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Results: 1 - 12 of 12
View Robert Aubin Profile
View Robert Aubin Profile
2014-11-27 14:15 [p.9899]
Mr. Speaker, the government opened two new Twitter accounts, one in English and one in French, that it is marketing as Canada's voice to the world.
It is obvious that the English account is rather awkward, even grating, but the French account is an absolute disaster. I do not even know where to start—maybe with the sketchy French.
For example, one tweet talks about “captivating” the public's attention rather than “capturing” it. After that, there are several tweets that are nothing but word-for-word translations of jokes written in English.
The worst tweet of all goes like this: “@AuCanada est maintenant sur Twitter, Ouais!”
Once again, this shows the Conservatives' deep lack of respect for francophones. If they want to tweet and put Canadian culture out there, they need to think and write with the proper level of respect for both cultures or they will demonstrate an utter lack of sensitivity toward francophones and Quebec.
Still, that is what we have come to expect from the Conservatives for some time now.
View Stéphane Dion Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, as Liberal critic for official languages, following my colleague, the hon. member for Charlottetown and the Liberal justice critic, I am pleased to second Bill C-208, An Act to amend the Supreme Court Act (understanding the official languages), introduced by our colleague, the member for Acadie—Bathurst.
This bill would require that in the future anyone appointed to the Supreme Court have a command of both official languages and be able to understand them without the assistance of an interpreter. The bill is not retroactive and therefore sitting judges would remain on the bench.
Under the Official Languages Act, every federal court is required to ensure that the language chosen by the parties during proceedings is understood by the judge, or other officers who hear any given proceedings, without the assistance of an interpreter. There is one exception, though: the Supreme Court. In practice, this bill would put an end to this exception.
The Liberal Party has been a long-time champion of language rights, linguistic duality, and the exercise of the Official Languages Act.
The Liberals also have no problems supporting this bill, given that we introduced a similar bill ourselves, in 2007-08, during the 39th Parliament. This was Bill C-548, amending the Official Languages Act to extend the requirement to understand both official languages to justices of the Supreme Court of Canada. The bill was introduced by the hon. member for Bourrassa at the time, the Hon. Denis Coderre, the new mayor of Montreal. I recall that bill as I had the honour of being the leader of the official opposition at the time.
More than five years later, let us hope that this time will be the right time and that this Parliament will give French-speaking Canadians the assurance that they will be understood by the nine most important judges in our legal system.
And why would this Parliament not give that assurance to the country's francophones? Is it not high time to do so, 45 years after the Official Languages Act was passed?
Those who oppose this bill claim that the selection of judges must be a matter of competence only. However, adequate command of both official languages is precisely part of the competence required to be fully able to treat all Canadians fairly.
Both the Commissioner of Official Languages and the Minister of Justice confirmed that we now have a big enough pool of bilingual jurists from across the country who fully meet the appropriate standard of merit and legal excellence to appoint bilingual judges to the Supreme Court. Clearly, this pool will grow bigger every year if Parliament sends young Canadian lawyers the message that bilingualism is a requisite if they wish to reach the top of the Canadian legal system.
Our judges must always prove their worth in terms of knowledge of the law, judgment, work habits, ability to write and communicate, honesty, concern for fairness and social conscience, but they must also be bilingual.
We are not here to criticize the unilingual judges of the past, some of whom were great legal minds who did wonderful things for the cause of French and official language minorities in Canada. At one time we had British judges and they too did great things, but that did not stop us from wanting Canadian judges.
It is therefore reasonable to say that the judges of the past would have been even better equipped had they been able to understand the language of Molière or Vigneault.
The need is there. About 30% of the documentation that Supreme Court judges need to study is in French. Judges who cannot read French have to rely on the summaries provided by clerks, who are often talented but of course have neither the skill nor experience that a judge has.
During hearings, unilingual judges have to follow debate using simultaneous interpretation. No matter how good it is, there can be errors, misunderstandings or inaccuracies. When judges speak among themselves about cases before them, only one of them needs to be unilingual for all the discussions to, inevitably, be held in English, even for cases where most of the documentation is in French. In practice, French-speaking judges are required to write their drafts in English.
Opponents of Bill C-208 who state that requiring bilingualism would undermine the competence of judges must know that this is precisely the argument that was used against the adoption of the Official Languages Act. Parliament of 1969 did not let this objection stop it, and everyone takes the credit today. Therefore, let us be inspired by the wisdom of the members who came before us.
Not surprisingly, support for this bill is coming in from all sides.
Of course, the National Assembly of Quebec, the Commissioner of Official Languages, Mr. Graham Fraser, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, and the Quebec Community Groups Network all support Bill C-232. Also the Canadian Bar Association adopted a resolution in support of institutional bilingualism at the Supreme Court of Canada during its annual meeting in August 2010.
L'Association des juristes d'expression française du Canada de common law adopted a resolution in 2010 affirming its support for Bill C-232. The Quebec Bar Association supports this bill. In 2010, the president of the Young Bar Association of Montréal stated:
Functional bilingualism must be a minimum competency and not limited to being simply a consideration…
I would like to provide other support, but my time is short.
Voting for this bill is betting on Canada, a country that is lucky to have two official languages that are international languages, big windows on the world; a country that is lucky to have two legal systems, the civil code and common law, which allows it to share the legal traditions of 80% of countries around the world.
With this bill, we will ensure that this increased strength that our bilingualism and bijuralism bring us will become part of the highest court in our legal system and will help our Supreme Court become one of the most respected in the world.
View Jamie Nicholls Profile
View Jamie Nicholls Profile
2014-05-01 17:38 [p.4847]
Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise today to express my support for Bill C-208.
This bill would amend the Supreme Court Act to require that only judges who can communicate well in French and English without the assistance of an interpreter be appointed to the Supreme Court.
I would like to begin by congratulating my hon. colleague, the member for Acadie—Bathurst, who is the NDP's official languages critic, for the remarkable diligence he demonstrated in introducing this bill.
I mention his remarkable diligence because, despite the Conservative government's opposition to this bill, my colleague never gave up. He kept fighting to ensure respect for linguistic equality before the courts for all Canadians, especially those who live in minority francophone communities.
This is my colleague's third attempt since 2008 to get this bill passed. Let us not forget that, four years ago, this same bill, known then as C-232, passed third reading. Despite the opposition of all Conservative members, including francophone Conservative members, my colleague managed to get Bill C-232 passed in the House of Commons. Unfortunately, the bill was blocked in the Senate by Conservative senators, some of whom were francophone, as incredible as that might seem.
The Senate and unelected senators blocked Bill C-232 until the March 2011 election was called. The bill would have protected the interests of Canada's linguistic minorities, but they let it die on the order paper. That is both shameful and an insult to democracy.
Fortunately, my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst will continue to work tirelessly to protect the rights of linguistic minorities. I can guarantee that he has the support of all NDP MPs and that, together, we will continue to fight to ensure respect for our two official languages from coast to coast.
The NDP is not alone in this fight. My colleague's bill has been praised and supported by many non-partisan stakeholders. For instance, the Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, has said several times that he believes that Supreme Court judges should be bilingual; he also supported Bill C-232 in the previous Parliament.
According to the commissioner, any litigant appearing before the Supreme Court should have the right to be heard and understood by all the judges in either official language without the aid of an interpreter. The Barreau du Québec, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne, the Fédération des associations de juristes d'expression française de common law, and a number of law professors also support the NDP's position on having bilingual Supreme Court judges.
