[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Tuesday, December 10, 1996
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I will now call the meeting to order.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(4)(b), we are studying the application of the Official Languages Act in the National Capital Region.
I would like to welcome you to our meeting. Our text finally arrived. Today, it is our privilege to hear from three different groups, including the Honourable Lloyd Francis, a former member of Parliament and a former Speaker of the House. We are pleased to have you here, Mr. Francis.
We will also be hearing from the group Impératif français.
and we have representatives from Outaouais Alliance.
I would ask you to stay within the ten minutes we allow for opening remarks, so as to leave enough time for questioning. We have extended our time today in order to hear your presentation, given your vast experience in the field.
Mr. Allmand (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce): I have a point of order. Mr. Chairman, at the meeting at which the Department of Public Works and the National Capital Commission appeared - the first meeting at which we were studying this subject - I had asked that they table their leases, and they said they would. I also asked that they be distributed to all members of the committee. I haven't had any distribution of those leases yet.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): I believe that was done last week.
Mr. Allmand: Maybe it was done at the committee meeting, but there were some of us who couldn't attend the committee meeting. I would recommend that they be sent to the offices of all the members.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Sure, I agree. It will be done.
Mr. Allmand: Thank you.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Thank you very much, Mr. Allmand.
Without further ado, I would like to ask Mr. Francis to give us his presentation.
The Hon. Lloyd Francis (individual presentation): Members of Parliament, Senators, it is always a pleasure to come back to Parliament Hill to meet with colleagues and friends. My language of work is English. My documents are in both official languages, but I will be speaking to you in English.
I am quoting from the proceedings of the second meeting of the constitutional conference held in Ottawa, February 10 to 12, 1969. I worked originally from the press clippings and I understood there was a press communiqué, which I have not been able to find. But I have secured from the Privy Council Office the official proceedings and I would like to quote from them.
Mr. Trudeau says:
Then Mr. Trudeau goes on to say that:
2. No changes be made to provincial boundaries or the constitutional responsibilities of the governments concerned.
3. The boundaries of the Canadian capital area are to be established by agreement of the governments concerned.
4. In line with the aforementioned objectives, steps must be taken so that the two official languages and the cultural values common to all Canadians are recognized by all governments concerned in these two cities and in the capital region in general so that all Canadians may have a feeling of pride of and participation in and attachment to their capital.
5. That the Study Committee on the Canadian capital -
(a) the definition of suburban areas which would eventually constitute, along with the Cities of Ottawa and Hull, the Canadian capital regions;
(b) a study of the administration and the financing of the tripartite organization.
Then followed comments by premiers of the provinces. Premier Weir of Manitoba said he hadn't had enough time to study it but he was not against it. Premier Robarts of Ontario pointed out that there was a regional government on the Ontario side, the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton, whose boundaries were not really quite the same as those of the national capital region, but that was a detail.
Then Mr. Turner, the Minister of Justice at that time, said:
I feel sure the people of Ottawa and Hull and surrounding areas would welcome...the continued improvement of the national capital along the lines of the resolution, but I also believe that it is essential - and that is why I understand the resolution is presented here to provincial premiers - essential that all Canadians from all parts of Canada in either language feel at home in our national capital because the entire Country has a stake in this area.
Then I go on to quote from the Hon. Jean-Jacques Bertrand, Premier of Quebec at the time, in which he says:
Mr. Chairman, I'd suggest to you that reviewing the minutes and the proceedings of the constitutional conference leaves no doubt that this resolution was approved.
Following that resolution, the Government of Canada undertook the investment of many hundreds of millions of dollars in the city of Hull and in the province of Quebec. Today, Canadian passports, for example, are issued in the city of Hull.
Messrs. Chairmen, I am recommending to your committee that you reassert the fundamental principles of bilingualism and the respect of the cultural values of the groups for the whole national capital region, including that part in the province of Quebec and that part in the province of Ontario.
I recommend that you request the Government of Quebec that it exempt that part of the national capital region in Quebec from the application of its language laws.
I recommend that you request the Government of Quebec to recommend that this part of the national capital region in the province of Quebec be exempt from the laws restricting access to education in both of the official languages. I suggest, as your chairman, members of the committee, that if you have any questions or doubts on the matter, there is an eminently qualified witness, the former Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Hon. Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who presided over the deliberations of this conference. Thank you.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Thank you very much, Mr. Francis. That would be an interesting witness, to say the least.
As you may know, traditionally we give 10 minutes for questions. Since we allocated only fifteen minutes for this witness, I would ask that you ask only one question, because we have two other groups. We'll be here until about 7 p.m.
Mr. Marchand (Québec-Est): Can we have five minutes?
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): I'll put it to three, because -
Mr. Marchand: When witnesses come before us, we should at least take enough time to ask them questions. If they come just to make statements and we are not given the time to ask any questions, I have to wonder what I am doing here.
Good afternoon and welcome Mr. Francis.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): With your permission, Mr. Marchand, I will ask whether the committee agrees, because we'll have to continue our meeting after the vote at 5:30 pm.
Mr. Allmand: Did Mr. Marchand ask for five minutes?
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Yes.
Mr. Allmand: Perhaps the others could have five minutes as well.
Senator Robichaud (L'Acadie): We are spending our time talking about procedure, not substance. That's what happens all the time.
Mr. Marchand: Senator Robichaud, we must have the time to speak and ask questions. The chairman wants to restrict me to one question!
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Go ahead.
Mr. Marchand: Good afternoon, Mr. Francis. Thank you for your presentation. In you opinion, which city is the capital of Canada? Is it Hull or Ottawa?
Mr. Francis: The National Capital Region, as defined by the National Capital Commission Act...
Mr. Marchand: I'm not talking about the region. Which city is the capital?
Mr. Francis: The Capital's National Region includes the province of Quebec and the province of Ontario. The whole region is the capital of my country.
Mr. Marchand: I find your argument terribly biased. You have this preconceived notion that there is a National Capital Region and it has suddenly taken the place of the capital.
Mr. Francis: The Parliament of Canada passed the legislation in question.
Mr. Marchand: You're talking about the National Capital Region, and you're talking merely about Hull. You want to suspend the language law in Hull but you do not want to talk about requiring Ontario to do something. You didn't say a single word about any commitment on the part of Ontario.
Mr. Francis: Exactly the same thing goes for both sides of the river. The same thing applies in Ontario and in Quebec.
Mr. Marchand: The problem is that service is inadequate in Ottawa, the capital of Canada.
Mr. Francis: I admit that services here in Ontario must be improved. I'm doing everything I can to respect the principle of bilingualism and the equality of the two official languages of my country.
Mr. Marchand: Do you think Anglophones in Hull cannot get service in English?
Mr. Francis: Sometimes.
Mr. Marchand: Sometimes.
Mr. Francis: Yes, but I don't live in the Hull region. Others could tell you more about that than I could.
Mr. Marchand: You have just made your presentation and you convey the impression that the problem is in Hull, whereas I think it is rather in Ottawa. The Francophones in Ottawa do not have service in their language.
Mr. Francis: In my opinion, the problem is the Quebec language law. The province of Quebec is officially unilingual. I think that is the problem.
Mr. Marchand: And is Ontario officially bilingual or unilingual?
Mr. Francis: The province of Ontario is not officially unilingual.
Mr. Marchand: When we ask questions, we want answers.
Mr. Francis: There is only one officially bilingual province in Canada, and that is New Brunswick, I believe.
Mr. Marchand: Do you think the federal government is enforcing the Official Languages Act in Ottawa?
Mr. Francis: I hope so.
Mr. Marchand: We have heard testimony at this committee which shows that federal government departments...
Mr. Francis: If there are any problems, they can be corrected.
Mr. Marchand: I hope so. Thank you.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Senator Rivest.
Senator Rivest (Stadacona): Mr. Chairman, did you hear the Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau speak about the National Capital Region?
