Notices of Meeting include information about the subject matter to be examined by the committee and date, time and place of the meeting, as well as a list of any witnesses scheduled to appear. The Evidence is the edited and revised transcript of what is said before a committee. The Minutes of Proceedings are the official record of the business conducted by the committee at a sitting.
Honourable members of the committee, I see a quorum.
I must inform you that the clerk of the committee can receive motions only for the election of the chair. The clerk cannot receive other types of motions, cannot entertain points of order, nor participate in debate.
We can now proceed to the election of the chair.
Pursuant to Standing Order 106(2), the chair must be a member of the government party.
I am ready to receive motions for the election of chair.
That the Chair be authorized to hold meetings to receive evidence and to have that evidence printed when a quorum is not present, provided that at least four (4) members are present, including one member of the opposition and one member of the government, but when travelling outside the parliamentary precinct, that the meeting begin after fifteen (15) minutes, regardless of members present.
Regarding independent members and clause-by-clause consideration, I propose:
That, in relation to Orders of Reference from the House respecting Bills,
(a) the Clerk of the Committee shall, upon the Committee receiving such an Order of Reference, write to each Member who is not a member of a caucus represented on the Committee to invite those Members to file with the Clerk of the Committee, in both official languages, any amendments to the Bill, which is the subject of the said Order, which they would suggest that the Committee consider;
(b) suggested amendments filed, pursuant to paragraph (a), at least 48 hours prior to the start of clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill to which the amendments relate shall be deemed to be proposed during the said consideration, provided that the Committee may, by motion, vary this deadline in respect of a given Bill; and
(c) during the clause-by-clause consideration of a Bill, the Chair shall allow a Member who filed suggested amendments, pursuant to paragraph (a), an opportunity to make brief representations in support of them.
I would also like to greet Laura Blackmore, who is accompanying her. Thank you for being here with us.
Let's not forget all the staff who are here and work for the telecommunications and media services, as well as the clerk and the analyst.
Thank you for joining us to ensure that committee meetings run smoothly. We know that this committee's area of focus interests many people. A good amount of work has been done over the course of previous mandates, both by members and by senators. So we will continue along the same path in order to further the committee's work.
Mr. Chair, I have had the pleasure of sitting on the Standing Committee on Official Languages over the past four years. I would like to point out to my new colleagues that Ms. Lecomte is the living memory of the Standing Committee on Official Languages. She has been here for 10 years.
You were there the first time we travelled. It was to Yellowknife, unless I'm mistaken, or to Whitehorse. I no longer remember.
All to say that, as she is the memory of this committee, she can shed a great deal of light on our future work.
Earlier, Mr. Arseneault whispered to me, in full transparency, that the issue of enumerating rights holders needs to be considered. So it would be important for our work to begin as quickly as possible. In fact, I think it will be next week.
I have prepared a motion to this effect. I will read it to you and will then send it to you in writing very soon.
I will read it in both official languages. However, before I read it, I want to thank Mr. Généreux for his comments. I will provide you with the context.
Ms. Lecomte represents not only the Library of Parliament and the living memory of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, but she is mostly to be thanked for making us look good in the many reports we produce. We have drafted a number of reports and appear to be really brilliant—which we still are—but Ms. Lecompte's mastery of both official languages and her quickness are incredible.
We met with Statistics Canada representatives a few times—three times, unless I am mistaken—between 2017 and 2019, so that rights holders could be enumerated once and for all under section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Those are people living in official language minority communities, OLMCs, who are entitled to request education in their language if their numbers warrant it.
Nothing happened at the end of the 42nd Parliament because we broke for the summer and the election was to follow. Statistics Canada was supposed to do some testing on the amended form. Apparently, it could be very complicated to ask questions properly. So they ran some tests, and they are the only ones we can ask what the results were, how things went and what is working well or not so well.
That is the purpose of asking Statistics Canada to appear. It is urgent because a census is done every five years, with the next one to be carried out in 2021, which is coming up fast. So that is the context. That is why Mr. Généreux alluded to this.