However, the Conservative government has used every possible obstructive measure to undermine the NDP's efforts to have this bill passed, while claiming that they are looking after the language rights of French-language minority Canadians.
The simple fact that an issue of paramount importance like equality before the law is being raised in a private member's bill instead of in a government bill is an indication of how little importance the Conservative government attaches to the language rights of francophones.
In addition to appointing a unilingual anglophone Auditor General to Parliament, this government appointed two unilingual anglophone judges to the Supreme Court, Justice Rothstein and Justice Moldaver. In fact, there is a pool of highly qualified and fully bilingual judges, but the Conservative government pays no heed to that for partisan reasons.
The Conservatives seem to be forgetting that Canada was founded as a result of the hard work of two linguistic and cultural groups. Ignoring the right of francophones to have access to justice in their own language is betraying one of Canada's founding principles that is based on co-operation between the two linguistic communities.
Bilingualism and Canada go hand in hand, just like the traditions of British common law and French civil law go hand in hand. Denying the full equality of French in our courts is ignoring a fundamental principle of our nation. Our country's highest court must reflect Canada's bilingualism.
In addition to these matters of principle, there are also technical considerations with respect to the limitations of translation, which also point to the importance of having bilingual Supreme Court judges.
Surely it goes without saying that there are numerous nuances and subtleties in every language that can and often do get lost in translation. This is of crucial importance when matters of law and justice are concerned, especially at the Supreme Court level, the final court of appeal for all Canadians.
One significant problem lies in what Professor Ruth King, a member of the Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics at York University, refers to as code switches. Professor King defines code switches as sentences that use verbs to communicate opinions or belief. Statements such as “I think”, “I guess”, or “I believe” all work to underscore the speaker's stance or truth of the proposition and in some cases to indicate a degree of uncertainty.
King argues that terms such as these can be translated in French using words that can either enhance or diminish the degree to which the proposition is true. Based on her research, one can conclude that translators who translate between the French and English languages are likely to face problems in accurately conveying the meaning of a statement, not because those translators are bad at their job but because there are simply too many nuances and subtleties in both of our official languages to rely solely on translation when it comes to legal matters. Therefore, Canadians who have to rely on translation to make their case for justice are at an automatic disadvantage. The same applies to many other situations.
For example, if a test written in French is given to one who only speaks English, it is unlikely that person would be able to perform to the best of his or her ability, as relying on a translator would stand as an impediment. In 1998, Professor R.K. Hambleton performed a number of studies on the reliability and validity of tests administered across language and cultures. His research concluded that language did, in fact, play a significant factor in one's ability to perform well on a test. Hambleton suggests that despite the use of translators, when one is tested in a language that is not his or her own, the results are not an accurate representation of the person's knowledge.
Hambleton concludes that it is imperative for tests to be administered in one's native language in order to gain truly reflective results. Much like taking a test, trials rely on the interpretation of questions, by which judgments are based on one's response. If a question is answered incorrectly due to its interpretation, this poses a fundamental risk to the reliability and validity of a verdict. Simply requiring all judges to be fluent in both English and French can reduce such problems. By removing the language barrier, all Canadians, both English and French, will receive equal opportunities to a fair and reliable trial.
Therefore, the inherent limitations of translation requires judges to be able to communicate in both English and French in order to avoid any misinterpretations of vital information. Given the responsibilities and integrity of the Supreme Court of Canada, it is absolutely essential that any room for error be eliminated. If judges are required to speak both English and French as it is being proposed in this bill, the chance for misinterpretation might not be eliminated, but it would certainly be greatly reduced and go toward improving our trial process in the Supreme Court.
It is the responsibility of the House to ensure that the Supreme Court of Canada provides sound and equal treatment to all citizens of Canada. What is more, it is inexcusable to risk a Superior Court that cannot discern testimony with utmost accuracy and precision and fails to offer the optimal conditions for all those who seek justice.
In closing, I ask my colleagues from all political parties to rise above polarizing partisan divisions and make good use of this opportunity to restore the faith and respect Canadians once had for this great Parliament. As this House did with Bill C-419, let us work together to support this motion that seeks to uphold two of our most cherished, fundamental constitutional rights: equality before the law and equality of our two official languages.
I call on all members of the House, especially my Conservative colleagues across the way, to vote in favour of this motion and send the right message to all Canadians that we have respect for both official languages groups, that we have respect for those who are in minority situations to be understood in the highest court of law. I ask them to work with us to send this bill to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for further deliberation.
View Yvon Godin Profile
View Yvon Godin Profile
2014-02-28 13:29 [p.3378]
moved that Bill C-208, An Act to amend the Supreme Court Act (understanding the official languages), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise for the third time in the House to speak to Bill C-208, which would require Supreme Court justices to be bilingual so that they can respond to Canadian citizens.
Thirteen years ago, on February 28, two hours before I made a speech in the House of Commons about taxes on mechanics' tools, I was thinking that my grandson Jonathan, who was born two days later, might one day use these tools if he decided to become a mechanic.
Today, as I wish Jonathan a happy birthday, I hope that my other grandson, Alexandre Matis, and my granddaughter, Lily Ève, will be able to be heard in the official language of their choice, which is French, if they ever need to go to the Supreme Court.
Today, my New Democrat colleagues and I are back with my Bill C-208, which would make being bilingual in French and English a new condition for appointing justices to the Supreme Court of Canada.
This is my third attempt to get this initiative passed. In 2010, this bill, known at the time as Bill C-232, was passed by the House of Commons. To my great disappointment, the Conservative senators used their majority in the Senate to block the bill. The bill then died on the order paper when the 2011 election was called.
The Conservatives have repeatedly shown their contempt for official languages by appointing two unilingual anglophone justices to the Supreme Court and by appointing a unilingual auditor general.
The NDP thinks that there is another way to do things. The NDP is the only party that is proposing concrete measures to promote and protect our official languages. Thanks to the NDP, the House recently passed Bill C-419, which corrects the Conservatives' mistake by ensuring that officers of Parliament will now have to be bilingual when they are appointed. It is time for us to make understanding both official languages an essential condition of being appointed to the Supreme Court.
I would like to speak to the importance of this bill. This is a question of access to justice. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the country, and it is very important that the justices be able to understand both official languages without the help of an interpreter. I have the utmost respect for the work of interpreters, but we know that interpretation has its limits. Numerous lawyers have noticed errors and omissions in the interpretation of their arguments before the Supreme Court.
I am thinking, in particular, about Michel Doucet, a law professor at the Université de Moncton, the former dean of the law faculty at the university and a language rights expert. He spoke to the issue when he appeared before the Standing Committee on Official Languages:
In the week after I had argued a case before the Supreme Court, I had an opportunity to hear the English version of my arguments on CPAC, and I understood why I had lost the case five to four. The translation did not allow me to understand my own words. I wonder how justices can fully understand the matter at hand when they have to go through translation in which significant aspects of a submission are missing. When you win 9:0, there is no problem, but when you lose 5 to 4, you automatically wonder whether you should not have argued in English.
There are many examples of questionable interpretation at the Supreme Court. A lawyer arguing his case before the court mentioned a Monsieur Saint-Coeur and the interpreter rendered it as “Mr. Five O'clock”. Even the Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, has weighed in on the importance of understanding the arguments presented without the help of an intermediary.
