Mr. Speaker, it was an honour for me to move this motion at the Standing Committee on Official Languages. I thank my colleague from Ottawa—Vanier for improving my motion by wanting to bring it here to the House for debate.
The problem has existed for a very long time. My colleague, Benoît Sauvageau, who is no longer a sitting member of the House, was talking about it a decade ago. People were filing complaint after complaint back then, because Air Canada did not provide service in both official languages. Now it is 2010. I have been an MP for 16 years, and we have been talking about this for 10 years. For 10 years, we have been talking about a law that would ensure that Air Canada provides service in both official languages. It is not rocket science. A bill was introduced by the then minister of transport, Jean Lapierre, on May 2, 2005, but an election was called and the bill died on the order paper. The Conservatives introduced two bills, one on October 18, 2006 and the other on December 10, 2007, but there has been nothing since then. We do not hear about this anymore. The biggest danger is that the government will do nothing.
I think it is outrageous that Air Canada does not realize that on an Air Canada Jazz flight, a recording is played to provide in flight safety instructions in French. Imagine if something bad happens. They will need a DJ to figure out what recording needs to be played next. It makes no sense. People need to be able to provide service in both official languages.
My colleague from Acadie—Bathurst can tell a few stories. He asked for something to eat on a plane and even pointed to a picture on the menu. The flight attendant kept saying, “I don't speak French”, even though there was a picture right in front of her eyes. There is ill will. In my opinion, there truly is an unwillingness to enforce the legislation.
This government is also displaying bad faith since it has been doing absolutely nothing to change the situation since 2007, which is going on four years now. Does the government want us to draft the bill? We have three versions. The opposition would only need a few days to draft a bill. We could introduce it in committee. I even asked the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities about it when he appeared before the committee. I asked him whether it would help if I moved a motion that he could present to cabinet to put pressure on the ministers and on the Prime Minister to ensure that legislation is introduced in committee as soon as possible. He answered yes on two occasions. And that is what we did. The committee has done its work and the vote was unanimous. All parties were in favour. There were no abstentions. I do not understand why nothing is happening.
I have read Air Canada's regulations, and what worries me is that Air Canada is increasingly relying on subcontractors. The subcontractors are not subject to any bilingualism laws. This means that people will not be able to receive services in French. That is worrisome. There are more and more small companies. I have nothing against subcontractors or new companies popping up in order to serve different regions. There is now an airline that can get you to Rivière-du-Loup, but you may not even be served in French. That makes absolutely no sense. In Baie-Comeau, Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec City and Montreal, services need to be in French. The same goes for Acadie—Bathurst and Moncton.
A Liberal member told us that it took three years to get a sign taken off the washroom door in Moncton that incorrectly said “Ne fumez pas les toilettes”—Don't smoke the toilets—in French. That is unbelievable. He saw it every weekend when he returned home. He complained every weekend to get them to change that sign, and his complaints were ignored.
I get the impression that Air Canada could not care less about what the government does here, because it is doing absolutely nothing. We are the only ones who can put pressure on Air Canada. Even Air Canada said that parliamentarians are the only ones who can change the legislation to require them to take action. Air Canada itself told us that. I have it right here in front of me.
It is not the Commissioner of Official Languages who can do so. He only has the power to conduct consultations and make recommendations. As parliamentarians, we can do something. What have we been waiting for since 2007? It would only take a small bill, three, four or five pages in length. I am convinced that the opposition parties can sit down together to draft a bill, discuss it in committee and pass it as quickly as possible, to ensure that Air Canada does its job. It is beyond comprehension that we cannot be served in our own language, especially by Air Canada, a company that the government has helped over the years and continues to help on occasion. It is a company that people are proud of. However, we are no longer served in our language.
I am infuriated every time I see that blasted little cassette with French safety instructions. Can we not find bilingual people or force Air Canada to provide their unilingual employees with real training, not just teach them to say, I don't speak French? They must learn the basic French they need to do their job well. That is what we need. We must force Air Canada to provide this training.
It is not very complicated. However, the government does not have the will to do it. It does not care or is not interested. It is not a priority and never has been for the government. We see it in the issue of the bilingualism of judges, a battle that has been waged for a long time. We see it in the interest of the committee chair. We see it in many things. The government must look at this question very carefully because things will only get worse and that concerns me. Air Canada flight attendants will be increasingly unilingual Anglophones and it will be disappointing for us. This company is important here. It does manage to generate a great deal of money, but it must absolutely provide bilingual services.
I do not want the experience of VIA Rail to be repeated, even though it has since changed course. People were unable to speak their language in a crisis situation. Passengers were not told in their own language what to do. That must never happen again. The opposition is not afraid to take action and hopes that the government will do so also. That is why we presented a motion in this House. Let us take action and prepare a bill as quickly as possible.