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Benoit Cadieux
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Benoit Cadieux
2021-05-17 17:22
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My name is Benoit Cadieux. I am the director for employment insurance special benefits at ESDC. I am joined today by Catherine Demers, who is the director general of EI policy at ESDC.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada has introduced temporary measures that increase the generosity of the EI program and make it easier to access EI benefits, including maternity and parental benefits. These measures include a minimum weekly benefit rate of $500 and a reduced eligibility requirement of 120 hours of work to qualify for benefits.
Expectant parents in Quebec are covered by the Quebec parental insurance plan, QPIP. This replaces EI maternity and parental benefits in that province.
Without corresponding changes to align QPIP with EI, some parents in Quebec could have been in a situation where they could have qualified for maternity or parental benefits under EI but not under QPIP, or they could have received a higher benefit rate under EI than they would have under QPIP.
Provisions under division 25 authorize the Minister of Employment and Social Development to make a one-time payment to Quebec for the purpose of offsetting some of the costs of aligning the Quebec parental insurance plan with the temporary measures set out in part VIII.5 of the Employment Insurance Act, ensuring that parents in Quebec receive the same level of support as parents in the rest of Canada.
The minister is also authorized to enter into an agreement with Quebec to set out the time and manner of the payment.
Thank you. With that, I am happy to take any questions.
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Myriam Bergeron
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Myriam Bergeron
2021-05-12 16:58
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Good afternoon to the members of the committee. Thank you for having invited me.
My name is Myriam Bergeron, and I'm a biologist and the director general of the Fédération québécoise pour le saumon atlantique, the FQSA, which represents fishers and managers of salmon rivers in Quebec, and to which management is delegated by the provincial government. We also take part in national and international conservation and promotional efforts on behalf of Atlantic salmon.
The main reason for my presence here today is our expertise in salmon management. The rigorous approach of Quebec's internationally recognized model for Atlantic salmon management allows for river-by-river detailed management of the salmon resource. At this level of management we can adjust our fishing activities and limits on the basis of resource variability, in collaboration with the provincial government, first nations and local management organizations.
The scientific models for setting target conservation thresholds for runs are complex, and annual monitoring is carried out on many rivers. In fact, the runs are counted on approximately 40 rivers each year, in addition to sampling and measurements of individuals, which are used to calculate the number of salmon required for the fall spawn. Fishers are also required to declare their catches, which allows us to track things effectively.
Catch-and-release sport fishing is becoming increasingly popular. Thanks to substantial awareness investments, we have thoroughly educated our community of fishers on best practices. Thus 90% of releases are being declared with an observed survival rate of 97%. In 2020, 69% of catches were released and we observed a 19% increase in total runs compared to the average for the past five years. Rapidly growing interest in sport fishing has also led to significant economic benefits in the regions.
I'd like to take advantage of this opportunity to mention that the addition of Atlantic salmon to the endangered species list, which is currently being studied by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, the COSEWIC, and by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, would threaten the work being done by this network on the management and monitoring of salmon populations. Wildlife management performance requires the involvement of fishers, the salmon river management organizations, and the provincial and federal governments. Indeed, the presence of fishers generates significant revenue that is directly reinvested in resource conservation and monitoring. Correlating the promotion of sport fishing with conservation activities is clearly useful. Adding salmon to the endangered species list will not necessarily work for salmon.
The FQSA recommends the development of integrated management for Atlantic salmon, as is the case for the different species of Pacific salmon, because the threats are interrelated, not only for conservation, but also the sustainable development of these fisheries. These include environmental issues, climate change and aquaculture, as you were discussing earlier.
It's essential to pull together and work with the various levels of government to design flexible management frameworks suited to regional realities by applying the principles of subsidiarity and sustainable development. Even though Atlantic salmon populations have stabilized, it's important to take action now by investing in effective management methods, as was the case for Pacific salmon species.
Thank you once again for having invited me to appear this afternoon. I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.
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View Denis Trudel Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to thank all the witnesses for being here.
I'd like to thank you too, Ms. Bergeron. In fact, most of my questions are for you.
At the previous meeting, which you did not attend, I mentioned that I was not a salmon fisher. However, I know that catch management and accounting by the ZECs is important.
I personally fish for trout in lakes or ZECs. My father-in-law goes fishing in the rivers of the Matapédia region, with which you are no doubt familiar, and in the Sainte-Florence area, where he goes in September. Let's just say he brings us some fish.