In June 2009, he told members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights:
Given the complexity and the extreme importance of the cases heard by this court, judges should be able to hear arguments presented to them without using an interpreter to understand nuanced and complex legal arguments.
According to Sébastien Grammond, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa, interpretation may lead to “loss of precision which, in some cases, can even involve the omission of certain sentences”.
This loss of precision can also be found in the documents submitted by the parties to the proceedings. These documents are not translated by the court. Unilingual judges must rely on the briefs prepared by court clerks, who are often young lawyers with little legal experience.
The presence of unilingual judges on the bench of the Supreme Court also poses a problem during closed-door deliberations without an interpreter. Francophone judges must always express their opinions, ideas and knowledge in their second language. Therefore, there is a risk that they will be much less precise.
If the justices can function in both official languages, everyone can work in the language of their choice. The bilingualism of judges is therefore a question of the equality of francophones and anglophones in terms of access to justice.
The bilingualism of Supreme Court justices ensures the equality of both official languages.
We have to remember that the Supreme Court has recognized the equality of French and English.
Laws are drafted in both official languages. Both versions have the same weight and neither one takes precedence over the other.
Our language duality is part of our Canadian identity. We have to embrace it.
Is there substantive equality when a francophone appears before the Supreme Court? The Supreme Court is not there to reward ambitious lawyers or judges. It is there to dispense justice for all Canadians.
Serving on the Supreme Court is not a right, but having fair access to justice is a right. Remember that the court is there to serve Canadians, not the interests of the judge.
The issue of requiring Supreme Court judges to be bilingual has been debated for several years.
I think it is wrong for francophones to have to make themselves understood by unilingual judges through the filter of interpretation, especially before the highest court in the land.
If Canada's two official languages are to be truly equal, it is important that bilingualism be an essential requirement when judges are appointed to the Supreme Court.
Lastly, my bill would ensure that the Supreme Court can serve all Canadians equally, whether their mother tongue is English or French.
The Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, who is highly respected by all Canadians, has said several times that he supports requiring Supreme Court judges to be bilingual.
The Barreau du Québec has supported this bill for years now:
The Barreau has always believed that functional bilingualism should be among a Supreme Court judge's required skills in order to ensure equal access to justice, and it deplores that even today federal legislation has no provisions requiring that the nine Supreme Court judges be proficient in both official languages.
Many stakeholders in the official languages community support my bill, particularly the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne and its members:
The FCFA believes that all citizens have a right to be heard and understood before the highest court of Canada in their official language of choice, without the assistance of an interpreter.
Lastly, various linguistic rights experts have spoken out in favour of my bill, including Sébastien Grammond, Dean of Civil Law at the University of Ottawa, Gérard Lévesque, a very well-known lawyer for language rights, and Serge Rousselle and Michel Doucet, both law professors at the Université de Moncton.
Let me remind members that the NDP is the only party that proposes concrete measures to advance Canada's linguistic duality.
Bill C-419 on the mandatory bilingualism of officers of Parliament, introduced by my colleague, was passed by the House of Commons in 2013.
Let us not forget that the Quebec City marine rescue sub-centre remained open thanks to the pressure that my NDP colleagues and I put on the Conservative government, which intended to close this centre, the only French-language marine rescue centre in Canada.
The Conservative government has not shown any respect toward our official languages. I want to remind the House that it is the Prime Minister who appointed two unilingual judges to the Supreme Court. It is also the Conservative government that appointed a unilingual Auditor General to Parliament. Even the minister responsible for official languages is not in favour of my bill. Her riding of Saint Boniface, in Manitoba, includes thousands of francophones. What an insult to that community.
I also want to remind the members opposite that this former bill, Bill C-232, was passed by the House of Commons in 2010.
All the Conservative members voted against that bill, even the members from Quebec and those who have francophone communities in their ridings, such as the members for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe and Madawaska—Restigouche. Despite the opposition of the Conservative members, Bill C-232 was passed by the House of Commons; however, the unelected Conservative senators, including a number of francophones, held up the bill until the 2011 election was called.
The majority of the members in the House of Commons, who were elected by Canadians, voted in favour of this bill, but the unelected senators defeated the bill. Do not try to tell me that the Senate stands up for linguistic minorities.
In closing, I ask the members of all the parties to support this bill so that it can move along and be considered at the Standing Committee of Justice and Human Rights. We must protect the equality of our two official languages and equal access to justice.
In particular, I am calling on the Conservative members from Quebec and the members who have francophone communities in their ridings, such as the members for Madawaska—Restigouche, Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, and Saint Boniface, to pressure their colleagues to support my bill, which seeks to ensure that the Supreme Court judges are bilingual.
If the Conservatives thought that bilingualism was necessary for becoming an officer of Parliament, then there is no reason why they should not do the same for the judges who sit on the benches of the highest court in the land.
The bill is a matter of justice and equality.
It is a matter of justice and equality.
Canadians have the right—it is more than just a privilege—to appear before a judge at the Federal Court of Canada and be heard and understood in the language of their choice. The same applies to the Federal Court of Appeal. It should also apply to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the country.
I was at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights this week, and I asked officials from the Department of Justice whether there are enough bilingual judges in each province. If Canadians were to read the committee minutes, they would see that the response was yes. I then asked whether there are a lot of judges, and they said that there are enough.
I am waiting to hear the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice tell us that the pool is not big enough, even though officials from his own department clearly told us in committee that it is a big pool. They told us that there are enough bilingual judges in every province.
I hope that the Conservatives will support my bill and bilingualism in Canada.
View Robert Goguen Profile
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss the second reading of Bill C-208, An Act to amend the Supreme Court Act (understanding the official languages), put forward by the member for Acadie—Bathurst.
The bill would amend the Supreme Court Act. It would introduce a new requirement for judges appointed to the Supreme Court to understand English and French without the assistance of an interpreter.
The English and French languages have shaped Canadian society. Both linguistic communities are at the heart of our national identity.
The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of supporting the development of its official languages minority communities. To that end, in June 2008 the government announced the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality 2008-2013, a government-wide commitment with a budget of $1.1 billion, based on two pillars: the participation of all in linguistic duality and the support of official languages minority communities in the priority sectors of justice, health, immigration, economic development, and arts and culture.
This initiative has been followed by the Roadmap for Canada's Official Languages 2013-2018: Education, Immigration, Communities, which provides a renewed investment of $1.1 billion over five years, with clear priorities to protect, celebrate, and strengthen our official languages across Canada. One of the road map initiatives under the education component is an investment in training, networks, and access to justice.
I first want to say that our government is strongly committed to enhancing the vitality of English and French linguistic minorities in Canada and fostering the full recognition and use of both English and French in Canadian society
I also want to assure the House that our government is committed to maintaining the tradition of excellence that is the hallmark of the judicial appointment process, so that Canadians continue to trust and respect our judicial system.
Canadians take pride in the judicial system and in the steps taken to ensure citizens have access to justice in either official language. The Supreme Court of Canada is a model of institutional bilingualism, which reflects the intent of Parliament that our national institutions be bilingual.
The government remains committed to preserving a fair, unbiased legal system. To that end, we intend to continue to be guided by the principles of merit and legal excellence in the selection and appointment of judges to the superior courts of the provinces, the federal courts and the Supreme Court.