Mr. Francis: My leader.
Senator Rivest: Is that so? He wasn't mine.
Mr. Marchand: He wasn't mine either.
Senator Rivest: You know that one of Mr. Trudeau's great achievements was to have the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms incorporated into the Constitution. The Charter provides that there should be no discrimination or violation of the principle of the fundamental equality of all citizens. We think the bilingualism problems occurs much more on the national capital side, that is in Ottawa, rather than in Quebec.
Mr. Francis: There are problems on both sides of the river.
Senator Rivest: Do you think it would be in keeping with the principles of the Charter if Quebec's language laws were to apply to only some of the people of Quebec?
Mr. Francis: I'm not an expert in the field, sir. I am trying to tell you what the former Premier of Quebec, Mr. Jean-Jacques Bertrand, said and promised to the other provinces and to other Canadians.
Senator Rivest: I have a great deal of respect for Premier Bertrand, but when he made his comment, he had introduced Bill 63 for Quebec. This legislation was subsequently amended.
Mr. Francis: At some point, but that happened afterwards.
Senator Rivest: Whether or not you are a legal expert, I would like to ask you, from a common sense point of view, whether you think it is good for the country that some people have more language rights than others. You are suggesting that some Quebeckers should have more language rights than others. Don't you think the principle of linguistic equality throughout the province would be the best solution?
Mr. Francis: I am not a lawyer.
Senator Rivest: But isn't this simply a matter of common sense? I think that democratic societies tend to uphold the general principle, or at least try to achieve the objective of equal rights and privileges for all citizens.
Mr. Francis: In my view, all Canadian citizens should have the same privileges. Both Quebec residents and Ontario residents...
Senator Rivest: That must apply to language matters as well.
Mr. Francis: To language matters as well, of course. That is what the United Nations experts said.
Senator Rivest: Should Quebec's language laws apply equally to all Quebeckers, without exception? Is that what Mr. Trudeau meant? I think he was right on that.
Mr. Francis: I have great respect for what Mr. Trudeau said, but I don't agree completely with the results of the legislation. However, I don't have the legal competence required to answer the legal aspect of your question.
Senator Rivest: I have one final brief question. Let me take an example. You know that in Quebec, anglophone Quebeckers are entitled, under the Quebec law, to health and social services in their own language. You are suggesting that our committee ask the Ontario government to provide all Francophones on the Ontario side of the National Capital Region with health and social services in French. I think you're on the right track there.
Mr. Francis: I would like to see improvements to the services available to Francophones in Ontario. Obviously, we can do better.
Senator Rivest: I agree. Thank you.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Thank you very much, Senator Rivest. I will now give the floor to the opposition, and I will come back to you later on.
Monsieur Breitkreuz, the floor is yours.
Mr. Breitkreuz (Yellowhead): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Francis, it's good to have you here as a witness. I notice you've had an eminent career in municipal government as well as, of course, the federal government. It's good to hear a witness stipulate that the problem of linguistic usage is more of a problem in Hull than it is on the Ottawa side of the river.
I'd ask for your opinion here. How would you suggest that English be applied in Hull, which of course is part of the national capital region? What kind of instruments would you suggest?
Mr. Francis: I made a very specific recommendation that this committee should request in its report that the Province of Quebec create an exception for the national capital region with regard to its language laws and laws governing access to education for minority groups.
Mr. Breitkreuz: What do you think the response would be from the Quebec government?
Mr. Francis: I do not attempt to anticipate what other people will do or say. All I know is what I think is right. As a matter of right, as a matter of human rights, and as of a matter of interest to all Canadians, I think that request should be made and formally placed on the record.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Thank you, Mr. Breitkreuz.
Senator Robichaud: I too would like to welcome my former colleague and great friend, Lloyd Francis.
Actually, at this meeting in February 1969, where all the provincial premiers were present with Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, as then premier of New Brunswick I was there.
Mr. Francis: Ah, good!
Senator Robichaud: I remember vividly the long and very important discussions. But I don't want to waste any more time on this.
You answered a question to the effect that you do not know the situation very well in the capital region of Hull as to whether the English and French were... Do you think the spirit of bilingualism is not as highly respected in Hull as it would be in the Ottawa region? That is, a portion of the national capital region would be favoured with respect to the other portion.
Mr. Francis: I will answer your question, sir, this way: I believe we should try on both sides of the river throughout the whole capital region to promote policies officially endorsing bilingualism. I also recognize that there are gaps on both sides.
Senator Robichaud: How would you suggest that we approach this? You recommend that our committee recommends that this portion of the national capital region called Hull respect what Jean-Jacques Bertrand advocated in 1969. What jurisdiction or what diplomatic approach could this committee have with the government of the province of Quebec? It's that province that has jurisdiction over this issue.
Mr. Francis: Obviously it will be a matter that will have to be discussed at the highest levels of government to be resolved.
Senator Robichaud: It's obvious that the spirit that Jean-Jacques Bertrand advocated in 1969 is not very well respected.
Mr. Francis: That's my opinion, sir. That is my opinion.
I would like, Mr. Chairman, to ask if Senator Robichaud, having had a very distinguished career himself in many levels of government, has taken exception to anything I have read from the proceedings of the constitutional conference.
Senator Robichaud: You have stated the facts as they were, and I have absolutely no problem with that.
Mr. Francis: Thank you.
Senator Robichaud: I congratulate you on that. It's very factual. It's historical as well.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Thank you very much, Senator Robichaud.
Mr. Allmand: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I also want to welcome my former colleague.
Mr. Francis, according to the Official Languages Act, that act applies to all federal institutions in the national capital region, whether they are on the Ontario or Quebec side. Therefore, all matters under federal jurisdiction, especially federal institutions, are covered on both sides of the river.
Mr. Francis: I do not believe the National Capital Commission has fully respected that principle, sir.
Mr. Allmand: That's not my point. My point was that matters that don't fall under federal jurisdiction are covered by Ontario law on the Ontario side and by Quebec law on the Quebec side.
Now, your recommendation that Quebec exempt the Quebec side of the national capital region from their official languages act would result, if that were to take place... I think it's a very good recommendation, but my question to you is, are you therefore suggesting that the federal Official Languages Act apply to all matters on the Quebec side and on the Ontario side that now fall under the Quebec and Ontario governments as provincial jurisdiction? Are you suggesting that the federal Official Languages Act fill in within those areas now covered by Quebec or Ontario legislation - or lack of Ontario or Quebec legislation?
By the way, I agree with you that there are gaps on both sides, but to be fair, you can't simply exempt the Quebec laws on one side without talking about the Ontario laws on the other, and what's going to take their place. Are you suggesting that the Official Languages Act take their place?
Mr. Francis: I served as a member of a Parliament that adopted the Official Languages Act. I believe it is basically sound. If there are any areas in which its jurisdiction could be extended, I would certainly support that.
Mr. Allmand: So you would like to see the spirit of bilingualism that's in the Official Languages Act applied to all matters on the Ontario and the Quebec sides in the national capital region, which probably would mean suspending both Ontario and Quebec laws.
Mr. Francis: I would support that.
Mr. Allmand: Thank you.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Mr. Francis, on behalf of the committee, I'd like to thank you for your comments and for appearing before this committee.
I would now like to ask Mr. Jean-Paul Perreault, the president of the movement Impératif français, to please come forward.
Before we start your presentation, I would like to state that our rules stipulate that all documents be tabled with the members in both official languages. We have a copy in French only. With the consent of the hon. member from the Reform Party and Mr. Allmand - if the hon. senators would concur - we would accept the French-only document as an exception. It would be translated by the clerk and distributed to the members in both official languages as soon as possible.
Would that be agreeable to the committee?
Mr. Allmand: Mr. Chair, I think we should clarify this. Witnesses to the committee have the right to submit their submissions in either English or French. As a matter of fact, official languages...says they can address committees in either French or English. It's up to the committee to translate what the witnesses submit, not the witnesses themselves.