That said, here is the motion:
That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(f), it is proposed that the Committee convene Statistics Canada on the following subjects:
1. Update by Statistics Canada on the question of the enumeration of rights holders, and of the results of the work and tests carried out on this subject in relation to the 2021 census questionnaire;
2. The steps to follow, if necessary, to ensure that the questionnaire meets all the requirements of art. 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, relating to how to count the beneficiaries of the 2021 census;
3. Advantages and disadvantages of the short form vs the long form with regard to the counting of beneficiaries;
First, for the NDP, the issue of the impact and repercussions of the census on minority communities across Canada is very important. It is necessary for the committee to look into that.
Second, when it comes to developing a long-term plan for this committee, is it possible to wait until the next meeting to discuss this aspect? The NDP has a lot of ideas. We have had discussions with francophone organizations.
Could we vote on this motion, but also on waiting until the next meeting to develop a long-term plan?
I readily support the motion. I am just wondering whether, by having only three points, we may not prevent ourselves from putting other questions to the Statistics Canada officials when they appear before us. If they receive this motion, they will prepare answers only to those three questions.
If we wanted to obtain more details on those questions or put sub-questions to them, could we do so?
It is enough to cover all the questions while taking into account situations we have experienced with Statistics Canada.
First, we want to know what the results of the tests are. I remember hearing the Statistics Canada representatives say how difficult it was and how complicated it would be. So we need to check what the results of those tests carried out last summer are.
Second, there are steps to follow. We will certainly discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the short form census compared with the long form census. That's how it always goes with Statistics Canada.
If there is anything else, all we have to do is make amendments. I don't want to restrict the question selection.
I am not currently thinking of anything specific, but I would perhaps add four other points. It may be sufficient to leave open the possibility of asking other questions. Oftentimes, certain answers lead us to other questions or to potential discussions.
I would not want the answers to be restricted and those people to tell us that they have unfortunately not prepared answers for the other questions.
Regarding the point raised by Mr. Angus, I have prepared a motion I would like to present today to this committee. I would still like to have the opportunity to....
An hon. member: We're still on the first one.
Ms. Emmanuella Lambropoulos: I know, but he mentioned putting forward...or at least considering not putting forward any motions, so I'm just speaking to that point, but I'd like to still bring forward the motion.
Mr. Chair, I agree with Mr. Généreux when it comes to openness, but as the parliamentary secretary mentioned earlier, Mr. Généreux and he are familiar with the file's background. However, a number of us are new members.
So I would add in the motion, parliamentary secretary, a description of the past situation, starting before the last census, and of the problem, so that we can understand what has happened with the solutions proposed and the tests carried out last summer. As we don't know what the source of the problem is, we cannot find a solution.
The question is really important, and the answer is that rights holders were never counted in the past. There is no historical trend. Previously, people were asked whether their mother tongue was French or English. There was never a concerted, voluntary effort to enumerate the rights holders under section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Section 23 is a specific provision that concerns minority languages. Where the number justifies it, education can be provided in the language of the minority. The question was never asked that way. There is no historical trend. So we could never look at the past context. There has never been any. The census has existed for 35 years, with seven of them having been done, and rights holders under section 23 have never been enumerated. That is what this important request was about.
I thank the parliamentary secretary for his answer. That said—and this may not be the fault of Statistics Canada—rights holders have been ignored. I would like to know what figures and data were used to enable minorities to have access to education in their language.
Mr. Chair, perhaps I could partially answer my colleague.
We have already considered this issue. We could perhaps ask Ms. Lecomte to create a one-page document based on all the exchanges that have been held between the committee and Statistics Canada officials, including information they have submitted to us. When those people come meet with us, we could use that document as a starting point for the discussion.
I understand my colleague. When we invite witnesses, we must be at least somewhat prepared. I think that Ms. Lecomte can provide us with that data.