To date, our government has appointed 400 judges to various Canadian courts. We are proud of having appointed these highly competent judges and lawyers. Our appointments embody the principles of merit and legal excellence that will continue to guide our decisions in the appointment of judges.
Merit and legal excellence are the foundation of the judge appointment process. The other criteria are knowledge of the law, judgment, work habits, ability to write and communicate, honesty, integrity, a concern for fairness and a social conscience.
Bilingualism is another factor we consider. Our government can take candidates' linguistic abilities into account to ensure that Canadians have access to justice in both official languages. We are determined to create a federal legal system that provides equal access to justice in both official languages.
I would also like to point out that, before each appointment, we consult the chief justice of the court in question to find out the court's needs, including its need for specific language skills. The chief justice is in an ideal position to understand the needs of the communities the court serves and to identify specific needs when positions become available. Our government also listens to the advice of various expert groups and individuals about factors to consider when filling vacancies.
To ensure that we have an ample and balanced pool of bilingual candidates for the bench, our government asks associations of lawyers and francophone communities to identify and encourage people with the necessary skills to apply. We also ask them to inform the minister about these people.
We are not denying the importance of language skills, particularly when a specific need is identified. However, merit remains the primary and most important factor that must be taken into account in appointing judges.
First and foremost, our government is determined to appoint the best-qualified individuals. We will continue to appoint competent and dedicated people, and adhere to the principle of gender equality, cultural diversity and bilingualism.
The Supreme Court of Canada plays a fundamental role in our democratic society, in particular as the ultimate guardian of the values entrenched in the Constitution.
It is therefore essential for its members to be selected from among the most distinguished and most competent of jurists. That is why when filling vacancies in the court, we take great care to select the best candidates, both in terms of knowledge and experience and of social conscience.
The judges appointed to the Supreme Court for the past 130 years have been among the best justices the court could have had. The qualities we look for in a candidate include outstanding intellectual capacity, superior ability in judgment writing, the capacity for innovative thinking on emerging legal issues, and a demonstrated sensitivity to the diverse values enshrined in the Constitution. All these qualities go hand in hand with regional representation. It is important that the Supreme Court represent all Canadians. That is why we must take this important factor into consideration.
This is how Peter Hogg, a renowned constitutional scholar, described the professional and personal qualities that a Supreme Court of Canada justice must have:
A judge has to be able to resolve difficult legal issues, not just by virtue of technical legal skills, but also with wisdom, fairness, and compassion.
A judge must have the energy and discipline to diligently study the materials that are filed in every appeal.
A judge must be able to maintain an open mind on every appeal until he or she has read all of the pertinent material and heard from counsel on both sides.
A judge must always treat the counsel and the litigants who appear before him or her with patience and courtesy.
A judge must be able to write opinions that are well written and well reasoned.
...a judge must be able to work cooperatively with eight colleagues to help produce agreement on unanimous or majority decisions and to do his or her share of the writing.
Whereas the Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in Canada, it is essential for our government to be able to select qualified jurists from all regions of the country when appointing justices to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Passing Bill C-208 would mean giving greater importance to linguistic considerations than to merit, by reducing the pool of otherwise highly qualified candidates, particularly from parts of the country where there may be fewer judges who are capable of handling cases in both official languages.
Indeed, the Supreme Court already respects the right of all Canadians to be heard and understood in the language of their choice. All Supreme Court services are provided in English and French, and all communication already takes place in both official languages.
In addition, anyone who has to make written submissions to the Supreme Court may do so in either English or French. A large majority of the judges currently sitting on the Supreme Court are proficient in both official languages and are perfectly capable of handling cases in either language without the use of simultaneous interpretation.
Supreme Court judges also have the option of taking language training; indeed, they are encouraged to do so. High-level and very high-quality translation and interpretation services are provided for Supreme Court hearings. Furthermore, all judges are supported by at least one bilingual law clerk.
The current composition requirements of the Supreme Court Act, together with the historical practice of regional representation, allow us to preserve our firm commitment to bilingualism.
The extraordinary expertise and commitment of the current Supreme Court judges clearly demonstrate just how seriously our government takes these appointments, as did previous governments.
Bilingualism is an important factor to consider in the selection of Supreme Court judges. However, this factor must not overshadow the merit and excellence of judges from a legal standpoint, or the importance of regional representation.
For all of those reasons I just mentioned, we cannot support Bill C-208 in its current form.
View Sean Casey Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Sean Casey Profile
2014-02-28 13:59 [p.3382]
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be able to speak to an important issue for Canada, namely its two official languages.
I believe that French is important. When I was elected for the first time, in 2011, I made a commitment to learn French for a number of reasons, the most compelling being that I felt it was important to be able to communicate with voters in their first language.
Charlottetown's Acadian community is flourishing, and the Carrefour de l'Isle-Saint-Jean is its cultural and educational heart. To be honest, I am quite eager to go back there for the annual Club Richelieu fundraiser tomorrow night.
Each week, when I am in Ottawa, I take an hour or two to learn French and practise. I do the same when I am at home, in Charlottetown. Learning the other official language has been very gratifying for me personally.
Prince Edward Island has a rich history in terms of French and Acadian language and culture, and we embrace it, knowing that Canada's linguistic duality is very important. It is not just a legal or constitutional matter. Promoting and understanding French can be a unifying force for us all.
Today we are talking about the role that the French language plays in the legal system. The bill introduced in the House is a legislative measure that, I can only assume, is driven by the member for Acadie—Bathurst's great sense of pride.
The hon. member is part of a different caucus, and that is not a criticism. I must say that I admire his passion and strong commitment to Canada's official languages as well as his dedication to ensuring institutional bilingualism in the courts. I hope he knows just how much respect members from both sides of the House have for him.
Let us move on to the bill. It would amend the Supreme Court of Canada Act and introduce a new requirement for judges appointed to the Supreme Court to understand English and French without the assistance of an interpreter. Some members will recall that the idea of amending the Supreme Court of Canada Act has been proposed in the House of Commons a number of times in previous parliaments. That includes a similar bill that was introduced by our former colleague, the hon. Denis Coderre, who is now the mayor of Montreal.
I am in favour of second reading of this bill, despite some minor reservations that I will come back to in a moment. I also believe that my colleague from Saint-Laurent—Cartierville is in favour of this, which convinces me a little bit more that this bill deserves to be studied and to be given second reading.
I invite our Conservative colleagues to support this bill so that it can go to committee, where it will certainly have a full hearing. In this way we will be able to evaluate the merits and the flaws of the bill and give the members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights the opportunity to hear from experts.
I would like to say that I am very reluctant to use a private member's bill to amend such an important law. I would like to explain.
The Criminal Code of Canada is a vitally important piece of legislation that plays a major role in the day-to-day lives of Canadians. I believe that it should not be tinkered with by a frustrated member who would like to score some political points in his riding and, even worse, against his leader. However, the Criminal Code, which is so important, has unfortunately been deformed by a series of private members' bills introduced by Conservative backbenchers.
The purpose of these bills is mainly to fundraise by making it seem as though the Conservatives are fighting crime, while deliberately ignoring the evidence and the hard facts.
For the Conservatives, the Criminal Code is just a tool for garnering donations from people who do not understand the evidence and the facts and are convinced that vengeance is the only form of justice. The frequent use of private members' bills to amend criminal law has made the Criminal Code somewhat incoherent.
