Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
We are going to start meeting 147, which is being televised today.
We have the honour of having Raymond Théberge, the Commissioner of Official Languages, with us today.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(f), we are studying the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Official Languages 2018-19, referred to the committee on May 9, 2019.
To give some context to today's meeting for everyone watching, I would like to point out that the act provides for the presentation of an annual report by the Commissioner of Official Languages. This has been the case since 1969, if I'm not mistaken. The committee's conventions and traditions provide that we shall promptly receive the Commissioner each time so that he can submit his report directly.
Mr. Commissioner, you will have 10 minutes, as is customary, to make your opening remarks. Then, according to the committee's procedure, we will have a one-hour roundtable discussion.
Thank you to you and your team for being here today, including Ms. Giguère, Assistant Commissioner, and Ms. Saikaley.
Go ahead, Mr. Commissioner. We are listening.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Commissioner, thank you for your opening remarks and your annual report. I think this is your second report since you've been in the position. It's a captivating report, and I am sure that my colleagues will have some interesting questions for you.
I will take this opportunity to welcome Mr. Ouellette to the largest House of Commons committee. In fact, this is where national unity is played out from day to day.
Thank you for being here, sir.
We'll start with our questions. Mrs. Boucher, you have the floor.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
You have 50 seconds left.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you very much, Mrs. Boucher.
I'll now give the floor to Ms. Lambropoulos.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
You have one minute left, Ms. Lambropoulos.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Commissioner.
We'll now go to Mr. Choquette, from the entrepreneurial region of Drummondville.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
You have 15 seconds, Mr. Choquette.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
We now go to Mr. Arseneault.
You have six minutes.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
You have two minutes left, Mr. Arseneault.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Commissioner.
I would like to welcome Mr. Long to this committee. Thank you for joining us today.
The floor now goes to Mr. Samson.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
A 20-second answer, if you please.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Samson.
We now move to Mr. Gourde, who has the floor for six.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Gourde.
Mr. Ouellette, the floor is yours for six minutes.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Commissioner.
For the last person questioning,
Mrs. Boucher, you have four minutes.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mrs. Boucher.
Mr. Choquette has honourably given up his three minutes.
Commissioner, I have two questions for you, and I am sure that Mr. Samson will be happy to hear the first one.
I would like to talk about bilingualism for the justices of the Supreme Court of Canada. I do not think I am mistaken in saying that all members of this committee would like to see the legislation change so that the justices of the Supreme Court of Canada must be bilingual. After all, we all voted in favour of Mr. Choquette's commendable bill.
I have a special request for you, which goes beyond the work of this committee. We only have three weeks left, but you have at least six years.
At the moment, there is a serious problem. Some lawyers from the Department of Justice claim to be constitutional experts, and some really are. Let me throw this idea at you, although I do not know whether you have the authority to do it. They do not work for nothing, but would you be able to employ some constitutional experts to help you to write a legal text, a solid, well-supported counter-argument in opposition to the legal minds in the Department of Justice? That is a text that we could use in the future.
We need you. As members of Parliament, we do not have the resources we need to employ eminent constitutional scholars, but your office does. You have a substantial budget. Would it be worthwhile to prepare a constitutional argument in support of Mr. Choquette's motion?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Consider it, please. We need your help on this.
Finally, Commissioner, I want to thank you for the work you have done in the last year, especially for your second report. I want you to know that you have our moral support. We are with you. You do not stand alone in Canada. You have important tasks and heavy responsibilities. I strongly encourage you to continue in the same direction, even to exert a little more pressure, no matter which government is in power. You have nothing to fear. I want to say that we support you. Surveys seem to demonstrate that most Canadians support your work, and that is positive. I really want you to know that we are behind you. In turn, we expect you to be behind us.
Thank you for appearing before us today, Commissioner.
My thanks to my colleagues for their questions.
Would you like to say a few words?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you very much. This is probably the last time that we will welcome you to this committee in the 42nd Parliament.
We will pause for 15 minutes and then resume in camera to focus on our work.
[Proceedings continued in camera.]
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Hello, Mr. MacKinnon, Parliamentary Secretary, and all the senior public servants who are with us today.
I am very pleased to receive you. We have been waiting for your attendance for several months. That is not a criticism at all; I know that you have a busy agenda. I am pleased to have you here.
Mr. MacKinnon, I will ask you questions today about the report from the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages in May 2017, which recommended that your department act as soon as possible regarding Francophone schools in Vancouver.
You say that, in July 2017, you implemented a new procedure. As I understand it, following the zoning change approved by the municipality, the project can move ahead. Can we understand that this is almost complete?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
When we Committee members visited Vancouver a year and a half ago, we adopted a unanimous motion to give moral and political support to the Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique.