I know that fish quota management is rather strict in Quebec and that it works rather well.
Based on your experience, because I'm obviously not here to speak about mine, do you have in mind any examples of federal programs or federal salmon management measures that resemble those in Quebec, but that are ineffective and that we ought not to adopt?
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Myriam Bergeron
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Myriam Bergeron
2021-05-12 17:16
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It's true that in Quebec the situation for salmon fishing and fishing in general is very specific, given that fishery management is a power that is largely delegated to the provincial government.
I also think that this delegation of power and the creation of networks of not-for-profit organizations like ZECs and wildlife reserves, which are locally responsible for managing the areas, are clearly effective at managing the resource sensitively.
As for those aspects that the federal government might well learn from, it's an interesting avenue that allows us to divide the management of the areas in question into zones that are biologically compatible with Atlantic salmon.
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View Denis Trudel Profile
BQ (QC)
You spoke briefly earlier about collaboration with first nations for fisheries conservation and management.
Could you tell us more about it and explain exactly how the Quebec experience could serve as a model that could provide some ideas that could be applicable to Pacific salmon?
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Myriam Bergeron
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Myriam Bergeron
2021-05-12 17:18
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First of all, we investigate the status of salmon populations in a given river on the basis of thresholds calculated to ensure that yearly reproduction rates make the species sustainable. We calculate a river's productivity every year. This allows us to categorize how it fits into the various health classifications that will determine whether certain fisheries need to be opened or closed.
It's an interesting model to use because depending on the status of the population, only traditional fishing or sport fishing might be allowed. If a population is in very good health, there could even be commercial fishing.
The collaboration with first nations respects their ancestral rights and their community needs, while allowing the development of sport fishing, which provides significant regional benefits.
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View Denis Trudel Profile
BQ (QC)
It also works very well. Based on my experience with trout in the ZECs where I go fishing, things are extremely well managed and it's even a bit frustrating. Some lakes are accessible for only one day during each fishing season. With cottages on the shores of some lakes, it's clear that the lakes are full of fish. However, to protect the species, they can only be fished at certain times or on certain days during the summer. What works well for trout is no doubt also good for salmon. The rules are more or less the same.
Apparently, the recording of salmon catches is done in a rather unique way in Quebec. Can you tell us how collaboration with fishing communities and organizations in the field is the key to managing and protecting salmon?
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Myriam Bergeron
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Myriam Bergeron
2021-05-12 17:20
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The roles, responsibilities and mandates of each of the field organizations to which salmon management is delegated are well structured through complex regulations, under agreements that provide them with the tools they need to perform their managerial role.
This collaboration is therefore very important, because these organizations keep an eye on the river, which they know well. They can even make decisions on fishery management and determine catch opportunities that are consistent with the natural variability of what is happening on the river. This sometimes allows us to take the decision-making out of the office towers and place it directly in the field. This collaboration between the departments and legatee organizations is essential and works very well.
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View Dan Mazier Profile
CPC (MB)
Thank you, Chair, and thank you to the witnesses for coming out this afternoon.
Ms. Bergeron, one of the components to your organization's mission statement includes the sustainable development of sport fishing. Recreational fishing is very important to the people I represent. Can you inform this committee about the important role that recreational fishing has in generating economic benefits that are used to protect species?
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Myriam Bergeron
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Myriam Bergeron
2021-05-12 17:28
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Yes, of course.
In five of Quebec's tourism regions, salmon sport fishing generates $50 million a year in direct economic benefits. These are largely reinvested in conservation, and also in wildlife protection, because it's important to ensure that there are enough wildlife protection officers and assistants to do the job everywhere. They are hired by the fishery management legatee organizations.
Sport fishing therefore definitely helps to maintain this system as well as an entire recreational tourism network for accommodation, restaurants, outdoor shops, etc. It is therefore a very significant and sustainable regional economic driver. There are economic considerations, but the sociocultural aspect is also important. Salmon fishing remains very important to the regional communities.
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View Dan Mazier Profile
CPC (MB)
Thank you.
Do you think recreational fishers get enough credit for the good that they do, for all their economic activity and for how they protect and work in a sustainable way?
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Myriam Bergeron
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Myriam Bergeron
2021-05-12 17:30
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Part of Quebec's vision is to get the sport fishing community engaged by disseminating information and advertising various activities. These fishers take pride in salmon, beautiful rivers, the state of the environment and the water quality in these rivers. They also take pride in the beautiful landscapes. Everyone benefits.