It is wrong to tinker with the Criminal Code, unless of course the goal is to slowly and surreptitiously amend it, with the support of the Minister of Justice, who perhaps prefers to resort to private members' bills because, unlike other bills, they are not subject to the usual process for ensuring compliance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
I say that because the Supreme Court of Canada Act is also a piece of legislation that should be considered of the utmost importance given how the Supreme Court influences all our institutions.
This is a concern I have in general with the use of a private member's bill for what should be in the bailiwick of a government acting in consultation and in agreement on matters of such great national importance.
These statutes should only be amended in circumstances that are of national significance and for which the implications are particularly meaningful to the whole of the country. Ideally, these types of changes should be driven by government, acting in a coordinated manner and in the national interest.
The hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst would surely agree with me that the constant tinkering with the Criminal Code, as an example, for purely partisan reasons is not the ideal.
I have similar concerns with respect to the Supreme Court of Canada Act. We should not, in normal circumstances, change such an important piece of legislation by means of a private member's bill. I say this knowing that one of my former colleagues, now the Mayor of Montreal, was one of the first to suggest changes to the Supreme Court of Canada Act that are now before the House.
We do not, however, operate in normal circumstances.
I do not believe that we have a government that acts consistently in the national interest, and I do not think that have a properly functioning democracy. We see this every day in the House, where Conservative members read scripts attacking others, heckle and shout at other members when they speak, and generally operate on the principle of division and negativity.
My assertion is merely confirmed with the their new unfair elections act, which is a transparent attempt by Conservatives to game the system for political advantage. We have, as Bob Rae rightly suggested, elected a motorcycle gang in Ottawa, a group that will do and say anything to win.
In normal times, when matters regarding the appointment of a Supreme Court justice arise, we would be assured that the process would unfold in a manner that was inclusive and meaningful. Canadians also expect matters related to the Supreme Court to be treated in a non-political way, and we expect appointments to be made to ensure a proper linguistic, gender, and regional balance as part of the process.
Again, these are not normal times.
We are reminded of the actions of the current Minister of Justice, who botched the appointment of Justice Nadon, an individual who was well respected and a capable jurist and who served on the Federal Court with honour. Justice Nadon endured public scrutiny and no doubt unwelcome attention simply because the current government mishandled the Supreme Court process.
Moreover, in order to fix the mishandling of the appointment of Justice Nadon, the Conservatives treated the Supreme Court of Canada Act with disdain, tacking on an amendment to the Supreme Court of Canada Act as part of a large budget omnibus bill. Such is the extent of the government's lack of respect for the court and for process.
This approach to the Supreme Court of Canada Act is completely at odds with how we should treat legislation of such significance. We should change the court's enabling legislation only when absolutely necessary, and not at the demand of a backbench MP, whether that person is from an opposition party or the government. That is my primary concern with the bill.
It relates not to the substance necessarily, but rather that we find ourselves with a government uninterested in dealing with the issue itself and to do so knowing that the issues around French language and linguistic duality are important and meaningful.
Let me close by again complimenting the member for Acadie—Bathurst for his effort. I hope that the hon. member will be open to answering some questions that I have on the substance of the bill when, hopefully, it makes its way to committee. That will require the Conservatives to do the right thing in the current context and allow the bill to go to a proper hearing.
View Hélène Laverdière Profile
Mr. Speaker, it is a huge privilege to co-sponsor the bill introduced by my colleague and, I would even say, my friend, the member for Acadie—Bathurst, and to speak to it today.
This bill would require that all Supreme Court justices be bilingual, which goes to the very heart of our democracy. Equal access to justice for all is a fundamental aspect of democracy. To ensure that everyone, without exception, has equal access to justice, justices of the Supreme Court—the highest court in this country and the court of last resort—must be able to hear arguments and read documents associated with a case or the evidence without the help of interpreters or translators.
Let us be clear. I have the utmost admiration for interpreters. Listening to something and interpreting it has to be one of the hardest jobs in the world. I have a particular fondness for translators, since I used to work in translation.
That said, even a translator would say that translation is the art of fudging. It is not an exact science. I have some real examples. Michel Doucet, a law professor at the Université de Moncton and an expert in language rights, argued a case before the Supreme Court. A few weeks later, by chance, he heard the arguments he had made in French being played in English on CPAC. Here is what he had to say about it:
The translation did not allow me to understand my own words. I wonder how justices can fully understand the matter at hand when they have to go through translation in which significant aspects of a submission are missing. When you win 9:0, there is no problem, but when you lose 5 to 4, you automatically wonder whether you should not have argued in English.
It is essentially a matter of principle. Canada's laws are not written in one language and then translated into the other. They are drafted at the same time in both official languages, and neither version takes precedence over the other. I think it is important for Supreme Court justices to be able to hear francophones in their own language, to read the law in that language and also to understand the tradition of civil law in Quebec.
We in the NDP are not the only ones saying so. The Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, has said several times that he believes that Supreme Court judges should be bilingual. When he released his 2012-13 report, he stated:
There have also been a few outcomes during my tenure that I would characterize as conspicuous failures. For example, the government failed to see the importance of having bilingual Supreme Court judges. I have given my support to Bill C-232, which sought to amend the Supreme Court of Canada Act, as I firmly believe that any litigant appearing before the Supreme Court should have the right to be heard and understood by all the judges in either official language without the aid of an interpreter.
The Barreau du Québec has also repeatedly reiterated its support for the bill on bilingual judges:
Bilingualism...should be among a Supreme Court judge's required skills in order to ensure equal access to justice, and the Barreau du Québec’s position in this regard is categorical.
I mentioned Bill C-232 and said that the Barreau du Québec has repeatedly reiterated its support for the bill on bilingual Supreme Court judges because this is not the first time this subject has been discussed.
Indeed, in 2008, my hon. colleague from Acadie—Bathurst introduced a similar bill, Bill C-232, which I mentioned a few moments ago, also calling for a bilingualism requirement for Supreme Court judges. This has been quite a battle. I did not have the honour of representing Laurier—Sainte-Marie at the time, when the Conservatives had a minority government. Finally, in 2010, despite the obstruction and opposition of Conservative members, including those from Quebec or ridings with large francophone populations, the bill passed. However, when it was sent to the Senate, the senators quashed it. I would like to make a very important point in passing in that regard.
Every time I hear that story or a similar one, it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart when democratically elected members vote in favour of a bill, then the Senate, whose members are appointed rather than democratically elected, has the gall to defeat the bill on purely partisan grounds, even though it deals with an issue as crucial as access to justice for all. This is fundamentally wrong and should not be allowed. It is yet another reason to abolish the Senate. The Senate is supposed to represent the regions, but how well did it represent Quebec and other regions where there are many francophones when it made that decision?
Finally, I would like to point out that this bill espouses the same logic as the bill on bilingualism for officers of Parliament put forward by my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent. I must say, in fact, that I take some pride in being a member of the only party that goes beyond empty rhetoric and takes concrete steps to better protect and promote our country's official languages.
Promoting and protecting official languages goes beyond the appointment of Supreme Court judges. If we send the message that people do not have to be bilingual to hold a senior position in the federal system, that being unilingual is perfectly all right, how does that encourage young Canadians to learn the other official language? Such a message would discourage, rather than encourage them.