I am in favour of the proposal, I don't really have anything to say, but, normally, it seems to me that motions require a 24 hours' notice. If my understanding is correct, this is an exception because the issue has been discussed. I have seen it in the news.
This is not work we could start at the next meeting.
What must also be considered is that there is a possibility of amending the proposal that has been submitted. The clerk told me that we should perhaps discuss it now or keep a copy of it and, at the next meeting, debate it more extensively before adopting it.
I support the motion, but there is a problem. I feel that the committee has a dual role. It must invite officials to examine programs and services, but its role is also to give organizations and citizens an opportunity to raise issues.
So I would like to amend the motion to invite witnesses. I am not ready to propose witness names today, but we could perhaps do so at the next meeting in order to give organizations an opportunity to tell us if there is a problem. It is our role to hear both points of view.
I fully agree with my colleague from the NDP. We're inviting Statistics Canada representatives to share the results of the work and tests. However, in addition to Statistics Canada, we must meet with Canadians and with people who are affected by this issue. Our analyst will provide information to show us the current situation.
I think that we're putting the cart before the horse by inviting Statistics Canada representatives to the first meeting without having any information on the issue.
Mr. Godin, I don't want to seem persistent, but that's why Statistics Canada carried out tests. The reason is that we heard from all the stakeholders. I don't think that we missed anyone. Every school board in Canada that you can imagine came, along with the Quebec Community Groups Network, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadiennes, specialists, constitutional experts, and Supreme Court Justice Michel Bastarache, who is now retired.
As you'll see in the report that Lucie will provide later, this led to the Standing Committee on Official Languages' unanimous desire to ask Statistics Canada to include certain questions in its next form. We can no longer conduct a census without the enumeration of rights holders under section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in a proper and genuine manner. You'll see this in the historic record.
Before we continue the discussion, Ms. Lecomte, the analyst, is informing us that, before the next meeting, on Monday or Tuesday morning at the latest, she'll send us this information by email so that we'll be ready.
Ms. Lambropoulos raised her hand before Mrs. Lalonde.
It's not a stand-alone study. This is something that we had done in the previous committee and that we had heard extensively about. That was why we figured this would tie the bow and finish and help us to move forward in a positive way after what we had heard already.
I'm new to the committee. The fact that we're passing this motion doesn't mean that we can't invite these witnesses to come back and give us a report on what has happened and on where Statistics Canada currently stands.
If the committee feels that it needs more information after Ms. Lecomte has sent us the latest recommendations, it could proceed that way as well. I want to know what Statistics Canada has done and where it stands, as soon as possible, so that we can get organized for the long term. In terms of the previous recommendations, we must decide how this committee can improve the component. However, this doesn't prevent us from listening to what Statistics Canada has to say.
I agree with my colleague's comments. We amended the motion to add a fourth point. We made it clear today that we reserve the option of addressing any other related questions. I'm relieved about this. I'm also a new member of Parliament, but this new possibility doesn't restrict us.
Should we need to seek further information, the fourth point would enable us to do so and it doesn't restrict us at this stage. I fully agree with the amendment. I don't feel at all restricted or prevented from inviting people in another group to shed light on this issue.
I want to inform you that the clerk needs time to invite the witnesses. We must make a decision fairly quickly. By Tuesday, we need a final motion so that the clerk has time to invite Statistics Canada representatives to appear next Thursday.
I want to share with everyone what we've experienced over the past four years. Mr. Arseneault was talking earlier about the unanimity in all the reports. I think that all our reports over the past four years have been unanimous.
The committee has worked in a way that shows great respect for all parliamentarians here. As a result, mutual trust has been built. We must never lose sight of our objective, which is to advance the rights of francophones in minority communities and anglophones in Quebec. That's the ultimate goal.
In the past four years, there has been little or no partisanship in the committee. Of course, this doesn't mean that there hasn't been some partisanship.
We also noticed that we were wasting a great deal of time. When we want to invite witnesses, it takes ages to ensure that they'll appear. When we postpone these types of motions, inevitably the time frame is longer.