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View Denis Trudel Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My question is for Ms. Bergeron.
You have spoken at length about the Quebec model, and told us how well it was working. Among other things, you discussed the ZEC model.
What could the rest of Canada and the other provinces learn from Quebec? Would it be possible to adapt the ZEC model to address the Pacific salmon problem in British Columbia?
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Myriam Bergeron
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Myriam Bergeron
2021-05-12 18:01
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Yes, it could certainly serve as a model that might be of interest. It would be possible to explore the model and everything that goes along with it, from regulation and the various types of agreements between different organizations, and adapt it to what is happening to Pacific salmon in British Columbia. The adaptation could be carried out via different arrangements with the indigenous communities or through different types of organizations that could be established.
It's also important within the network to focus on good governance. Various citizens can contribute a great deal to the decision-making and priority setting. The common objective then becomes conservation of wildlife species and the environment, and achieving sustainable development for the regions.
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Édith Laplante
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Édith Laplante
2021-05-03 15:48
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Thank you very much.
Forgive me for interrupting you, Mrs. Poitras.
Good afternoon, everyone. I'll try to be brief.
Despite all of our constant and innovative recruitment efforts, we have a shortage of workers. The temporary foreign worker program is our last resort, but it is not enough to solve our labour problems. It hinders our development and makes it difficult to turnover regular employees and manage retirements.
Our main recommendation is on the limit of temporary foreign workers we can hire. This is the root of the problem, as we indicated in the brief we provided you. We know that primary agriculture-related positions are exempt from the limit. However, we believe that slaughter activities are a logical continuation of primary agriculture. Without livestock, there is no slaughter, and without slaughter, there is no livestock. So we, too, would like to have this exemption from the limit.
If this is not possible, we would really like to see the current 10% limit increased to 20%, or even 30%. This would help us ensure not only the sustainability of the company and the continuity of its operations, but also its development.
On the other hand, the permanent selection of temporary foreign workers is a problem in Quebec, because the pilot program excludes temporary foreign workers from Quebec. I would point out that 80% of our employees who are temporary foreign workers would like to obtain permanent residency, but we would like to see...
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Stéphanie Jeanne Bouchard
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Stéphanie Jeanne Bouchard
2021-05-03 16:45
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Thank you, Madam Chair.
I thank the committee for inviting us today.
Our socioeconomic development organization is mandated by the Rivière-du-Loup RCM. The development of immigration services has been our priority for nearly 20 years. We support businesses in the development of their openness to immigration strategies and their workforce recruitment activities. The various agreements we have with the Quebec department of immigration, francization and integration enable us to enhance the support we provide directly to recruited immigrants by acting as a host and integration organization, among other things.
Our region's economic pool consists of about 1,800 businesses. Most of them are SMEs, but there are also international businesses with several hundred employees. The economic dynamism of our businesses, their job growth over the past few years and the growth predicted for the coming years demonstrates the adequacy of using immigration-based recruitment programs such as the temporary foreign worker program, or TFWP, discussed today. We applaud the efforts teams have been able to make concerning those programs since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Based on our experience and that of the businesses we support, we have a few recommendations on this program for you today.
Our first recommendation is to make it easier to recruit temporary foreign workers, more specifically in four ways.
First, the number of professions targeted under LMIAs should be increased for simplified processing for Quebec or, better yet, the province of Quebec should be given back certain responsibilities in terms of LMIA analyses.
Second, a facilitated extension system for LMIAs and work permits should be proposed, especially when it comes to steps to submit a second, third, even a fourth LMIA application, so that the company can renew a foreign worker's authorization to remain in their current position.
Third, we suggest that red tape be reduced, so that all kinds of staff—be they people in charge of human resources or SME directors—can better understand the steps to undertake.
Finally, criteria related to job postings should be loosened. Some companies have had postings for weeks, months, even years, but they must redo a posting to meet the specific criteria requested and wait four additional weeks to be able to submit an LMIA.
Our second recommendation is about reducing wait times, especially for immigrants who are still abroad. Work permit processing and issuing time frames affect renewals. Sometimes, this leads to precarious conditions and increases those people's vulnerability.
Third, we recommend that the proportion of temporary foreign workers for low paying jobs be brought to a minimum threshold of 20%.
For the rest, I yield the floor to my colleague Bérangère Furbacco.
