Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It is an honour to welcome you to the committee, sir, given the breadth of your knowledge of the official languages.
You eloquently addressed nearly all the topics that I would have liked to ask you about. I was a bit confused by some of your remarks, however.
For example, you said it is really the political will that is missing, and I think that's right. No matter which party is in power, this has been going on for 50 years. You said, however, that even if we amend the Official Languages Act we would still be debating the meaning of words.
On the whole, do you think we should go ahead and modernize the act or do you completely reject that option?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
You also talked about the changes made to the Official Languages Regulations. You touched on the calculation being more quantitative than qualitative. I thought including qualitative elements for the first time was a good thing, but you seem to be saying that is not enough.
Could you elaborate on that?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
And if those individuals were included in the count, would that be part of the quantitative parameter or the qualitative one?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
As to the announcement, I agree that immigration needs to be increased. We do have a serious labour shortage.
Did he not announce that later than June?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Lefebvre's charming remarks have nearly made me lose track. I am also new, but for the past month and a half, all the groups I have met have expressed serious concerns in this regard. In a completely non-partisan way, we would like the minister to come meet with us now that he is familiar with his duties and talk to us specifically about francophone immigration, the strategy, objectives and location.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
That will be done and we can then mark the date on the calendar.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Seeing that there is a strategy might reassure the groups who follow the committee's work and who are very worried.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
I also observed a great deal of secrecy. I asked just one question, and the parliamentary secretary said that we are the Standing Committee on Official Languages. I asked how far along things were, how many applications had been selected, and how many had been rejected. I wanted some details about how the process works. I wanted to know, for instance, what provinces the candidates were from and what there qualifications were. Yet we did not get any answers at all. That is why I put a question on the Order Paper, even though I won't get the information for 45 days, after it is all over. I also find that the whole process was not very open.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Mendicino, thank you for being here this afternoon.
I merely have a comment, but rest assured, it isn't partisan. I'm not quite sure where to begin, but here I go.
I wanted to repeat my NDP colleague's call for the names of any constitutional experts who advised your government in relation to its stance on Bill C-203.
I'd also like to point out that many political scientists and sociologists alike have studied this issue. It's a serious problem that has plagued Canada since 1982. Distinguished Université de Moncton Professor Donald Savoie demonstrated it quite clearly in his book Governing from the Centre. Working as an intern at the Prime Minister's Office, I saw the process in action—a process that puts Canada's democracy in great jeopardy. I am talking about the current concentration of power in Canada in the Prime Minister's Office and the Department of Justice. Together, the two entities assess every piece of proposed legislation to determine whether any part thereof could be challenged before the Supreme Court and deemed unconstitutional.
Although the practice is beneficial and legitimate, the problem is that it results in distorted public policy. The government should not rely on the interpretation of Department of Justice lawyers and constitutional experts that a piece of legislation could be deemed unconstitutional by a judge in the future. As lawmakers, we have the right to assert that a piece of legislation is sound and should move forward, despite what the constitutional experts might think.
If your government is really so concerned about constitutionality, why would you not submit a reference question to the Supreme Court on the bilingual capacity of judges? That would be the least you could do to ensure fewer distortions in our public policy and legislative authority.
As I see it, you should be taking the opposite approach, doing as you did when you were in the opposition. In other words, you should vote in favour of the bill and let Canadians decide whether there is any cause for a Supreme Court challenge, and let the judges, themselves, explore the matter in their expert writings.
Why, then, would you not refer the question to the Supreme Court in order to ascertain the opinion of the actual judges, beyond the government-paid experts at the Department of Justice?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Sir, I'll reiterate my point in English, because I did not talk about politicization in the nomination process.
I was talking about the fact that in the Prime Minister's Office, the Privy Council Office, and the Ministry of Justice there is what we call the “charter-proof process”, which is very bad for democracy in Canada, because you let lawyers who are not elected members in Canada decide on the future of what could be a law and what to introduce or not introduce in a law. That creates policy distortion in this country. We should never let any lawyers in this country decide if a law will someday in the future be deemed anti-constitutional by a judge who may not even be sitting right now.