What fate awaits that bill now, I do not know. The comments I have heard from the other side of the House have me very concerned. There have been other attempts to push for the bilingualism of Supreme Court judges. As my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst pointed out, if it does not work this time, we will make it work in 2015 when we form the government.
View Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Profile
View Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Profile
2014-02-28 14:19 [p.3385]
Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise today to speak to Bill C-208, which was introduced by the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst. I know how important official languages are to him and to the vast majority of francophones from one end of this country to the other, myself included.
To begin, I would like to congratulate him for bringing back this bill. I would also like to thank him for how passionately he defends our shared mother tongue and our country's official language minority communities.
This bill would amend the Supreme Court Act and introduce a new requirement for judges appointed to the country's highest court to understand both official languages without the assistance of an interpreter.
For the NDP, this bill is primarily about equality—equal access to justice and the equality of our country's two official languages.
As my colleagues have said, the NDP is the only party that is proposing meaningful action to promote and protect the equality of Canada's two official languages. It is also the only party that is proposing initiatives to enhance the vitality of official language minority communities.
Not only is this the member for Acadie—Bathurst's third attempt to get Parliament to ratify this principle, but this initiative is also closely aligned with Bill C-419 on bilingualism requirements for officers of Parliament, which was introduced by my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent and received royal assent last June.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent on this unprecedented victory and all of his hard work on this file.
I hope the Conservative members have finally understood the importance of protecting language rights, and I hope they will support this important bill despite what we have heard today.
This is the third time that my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst has introduced this bill since 2008. The last time we debated it in the House, members passed it on March 31, 2010.
Why are we debating it again today? The answer is simple but distressing. Unelected, unaccountable senators in the Conservative caucus who do not represent Canadians blocked this bill for a full year until the March 2011 election. As a result, Bill C-232 died on the order paper.
That is another good reason to abolish that archaic and completely undemocratic institution. To all those who argue that the Senate and senators serve the interests of Canada's linguistic minorities, well, we can forget about that.
One important fact is that when Bill C-232 was passed in the House of Commons in May 2010, the Conservatives had a minority government. All the Conservative members, including the francophone Conservative members, voted against the bill. That is shameful. However, since the opposition voted to support the bill, it managed to pass in the House.
I do not need to paint a picture to explain to people that, considering that outcome, someone must have received a call from the Prime Minister's Office instructing the government's friends in the upper chamber to do everything in their power to throw a monkey wrench into the plans and obstruct the democratic will of this House, which is filled with the elected representatives of the Canadian people. Accordingly, we are trying again.
Many groups and individuals have expressed their support for the amendment to the Supreme Court Act that is proposed in Bill C-208.
Graham Fraser, the Commissioner of Official Languages, is one of them. When he released his annual report on November 7, 2013, he stated:
There have also been a few outcomes during my tenure that I would characterize as conspicuous failures. For example, the government failed to see the importance of having bilingual Supreme Court judges. I have given my support to Bill C-232, which sought to amend the Supreme Court of Canada Act, as I firmly believe that any litigant appearing before the Supreme Court should have the right to be heard and understood by all the judges in either official language without the aid of an interpreter.
Other stakeholders, such as the Barreau du Québec, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, the Fédération des associations de juristes d'expression française de common law, the Association des juristes d'expression française du Nouveau-Brunswick, and Sébastien Grammond, dean of the faculty of law at the University of Ottawa, have said they support my colleague's bill.
They all agree that this is a matter of equal access to justice, and they acknowledge the importance of being understood in the official language of our choice by the highest court in the land, without a third party interpreting our words, which can lead to interpretations that are inconsistent with what was really said.
As a Quebecker, I would like to add that it is particularly important to my constituents that the highest court in the land understand both our national language and our civil law tradition.
I am troubled by the comments made by those who oppose this bill. Some believe that the condition of understanding both official languages without the aid of an interpreter would be an obstacle to appointing the best people to fill this role, those who merit the position the most. That argument would suggest that there are not enough qualified bilingual judges to serve as Supreme Court judges. That argument is simply wrong.
A study conducted in 2011 by professors Mark Power and Sébastien Grammond showed that, even if Quebec is excluded, 25% of the 124 judges who serve on provincial appeals courts and the Federal Court of Appeal can hear a case in French without the aid of an interpreter. Are we not capable of finding a judge in that group worthy of serving on the Supreme Court?
The NDP believes that to become a Supreme Court judge, one must have all the necessary skills, including the ability to understand Canada's two official languages.
Not only did the members opposite vote against Bill C-232, but the Conservative government appointed two unilingual judges, Justices Moldaver and Rothstein, to the Supreme Court. I do not know if that was out of partisanship or contempt for francophones, but it is clearly unacceptable, not just to us, but to all francophones in Canada, whether they are Quebeckers or members of a francophone minority community.
Even the new Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages has said that the appointment of bilingual judges to the Supreme Court of Canada is not essential.
As Chantal Hébert rightly said in an article entitled “Bilingualism at the Supreme Court for dummies” published in the April 2010 issue of L'actualité:
The fact is that refusing to make the ability to function in both official languages a selection criterion for Supreme Court justices makes English the main language of an institution...at the heart of public life in Canada...
If the Prime Minister had not been able to address Canadians in both official languages and had not rectified the situation in a timely manner, he never would have been elected Prime Minister. That might have been better for the country, but we will talk about that again during the election campaign.
The same is true for the Minister of Industry and the Minister of Employment and Social Development, since they are both in the running to replace the current Prime Minister after he loses the election in 2015.
I am already hearing grumbling from my colleagues opposite, who will probably try to claim that under the current system, a unilingual francophone judge could also be appointed to the Supreme Court. My response to that is simple. In more than 145 years, not once has a judge who speaks and understands only French been appointed to the highest court in the country. Never.
Never in Canada's history have we nominated a French unilingual judge to the Supreme Court of Canada. Never.
At this point, Mr. Speaker, through you, I would like to address my colleagues who need an interpretation to understand what I have been saying in my mother tongue.
First, the laws of this country are not written in English and then translated. They are written simultaneously and independently in both languages.
Second, the Supreme Court of Canada is the very last legal recourse that a person has.
Third, as highly qualified as interpreters are, and here I would like to salute the House of Commons interpreters for their difficult and professional work, every language has its subtleties, particularly legalese.
Let me give an example. At a recent event, someone used the phrase “invités de marque”, which I would translate as important visitors or VIPs. It was translated as “Mark's guests”. That type of mistake, which completely changes the meaning of the sentence, could be costly in a court of law, particularly when it is one's last recourse.
I hope that my Conservative colleagues from Quebec will listen to reason this time and will remember where they come from. With the bill on bilingualism of officers of Parliament, they have already shown that it is possible to work together to promote Canada's official languages.
It is possible to do the same with the bill to require that Supreme Court justices be bilingual.