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Bérangère Furbacco
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Bérangère Furbacco
2021-05-03 16:48
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Thank you.
Our fourth recommendation is along the same lines as the one put forward by Larry Law. We believe workers employed by businesses in seasonal sectors, such as accommodation and food services, should receive the same treatment afforded to seasonal farm workers.
Our fifth recommendation is to provide temporary foreign workers with work permits that are valid for at least 24 months, if not 36. Twelve-month work permits, especially for low-wage jobs, often make renewals problematic.
Our sixth recommendation is to provide organizations like ours with better tools, namely priority access to representatives from the three federal players: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, Service Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada. Even though we do not fill out the forms for people or provide such advice, we are often the only place people have to turn for help. In particular, they come to us when the telephone wait times for a customer service representative are seemingly endless and when they receive conflicting advice from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada officers, as happens regularly. Not only does that undermine the institution's credibility, but it also forces us, in many cases, to reach out to our member of Parliament. Right now, 70% of the cases being dealt with by the riding office of the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup are immigration-related.
Our last recommendation concerns the pathway to permanent residence as a means of retaining workers under the temporary foreign worker program. The labour shortage is an endemic problem, so the answer lies in programs that support long-term retention, in other words, improved access to permanent residence in Quebec and Canada.
The occupations that permanent residence programs prioritize do not necessarily correspond to the occupations of workers recruited under the temporary foreign worker program in our regions.
Furthermore, the level of English or French proficiency required to become a permanent resident is much higher than what allophone agricultural workers can acquire in the circumstances; they are low-paid workers recruited for 12 to 24 months. Employees often end up staying for years without being able to obtain stable status or make plans to reunite with their families.
Bear in mind that permanent resident applications for skilled workers take four times longer to process in Quebec than they do in other provinces. The lack of swift access to permanent immigration in Quebec exposes workers to extensive collateral harm and vulnerability. Consider the financial implications and mental burden associated with permit renewal, the pressure that comes from having to keep a job with a closed permit, the inability to access health care at times—
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Alain Brebion
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Alain Brebion
2021-05-03 16:51
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Thank you, Madam Chair.
I am in the regional county municipality of Montmagny, Quebec, right next to where my fellow witnesses are. My job is to help with the settlement and integration of temporary foreign workers, and other newcomers, in the region. The bulk of that population is employed in industrial businesses and plants. Not many of them work in agriculture. We are also in contact with the workers, the companies who hire them and community organizations.
Allow me to paint you the employment picture. The region is made up mostly of small and medium-sized businesses. We are not home to big corporations. As is the case in the greater Chaudière-Appalaches area, we have the lowest unemployment rate in all of Quebec. I haven't done any comparisons with the rest of Canada, but our unemployment rate is very low. Many of the businesses still rely on manual labour. They have a long way to go in terms of integrating automated and robotic systems.
Now, I'll paint you the recruitment picture. After looking for workers in the Canadian workforce, businesses came up against the challenges of being in a region, known as regionalization. Notably, the immigrant population is concentrated in the greater Montreal area, Quebec's largest city. For a long time, we tried offering those individuals jobs to draw them to the region, about a three-hour drive east of Montreal. A pandemic, of course, compounds those challenges and makes inter-regional travel complicated, but it is not the only factor.
The reality is we face a greater labour shortage now than we did before the pandemic, and the impacts are being felt by more businesses across many sectors, ranging from stores and service providers to restaurants. These are businesses that did not have the problem pre-pandemic and did not necessarily rely on foreign workers. Consider this: well-known restaurant chain Tim Hortons has been forced to bring in workers from abroad, Madagascar, in particular.
The pandemic resulted in longer processing times across the board, including for renewing permits, obtaining Quebec selection certificates, applying for permanent residence and requesting labour market impact assessments. Those increased wait times created problems. The workers and businesses we deal with regularly share that view.
The region was fortunate in that sectors were not affected by closures, aside from a few production lines. Some workers were, however, laid off, and they had a lot of trouble finding other jobs under the circumstances. Technically, it is possible for them to find work elsewhere, but in actuality, the process is extremely complicated. Even when another employer wants to hire them, without an active LMIA, the worker cannot afford to wait until the LMIA process is complete.
Money was a problem during the pandemic. Of course, we provided as much help as we could to workers, who often struggle with English or French, not to mention administrative jargon. It was hard for them to access financial help, but with our assistance, the system worked fairly well.
