The modernized Official Languages Act will recognize this and provide increased protection and promotion of the French language, most notably in the Canadian public service and in federally regulated institutions.

We will promote awareness and appreciation of both official languages within the public service by appointing bilingual Supreme Court justices, by strengthening the Treasury Board Secretariat's oversight function and the powers of the Commissioner of Official Languages.

Finally, going forward, we propose reviewing the Official Languages Act at regular intervals to ensure it remains relevant to the rapidly changing Canadian society of the 21st century.

Among the proposed changes, the Government of Canada will adjust its interventions and take concrete measures to strengthen the place of the French language in private businesses under federal jurisdiction and in the fields of cultural and scientific research. This will be done while respecting provincial jurisdiction, as well as the existing rights of English-speaking minority communities in Quebec. Our government is committed to promoting linguistic duality. We will do so until Canadians no longer feel linguistic insecurity. This is a matter of respect and dignity for all Canadians, both English and French speakers alike.

I would also like to add that our most recent budgets outlined significant investment in the field of official languages, including $180.4 million over three years to support immersion programs to help increase the vitality of French in Canada. We are also putting forward $6.4 million over two years in order to proceed with the modernization of the Official Languages Act. Additionally, our budget includes a commitment to invest $121.3 million in minority-language post-secondary education, as well as $81.8 million over two years to support the expansion of educational and community space. This will help maintain the vitality of French across Canada.

Our reform document contains proposals that respond directly but are not limited to the concerns of the member for Beauport—Limoilou, since we intend to go even further. This document includes major proposals to protect and promote French in federally regulated private businesses both in Quebec and in regions across Canada with a high concentration of francophones.

What is more, a committee of experts, including members of the two linguistic communities, was implemented with the mandate to consider the subject and come up with options and recommendations for the government. We are listening carefully to that expert advisory committee's recommendations, and we are quickly approaching the time when this bill to modernize and strengthen the Official Languages Act will be introduced.

The Government of Canada believes federally regulated private businesses have an important role to play in the protection and promotion of the French language. That is why we have every intention to further regulate these businesses to promote and protect the use of French as a language of service in work.

That is also why our government established the aforementioned expert panel. Its work has helped our government create our vision for a modernized Official Languages Act further by including not only federally regulated private businesses in the province of Quebec, but also those within communities with a strong francophone presence established throughout Canada.

As the Government of Canada, we cannot in good conscience limit ourselves to Quebec. While I certainly support my hon. colleague's goal of protecting French in Quebec, our government firmly believes a Quebec-only approach does not work. We need to work with both linguistic communities across the country. In other words, while our goals are the same, we absolutely need to put forward a pan-Canadian approach.

We have repeatedly heard from Canadians that the modernization of the act is a priority in order to progress toward a quality of status and use between our two official languages, the ambition of a federal government aimed to do just that, supporting French in and outside of Quebec.

Our proposed measures to modernize the Official Languages Act includes the rights of workers in Quebec and in regions with a strong francophone presence to carry out their activities in French within federally regulated businesses. It would also prohibit discrimination against employees based on the sufficiency of their knowledge of a language other than French as well as the responsibility of employers to communicate with their employees in French in Quebec and in francophone designated regions. This would obviously benefit francophone Quebeckers but would not limit itself. It would also support all francophones across Canada.

Finally, as the member for the riding of Orléans, which has one of the biggest francophone populations in Ontario, I care a lot about protecting the French language.

The reform of the Official Languages Act will have a major positive impact on all francophones in Canada, whether they be in Quebec or in minority communities in other provinces.

As members can see, the modernization of the Official Languages Act is far reaching. The use of French in federally regulated businesses is certainly a part of that. The government believes it is important to take action to make these businesses promote and protect the use of French as a language of service and a language of work, both in Quebec and in regions across Canada with a high concentration of francophones.

Our government committed to introduce a bill to modernize the Official Languages Act in 2021, and we will keep our commitment. The measures set out in our reform document seek to do just that, and we would like to invite our colleagues in the House who have already spoken in favour of modernizing the Official Languages Act to work with us so that we can successfully reform Canada's linguistic framework.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Resuming debate.

