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Results: 1 - 15 of 86
View René Arseneault Profile
Lib. (NB)
Mr. Chair, the premise of the motion really bothers me, and I'll explain why. I'd like my colleagues to understand what I mean, without feeling offended.
First of all, I'm not from the province of Quebec. We, francophone members of Parliament from all walks of life who aren't from Quebec, are in a minority here. Look around the table.
Being from New Brunswick, I can tell you that a very superficial search on the Internet about WE Org shows that the organization is present in Quebec and that it has held many activities that many young people have participated in over the past few years. I say that with some reservation, because I'm not from Quebec.
Mr. Chair, if I say that the premise of the motion bothers me, it's that we're telling the Canadian people, since we are in committee and we represent the Government of Canada regardless of our political affiliation, that WE Charity is unilingual, which we don't really know. I'd say that this organization is bilingual. It has a bilingual presence, and its website is bilingual. When I consult it, it appears in French, without me even having to change the language.
So the premise really bothers me, because by passing this motion as written, we'd be telling the Canadian people that we've already determined that WE Org is a unilingual English organization that has no presence in Quebec. That's what we're telling the Canadian people in front of everybody, and that really bothers me.
However, before even studying the content and purpose of the motion, we need to know whether or not WE Org is a unilingual organization, even though we will never know for sure since it no longer has a contract. We know the history. So how does launching such an inquiry advance official languages? First, we have to determine whether or not WE Org is unilingual and whether or not it has a presence in Quebec. That's the starting point of the motion. Until that's established, the rest is futile.
The premise of the motion really bothers me. I can already tell you that, as the first sentence is worded, I'm going to oppose it. We'll come back to that.
I repeat, through this motion, we are telling the Canadian people that we have determined, without any serious investigation, that WE Charity has no presence in Quebec and that it is unilingual.
View René Arseneault Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am very touched by the sensitivity expressed by the Conservative Party with respect to bilingualism. I think it's unfortunate that this isn't reflected in the French debates of the Conservative Party leadership candidates.
Going back to what my colleagues Mr. Godin and Mr. Deltell were saying, I never said that WE Charity was fully and completely bilingual; I never said those words.
If, following the testimony of WE Charity representatives, we learned that they can indeed offer services in English and French everywhere in Canada, regardless of whether people are perfectly, moderately or weakly bilingual—we don't know, and that's the premise of the motion—all the rest of the motion would fall apart.
Let's be logical. I don't accept the premise, because I don't know the answer. I don't know whether WE Charity is perfectly capable or totally incapable of providing services in both official languages in Canada. That's what we have to determine first. If we were to find out that they are, in fact, able to do that, the whole rest of the motion would fall apart. Let's be logical. That's the premise of the motion.
I'll take the opportunity offered to me by my colleague Mr. Généreux and ask the following question: Should the Standing Committee on Official Languages not be concerned, or at least study the way in which bilingual services, regardless of the type, are provided to third parties in Canada? How are bilingual services and their performance ensured? How is performance measured? I have no idea.
My colleague Mr. Généreux and I have been on this committee for five years. We've studied many issues and produced many reports, but never a report like this. Why not take this opportunity, in this context, and ask the right questions, regardless of to whom? That's what the Standing Committee on Official Languages must do.
I would say to my colleague Mr. Chong that I'm part of a linguistic minority in Canada and that I am committed to defending the 25% of francophones in Canada, as he said. That doesn't include francophiles and allophones who are also learning French. That's not the issue. The issue is that we're taking for granted a truth that we don't know, here, in order to question ministers. That's the truth. That's the reality of the opposition party.
Let's be logical. If we really want to do this, what's the point of determining whether WE Charity can offer bilingual services or not, when there's no longer a contract out there? We're wasting our time.
Let's take Mr. Généreux's opportunity and make this motion a winning motion for the Canadian government and for the Standing Committee on Official Languages. Let's study how to ensure respect for official languages when the Government of Canada delegates its powers to a third party organization to provide services on its behalf. That's what I'm proposing.
View René Arseneault Profile
Lib. (NB)
You wanted to speak on something other than the amendment.