In addition, the border closures during the pandemic were especially hard on temporary workers who were supposed to arrive in Canada.
I want to stress, however, that challenges existed before the pandemic. In our view, the temporary foreign worker program is not flexible enough for businesses or workers, at least not the vast majority.
For example, the program makes it virtually impossible for a worker with a closed work permit to change jobs, even though that option might suit both the employer's and the worker's needs. Of course, it is possible to request an open work permit for vulnerable workers, but the circumstances do not always present as difficult and critical. In some cases, the employer may just—
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View Anju Dhillon Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to the witnesses.
My first question is for Mr. Brebion.
The need for skilled workers in Quebec is far greater than the corresponding immigration levels allotted by the province.
If Quebec were to raise its targets, do you think it would have a positive effect on wait times and the long-term retention of workers?
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Alain Brebion
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Alain Brebion
2021-05-03 17:03
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Thank you for your question, Ms. Dhillon.
When it comes to the country as a whole, what makes things complex is the fact that the provincial immigration levels encompass a number of populations. The skilled worker program is unfortunately undergoing some changes, for various reasons, including the actual administration of the system.
What we are seeing is that the skilled worker program is not doing enough to produce the number of workers we need. Consequently, people who really want to come to the country often bypass the system, so to speak. For example, they can apply through international mobility programs, which allow them to come to Canada and become permanent residents, albeit a bit more slowly. That is also true for temporary workers, who can go through a program available in Quebec called the Quebec experience program. Although the program was reformed, and the requirements are now a bit more stringent than they were previously, it is available and some workers still take advantage of it.
You're right to bring up the issue. The phase we are in now is a bit more complex. For a few years, we had immigration levels that were tied to the situation at the time, but some of the reasons have to do with the system itself. Those factors combined mean that the labour shortage cannot be easily overcome, even with an increase in the number of temporary workers—something that should probably happen regardless.
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View Anju Dhillon Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Brebion.
Now I will turn to Ms. Furbacco and Ms. Bouchard. If I have enough time, I'll come back to Mr. Brebion.
As you may or may not know, Quebec's premier, Mr. Legault, just gave a virtual talk on mass immigration to the Conseil du patronat du Québec. According to him, it is possible to adequately meet Quebec's labour needs in the agriculture and agri-food sectors in the short and medium term, without relying on immigration. Do you agree with him?
What is your take on his comments, given the labour shortage you currently face?
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Stéphanie Jeanne Bouchard
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Stéphanie Jeanne Bouchard
2021-05-03 17:06
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I must admit I haven't had a chance to listen to the premier's speech or consider what he said carefully. We have clearly seen a desire to bring in many immigrants to work in areas like technology. However, the practice of bringing in only people with very high levels of academic achievement is hard to square with the labour requirements in Quebec. There is no denying that better alignment with the reality on the ground is needed.
It's also important to view immigration through more than just an economic lens. For many years, the approach has focused on administration, but it is definitely time to switch to a more human approach. I've met hundreds of people from other places who have taken totally different paths. It's about more than simply welcoming workers; we are also welcoming human beings and families whose structures, life journeys and experiences all differ. Their impact on communities extends well beyond their economic contribution.
I will leave it there, so Ms. Furbacco can comment.
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Bérangère Furbacco
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Bérangère Furbacco
2021-05-03 17:07
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I agree. What immigrants contribute to municipalities extends well beyond the economic sphere. The benefits that come with workers and their families settling in our communities are significant. The advantage to the survival of local school systems and services is undeniable. Food services, banking services and services for the aging population all come to mind. I should point out that roughly 30% of residents in our regional county municipality are 65-plus. Rural municipalities need to be able to accommodate people who will meet different types of needs.
I'll share a personal anecdote with you. I, myself, am one of those candidates who may not have been selected had the criteria been different.
A huge number of people right now are waiting for their applications to be processed. As others have pointed out, Quebec and federal authorities should communicate more, so we can find ways to help those who are waiting become permanent residents sooner and to solve the labour shortage in the regions.
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View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Christine Normandin Profile
2021-05-03 17:09
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Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to the witnesses for being here and sharing their insight today. Thank you, as well, for the very clear recommendations you've provided. I'd like to discuss some of them.
Ms. Furbacco and Ms. Bouchard, you talked about streamlining the LMIA process and possibly handing the responsibility over to the Quebec government to avoid duplicate processing.