The Vice-Clerk of the Committee (Mr. Knowles): Yes, exactly. The text was tabled in the witness's language of choice, and we are responsible for having it translated. The problem is that the committee passed a motion requiring that all documents distributed to committee members be in both official languages. That is why the chairman is requesting an exception to that rule today.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Fine.
Mr. Perreault, please begin by introducing the people you have with you. I would ask you to keep your presentation to 10 or 12 minutes, so that we have enough time for questions.
Mr. Jean-Paul Perreault (President, mouvement Impératif français): Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, members of the Parliamentary Committee on Official Languages, we would like to thank you very much for your interest in the French language. Today, we will try to describe a situation which will encourage you even more, we hope, to work to defend and promote the French language.
First of all, I would like to introduce Mr. Gilles Verrier, a businessman and leader of a readers' group at the magazine L'Agora, and Mr. Léo La Brie, who is also a businessman and Vice-President of the Conseil régional de la culture de l'Outaouais.
Ladies and gentlemen, if you look at table 1 of our brief, you will see that French in Canada outside Quebec is losing ground among those who report French as their mother tongue. We are speaking here about Canada outside Quebec.
You will see that over a period as short as 20 years - and these figures come from Statistics Canada - the number of people who speak French as their mother tongue went from 926,000 to 976,000, a gain of 50,000. However, over this same period, when there was an increase in the number of speakers of French as their mother tongue, the number of Francophones who reported French as the language spoken most often at home dropped by 40,000.
You will see that the assimilation rate went from 26% in 1971 to 35% in 1991. These statistics come from none other than Statistics Canada.
If you look at table 2, you will see that throughout Canada, there are 16,311,000 people whose mother tongue is English whereas there are 18,440,000 people who say that English is the language spoken most often at home, which is an increase of 2,129,000. The same census showed a drop of 273,000 in the number of Francophones which means that the assimilation rate of Francophones in Canada was 4%. You will see that this 2,129,000 gain for English is equal to one third of the number of French speakers in the country.
I would now ask you to look at Table 3, on Francophones in Canada and Quebec. In a brief 40-year period, the relative weight of Francophones in Canada and Quebec dropped from 29% to 24%: among Quebeckers, the figure went from 29% to 25%, and among Francophones in Canada outside Quebec, the figure dropped from 7.3% to 4.8%.
Mr. Marcel Massé said that this assimilation was normal and natural. He said, and I quote:
In table 4, you can see that the title of the paper written by professor John Richards of Simon Fraser University is Language Matters: Ensuring that the Sugar not Dissolve in the Coffee. I think the theme is quite clear. The study was done by professor John Richards for the C.D. Howe Institute. If you look at the bottom of the table, you will see that in 1971, out of 100 people whose mother tongue was French, 51 said they used French. Twenty years later, 1991, the figure fell to 40%. Let me quote professor Richards:
According to Statistics Canada, 92% of Anglophones in Canada are unilingual English. Almost 40% of Francophones say they can speak English. From a "Canadian" standpoint, bilingualism is an unquestionable success, because it allows Anglophones to speak their own language, and, very often, Francophones to speak that language too.
Canada's official languages policy, which puts the two languages on an equal footing, is mere window dressing. The reality is rather that the Canadian policy is to trample one language with both feet. French and English cannot be treated the same way. French needs more protection, and the statistics prove this. We must act very responsibly.
We need much more than equal status. Professor John Richards of the C.D. Howe institute in fact said:
When, on the pretext of helping "official minorities", the government of Canada chooses to provide millions of dollars in funding for organizations operating in Quebec that are working "very actively" to promote and develop the English language and culture, the dominant language and culture of more than 300 million Anglophones in North America, it chooses to create a false minority and supplies it with a wealth of means to further the language of the vast majority in the very place where the francophone minority has to fight tooth and nail just to survive, let alone advance. Fair play indeed!
In a notice released on March 31, 1993, the United Nations Committee on Human Rights reached the following conclusion:
Canada may look like a bilingual country but the Canadian government will not let Canadians and people in other countries see a whole different side, one we must acknowledge if we really want to find a solution: Canada has one language that is more official than the other, and that language is English. By putting both languages on an equal footing we inevitably put French at a disadvantage.
Let us now talk about the capital of Canada. In the capital of Canada, English is progressing at the rate of 18%, because of the assimilation of Francophones and allophones. In the capital of Canada, which is Ottawa, assimilation has meant that the number of French speakers has dropped by 27%, according to the Statistics Canada census.
In Ottawa, as in the rest of Canada, the majority is growing while the minority is shrinking. English is becoming the official language and French is becoming more and more unofficial.
Is the Canadian profile a reflection of the profile of the capital, or is it the other way around? Twenty-six years after the Official Languages Act was passed, it is still very easy to see that one of the languages is far and away more official than the other in the capital with two so-called official languages.
Let us now look at table 8. In Ottawa, 91% of people whose mother tongue is English are unilingual. In 1991, in the city of Ottawa, there were only 4965 people who confessed to speaking French only. I'm sure you understood as well as I did that they were children. Let us look further on: Knowledge of official languages, capital of Canada (City of Ottawa, 1991), Statistics Canada: 97% of the population of Ottawa can speak English. I'm sure that you will agree that it is quite clear that in Ottawa, even though it is possible to get service in French here and there, generally, and to a large extent, the city of Ottawa, the federal capital, the capital of the two official languages lives first and foremost almost only in English.
The federal government is covering up the situation. How? By means of territorial hegemony. The previous witness spoke about this. The idea is to create is vast federal region by encompassing some towns and villages on the Quebec side to give it a less unilingual image.
Thus, Canada's capital, Ottawa, can remain unilingual. Allow me to be a little sarcastic: if the Canadian government had wanted to preserve the English-only character of Ottawa, it would not have proceeded any differently. There is a problem of assimilation on the Ontario side of the river, in the federal capital, and it has some spillover effects in the Outaouais, on the Quebec side of the river.
I come now to table 11. You will see that the Outaouais region accounts for 53.7% of the total number of linguistic transfers towards English in Quebec as a whole. Fifty-four per cent of these transfers occur in the Outaouais. In the Outaouais, 47% of anglophone Quebeckers are unilingual English. As early as 1977, professor Charles Castonguay of the University of Ottawa wrote:
Quebec is not exempt from the process of assimilation. You will see in Table 12, that although it represents only 10% of the population of Quebec, the anglophone community alone counts for close to 70% of linguistic transfers. And this occurs even though there is legislation to protect French in Quebec.
The fact remains that in the 1991 census, despite this fact, 70% of linguistic transfers were toward English. Is the anglophone minority in Quebec really a minority, or is it in fact the Canadian majority, the North American majority?
On this point, the United Nations Committee on Human rights is crystal clear: Canadian Anglophones cannot be considered a linguistic minority.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Mr. Perreault, excuse me for interrupting you for one second. Do you intend to read all the rest of your brief?
Mr. Perreault: I will proceed very quickly.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): You have already used up close to 22 minutes, and we have only 20 to 25 minutes left for questions. It is up to you.
Mr. Perreault: I will be very brief. Mr. Chairman. Talking about an anglophone minority and denying the assimilation of Francophones amounts to misinformation. The demographers Henripin and Lachapelle said that when a population shrinks by 20% to 30% in 30 years, it is on the way to becoming extinct.
Charles Castonguay, the mathematician from the University of Ottawa said, for his part:
The government of Canada has to amend the Official Languages Act by first admitting that the Act has failed, at least partially, which is obvious in reading the 25 reports from the Commissioner of Official Languages. It has not done what it was supposed to do. In addition, once it has been amended, steps must be taken to enforce the Act.