It's already the end of February, and we'll finish at the end of June. There will be a three or four week break before then. Quite frankly, if we want to make any progress, we should make a decision today. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can get this resolution passed because it's quite open ended as a result of the last point added.
If we pass this resolution today, we could all do our jobs by starting to invite the witnesses from Statistics Canada. We can't have them join us next Tuesday, of course. This doesn't in any way prevent Mr. Angus or Mr. Beaulieu from making additional points during the witnesses' presentations and from asking them questions.
However, we'll try to keep that perspective, since we're inviting them to appear for this purpose. In any case, given the duration of the meetings with them and the presence of the witnesses, we truly don't have time to indulge ourselves for very long. We have enough material to cover the duration of the presentations.
I just want to bring you up to date on what we've experienced over the past four years. We could pass this resolution today so that the work can move forward. On Tuesday, based on the information from our analyst, we could begin to discuss the issue, develop our thoughts on the matter and prepare our questions for potential witnesses.
Otherwise, all this will be postponed until mid-March or sometime around then. We're already way behind in the process, if you ask me.
I'm just trying to be clear here. I've been on many committees, and I'm not really sure what's going on, and it's not just because I speak English.
I've asked about whether we'll have witnesses. If we're agreeing that we're going to have some witnesses, I'm perfectly supportive of this motion. I am not supportive of saying, “Well, we were unanimous in the past, so we'll be unanimous now.”
We have a role to play here, which is to be the voices of people out there. This is not about filibustering. I'm willing.... I can pass this motion now and say I totally support it, but, to me, the role of committee is to give the people of Canada an opportunity to be heard on fundamental issues. We don't just meet with the functionaries and then go home.
I'm just trying to get a sense.... Do I have to have it in the motion? Do I have to amend the motion, or can we just go with this motion and say that next meeting we'll talk, pick some witnesses and move on?
I don't know how the committee works. My other committees.... I need to have a sense. Do we want an amendment, or are we going to vote for this and just say we'll come back and meet?
For the benefit of explaining, we made an amendment here today. We said that in number four we would add any other questions that would be pertinent to what is being proposed. “Any other questions” would certainly cover your preoccupations in terms of having other witnesses.
This is where I want to have my assurance, too. I don't think the committee wants to work in a venue where we want to limit the number of people who can come to clarify things to this committee, in terms of getting the information we want, as long as we stay within the scope of the motion. We just added the amendment—and I think we're all fundamentally okay with it—to say “and all other questions that are relative to it”. It doesn't bar you or any other member here.... We're not saying, “Look, we just want to have StatsCan, and that's it. We're going to go home. That's how we're going to make our decision.”
I don't know if that brings clarity to you, but that's my understanding of it.
I gather that we're wondering whether we're moving or postponing the amendment. Mr. Angus seems to be saying that, if, however, an open-ended question were ready, we could move the fourth point, the amendment. If the committee agrees, we'll pass the amendment and then the motion.
Maybe a solution for it is to dispose of the amendment first, and then, if Mr. Angus is so inclined and wishes to present another amendment on adding other witnesses to it, we could then debate that, dispose of that, and then return to the main motion, as amended or not amended. We can deal with it that way.
To me, “all other questions” is not as clear as just saying “and potential witnesses”. Then we sit down and we decide if we need witnesses. I'm new. I didn't go through what happened last time. Just “and potential witnesses”.... We can talk about it for months or two meetings, whatever. All I want is clarity, because “other questions”, to me, could be other things. Just put “and potential witnesses”.
I gather that there could be additional witnesses if committee members make that suggestion. That's what Mr. Angus wants.
I agree that the enumeration of rights holders must be included. I consider this important. However, since Statistics Canada representatives would be coming to meet with us fairly quickly, would there be a way to ask questions regarding other aspects of the language that I find troublesome in Statistics Canada's analysis grid?