If Quebec were solely responsible for managing the process, do you think it would better serve Quebec's regions and address some of the realities they face? Certain areas of Quebec's workforce come to mind, as do certain regions that have generally lower unemployment rates.
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Stéphanie Jeanne Bouchard
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Stéphanie Jeanne Bouchard
2021-05-03 17:10
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A desire to use regional lists has already emerged, to be sure. Naturally, having three players involved complicates the process to no end. I am referring to the two levels of government as well as Employment and Social Development Canada. The idea of transferring certain responsibilities to Quebec is being considered. That would allow the program to better align with regions' needs, make use of Services Québec's lists—which are very up to date—and be responsive to employers' needs. That's important because realities in the regions can certainly give rise to gaps on the ground.
We launched an awareness campaign around the immigration process and the various conditions. We reached out to 150 businesses in our regional county municipality, 40 of which were considering hiring immigrants in the medium term. Given how complex the different systems are, only five, six or seven employers were willing to take on the responsibility of going through the red tape.
A Quebec-based liaison could help explain the process and make it less burdensome.
As I said earlier, 90% of the 1,800 businesses in our jurisdiction are small and medium-sized businesses. That means it is up to plant management to go through the LMIA process and all the other steps. Supervisors are the ones filling out the paperwork, not human resources personnel, so a change like this could streamline the process.
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View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Christine Normandin Profile
2021-05-03 17:11
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Thank you.
Ladies, I have another question for you. Mr. Brebion can answer as well.
What do you think of having sector-specific work permits, so for an occupation, or even regional work permits for regions with a known labour shortage? That might encourage new immigrants to leave Montreal on a large scale for the regions.
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Alain Brebion
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Alain Brebion
2021-05-03 17:12
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I am wholly in favour of that idea. I would even recommend a sector-based and region-based work permit. It's clear from closed work permits that it would be very beneficial if workers could change jobs within a given sector or a predetermined occupation. The current system sorely lacks flexibility, and in most cases, employers suffer just as much as the workers do.
Businesses often call for a system like that, particularly because it would help them manage peak production capacity. Workers need to earn enough income to live adequately, so they often have to work overtime. They are authorized to work for only one employer, which can be a barrier for them. For instance, instead of having to put in 200 hours a week, they could work for two employers, as per a specified agreement. That would be one way of giving employers and employees more flexibility.
As you suggested, employees would no longer be tied to a single employer; rather, they would be tied to a sector. The issue of who would cover the employee's travel costs would have to be dealt with, among other things, but that could be worked out among the employers, perhaps in consultation with the worker.
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Stéphanie Jeanne Bouchard
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Stéphanie Jeanne Bouchard
2021-05-03 17:13
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I can attest to the enthusiasm of some companies for being able to share labour. Some don't have the opportunity to apply for an LMIA because their employees receive EI for a few months at certain times, while others could benefit from people related to LMIAs. The hotel companies in our community have already had discussions about sharing a certain pool of potential candidates. I think that would be interesting.
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View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Christine Normandin Profile
2021-05-03 17:14
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Thank you very much.
You talked about helping people understand programs. Yes, members of Parliament do get a lot of requests of that nature in their offices. I've surveyed my colleagues, and at least 40% of the files they deal with are immigration-related. Sometimes it's as high as 80%. Even we, at times, have a hard time getting the information.
If a business-only hotline were set up, would it be more important to you to have an agent on the line providing general information or an agent with access to the files who could help with specific issues based on the files?
My question is for Mrs. Furbacco.
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Bérangère Furbacco
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Bérangère Furbacco
2021-05-03 17:14
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It would be very interesting to have access to people who understand the files that companies or sometimes employees deal with as well. As I said, we sometimes had to deal with people who didn't have access to the files, and the answers weren't consistent with what we had read. We could call up to two or three times without getting identical answers from the clerks. It would make things a lot easier if we had key contacts who were very familiar with the files and who would be there not only to guide but also to reassure businesses and employees in their process. We know that companies and candidates abroad who are working on these files can wait eight, nine or sometimes 14 months before they arrive in the country—
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View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Christine Normandin Profile
2021-05-03 17:26
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Thank you very much.
I will also take the opportunity to thank the witnesses.
I wanted to ask a question along the same lines.
Would the duration of work permits and LMIAs be extended for everyone, given that, year after year, it is usually the same employers who apply and the same employees who return?