The government of Canada must stop perpetuating the myth of an anglophone minority in Quebec. It also has to stop funding organizations operating in Quebec to promote the growth an development of the language of the vast majority. That money should instead be directed to organizations dedicated to defending and promoting the French language. This would be a tangible move and would send a clear message that the federal government intends to do its part to recognize the precarious state of French in Canada.
In addition, the resolution passed by the federal Parliament on the recognition of Quebec as a distinct society must have more than symbolic impact. Does such recognition not call for some form of asymmetry in order to protect French, the only vulnerable language in Canada? The resolution states:
At the same time, the Canadian government must enact the necessary measures to make French the language of work within the public service, first of all in Quebec, it goes without saying, and in Ottawa, the capital of all Canadians.
I will read you the last sentence, a quote from Gérard Saint-Georges:
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Thank you very much, Mr. Perreault. Mr. Marchand has the floor. You have ten minutes.
Mr. Marchand: Thank you, Mr. Perreault. Your presentation was truly extraordinary. I think that your position is based on data, statistics and even good common sense relating to the issue of language in Quebec and Canada, and in Canada's capital.
If people, and I could name several, could have enough sense to recognize at least the heart of the problem, the way you are presenting it, Canada would work and we would perhaps even, in this committee, have had enough common sense to recognize that the problem is not in Hull, but in Ottawa. Basically, you have shown me once again that the true language problem is not a problem of common sense or even statistics or data, but instead that in Canada, the federalists are using all means possible to try to destabilize the French language in Canada, and in so doing, destabilize Quebec's right to affirm itself in French. Mr. Perreault, that is why I am a sovereignist, and I want to get the devil out of this country: it is when I hear people like Mr. Francis, today, speak as if the problem were in Hull, when it is clearly in Ottawa.
I cannot agree with you more, and I will conclude with this short comment. When you see Franco-Ontarians, and I know them well because I am myself a Franco-Ontarian - become members of Parliament and come to the committee to defend the interests of Anglophones in Quebec City, in Quebec, in Hull, I'm in a big hurry to get out of this country. Thank you very much.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): You did so by going into exile. As for me, I prefer to fight. That is a personal attack, Mr. Marchand, and I must respond, because I prefer to stay in Ontario and defend the rights of Francophones in Ontario.
Mr. Marchand: But you are not defending them, Mr. Serré, and what's more, you have never defended them.
Mr. Perreault: I would like to comment on that. Without wanting to get into a constitutional debate, I would like to point out that today's discussion is on the French language. The status of the French language is threatened throughout Canada. I think that the Official Languages Act must be amended to recognize that among the two official languages, there is one that is a minority and needs additional measures for protection and promotion.
The idea of putting both languages on an equal footing and creating two minorities is, in my view, based on a false premise. It is not possible to put both languages on an equal footing when there are 7 million Francophones and 300 million Anglophones in North America. It is clear that the French language needs additional protective measures.
The Canadian government adopted a resolution recognizing Quebec as a distinct society, and I am going to allow myself to be ironic to caricaturize the situation. Does being a distinct society mean that in Quebec, the federal public service can have as its working language a language that is not the language of the territory where it is located?
The Commissioner stated it in his 1974 report, and an empirical observation of the area by people who are there also shows that the Canadian public service on Quebec's territory operates in English. If that's what distinct society is, you will agree with me that the concept has to be reworked.
I say, among other things, that the Canadian public service must operate in French in Quebec territory, i.e. in the language of the territory in which it is located. And for the Canadian government, the expression "distinct society" could also mean respecting the Quebec Charter of the French language.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Mr. Breitkreuz.
Mr. Breitkreuz: Well, one thing is certainly obvious: francophones, at an increasing rate, are being assimilated outside of Quebec. All kinds of surveys, studies and Statistics Canada statistics support it.
This seems to be a natural demographic and sociological phenomenon. In spite of the billions that have been spent since the Official Languages Act was passed, in spite of the fact that language police have been employed throughout the country, the assimilation keeps marching on.
Obviously, then, the Official Languages Act doesn't work. It should be repealed. You say it should be strengthened. How would you strengthen the Official Languages Act to stem this tide?
Mr. Perreault: Thank you very much.
First of all, your comment recognizing the situation is interesting, because you know that there have been speeches and even articles in the newspapers. Ms Sheila Copps said, for example, that assimilation did not exist, and Mr. Massé said that it was natural and normal. I am happy to see a member of the Reform Party, I believe, recognize that Francophones are being assimilated in Canadian society. I think it is a point that does you credit, because from there, we can build something.
But where I do not agree with you, is on the solution. I do not think that abolishing the Official Languages Act is a reasonable measure. I think, on the contrary, that it must be amended, and improved, but it must be based on the recognition of the situation that is as follows: yes, there must be equality of status, but at the same time, there must be recognition that one of the two official languages is a minority language and there must be more means to protect and promote it.
A fake minority has been invented. In fact, no one can honestly say that they are part of the majority of 300 million Anglo-Saxons in North America and claim to be part of a minority, even if it is in Quebec. That is based on a false premise.
The Canadian government uses the Official Languages Act to pay generous subsidies, in the millions of dollars. I tried to get the exact figures this week - I was promised them, but in the end I did not get them - on the several millions of dollars that the government paid out to promote the English-language in Quebec.
You must realize that it is wrong to claim that a minority exists. That should be changed in the Official Languages Act. There should be more means to ensure that the Canadian public service, on Quebec territory, operates in French. At present, that is not the case, and the Commissioner himself rightly acknowledge it in his 1994 report.
There are undoubtedly ways of making changes, and I am looking beyond the Official Languages Act. The government recognized Quebec as a distinct society, and at some point in time that has to mean something. At present, it doesn't mean anything. It's an empty shell. The only distinction we have noted, is that the Canadian public service operates in English in Quebec. If making Quebec society distinct means using as working language a language other than the language of the territory where the public service is located, you will agree with me that the concept is not very attractive.
Mr. Breitkreuz: Why is it, then, that before World War II, during the fifties right up to the implementation of the Official Languages Act, there were francophone communities in all the prairie provinces that were flourishing, getting along with the communities, as they still do, with their anglophone neighbours and of course different linguistic groups from virtually all of the countries in Europe? They were thriving francophone communities without any government assistance or grants or whatever. The Official Languages Act is passed and assimilation occurs.
Mr. Perreault: If I might say so, Mr. Chairman, I find that comment rather strange.
Mr. Breitkreuz: Most of the things you've been saying are pretty strange, too.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Gentlemen, I think we're straying from the subject matter of this study. We're talking about official languages. I'd like you to perhaps restrict your questions and comments to the national capital region, which is the basis of our study, and maybe try to keep both your questions and answers, as the Speaker of the House often says, shorter.
One more question, Mr. Breitkreuz.
Mr. Breitkreuz: Specifically, how would you strengthen the Official Languages Act even more so that there wouldn't be an outcry from the Canadian population?
Mr. Perreault: Mr. Chairman, I believe I have already answered that question and I would not want to go back over it. I have just given some of the elements of a solution and a response.
I would however, Mr. Chairman, like to comment on your remark that the discussion must deal with the National Capital Region. In my opinion, Ottawa is the federal capital. The Toronto region is not Toronto. The Montreal region is not Montreal. Ottawa is a federal capital. The federal capital must set the example by being the capital of both official languages. In that respect, I fully agree with the people from the Association canadienne-française de l'Ontario and the Fédération des communautés Francophones et acadienne, who stress the very unilingual English nature of the federal capital.
I think the Canadian government should try to find some incentive to make the federal capital reflect the words used to describe it, at least in light of the fact that it is the Canadian capital and the capital of both official languages.
We would not want, since we are already experiencing it, to see Ottawa's problems spread to the Outaouais. I think that the Outaouais already has enough linguistic problems without Ottawa's problems being spread to the Outaouais québécois. I think that you can clearly use the resolution recognizing Quebec as a distinct society to give it a bit of substance for once. This substance would involve recognizing that the federal government, on Quebec territory, will respect the Charter of the French language.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Mr. Allmand.