If I called the members of the CSF today, are you sure that they would say that everythign is going well, that the matter is progressing and that they are convinced that the project will go ahead?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
On page 6, under "Positive Measures", you refer to the implementation of a new procedure.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Could you give some more information on the new procedure that you allowed you to advance the project in Vancouver?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. McBain.
Mr. MacKinnon, I will nevertheless ask you a question, given that you are the political stakeholder in this matter.
I know that, like Mr. McBain said, there are several stakeholders, particularly the municipalities and school boards, and that we need to work together. What the Committee understands is that according to the provisions governing real estate companies, there is a hierarchy that must be respected when disposing of a property. I checked this and, based on the latest news, your department does not place official-language minority communities at the top of the hierarchy.
Beyond that cooperation, wouldn't it be commendable and even necessary to raise the position of OLMCs on that list so that they are nearly at the top?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
However, official-language minority communities have not been officially placed higher in the hierarchy as provided by the Act.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Alright. Thank you, Mr. MacKinnon. We will certainly send them to you.
To close your presentation, you said that PSPC is committed "to promoting and supporting bilingualism in Canada in everything we do." For my part, I noted during all of my meetings with representatives of OLMCs that they were a bit tired of hearing about promotion and all the rest. You make these speeches, while at the same time, we noted that two months ago, your department's Internet sites that featured calls for tenders were riddled with errors in the French. I am not saying you are guilty of anything, but I am telling you this respectfully. These were grammar or even translation errors. It is interesting and all the more since we have Mr. Déry from the Translation Bureau with us.
It seems that we currently have a lack of leadership in Cabinet. How do you answer for this?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Déry, I have a question further to that of Mr. Samson.
Do you personally think the departments should be required to use your bureau's services?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
I see.
Thank you, Mr. Déry.
Madame Sultan, you explained quite clearly the difference between the disposal as routine or strategic, which is the third step in the disposal process.
Is step 4, which emphasizes aboriginal consultation, routine disposal or strategic disposal?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Yes, because it seems to me that routine and strategic are part of steps 3, 4, and 5, kind of.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you very much.
Madame Levesque.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
It's the Société canadienne d'hypothèques et de logement, or SCHL.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you very much for your explanation, Mrs. Levesque.
I have a very important question because this is the first time I've heard this.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
That's really important for the committee.
So does priority go back to the party that responds first?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Yes and no, because I'm not entirely certain I clearly understand.
If the determination as to whether it's a routine or strategic disposal is made before the aboriginal consultation, what's the point of the aboriginal consultation?
For example, let's say the disposal is routine or strategic and that a lot of people have expressed interest.
You're at the disposal determination step, and everyone is interested, whether it be crown corporations, provinces or municipalities. Two weeks later, you get a call from an aboriginal community.
Will it have priority over all the other parties that have already expressed interest?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Yes, but Mrs. Levesque said there was a kind of immediate synergy between step 3 and step 5.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Which of the two takes precedence?
Is it interest-based or rights-based?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Dear colleagues and citizens, here's the notice I submitted last Thursday:
That the Committee call on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to reverse its decision, effective April 1, 2019, to end unilingual francophone training at its academy, Depot Division in Saskatchewan.
I would like to say that there's no particular intent behind this motion. I was somewhat troubled when I saw it. In fact, it really made me angry. I thought that, if the committee unanimously agreed to this motion, that would send a strong signal. I even hoped that the present Government of Canada would find this decision clearly made no sense. I think it's a non-partisan issue.
I sought an outside professional opinion on Canadian law. Those people told me that the RCMP probably had budget considerations. In its own view, it may feel they are legitimate—I know that budget issues are not always easy for the RCMP—but our duty isn't to consider the RCMP's concerns regarding budgets or other matters. Our duty is to determine whether this decision contradicts the spirit or letter of the Official Languages Act, which, according to the opinion I have received, is the case.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fraser, thank you for being here today and meeting with the committee on your own personal time.
We all know how deep your knowledge of the Official Languages Act runs, on both a theoretical and a practical level.
Since you talked about the Gascon decision and the fact that the federal government is appealing the decision, I'd like to keep that momentum going.
You know as well as we do that the FCFA—
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Yes, of course. Thank you.
You're aware that the FCFA is calling for stronger language in the modernized act, mainly, that the word “may” be replaced by the word “shall”—in English—and that the word “peut” be replaced by the word “doit”—in French.
Do you think that change in terminology should be applied to part VII as well?
If so, how would it impact the division of powers under the Constitution?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
You're talking about regulations to enforce part VII, just as part IV has regulations, are you not?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
As far as the other parts of the act are concerned, do you think changing the terminology from “may” to “shall” is appropriate?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
I have a second question, Mr. Fraser.
Where do you stand on the idea of an administrative tribunal empowered to deal solely with official languages complaints? Do you think it's a good idea?
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