You also talked about making renewals easier for trusted employers, for example. What did you mean by that?
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Stéphanie Jeanne Bouchard
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Stéphanie Jeanne Bouchard
2021-05-03 17:27
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I was talking about businesses where the employees aren't able to meet the Quebec government's French criteria to be selected.
I believe the previous panel included representatives from Aliments Asta, based in Saint-Alexandre-de-Kamouraska. The company hires several workers from the Philippines, who have been constantly renewed every four, five or six years. Of course, the processes should be made easier for such employers, who systematically need to use the TFWP, or take into account that such-and-such a person has been working for the company for four or five years.
We are working hard to strengthen the tools people can access so that they can reach certain thresholds in French. Even in the food processing field, they may or may not be eligible under the National Occupational Classification. So they can stay with the company for a long time.
It would certainly be interesting to consider the fact that an LMIA has already been done for the person in question and to consider it in future analyses.
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View Luc Thériault Profile
BQ (QC)
View Luc Thériault Profile
2021-05-03 11:39
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Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
My questions are for Dr. Ruel, and I hope my colleagues will be able to benefit from the English interpretation.
Dr. Ruel, how many hospitals in Quebec do you think are currently dealing with an outbreak?
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Marc Ruel
View Marc Ruel Profile
Marc Ruel
2021-05-03 11:39
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Mr. Thériault, thank you for your question.
I don't necessarily have that information on hand.
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View Luc Thériault Profile
BQ (QC)
View Luc Thériault Profile
2021-05-03 11:39
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If you have it, perhaps you could send it to the committee later.
In the first wave, hot and cold zones had to be organized, and there was no vaccination. We're now in the third wave, and I imagine the outbreak rate in hospitals must have gone down a lot. Is that the case?
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Marc Ruel
View Marc Ruel Profile
Marc Ruel
2021-05-03 11:40
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That's not necessarily the case. As you know, with the new variants, the mutations, the transmissibility of infections is significantly enhanced and not at all favourable. So there is much more potential for transmission from person to person.
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View Luc Thériault Profile
BQ (QC)
View Luc Thériault Profile
2021-05-03 11:40
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There's a difference between the potential for transmission and a definite outbreak, isn't there?
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Marc Ruel
View Marc Ruel Profile
Marc Ruel
2021-05-03 11:40
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There isn't a huge difference because an outbreak usually occurs on most floors between two patients where transmission has occurred in a hospital setting.
The definition is still quite strict.
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Anne Meggs
View Anne Meggs Profile
Anne Meggs
2021-04-29 15:43
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Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
It's an honour to address the committee this afternoon.
First, allow me to tell you about the professional experience that has led me here.
I began my professional career with the Government of Canada working on official languages programs in education. I also served as chief of staff to the Minister responsible for Francophone Affairs in Ontario when the first French Language Services Act was passed. I was director of accountability planning for the ministry responsible for immigration in Quebec. I also served as director of research and evaluation at the Office québécois de la langue française.
I will focus on the second and third objectives of the meeting today, which are about the Government of Canada's language framework and possible amendments to the Official Languages Act to better protect French.
Efficiency implies results commensurate with the resources invested. Outside Quebec, it can be said that the results are very mixed. Inside Quebec, the question does not even arise because, to date, the Government of Canada's language framework has included no measures to protect or promote French in Quebec. It has done so only for English.
With respect to the framework's impact on provincial measures to protect French, outside Quebec, the situation of French would likely be even more tenuous without the language provisions of the Canadian Constitution and the support the federal government provides to the provinces for French-language education at all levels and to certain French advocacy groups. In Quebec, the opposite is true. The Government of Canada's language framework is paradoxically designed to protect the country's majority language. Let's be clear, only one official language is at risk in Canada, and that is French.
Here are some of the consequences in Quebec of the federal government's language framework on the provinces' efforts to protect French, as well as on social cohesion in Quebec.
The Canadian Constitution contains several sections that have been used to repeal large portions of the original version of the Charter of the French Language. This has limited the Quebec government's ability to legislate in favour of French, for example, with respect to the language of speeches in the National Assembly, translation of laws, bilingualism in the courts, commercial signage, and access to English-language schools.
The application of Canada's bilingual framework also has a significant effect on the linguistic fabric in Quebec. It is impossible for the Quebec government to impose French-only commercial signage. Everything under federal jurisdiction projects an image of bilingualism in Quebec, putting English on an equal footing with French in federal buildings, on bridges, at ports, in parks, in all federal advertising, and even in any advertising for federally funded events.