Mr. Allmand: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Perreault, for all the 30 years I've been in Parliament I've always recognized that French in Canada is under attack of assimilation. There's no doubt about it. It's under attack of assimilation because there are only 7 million or 8 million francophones in Canada surrounded by a sea of about 350 million anglophones. That constitutes a threat.
But I must tell you, it's because of that threat that over the years we've taken action. We've taken action in extending Radio-Canada, both radio and television, to all parts of Canada where there were francophone communities. It's because of this that the Canada Council has financed theatre groups in French all over the country, including Quebec, in libraries, museums - all sorts of cultural institutions. That's why there is a program under the federal government to help finance second-language education.
In Ontario in the 30 years that I've been in Parliament... When I came to Ottawa from Montreal there were very few
French high schools in Ontario, now there are many. In Timmins, for example, there is a large high school. Now, there are French language schools throughout Canada, outside Quebec.
So it's because of that threat that we've been taking action not only to maintain the French language but also to help it s'épanouir.
As a result of that, there's no doubt in my mind and in the minds of many experts that the French language in Canada, including Quebec, is probably the second strongest French culture in the world, after France, in terms of theatrical output, literary output, film output, television output and university research. Nobody can touch the French cultural output in Canada, including Quebec. By the way, they're not all Québécois. The person who won the Governor General's prize for French poetry this year was a francophone from New Brunswick.
In the statistics you gave me about assimilation, and I know there's assimilation, there's no mention of education levels. It's my finding everywhere that whether the francophones are from Ontario or whether they're from New Brunswick or from Quebec, the ones who have had the opportunity of more education are the ones who not only maintain their language but also strengthen it. The ones who are losing it are the ones who very often drop out, and I've seen that in northern Ontario.
I used to live in northern Ontario. I've lived in New Brunswick and I've also lived in Trois-Rivières, Sherbrooke and Montreal. When I see people losing their language in French, it is unfortunately the ones who have dropped out in fifth grade or sixth grade or seventh grade.
With respect, you say there's no English-speaking minority in Quebec. I belong to it, and I'll tell you why. It's not because I'm under the threat of assimilation. As I mentioned before in this committee many times, in answer to my colleague, Marchand, outside of Quebec the francophones are under the threat of assimilation; in Quebec it's our institutions that are disappearing and being destroyed.
We just had the example in Sherbrooke. They closed the English-speaking hospital in Sherbrooke, which had been serving a substantial anglophone population in the area for years and years. They said that hospital is closed, and you will now go to the University of Sherbrooke hospital.
The local people agreed to have the signage in English and French. They live together quite well. But in Quebec City, the government forced them to take down the English signs. It's that kind of thing. So there are infractions against the language minorities on both sides.
I've seen English-language schools close in Montreal. I've seen hospitals close, libraries close, all sort of institutions close. That's what's happening to the anglophone minority in Quebec - not their assimilation. Because their institutions are closing, they're leaving.
So I agree if your recommendation is that we have to do something more to support the francophone communities in Canada. I'm with you 100%. But I think we have to be balanced in this. While there were infractions in Ontario, you couldn't put up an English sign in Hull or in Aylmer.
I live in Aylmer when I'm in Ottawa, not in Montreal. Now it's better. You can put up a sign in English if the English is in second place and it's in small letters. But four or five years ago you couldn't put up a sign. In Ottawa you could always put up a French sign or a Chinese sign or an Italian sign, but you couldn't always get your health and education services at one time in French. So there were failings on both sides. We have to correct those failings on both sides.
Mr. Chairman, I'd like to know the facts on how these assimilation figures would work out if we took education levels into consideration. I'd like to get that information.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Mr. Perreault.
Mr. Perreault: Mr. Chairman, I would just like to respond to that, and I'm not going to provide that information, but the United Nations Committee on Human Rights will.
Mr. Allmand is talking about the right to post signs in both languages, but this very committee has said, and I quote... Mr. Allmand, I would invite you to read this document because it is very interesting:
It is so true, even in linguistic transfers. Even in Quebec, where Anglo-Quebeckers represent 10% of the population, the community attracts 70% of the linguistic transfers. That is not a minority.
Mr. Massé said in his own way that a majority assimilates a minority. In Quebec, through linguistic transfers, it is clear that the continental anglophone majority is assimilating the French-speaking minority. It is perhaps true to a lesser degree, because there are more Francophones in the same area, but believe me, it is true.
Mr. Allmand, I do not think that we should get into a political debate, but try to find solutions. Finding solutions will not be possible until the Canadian government clearly accepts that only one of the two official languages is a minority language and needs additional means.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): I will allow myself to interrupt you, because we have to hear from another group of witnesses. Moreover, Senator Rivest and Senator Robichaud both want to ask a question. I will ask Senator Rivest to try to be brief.
Senator Rivest: I will be brief.
Mr. Perreault, you said earlier that the federal government should respect to the Quebec Charter of the French language in the National Capital Region. Are you including sign posting?
Mr. Perreault: I think that the federal government must respect sign posting according to the Charter of the French language. We are asking the Canadian government, in Quebec territory...
Senator Rivest: Sign posting within the meaning of Bill 86?
Mr. Perreault: Yes, and Bill 86 is clear in that respect; signs can be in French only or, if the shop owner so desires, he can also post signs in another language, but the French has to be predominant.
Senator Rivest: Okay. Are you happy with what is being done in the National Capital Region?
Mr. Perreault: I can clearly say that in order to help the French language, we ask shop owners to use French signs only. It's a question of contribution, of social responsibility. We also remind the Canadian government that this language is a minority language and that it needs additional means. That is one way of helping it.
Senator Rivest: But legally speaking, Impératif français is not opposed to the provisions of Bill 86.
Mr. Perreault: We're repeating what we've always said: we believe that the way to help the French language in Quebec is by posting signs in French only, and this is allowed under the Act.
Senator Rivest: Okay.
Concerning the Official Languages Act, you say, and you're obviously right, that there is a legal status that might well be terribly theoretical in many respects, as you pointed out, concerning the linguistic equality of French and English.
Do you not believe that in the Official Languages Act it is not only the principle recognizing linguistic equality that might well once again be utopian, but also the principle of linguistic equity that is included in the Act. I'm thinking for example about part VII of the Act on which our committee has worked extensively. If the federal government maintains the principle of linguistic equality in the Official Languages Act using part VII, which talks specifically about local communities, and support for local communities, specifically outside Quebec, where the assimilation phenomena you describe is more serious, it would be making an effort in this sense and not simply settling for some form of utopian linguistic equality. Of course no one can be against equality. But as both you and Mr. Allmand have pointed out, equity means that more of the money must be directed to the French language, which is the one that is threatened.
Mr. Perreault: Mr. Rivest, I cannot agree with you more, because I think we are talking about assimilation. It exists throughout Canada, but it is more pronounced in Canada outside Quebec.
The money that the Canadian government pays to the pseudo-minority, to the mythical anglophone minority in Quebec, should, in my view, go to francophone communities outside Quebec, and even to Francophones in Quebec. Even Stéphane Dion acknowledged that Quebec was the main home of the French language and culture. The stronger this home is in producing cultural products, the more it will help minority linguistic communities outside Quebec.
Senator Rivest: But in principle you are not opposed to the Canadian government's also helping Quebec Anglophones. Mr. Allmand gave the example of the Sherbrooke hospital. Personally, I was elected in the Quebec region, where the Jeffrey Hale Hospital was closed.
I know there are budget cuts, but it was the only hospital that Quebec Anglophones in the region had. It seems to me that in implementing Bill 101 and budget policies, the Quebec government could be careful and make exceptions to allow the minority group made up of Quebec Anglophones to have a minimum base.
