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)
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)
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)
The Office québécois de la langue française has a language police section, does it not?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Thibodeau, for agreeing to come here at the last minute. Thank you as well for the courage you have shown as a Canadian in addressing such a major issue and devoting your energy to it for many years. Your wife has also contributed to that effort. We have laws in Canada, and it happens that some of them are not complied with. We therefore need individuals such as you to take the initiative in these types of situations. You are simply rendering a service to society.
Since official language issues are new to me, I am in no way an expert. Pardon me then if my questions seem somewhat amateurish.
How do you view the fact that Air Canada is the only private sector company subject to the Official Languages Act?
Do you feel that every service must be bilingual?
What are your relations with companies other than Air Canada?
I do not know whether my question makes sense.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Of course, you are familiar with all the arguments and difficulties outlined by Air Canada, such as changes that must be made to airport entry doors and situations in which a bilingual employee is sick. I think the only real solution for Air Canada to meet its obligations under the act would be for all its employees, without exception, to be bilingual.
What you think of that?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Pardon me, sir, but is institutional bilingualism sustainable in a context in which there are 45 million passengers?
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