moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, I do not know if you realize how glad I am to speak to this bill today. Without predicting the future, I can see it being adopted very soon.
Then I will declare that it was a kind of gift for me before leaving the House. Indeed, in a few months—or less, but I hope not—my duties in this place will come to an end. Before leaving, I would like to be able to say that I contributed to the protection of minority groups in our country. That is the object of the bill.
Of course, I am not the original author of the bill. All the credit for that goes to Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier, who, during so many years defended so well the interests not only of the French and English minorities, but also those of civil servants and many other groups. He also specialized in parliamentary law and he taught me a lot about procedure, besides what he taught me about minority rights advocacy.
All the credit then must be given to him.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the member for Scarborough Southwest, who gave me the opportunity to use his slot of time to debate this bill.
Later, the hon. member for Gatineau also wanted to contribute to speeding up the process by giving me the time that was allocated to her. That is why I can now begin the debate at third reading of Bill S-3. I thank the hon. member very much. I had the opportunity to thank her a few days ago, but I wanted to thank her again today.
I also thank the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans, who supported the bill at second reading and who, today, wanted to support it yet again at the report stages and now at third reading. I truly appreciate his support.
I also want to thank the hon. members who sat on the official languages committee for several months dealing with this issue, members on all sides of the House. I extend my congratulations and thanks to all of them because I know that they all worked very hard on this bill.
I did not agree with the points of view of all of them, but that is okay. We are not here to always agree and of course even when we disagree, if our point of view prevails, then presumably it is that much stronger because it eventually triumphs over other points of view. In that respect, I want to thank even those who did not initially like the bill as much, but who, through the amendment process and otherwise, sought to improve the bill that is before us today.
In the next few minutes, I want to talk about the bill before us as amended. It certainly is quite different now. The purpose of the bill was to amend part VII of the Act, in other words, sections 41, 42 and 43. Two of these sections were to be amended by this bill, namely sections 41 and 43. However the bill as amended will change only section 41 of the Official Languages Act.
In the beginning there was concern about whether the bill set out to guarantee a process over a result. The committee discussed this at length with help from the Commissioner of Official Languages and her staff, who are not far from us right now—we are not allowed to refer to the presence of others in the House. They helped us a great deal in improving the wording of the bill in section 41.
As far as section 43 of the Official Languages Act is concerned, our colleagues from the Bloc, and perhaps others as well, made sure the bill did not interfere with provincial jurisdictions. The Commissioner of Official Languages thought it did not. This is what she said about the amendment to improve section 43:
Although I do not agree that this amendment could contradict the Canadian Constitution and thereby allow the federal government to act in areas that fall exclusively under provincial jurisdiction, if this amendment becomes an obstacle to passage of the Bill, I do not believe that it is essential and vital to preserve it.
The committee followed the recommendation made by the Commissioner of Official Languages and withdrew the amendment. As a result, section 43 of the Official Languages Act is no longer being amended. To those who were concerned that section 43 may interfere with provincial powers, even if this concern is unfounded, I am announcing that this amendment no longer exists. Now, only section 41 is being amended. This section refers solely to the powers of the federal government. This section is being improved, so we are also improving the section on government powers and nothing else, since nothing else is specified in either the initial section or in the amendment. So, the status remains unchanged, meaning that the obligations, even if there are more of them, remain those of the Government of Canada, as stated in the initial proposal. We all agree that it is the Commissioner of Official Languages, who has this role, along with her staff and all the experts. We must all recognize this.
I hope that, in the next few minutes—and I have the right to hope, even if I am not certain of the result—that my colleagues on all sides of the House will finally be able to unanimously support the bill as amended. By so doing, all the parties in the House would be unanimously confirming their desire to improve the rights of minorities in this country.
I grew up before section 23 of the Charter existed. At that time in Ontario, attending a French high school was not easy. It was almost impossible. That was my experience. Thanks to the adoption of this section, my children attended elementary, secondary and university in Ontario—my son even got a master's degree—without ever attending an English school. They did all their studies in Ontario. They had this right; I did not. I want to be able to tell my grandchildren that they have more rights than their parents did, just as my children had more rights than I did.
That is the way rights in Canada evolve.
I think that we will improve things in a few days. I want to tell my colleagues: if we are to do this, let us make it unanimous. That is what I want.