Mr. Perreault: Mr. Rivest, I do not think that Quebec Anglophones have any trouble being treated in English. Believe me, if there is a problem, it is elsewhere. Francophones have a lot more trouble obtaining treatment as well as help and social services in French, even in the federal capital, in Ontario and in the rest of Canada.
I repeat that that is where the bulk of the resources must go. In the other direction, the problem, if it exists, is minor compared to the scope and extent of the problem elsewhere.
Senator Rivest: My time is up, but I would like to know if Mr. Perreault will be able to give us his document after the meeting. He talks about a certain phenomenon of assimilation among Francophones in the Outaouais region. He's given us a figure, but I would like to know the number of people, because percentages are often unclear. How many Francophones have lost their language and gone to the English side in the Outaouais region? Please give me an absolute number.
Mr. Perreault: Appended to the document is an article I wrote which appeared in Le Droit.Mr. Chairman, we are talking about a considerable amount of assimilation. The wave of assimilation from Ontario reaches as far as western Quebec.
Senator Rivest: From year to year, there is an increase, but I would like an absolute number.
Mr. Perreault: Mr. Rivest, you will see the extent.
The Vice Joint Chairman (Mr. Serré): Mr. Robichaud, do you have any questions?
Senator Robichaud: Mr. Chairman, I could ask some questions, but I think that Mr. Perreault has already answered them. His point of view is perfectly clear. I agree with some of his comments, but disagree with others.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Thank you very much, Senator Robichaud. I'm dying to ask you a number of questions, but the disadvantage of chairing a committee is that you have to give others the floor. I would however like to thank you, Mr. Perreault, Mr. Verrier andMr. La Brie for your excellent presentation.
Mr. Perreault: Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen.
I would now ask Mr. Graham Greig and Lisa Bishop from Outaouais Alliance to come forward and give us their presentation.
I would like to advise the members of the committee that we have a vote at 5:30 p.m. so the bells will start ringing at around 5:15 p.m. We have basically 25 minutes. I would ask you to limit your presentation to about 10 minutes and we'll restrict the questions to two or three minutes per member.
Please go ahead.
Mr. Graham Greig (Chairman of the Board of Directors, Outaouais Alliance): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Senators, members of Parliament, Outaouais Alliance would like to thank you for this invitation to present our document this afternoon.
I am accompanied this afternoon by Ms Lisa Bishop, who is our executive director and who will, in the main, be available to respond to your questions following the presentation of the brief. I hope to assist in that fashion also. I am a volunteer to this organization. Ms Bishop is a member of the permanent staff.
Mr. Chairman, we would like to proceed in that fashion with your permission.
Ms Lisa Bishop (Executive Director, Outaouais Alliance): First, I'd like to clarify that Outaouais Alliance is not affiliated with Alliance Quebec. People assume that we are part of the same organization. We are an independent organization that functions on a regional network with Alliance Quebec, but apart from the word ``Alliance'' and our group insurance plan, we don't share very much else.
We do share a lot of opinions, however, and we have asked for their input and we will be letting you know about this.
If you will refer to the brief from Outaouais Alliance, I'd like to go through it quickly with you. The Outaouais Alliance is an organization that's been committed to the development of the English-speaking community over the last 14 years. We've become involved with issues that directly affect the lives and well-being of our residents, such as health and social services, education and Canadian unity, but few other issues have pulled on so many Quebeckers' hearts than the issue of language and the legislation on signs.
It's very interesting to note how often we are pitted against groups like Impératif français. We are not their exact opposite. We're not diametrically opposed to them. We do believe in the endorsement and enhancement of the French language in Quebec as well as in the rest of Canada, but not at the expense of the minority populations in Quebec or in the rest of Canada.
So without delving too far into the Quebec situation, I think it's easy to say that many English Quebeckers are outraged that theirs is the only region in the western world that has legislation regarding the languages that can legally be posted on signs and in what size.
While the provisions of Bill 86 allow for second-language sign posting, most businesses in Quebec have unilingual signs, and business people are strongly discouraged by groups from altering the status quo.
As a result, the minority English community in our area is sent a message of exclusion. Businesses are often intimidated by the law, and to avoid the scrutiny and the powers given to the Office de la langue française, they choose to eliminate a second language on their signs altogether.
In the Outaouais, we have to remember that our problem is very different from that of our neighbouring regions. With our proximity to Ontario, English-speaking citizens have been seeking English services across the river with relative ease for years. Residents of the Outaouais have been accessing health and social services, stores, and other business institutions in Ottawa simply because they have difficulty finding those services in English in Quebec.
Recent legislation makes obtaining these health and social services very difficult for these people. As a direct result, fewer English Quebeckers from west Quebec are going over to the Ontario side.
So we wind up with a problem that's twofold. Number one, English residents are not going to the Ontario side as often, and they're starting to ask for their services in English in Quebec.
Second, businesses and service providers from west Quebec who have never had to provide English services before are being asked to do so. They're starting to realize that there is a significant English clientele in their area demanding English signs and services.
Many municipalities, not just Hull, belong to the national capital region. As an area that receives millions of visitors each year, the national capital region has a responsibility to communicate a message of welcome to all visitors as well as to be an example of the fundamental beliefs of Canada.
The Outaouais Alliance believes firmly that the federal government has a responsibility to set the example for the region. It should come out from under a perceived cloud of insensitivity to become the leader in a struggle to better accommodate minority official language populations on either side of the river. We think there would be no better way to do this than to accommodate both official languages in signs posted across the region commercially.
Canada has adopted the official languages as the fundamental recognition that there are two founding languages in this country. As such, I think that federal office buildings must lead the way by setting the standards for bilingualism in the national capital region.
We attended the press conference given by our francophone neighbours on the Ontario side of the river to show our support for the official language minority, which exists all around the province of Quebec. We believe that each region has a responsibility to the minority population of its second official language.
In the national capital region, it's very important for visitors and residents to be reminded that this country firmly holds to its bilingual status.
As Mr. Warren Allmand pointed out earlier, there exists no legislation in Ontario as to what languages can be posted on signs in the area. With no restriction on sign issues, Ontario enjoys the freedom to post equal-size lettering on indoor and outdoor signs, but there's been little consideration so far for our francophone neighbours. That situation should be relatively easier to solve than ours, but there seems to be little evidence of any change as yet.
However, we started to notice that there seems to be less of a political stigma attached to accommodating French in the rest of Canada than there is to accommodating English in Quebec.
We commend the federal government for maintaining the bilingualism of its federal buildings and services. In the national capital region, we might see this a little bit more than in other areas simply because of the strength of both minority language populations. The message is relatively clear that we still have a lot of work to do.
We think that government buildings in the national capital region should be making every effort to encourage their tenants who do not operate federal offices to accommodate the second official language population by posting bilingual signs.
The message of the national capital region's bilingualism must be better heard and better understood by residents and visitors. The status quo cannot suffice. We implore the federal government to use its moral authority to send the message that in the national capital region, at least, linguistic duality is a reality. This would communicate the integral message that the English- and French-speaking populations enjoy equal status.
This is what the Official Languages Act indicates Canadians should expect. While commercial signs are not a federal service, the federal government must send the signal that customers should see both English and French displayed publicly in the national capital region.
The Outaouais Alliance has learned that over the years many leases held by the National Capital Commission have contained a clause calling upon non-government tenants to post bilingual signs, but it was never encouraged. This was very dismaying to organizations like ours from across the region, simply because the existence of such clauses, without any encouragement or any accountability, seems futile.
The federal government should consider bilingual clauses for every national capital region federal lease. It would serve as a reminder of the importance of bilingualism in the national capital region, and anything the government can do will play a great role in sending a clear message of language tolerance to Quebec. Citizens would see the government playing an important part in the continuing bilingualism of this country.
After this time, the government could embark on a national communications plan that would promote bilingualism in a proactive way as being the best choice for businesses in this region. By recognizing those businesses that provide both bilingual signs and services, other businesses would be prompted to act accordingly. We have to go about this carefully, though, because we don't want the approach to be seen as restrictive, as it is on the Quebec side of the border.