View Andrew Scheer Profile

Question No. 9--
Mr. Glenn Thibeault:
With regard to the importation of consumer electronic products and devices, broken down by fiscal year since 2006-2007: (a) what is the total value of consumer electronic devices and other products imported into Canada under tariff codes (i) 8519.81.29, (ii) 8521.90.90, (iii) 9948.00.00; and (b) how much was paid in tariffs for the importation into Canada of consumer electronic devices and other products under tariff codes (i) 8519.81.29, (ii) 8521.90.90, (iii) 9948.00.00?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 11--
Hon. Mauril Bélanger:
With regard to the Translation Bureau: (a) how many words were translated from French to English and from English to French for the years (i) 2009, (ii) 2010, (iii) 2011, (iv) 2012, (v) 2013; and (b) what was the Bureau’s baseline budget, how many permanent, term and contract employees did it have, and what amount did the various federal institutions allocate for translation in the years (i) 2009, (ii) 2010, (iii) 2011, (iv) 2012, (v) 2013?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 16--
Hon. Geoff Regan:
)With regard to the government's September 2007 announcement of a “one-time, tax-free, ex gratia payment of $20,000 related to the testing of unregistered U.S. military herbicides, including Agent Orange, at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick during the summers of 1966 and 1967”: (a) how much money was budgeted for these payments; (b) how many payments were issued; (c) how much of the money budgeted was not paid out in ex gratia payments; and (d) what was done with the money that was not paid out?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 19--
Ms. Élaine Michaud:
With regard to the Translation Bureau: (a) what was the total number of translator, interpreter and editor positions at the Bureau, per year, since 2005-2006; (b) what is the Bureau's total number of client institutions; (c) what was the total number of client institutions, per year, since 2005-2006; and (d) what is the total amount invoiced to these institutions for (i) translation or editing services, (ii) interpretation services?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 23--
Mr. Peter Stoffer:
With regard to Canadian Forces and RCMP veterans who have exhausted all their redress options at the Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB) and pursue their right to apply to the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of the decision: (a) how many veterans pursued their right to apply to the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review from 2006 to 2013 inclusive; (b) what is the total amount of money spent by all departments and agencies, including all costs associated with the work of the Department of Justice, for judicial reviews of VRAB decisions from 2006 to 2013 inclusive; (c) what is the average cost to the Crown and government for a judicial review case, including a breakdown of average costs including salaries, court transcription services, courier fees, witnesses, and other items; (d) what was the cost for each judicial review from 2006 to 2013 inclusive; and (e) what is the average amount of time it takes for a judicial review decision from start to finish?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 25--
Mr. Massimo Pacetti:
With regard to the Department of National Defence: between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2012, how many investigations were initiated by the National Investigation Service (NIS), which the Office of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) or the Vice-Chief of Defence Staff (VCDS) ordered, directed, requested, enjoined, required, instructed, commanded charged, told or requisitioned the Provost Marshal or the Commanding Officer of the NIS to (i) conduct such an investigation and (ii) to report back or keep the Office of the CDS or the VCDS generally appraised of the conduct or outcome of the said investigation, and for each investigation, what was the date the NIS investigation was initiated, the rank of the Canadian Forces member being investigated, the general nature of the investigation and the date upon which the NIS investigation was concluded?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 26--
Mr. Massimo Pacetti:
With regard to Canadian Forces (CF) health issues: (a) how many CF members reported suffering from symptoms of Lyme disease for each of 2006-2012 inclusive; and (b) for each reported case, what is (i) the date of the suspected occurrence, (ii) the location of each occurrence, (iii) the rank of the injured CF member, (iv) whether the member was treated and returned to full duty?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 30--
Mr. Peter Julian:
With regard to the 23,000 liters of highly enriched uranium (HEU) waste that will be transported from Chalk River to the United States: (a) will the government subject this plan to outside scrutiny to discuss the environmental and safety concerns; (b) how much highly enriched uranium waste is currently being stored at Chalk River; (c) how has the safety of the HEU waste been evaluated, including current and proposed waste management approaches; (d) what are the containers and transportation aspects; and (e) what is the government’s plan for the remainder of this HEU and the waste in the future?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 31--
Mr. Peter Julian:
With regard to the government’s pledge to end the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) to produce medical isotopes by 2016: (a) what is the progress of producing medical isotopes without HEU; (b) what is the cost and plan for decommissioning the National Research University reactor at Chalk River and what is the management plan for decommissioning wastes; (c) how much money will the government save through the privatization of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL); (d) does the government have a plan if it does not meet its 2016 pledge to stop using HEU to produce medical isotopes; (e) how will the government handle cost runs related to the short, medium and long term management of nuclear wastes?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 36--
Ms. Judy Foote:
With regard to the closure of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) library in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador (N.L.): (a) what are the anticipated costs, both (i) broken down by individual expense, (ii) in total, of closing the library; (b) does the space that housed the library belong to the government, (i) if so, what are the plans for the space, (ii) if not, how long does the government plan to continue to rent the space and for what purpose; (c) how many total items were housed in the library, and of these (i) how many are digitized, (ii) how many are not digitized, (iii) how many will be transferred to the DFO library in Nova Scotia, (iv) how many will be given away, (v) how many are going to be destroyed; (d) what criteria were used in selecting which DFO libraries to close; (e) was there a consultation period preceding the decision to close, and if so, what were the results of the consultation; (f) how many people were employed at the library in each calendar year from fiscal year 2005 until the present, broken down by (i) part-time workers, (ii) full-time workers, (iii) contract workers; (g) how many jobs will be lost as a result of the library closure; (h) will employees be given the option to relocate to the Nova Scotia library; (i) what is the plan to ensure that all resources, physical and digital, remain available to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, (i) how much does the government expect this process to cost, (ii) will any of these costs be downloaded to the library user, (iii) how will library users return physical items, (iv) who will pay for the return of items mentioned in sub-question (iii), (v) what is the expected individual cost per each physical item borrowed by people located in N.L., (vi) how is the individual cost calculated; (j) what is the plan to digitize items in cases of copyright conflict, and how much does the government expect this plan to cost; (k) what is the anticipated cost, both (i) broken down by individual expense, (ii) in total, to maintain the online portal “WAVES” system annually; (l) how many items are included in DFO’s collection of “grey material”, (i) how many of these will be digitized, (ii) what will happen to the balance of these materials; (m) what is the average elapsed time between the moment a request to make departmental publications available on WAVES is received, and the moment when the departmental publication is received; and (n) what is the anticipated time it will take for a physical item to be received in N.L. after being requested?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 37--
Ms. Judy Foote:
With regard to the $65 million dollars provided to Veterans Affairs Canada’s funeral and burial program, managed by The Last Post Fund, over two years as indicated on page 254 of Budget 2013: (a) why did the government choose to provide $63 million in fiscal year 2013-2014 and only $2 million in fiscal year 2014-2015; (b) what happens to the balance of the $65 million if The Last Post Fund fails to spend the allotment corresponding to each fiscal year; (c) which organizations or stakeholders were consulted with regard to this specific funding measure; (d) how much was this program allotted in each year since 2005; (e) how much did this program spend in each year since 2005; and (f) how much does the government expect to spend in each of fiscal years 2013-2014 and 2014-2015?
(Return tabled)

Question No. 43--
Mr. Scott Simms:
With respect to the Manolis L. shipwreck and subsequent oil leak in the Change Islands and all events and circumstances related to this incident, what are the details of all ministerial correspondence, letters, emails, internal recommendations, internal correspondence, internal action plans, briefing notes, or other written material pertaining to this incident?
