Mr. Speaker, having received complaints from my constituents about the lack of services provided in French by the Department of Foreign Affairs and/or Citizenship and Immigration Canada, I thought it best to ask that the Standing Committee on Official Languages receive representatives from both these departments.
The question I asked in the House of Commons on November 10, 2010, was about receiving government representatives with regard to official languages. My question was worthwhile, because in the days following, the Standing Committee on Official Languages received testimony from the departments in question.
The Canadian missions that seemed to be causing my constituents problems with regard to services in French were those in Nairobi, Kenya, Islamabad, Pakistan, Bogota, Colombia, London, England and Kampala, Uganda. There was also the Case Processing Centre in Vegreville, Alberta.
Requesting services in French in a Canadian mission abroad is a fundamental right to which every Quebecker and every Canadian is entitled.
Under the responsibility of its federal institution, the Canadian mission abroad is required to comply with the Official Languages Act. In this case I am referring to part IV: communications with the public and delivery of services.
Angela Bogdan, inspector general at Foreign Affairs, is responsible for the quality of services in both official languages. She indicated that there are still non-imperative positions because of the lack of competent bilingual staff within mission teams. Non-imperative means not required to be bilingual. That is very troubling. It means that services in French will suffer.
Monica Janecek, director of corporate resourcing at Foreign Affairs, assured us that a mission employee who does not obtain the second language proficiency levels of “C” for comprehension, “B” for writing and “C” for oral expression within two to four years will be transferred to a post not requiring the CBC levels. Why are we not hiring bilingual people in the first place? This question always comes up.
We are well aware of the fact that, in the 260 or so Canadian missions abroad, local people are hired. Depending on their duties, these people are not necessarily required to know both of Canada's official languages. I am thinking of a gardener, for example. Nevertheless, positions designated bilingual should be just that.
Canadian missions overseas—which include embassies, high commissions and consulates—provide a range of services. I am thinking primarily of diplomatic services, but there are others, because the missions also provide Citizenship and Immigration Canada services. I will come back to that.