Our suggestion would be for the government to provide some sort of promotion for businesses that make an attempt to accommodate minority official language clients. For instance, the government could create a directory for visitors and residents alike that lists the various merchants, etc., who provide bilingual signs and services. It could give these enterprises brightly coloured stickers, for example, to put on their windows, which would indicate that they have met the requirements to be acknowledged as such.
We have to remember what the law says on our side of the river. Bill 86 allows for the posting of bilingual interior and exterior signs. The Outaouais Alliance and its colleagues in the network of regional associations have been working very hard to have merchants make use of that law, but we've had very little federal government support for this endeavour, having been told that the federal government was reluctant to enter the Quebec situation and that it had no powers as far as signage was concerned.
But the government has now found a means by which it can set the standard for bilingualism ideals. It's a tremendous opportunity for the government to show that there is an important, legitimate, and visible place for official language minority populations in the country. Instead of receiving a message that there are specific regions for English and French, the government can communicate that in the national capital, at least, visitors and residents can feel welcome in either official language.
With our mandate, the Outaouais Alliance has dealt with the public's demands for equality in signage on both sides of the river. It would be very unfortunate if the government were perceived as believing that Bill 86 was acceptable in Quebec while equal-size bilingual signs were acceptable in Ontario. The government would have to figure out a way to best deal with that perception of inequality.
At a time when the unity of this country is at stake, I think it's important to show English Quebeckers that the federal government continues to recognize and value its minority official language communities and to show Quebec francophones that there is a place for francophone communities in the rest of the country.
We are committed to encouraging the development and cultivation of the French language in Quebec, but certainly not at the expense of the minority English community. We extend that belief to the areas outside the province of Quebec.
We believe that for the capital of a country that advocates and boasts of its official bilingual status, the federal government must practise its preachings in this way.
We believe that anyone who opposes bilingual signs in this region is only hoping to obtain the economic destruction of an area that is already being hard hit by job cuts and economic instability. By accommodating our two official languages, we increase our marketability. By doing so, more businesses will attract a greater number of people, which can only help the region.
We thank the committee for inviting us to speak. We would like to remind you that consultations like this provide an opportunity for regional associations like ours to communicate the feelings of our residents. Please be reminded that our organizations have our fingers on the pulse of our community, and we are always available to assist you.
We'd like to remind you that although the public perception is - and small groups would like you to believe this - that bilingualism in Quebec is unwanted, recent polls have indicated that an overwhelming majority of Quebeckers support an ease in language legislation, not an increase in it. A move toward bilingualism on behalf of non-government tenants in federal buildings in this region would help outside businesses realize that this is the best economic decision for them to make.
We understand that it's difficult to reach the ideal environment in which everyone can provide services in both official languages, but we are looking for some symbol of language tolerance in an age in which language intolerance is rampant, not bilingualism.
I think it's important for the government to set the stage for a new era in the national capital region in which French- and English-speaking people can feel welcome to visit and patronize this region without any repercussions.
We ask the federal government to remember that with both of our official languages, Canadians can talk to more than 75 countries worldwide. A commitment to bilingual signs in this region, including the Outaouais, would set the standard for a new attitude for business toward minority official languages. We therefore have four recommendations.
First, the government should embark on a communications plan to promote bilingualism in this region.
Second, the government should introduce programs that recognize all tenants who do post bilingual signs and offer bilingual services, such as creating a directory and the brightly coloured sticker.
Third, the government should introduce and encourage the adherence to bilingual sign clauses in all leases signed with tenants in federal buildings.
Fourth, the government should use associations in the national capital region, such as Outaouais Alliance, as resources. It should consult them regularly to obtain insights on the communities' perceptions.
I thank the committee.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Thank you very much. Before going on to questions, I would like to acknowledge the presence of the Commissioner of Official Languages, Mr. Goldbloom, whom we asked to come on several occasions and who has always been present during our recent meetings.
Since we only have about 10 or 12 minutes left, I would ask you to limit your questions to two or three minutes so that all members have a chance to get theirs in.
Mr. Marchand: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I welcome Ms Bishop and Mr. Greig to the committee.
I would like to make just a slight correction. When you say that the Ottawa or Outaouais region is the only region in the western world where there is -
Ms Bishop: The province of Quebec.
Mr. Marchand: When you say the province of Quebec is the only region in the western world where there is legislation for signs, that's incorrect. There's a book published by a Monsieur Leclerc, who is a specialist at the Université de Montréal. It's called La guerre des langues dans l'affichage. He analyses practically every country in the world, about 85 countries, including the United States, Mexico, France, Italy, Germany and many other countries, and it's not exceptional by any means.
I'm curious. Your organization represents anglophones in the Ottawa-Outaouais region. Does that include places like Shawville, the Pontiac region and so on? It's well known. I have been there actually -
Mr. Allmand: Mr. Chairman, would the witness answer yes or no, so it's on the record?
Ms Bishop: Yes.
Mr. Marchand: Shawville and the Pontiac region is well known for having an anglophone majority. Shawville, in fact, is quite anglophone. There are lots of signs and services in English, of course. As a matter of fact, when I went there, I couldn't even get any services in French in some places.
But that's not the problem. I want to know how you perceive the problem in this region. Do you feel that it's the French language that is vulnerable in this area, or is the English language vulnerable?
Here's the other thing. Since anglophones in the Quebec regions of Shawville and the Pontiac already have signs and generally most services in English, what more do you want?
Mr. Greig: Perhaps I can answer that question. There are two levels to your question, are there not? One is the level that concerns the legal requirement. The areas described by you in your question, sir, of course are covered within the territories of Bill 101 and its subsequent laws concerning the use of the signs, etc.
When you describe that there is a difference between the language spoken in the Pontiac from that in Hull, from that in Gatineau, from that in Wakefield, from that in Thurso, then you are getting extremely specific, because all of those places are covered by Bill 101. When the language police came to visit they visited all those areas, I presume. They issued their restrictions.
The second part of your question, sir, has to do with the actual maternal language of the people living in that area. You have to take into account that there is a great history behind those towns I have just cited, some of whom were settled by English, Irish and Scottish descendants some 200 years ago. Others had been settled by French-speaking Europeans some 200 or more years ago, and they all had a slightly different make-up. Even today when you visit these towns you see those differences, you run into that history.
So it's not surprising to me, and it shouldn't be surprising to this committee, that when you start to get extremely specific, as in those you just talked about - and you singled out Shawville - you're going to run into an English-speaking majority. Notwithstanding that, they are still subjected to the law. We are here today to help convince you that there is a need to have the law drafted in a fashion that is totally understood by everyone and that can also be practised by everyone in a practical sense.
Mr. Marchand: Do you feel that -
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): I apologize, but I must give the floor to the others. There's only about five minutes left.
Mr. Breitkreuz, the floor is yours.
Mr. Breitkreuz: I too welcome you as witnesses to the committee. You mentioned that you have basically no affiliation with the Alliance Quebec, yet you're a similar organization.
Ms Bishop: That's correct. There are nine regional associations across the province of Quebec, one of which is Alliance Quebec.
Mr. Breitkreuz: That's a little bit confusing. Alliance Quebec, of course, receives federal funding. How are you people funded?
Ms Bishop: We also receive federal funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage.
Mr. Breitkreuz: To what extent?
Ms Bishop: To a lesser extent than Alliance Quebec, and to a lesser extent than our francophone neighbours on the other side of the border. Our core funding is what allows our office to keep running throughout the year.
Mr. Breitkreuz: In the third paragraph in your written brief, you state that Canada has adopted the Official Languages Act as a fundamental recognition that there are two founding languages of the country. In that two founding languages or nations notion we are trying to grapple with a lot of the problems that are currently...