That was my point. We should not let non-elected people decide and distort legislative action in this country.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
You talk about constitutional experts. They are creating policy distortions in this country.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
But we should not, sir. We should put the trust in Canadians to contest the law if they think it's anti-constitutional. Look, most of the Conservative Party voted against that law, so I'm alone on this one right now, but I'm telling you seriously that letting constitutional experts be at the centre of government—read Donald Savoie—creates humongous democratic problems in this country: policy distortion, lack of trust in us from the people, and a lack of courage and leadership in terms of the Canadian electorate.
Concerning your nomination process, sir, it's all good and transparent, etc., but it's not forged into the law, and the next government can say that it is going to the trash bin. I will ask you this: is bilingualism at the Supreme Court of Canada a principle that you agree with?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Do you want your principle to be enshrined and to stay for the next government, which will be Conservative?
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Further than the principle, sir.... I saw you on CTV and you were pretty good in French and English.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Seriously, further than the principle, don't you think it should not be just a transparent process thing but should be in the law?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fournier and Mr. Grondin, good afternoon. It's an honour to meet you, even though it's by teleconference. My name is Alupa Clarke, and I am the member of Parliament for Beauport—Limoilou, in Quebec.
You spoke about an editorial committee that could select key rulings. I see some danger in that, and I'll explain why.
I think all rulings should be translated systematically. As you well know, judicial activism is a real phenomenon. In criminal law, rulings are more objective, based on facts and hard evidence. Constitutional rulings, however, are something else. Chief Justice, you mentioned a section of the Constitution Act 1867. I love that; I really like to cling to 1867. That said, the editorial committee could engage in judicial activism by choosing rulings favourable to a certain interpretation of the Constitution for the province of Quebec. You see where I'm going.
In this case, how can we trust that this editorial committee won't engage in judicial activism, which we wouldn't want to see happen?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
So it would be a diversified committee where various professions would be represented. Perfect.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
You're right. Thank you.
Several people from francophone minorities outside Quebec have reported a situation. I think it's a very serious problem. I would like to know if, as Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Québec, you've heard about it.
It's been said that in several small Canadian municipalities outside Quebec, when a person waives their right to be served in their own language in a federal court, such as in Dalhousie, New Brunswick, for instance, it is considered to upset the community, sociologically speaking. Some statistics show that a person who asked to be served in the language of their choice is more likely to lose their case if they are French-speaking.
Have you heard about this problem? If so, I think it would be good for you to talk about it.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Bergen.
We will now begin the first six-minute round. Four people will have six minutes each. For reasons beyond our control, we must stop our meeting at 4:45 p.m. today.
We will begin with our colleague Mrs. Kusie, for six minutes.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Samson, it will be your turn in a moment, but first, I would like to very quickly make a comment and ask a question.
Mr. Arseneault asked an extremely important question that goes to the heart of our study today.
Regardless of the nature of the measures that you can impose, the fact remains that you have power and authority that the Commissioner of Official Languages does not have. You say that a public report is the worst penalty that can be imposed on a politician. The question is a fundamental one: without that power, without the authority that you have, regardless of its nature, could your office function properly?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
What about you, Mr. Bergen? Without that absolute power, could you function properly?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for joining us today, Mr. Foucher. It was much appreciated. You gave a great presentation, and I learned a lot from it.
Could you continue your explanations about the consequences and advantages of the commissioner's fourth recommendation, the one about administrative monetary penalties? You mentioned that one of the consequences would be to undermine the commissioner's credibility.
I will give you the time you need, as long as it is within my five minutes, to go more deeply into the consequences and advantages of that recommendation.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
As for the consequences, you mentioned those that the commissioner's office suffered. What would be the consequences for Air Canada?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
The Office québécois de la langue française has a language police section, does it not?
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