Accordingly, I invite the member for Beauport—Limoilou to take her right of reply. She will have a maximum of five minutes to make her comments.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Julie Vignola Bloc Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the speeches of every one of my colleagues.

To my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite‑Patrie, who suggested protecting French in Quebec by using the Canada Labour Code to give workers the right to file a complaint every time an employer did not comply with Bill 101, I would say that this idea is just a band-aid on a gaping wound. It is not a bad idea, but it will only tie up the union processes that he is quite familiar with, without really fixing the root problem since, despite the complaints, the employer would not feel obligated in the least to use the common and official language of Quebec, French, to communicate with its employees.

To my colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska, who is in favour of the bill, but surprised to be debating it in the House of Commons since it falls under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces, I would say that the refusal by federally regulated businesses to comply with the Charter of the French Language, the argument being that federally regulated businesses do not need to follow Quebec laws, justifies in itself that we are forced to legislate in the House of Commons to ensure that businesses respect Quebec, their own employees and the French language.

To my colleague from Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, who does not see the point of the bill considering the white paper on official languages, I would say that protecting bilingualism will not allow federally regulated businesses to ignore the Charter of the French Language and the common language of Quebec. Even members of the government get around the requirement to offer information sessions and webinars in both official languages by sending invitations through from their parliamentary email account, which is their privilege, rather than using their ministerial email, which would require them to offer translation. Even in the House, asserting the same rights as anglophones can be complicated, and so can filing complaints.

Some would have me believe that Canada will successfully impose on companies located in Quebec what it does not impose on itself. The word that comes to mind is “nonsense”. You would have to be crazy not to understand that Canada wants francophones and Quebeckers to shut up and embrace bilingualism.

To my colleague from Sherbrooke, who says that provincial laws alone are not strong enough and federal laws are absolutely required, besides the fact that this is a paternalistic attitude that I do not like any more than first nations do, I could respond with various examples demonstrating that Quebec laws have more teeth than federal laws. For example, Quebec's environment, labour and consumer protection laws are much more stringent. If federal protections were so strong, a CN employee would not have been fighting in court since 2015 to have his right to work in French acknowledged. If federal protections were so strong, parents would not have had to go all the way to the Supreme Court to obtain equal rights to education in French. There are many examples. I have others. The Official Languages Commissioner says that the public service does not have an inclusive organizational structure in terms of the use of the official languages, and French often becomes the language of translation.

Protecting French here and elsewhere in Canada is important. Bill C-254 does not go against the official languages reform. It completes it and strengthens Quebec, which could be a beacon for all francophone communities.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The question is on the motion.

If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes to request a recorded division or that the motion be adopted on division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.

The hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Julie Vignola Bloc Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, we request a recorded division.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Pursuant to order made on Monday, January 25, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 16, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

TransportAdjournment Proceedings

June 10th, 2021 / 6:25 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to be able to rise in the House today to follow up on a question I asked all the way back on March 26, on an issue that is of great concern to the coastal communities on Vancouver Island and particularly in the riding of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford.

At the time, I was raising an issue that prompted an investigation by the Transportation Safety Board. It was concerning a large bulk carrier, which dragged its anchor and drifted over one kilometre, 1,200 metres to be specific, to hit another vessel. We are very lucky that no damage was done at that time, and we are extremely lucky that neither of the two vessels involved found their way onshore, where the results could have been much worse.

The TSB report also indicated that between January 2015 and March 2020, there were over 100 incidents of ships dragging anchors along British Columbia's coastline. These can result in collisions, groundings or extreme environmental emergencies.

Anyone who has been lucky enough to visit our coastline in and among the Gulf Islands, the coast of Vancouver Island, will know just how precious this coastline is, not only to the residents but also to our country as a whole. It is an incredible marine environment. It is something that attracts visitors from across the country and from all around the world, both for the ecological diversity that exists there and the incredible recreational opportunities that abound.

At the heart of this is the fact that we have an interim anchorages protocol in place. It has been in place since February 2018, so it is not looking like it is much of an interim measure anymore. In fact, it is starting to really gather the air of permanence about it.