(Return tabled)
8555-412-11 Translation Bureau8555-412-16 Ex gratia payment8555-412-19 Translation Bureau8555-412-23 Judicial review of Veterans ...8555-412-25 National Defence8555-412-26 Lyme disease8555-412-30 Uranium waste8555-412-31 Medical isotopes8555-412-36 Closure of the Department of ...8555-412-37 Veterans Affairs Canada's Fu ...8555-412-43 Manolis L. shipwreck and sub ... ...Show all topics
View Rosane Doré Lefebvre Profile
View Rosane Doré Lefebvre Profile
2013-10-24 16:55 [p.376]
Mr. Speaker, before beginning, I would like to let you know that I will be sharing my time with my charming colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île.
It is my privilege today to be able to speak to Bill C-4, A second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures. I am not privileged because of the quality of the bill, which still leaves something to be desired. I am privileged because so few parliamentarians will be able to debate this bill.
Just this morning, in fact, in the hours following its introduction in the House, the government imposed time allocation on Bill C-4.
After forcing us to wait a whole month before resuming work by proroguing Parliament, the Conservatives decided to bring in a time allocation motion that prevents members of Parliament from speaking to this omnibus bill. The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons decided to move time allocation on the bill in order to fast-track the debate. However, this bill is not just a simple legislative bill.
By means of Bill C-4, the Conservatives are trying for the fourth time in two years to escape the scrutiny of parliamentarians and the public. They are trying to get major changes through Parliament without sufficient study by Parliament, despite the fact that some of the amendments in Bill C-4 are meant to correct mistakes they made in their big rush to pass the last omnibus bill.
I will be voting against Bill C-4 both because of its content and because of the process used, which I feel is wrong. The New Democratic Party will not support the Conservatives in their attempt to avoid parliamentary oversight. The bill contains many extremely complicated measures that deserve to be studied a great deal more attentively.
The government before us today is worn out and negligent. The NDP refuses to play the Conservatives’ game. We must take Parliament and our institutions seriously and act accordingly.
Taking advantage of the introduction of Bill C-4 to amend through the back door a number of measures that are not even related to the budget shows a total lack of consideration for Canadians. The government is trying to make major changes secretly and without consulting those who will be affected by those changes.
I realize that the Conservatives are not really crusaders for consultation, but they should take the time to listen to what Canadians are saying. Canadians are giving serious consideration to what is currently happening on Parliament Hill. They are losing confidence in the political class, and the Conservatives are doing absolutely nothing to help them regain that confidence quickly. I am highly critical of the government’s lack of study and I am deeply worried about the consequences it may have for our country. It greatly undermines action by Parliament.
I would like to highlight a few examples to clarify my point, and I would like to start with the frontal attack on the rights of workers. For the President of the Treasury Board, it must be absurd for the government to have to negotiate and deal with workers in good faith. Please let me explain.
First, the designation of essential services to Canadians would change with Bill C-4. At present, workers and the government decide in tandem what an essential service is and what it is not. Now the government wants to make the decision about essential services on its own.
How does this affect workers? Well, it is a direct attack on the right to strike. Essential services are services that must be made available to Canadians during a strike. The repercussions of this decision are extremely serious.
With the proposed changes, unions cannot call a strike if public servants designated as essential by the government are involved. Who is designated as essential, though? This question has gone unanswered. I even tried to get an answer from my Conservative colleague opposite who just spoke, and he was very good at being evasive.
My colleague from Pontiac tried to ask the President of the Treasury Board about this in question period earlier today. He refused to answer. We heard absolutely nothing.
Another major change to workers' rights is the change in the definition of the word “danger”. A worker who does not feel safe in his workplace can inform a health and safety officer of his concerns. Bill C-4 changes the definition to imminent danger or serious danger. What do these new changes mean? What tangible effect will this have on our workers? These are valid questions.
Furthermore, workers will no longer contact their health and safety officers about these problems. Instead they will contact the minister's office. Will he work 24/7 to respond to workers in danger? Will it be more difficult for them to exercise their rights? Will there be more accidents in our workplaces? The official opposition is truly worried about the health and safety of Canadian workers.
What worries me the most is that these measures that I just spoke about, which affect the rights of workers, have absolutely nothing to do with a budget implementation bill. What are the Conservatives playing at?
In conclusion, I would like to briefly mention the direct attack that the Conservatives made on francophones throughout Canada. Once again, I will provide some explanation.
I would like to quote an article by Marie Vastel that was published in the October 24 issue of Le Devoir. It says:
When the government introduces any major legislation, it holds a briefing for MPs, senators and their assistants in order to explain that legislation. Usually, simultaneous translation is provided and officials then answer questions in both official languages.However, such was not the case on Tuesday, when the briefing on the budget implementation bill that was introduced that same morning began in English only.
The government was giving a presentation on a bill that is over 300 pages long, the fourth mammoth bill that the Conservative government has introduced, and there was no simultaneous translation from English into French. It was an NDP member whose mother tongue is French who stood up during the government's briefing and asked for the French translation, saying that the bill was extremely complex, that it was over 300 pages long and that she did not understand the details. After she spoke up, there was some commotion. In the end, another English MP spoke up and said that someone would have to translate so that the member could understand. People left the room in protest and the government finally decided to postpone the briefing to Wednesday, which was yesterday. The briefing therefore began after Bill C-4 was introduced in the House.
The opposite never would have happened. There never would have been a briefing in French without simultaneous translation into English. That would never happen. Honestly, I am a bit surprised that it took so long for them to react. I cannot believe that this happened. Some MPs speak English, others speak French. Those are our two official languages, and this demonstrates a lack of respect, not only for the Quebec nation, but also for francophones across the country. I am extremely disappointed in the way Bill C-4 treats Canadians.
This bill touches on many areas; we could go on for days. This bill affects more than just workers' rights. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is given new powers, and I have yet to find the link between that and a budget implementation bill. It affects unions' venture capital funds. It addresses the mistake of increasing taxes on credit unions and so on. There are even changes to the Supreme Court. It makes no sense.
I want to say, once again, that I am extremely disappointed in how the Conservatives opposite are treating Canadians. I look forward to seeing how the voters will treat them in 2015.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2013-10-24 17:07 [p.378]
Mr. Speaker, I want to add to the comments of the member regarding the idea of the bill preparation and what should have been done.
I think she is quite right in her assessment that many people, if not most people, would feel offended by it. If I was going to a bill debriefing and everything was provided only in French, being primarily Anglophone, I would be quite upset about it, and that should be vice versa. We are in fact a bilingual country. Given the nature and importance our of budgets and how much time the government had to do the job right, I would have thought that presenting the bill as well as the supporting documents in a bilingual format would have been an absolute given. I would ask the member to provide some comment.
We noted that the day on which the bill briefing was taking place, we actually had the time allocation notice given. We did not even have a complete bill debriefing before the government introduced time allocation. I wonder if the member could provide some comment on that, as well as the fact that we have the bill under time allocation today.
View Rosane Doré Lefebvre Profile
View Rosane Doré Lefebvre Profile
2013-10-24 17:09 [p.378]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Winnipeg North. He touched on a number of extremely important subjects I raised in my speech.
For example, he said that simultaneous interpretation was not available at the briefing for parliamentarians. My colleague represents a constituency where many Franco-Manitobans live. In his riding, that probably made some people’s hair stand on end.
The comment I could make relates to the fact that there is still a time allocation motion on an omnibus bill that is more than 300 pages long, and the two official languages are not being respected. This is something extremely important to bring to the attention of Canadians. We have to tell them what kind of respect the Conservative government has for the people of Canada. I do not believe there is much to add on this subject, since the actions of the government in the House speak for themselves.
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