Yes, I have two things. Number one, would we like to set a number of meetings for this study? Number two, in my experience with StatsCan, it's very frustrating because they never have the answers that we need to our questions. They just have exactly what they have in front of them. Maybe, when we're inviting them, we could provide them with the questions we're going to be asking or at least what information we're seeking. In your invitation, maybe just let them know in advance what we expect to get answers for.
We'll now proceed to the second amendment, which states as follows: “That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), it is proposed that the committee convene Statistics Canada and other witnesses on the following subjects:”
Normally, a 48 hour notice is required for a motion. I've discussed this with the clerk. A 48 hour notice is required, provided that the motion isn't directly related to the business then under consideration by the committee. Since we're discussing our future business, the motion before us isn't really an issue. However, we can debate this notice of motion and see where the members stand.
I'll ask Ms. Lambropoulos to read her notice of motion.
That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(f), the Committee initiate a study consisting of at least 10 meetings to examine the ways that the Government of Canada can:
a) Ensure the protection of linguistic minorities with regards to protecting the rights of right holders to receive an education in the minority language and in an attempt to protect the identity and culture of the members of the Official Language minority communities.
b) Ensure the promotion of bilingualism and raise the bilingualism rate across the country;
that this study be completed by June 2020; that the Committee report its findings to the House; and that, Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the government table a comprehensive response thereto.
I prefer to wait until the next meeting. There are other very important issues we could include in the agenda for the upcoming meetings.
We need to be able to clarify things, for example, with respect to the term “linguistic minorities”. According to the Quebec minister responsible for Canadian intergovernmental affairs and the Canadian francophonie, an official language minority exists across the country, and it's francophones. Are we talking about institutional or individual bilingualism? I would prefer to take the time to look at that properly. We don't have a timetable.
As a general rule, the majority of committees have at least one subcommittee, which can have different names, but only one official name—the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure—often referred to as the steering committee. It has a limited number of members. Usually, it's made up of the chair and a member from each party, depending on party representation in the House.
Not all committees have a working subcommittee, but many do to help them plan future business. Subcommittees can propose topics for study, for example. The subcommittee has discussions and, then, reports to the committee, which considers the subcommittee's recommendations and makes any necessary changes. Once the committee adopts the recommendation, it becomes the decision of the committee. A lot of the groundwork is done by the subcommittee.
Normally, we go through the whips' offices to find out who will be on the subcommittee. In the chair's case, it's clear, but when it's one or two members from each party, it isn't always obvious.
You can discuss it now amongst yourselves, if you like, and perhaps even make a decision. You could put forward a motion specifically designating the members of the subcommittee. If the motion isn't clear, though, I'm not the one who will decide. In the committee's case, the subcommittee has to have five members. As I said, in the chair's case, it's clear. Then, it's one member per party, and that's not an issue for two of the parties.
I am ready to propose the makeup of the subcommittee: you, Mr. Chair; the first vice-chair, Mr. d'Entremont; the second vice-chair, Mr. Beaulieu; the member from the NDP, Mr. Angus; and someone from the Liberal Party. Can the parliamentary secretary also sit on the subcommittee? If so, I call that an abuse of power.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Bernard Généreux: I still nominate Mr. Arseneault for the subcommittee.
Thank you so much. Personally, I hate meetings. Life is really busy. I've sat on committees where we tended to work together and we could do it. Sometimes subcommittees are needed because it's very complex. If it's not complex, I think we just build a relationship.
If people want to go that route, I will go that route, but if we build a relationship on these issues, I think we're going to generally come down on the same area. It might just be a better and more efficient way.
I completely understand what Mr. Angus is saying, given how many committees and meetings we have. I firmly believe, though, that a subcommittee can help us set the agenda. When we come to committee, a productive discussion will have already taken place and we'll be better prepared. It makes it easier to get right to work.
Of course, as committee members, we always have the right to vote and decide on whether or not to adopt the subcommittee's report. I think a subcommittee could prove useful to plan for the meetings ahead, so I strongly recommend that we have one.