Residents have had the opportunity to participate in discussions about the interim anchorages protocol at the oceans protection plan dialogue forums, but it has been continually noted how inadequate the protocol has been because we still have a lot of residents who are complaining about noise pollution and light pollution of these incredibly large bulk carriers, which are anchored sometimes just a number of metres away from the coastline. Therefore, it is creating a lot of strife and a lot of discord among the residents here.

It is true not only for residents but also for local first nations on whose traditional and unceded territories these waters lie. Of course, these anchorages were established without free, prior and informed consent. We have messages from Cowichan tribes, the Penelakut, the Lyackson, the Halalt and the Stz'uminus in the area, who have clearly communicated to the Government of Canada that they do not want these carriers in their waters.

The other point I would make is that this particular area off the coast of Vancouver Island and in among the Gulf Islands is being proposed as a designated national marine conservation area. In fact, the private member's bill that I introduced in this Parliament, Bill C-250, is pretty much taking the exact same boundaries as the proposed NMCA and trying to bring about a prohibition of anchorages there.

I would very much like to see the government commit to either supporting that legislation, or at least bring forward for my residents an action plan that will show a noticeable decrease in how these anchorages are used and the frequency by which they are used because, frankly speaking, we have kind of had it up to here with the inaction on this.

TransportAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Hochelaga Québec


Soraya Martinez Ferrada LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

The Government of Canada is committed to creating a robust marine safety system to continue providing economic opportunities for Canadians today, while protecting our waterways and coasts for future generations. Canada's marine transportation sector and its associated supply chains are vital to maintaining our growth and collective prosperity.

Anchorages help bolster marine safety in our coastal waterways in and around our busiest ports. These anchorages are a key part of our marine safety system, ensuring that Canadian resources have uninterrupted access to global markets.

The government recognizes that with the steady increase in maritime trade we have seen in the past decade, some geographical areas have experienced additional impacts. The Port of Vancouver and the southern Gulf Islands are two areas that have seen an increase in vessel transits and, consequently, an increased use of anchorages in the area.

The government is well aware of the concerns expressed by local communities and indigenous groups regarding these anchorage sites. Engagement with indigenous and coastal communities, as well as with marine industry stakeholders, is a key component of the oceans protection plan and Transport Canada's approach to advance the issue of anchorages in this region.

I want to assure my colleagues that government representatives communicated with the stakeholders and the indigenous and coastal communities in a variety of ways and asked for feedback on this issue. The comments they received have brought to light a certain number of important social and environmental considerations that are now being used to develop an anchorage management framework for the future.

Transport Canada's vision for anchorage management is focused on reducing anchorage use and transits by commercial vessels and ensuring, whether through incentives or deterrents, that these vessels adhere to a code of conduct when they are at anchor in order to minimize the impact on the marine environment and nearby communities.

In accordance with that vision, officials are also examining active traffic management measures to optimize supply chain efficiency and in turn reduce the use of ships and the time spent at anchor.

Experience gained from the interim protocol for the use of southern B.C. anchorages will continue to serve as the basis for the development of a new protocol. Officials are working closely with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority under this protocol to handle complaints from the public.

Ultimately, our goal is to enable safe, efficient commercial shipping that benefits all Canadians while minimizing the impact on the marine environment and surrounding communities.

TransportAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the parliamentary secretary's response to my intervention. I am glad to see that Transport Canada is well aware of these concerns, but I would reiterate that residents in this area still do not feel like they are being listened to. I just heard a barrage of negative reactions to how they have been engaged through the oceans protection plan dialogue forms.

I would just remind the hon. parliamentary secretary that Parks Canada is looking at these waters. It sees value in protecting them through the establishment of a national marine conservation area. We just want to see the Government of Canada value the ecological sensitivity of these waters. We need to see some kind of a plan put in place because residents feel like our waters are simply being used as an overflow industrial parking lot for the Port of Vancouver. We need to see some evidence that Transport Canada is stepping up to the plate and taking a leadership role in this and not just leaving it to the Port of Vancouver and the B.C Chamber of Shipping.