You say that unfortunately there is less political stigma attached to accommodating the French language in the rest of Canada than there is to accommodating the English in Quebec. That's an interesting statement. Would you elaborate on that a little bit and explain how this plays out?
Ms Bishop: Absolutely. Very recently the federal government decided to devolve its manpower training powers to the provinces. In response to that, the Outaouais Alliance has lodged a formal complaint with the Commissioner of Official Languages. We have cited that if we do not have specific legislation indicating what the repercussions are for the provincial governments if they do not follow through with maintaining a certain level of training for their minority language populations, the minority English language in Quebec could be in a lot of trouble.
In Alberta this was recently signed, and there have been no provisions made for it. According to our membership and also according to our board of directors who have endorsed this, there appears to be less of a political stigma, because there is no legislation in the rest of the country on what languages can be posted on signs and what services can be offered in French, whereas in Quebec there are specific outlines on what services can be provided in English.
Mr. Breitkreuz: I know in Alberta there are no language signs because you're free to speak any language you want and put up any kind of signs you want. If the demand is there, you do it. There are no restrictions at all. There are no Bill 101s or whatever they're called in Quebec.
You mentioned that you have complained to the Commissioner of Official Languages. What response did you get back?
Ms Bishop: A file has been opened with respect to the manpower training, but we have no news as of yet.
Mr. Breitkreuz: How long ago did you complain?
Ms Bishop: We received a letter of acknowledgement last week from the commissioner's office.
Mr. Breitkreuz: Thank you.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Senator Rivest.
Senator Rivest: I must start by saying that I am among those who, like the gentleman pointed out, recognize among other things that Quebec Anglophones, even if this is perhaps a bit beyond the broad principles, have a history, that we must respect their institutions and ensure their development, and not just recognize their existence. Posting bilingual signs at the Sherbrooke Hospital will not threaten the existence or the future of French; and that is the case in many other regions.
Forget about Bill 101. When we talk about sign posting in the Outaouais region, there's a tendency to blame Bill 101, the PQ government, the separatists, Mr. Bourassa and everyone else. We cannot however forget the Constitution of Canada and Mr. Trudeau.
Do you agree with the 1988 Supreme Court of Canada decision that invoked the law of the land and ruled that because of the status of French in Quebec, which is spoken by a minority in North America, the government of Quebec had the authority to require signs to be posted in French?
Secondly, the Supreme Court of Canada has always said that the Quebec National Assembly has the authority not only to force shop owners - which is a restriction of individual freedom - to use French, but also the authority - which resides in the reasonable nature of the Charter, to ensure the predominance of French on all signs. The Supreme Court of Canada said that, not the National Assembly.
Does your community and the people in the Outaouais and the Pontiac region whom you represent accept, because they are located in Quebec, this Supreme Court of Canada legal reality as a fact that does not restrict Canadian's freedom of expression and their equality within the meaning of the Charter? It is what the Supreme Court of Canada decided. Do people understand that? I'm under the impression that people often find this situation unpleasant or restrictive and that they are under the impression that the PQ or nationalist governments are at the source of this, whereas Bill 86, which governs linguistic sign posting in Quebec, uses the exact wording that the Supreme Court of Canada judges used and invokes the law of the land. It is the Constitution. If people are opposed to it, they should blame Mr. Trudeau and not Mr. Bouchard or Mr. Bourassa.
Ms Bishop: I would like to clarify that most of the people we represent accept that the French language is the predominant language in Quebec. Our organization promotes the development and the preservation of the French language and culture in Quebec and in Canada. It is very important to point out that our group does not represent anglophone rights, but that we work in conjunction with our francophone compatriots on the other side of the river. Most of our members support the predominance of French in Quebec, but not at the expense of the anglophone minority.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Merci beaucoup.
Mr. Allmand: In your remarks you said since Bill 86, which allowed the putting up of English except in a secondary, smaller way, was passed, you've tried to encourage businesses on the Quebec side to take advantage of the law and to put up their signs in both languages. You said you went to the federal government asking for their help and assistance but they turned you down, saying this was none of their business.
Who, may I ask, said that? Was this government officials or was this members of Parliament or ministers? Who said it?
I ask that because the Official Languages Act in part VII says:
41. The Government of Canada is committed to
(a) enhancing the vitality of the English and French linguistic minority communities in Canada
Section 43 then says that the Secretary of State, now the Minister of Canadian Heritage, and the department are to encourage the use of English and French and even to speak to provincial and municipal governments and businesses as part that encouragement.
Who told you, then, it wasn't their business?
Ms Bishop: Recently the Outaouais Alliance sat in on a session regarding sections 41 and 42 of the Official Languages Act. At that session a representative from Human Resources Development Canada indicated that they were reluctant to make provisions for the anglophone population with the devolution of powers to Quebec for manpower training. They said that it was a political situation, that they were reluctant to enter the entire debate at all, and that they would have an article 57 in there to say that second-language training will be provided where numbers warrant.
That gives us visions of our being tied up in court cases while everyone else is happily getting their training in French as per the law in Quebec. There has to be legislation adopted that indicates firmly what ``specific demand'' means and what happens when the government does not obey anywhere, in any province -
Mr. Allmand: My time is nearly up. So it was an official who said this.
Ms Bishop: Yes.
Mr. Allmand: I guess we'll have to wait for the manpower training agreements to see what... There's just been one made with Alberta.
Ms Bishop: That is one example. From our own representatives, we have -
Mr. Allmand: I'll be glad to follow that up. Those officials should be reminded of the act.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Senator Robichaud, you have the last word.
Senator Robichaud: Thanks, Mr. Chairman.
Very often during your remarks you referred to ``the other side of the border''. What side of the border are you on?
Ms Bishop: Me personally, or the organization?
Senator Robichaud: The organization. Which is the other side of the border?
Ms Bishop: I think that's a remarkable question, because you shouldn't know. We are looking for equal rights for minority populations on either side.
Senator Robichaud: Well, why do you say ``other side of the border''?
Ms Bishop: We are the Outaouais Alliance. Outaouais refers to the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. We are based in Hull.
Mr. Greig: If I may add to that, Mr. Robichaud, there should not be a border when it comes to linguistic or human rights, should there?
Senator Robichaud: I know. That's why I asked the question.
Ms Bishop: We refer to borders just in terms of geographic borders between provinces. We certainly don't mean to imply that there are any crossing guards at either side restricting us from behaving one way or another or from crossing any bridges. We're very proud to belong to the national capital region and for the region to exist in harmony while respecting their provincial legislation.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Thank you very much, Ms Bishop.
Senator Robichaud: Did I go through two minutes already?
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Yes.
Senator Robichaud: Thirty seconds.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Okay.
Senator Robichaud: You had once a campaign among retailers in favour of bilingual signs. What was the response?
Ms Bishop: The response for the most part was quite favourable. We were reluctant to enter a boycotting situation, because in the region of the Outaouais we already have a problem with people going across the river to obtain their goods.
Senator Robichaud: Across the river from what side?
Ms Bishop: From the Outaouais side - people going to Ontario to buy their goods in English. A lot of people have already started boycotting. They've been boycotting for 20 years. They go to the grocery store, they go get their clothing, whatever, on the Ontario side because they can get their services in English. If we start advocating boycotts we'd double our problem in the region, and it's a region that's already being hard hit.
Using the common-sense marketability approach I talked about in the brief, we've approached businesses by expressing to them how intelligent a choice it is and how more marketable it will make them. We've offered to help them with translation of their signs. We've offered our services as a means by which they can better accommodate their anglophone population on the Quebec side of the border.
Senator Robichaud: You mentioned that you offer translation services. Is that from English to French or from French to English?
Ms Bishop: Either.
The Joint Vice-Chairman (Mr. Serré): Your time is up, Senator Robichaud.
Ms Bishop, Mr. Greig, thank you for your testimony.
I declare the meeting adjourned.