View René Arseneault Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
With regard to the motion, I'm taking a little detour to comment on what our colleague Mr. Chong told us. We talked about ethics. He talked about concerns about ethics, conflicts of interest, finances, public funds, and so on. I have no objection to discussing these things in a context other than the Standing Committee on Official Languages, which does not have the mandate to do so. There are committees that do have those mandates and they do it very skilfully and very well. They have done so particularly in recent weeks with regard to the WE affair. We all know that here.
The mandate of the Standing Committee on Official Languages addresses the application of and respect for language rights in Canada. The amendment proposed by my colleague is along those lines. We can start from the premise that WE Charity has caused some concerns about its capacity to be bilingual and to provide services, good, weak or average. In any case, a contract no longer exists. It would be pointless to stop at this study because there is no longer a contract. What would be the purpose of this study?
If we start from the premise that the WE episode has cast doubt in our minds about third parties who are contracted to provide services on behalf of the Government of Canada, if we start from that premise, there is doubt. How do we ensure that this is respected across the country and not just for one event or one organization? That is reflected in the proposed amendment. That is within the mandate of this committee. It does not preclude any colleague around the table from asking the ministers questions about WE or about other contracts. In fact, we are running with the ball; we are starting from a doubt that has been sown by one event and extending it to a topic that is fully within the mandate of this committee.
Mr. Chong, I would like to correct what you said earlier, with no ill intention: very few motions are perfectly worded. I have been a member of this committee for five years. Mr. Généreux may be able to correct me, but to my knowledge, all of the motions that have come through in the last five years have been tabled with amendments from all parties on both sides of the table, and always unanimously. Virtually every report that has been written in the last five years of the committee has been unanimous. So we make great motions in our committee; we make wonderful motions.
In fact, we are not in the process of doing something partisan. Our concern is that we want to know what we need to do to ensure that, under the umbrella of official languages, third-party organizations that get service contracts from the Government of Canada and that have to speak as if they were the Government of Canada, comply with the linguistic obligations of this great country.
That is the amendment on the table, as proposed by my colleague. Then, in subcommittee, we can decide whether we want to call other witnesses or whether we will stick with those already proposed. We had already decided to create a subcommittee to deal specifically with the witness list. We can do that later. We can limit ourselves to those, but one does not preclude the other. I am wondering, on behalf of Canadians and taxpayers, what would be the point of the motion as put forward by the opposition, by the Conservatives. How would we be serving Canadians by focusing on a contract that no longer exists?
Why do we not seize the opportunity to address the doubt that has been cast on the linguistic capacity of third-party organizations by this event? Why not conduct a study that is consistent with the mandate of this committee, which has been a superb committee, Mr. Chong, for at least five years?
View René Arseneault Profile
Lib. (NB)
Mr. Chair, I just have a question before we vote. Is the number of meetings for a study normally set in advance?
My second question is about the allocated time. I know that we are in a crisis situation owing to COVID-19 and that the same rules don't really apply. We have already gone over the allocated time and we usually need to reach unanimous consent before we continue the meeting.
How will it work and how many days are planned for discussion? I don't know whether my question is out of order, but I feel it's necessary to ask it.
View René Arseneault Profile
Lib. (NB)
View René Arseneault Profile
Lib. (NB)
That's the date on which we will be able to hear from witnesses. Is that correct?
View René Arseneault Profile
Lib. (NB)
View René Arseneault Profile
Lib. (NB)
Because I am so far away, it is hard for me to attend subcommittee meetings.
View René Arseneault Profile
Lib. (NB)
As a parliamentarian, I have to drive for nine and a half hours to come here, and Air Canada no longer flies to where I live. No other explanation is necessary. We could skip the subcommittee for now and rely on the Chair and the clerk. That is my opinion. I do not know if everyone agrees.
View René Arseneault Profile
Lib. (NB)
I do not see why we need to meet in subcommittee, if "virtual" is no longer an option, of course.
View René Arseneault Profile
Lib. (NB)
I am going to back up a bit. Will the meetings be two, three or four hours long? Usually, they last for two hours and we need the unanimous consent of all committee members to extend them. How does it work with COVID-19?
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