Federal public administration is not subject to the Charter of the French Language, which prioritizes services and the right to work in French. In the portion of the nation's capital located in the territory of Quebec, bilingualism is quite simply imposed .
The Canadian language framework also puts up hurdles for Quebec to defend French outside Quebec. It creates a false symmetry between French outside Quebec and English inside Quebec, even in areas of exclusively provincial jurisdiction, such as health care and education. What is good for French outside Quebec is also good for English in Quebec. If Quebec criticizes the closing of a French hospital in another province, it undermines its own leeway in managing its health care system. The same thing goes for education.
This false symmetry also impedes social cohesion in Quebec. If it had been recognized from the beginning of the debate in the 1960s that French needs protection across Canada, the foundations would have been laid for consensus on the measures needed to achieve that goal. Now we find ourselves with legislation that has underlying funding to protect English in Quebec and for groups that defend English.
Finally, let's talk about integrating immigrants to Quebec into the French language. The Canada-Quebec Accord relating to Immigration is the only document I know of where the federal government deviates even slightly from the principle of linguistic symmetry. In fact, it recognizes the importance of ensuring the “integration of immigrants in Québec in a manner that respects the distinct identity of Québec”. The transfer is calculated based on the number of non-francophones admitted to Quebec, and it is stated that language integration courses will be in French. The rest of the immigration process is managed by the federal government. So everything is bilingual.
Someone arriving in Quebec from abroad can choose either official language for work or study permits, for permanent residence and for access to citizenship. Every step of the way, the message is clear: in Quebec, English is an official language of their new country. They are allowed to choose English, and it's even fine if they do. This is the exact opposite of the message that Quebec is trying to convey, and it forms the basis for the Accord, namely the assertion that French is an inclusive, participatory language.
Now, what to do? Could the Official Languages Act be amended to remove those encroachments on the Quebec government's ability to act in favour of French in Quebec, and even outside Quebec?
Unlike Dean Leckey, I am not a lawyer, but as I mentioned, I was privileged to play a role in the passage of the first French Language Services Act in Ontario. The government, at the time a Liberal minority government, determined that it really needed to ensure that public services were available in French. Public services in English were a given. The Act only deals with public services. It doesn't address programs to support groups that defend French. It doesn't mention any minorities. Public services are available in French in the regions and offices defined by the Act. Period.
It's impossible to amend most of the Official Languages Act because, in general, it defines how to apply sections of the Canadian Constitution, which is sacrosanct.
The most problematic sections of the Act, however, do not derive from the Constitution. They are those that create the concept of an English-speaking minority in Canada and propose measures to enhance the vitality and development of that “minority” and to foster the “full recognition and use of English... in Canadian society”. It's impossible to imagine how this could be done “while respecting the jurisdiction and powers” of the Quebec government, which is promised in subsection 41(2).
I conclude with the following recommendation. Amendments to the Official Languages Act should focus on the sections underlying the idea that English is a minority language in Canada, that an English-speaking minority therefore exists, and that both are in jeopardy. The message may be hard to hear, but in my opinion, the federal government cannot possibly protect French in Quebec by promoting English there.
I thank you for your attention. I would be pleased to answer any questions committee members may have.
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Denis Bolduc
View Denis Bolduc Profile
Denis Bolduc
2021-04-29 15:51
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
My name is Denis Bolduc. I am accompanied today by Gilles Grondin, francization advisor at the FTQ. Thank you for the invitation to speak with the members of this important committee on official languages.
The Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec is the largest union federation in Quebec. We represent more than 600,000 workers in all economic sectors and in all regions of Quebec. For more than 50 years, the FTQ has been actively involved in francization. We have become a key player in this area because of our actions, our public interventions and our positions taken to protect and promote the French language.
The FTQ adopted the first language policy in its history at the end of the 1960s, more precisely on November 21, 1969, at its 11th convention held in Quebec City. That same year, the late Fernand Daoust was elected general secretary of the FTQ. Mr. Daoust also served as the FTQ's president between 1991 and 1993. I mention him today because he fought to defend the right to work in French and to negotiate our collective agreements in French in Quebec.
At the heart of the FTQ's first francization policy was the statement that “French must become the normal and everyday language of work at all levels of economic activity in Quebec.” This statement is still valid 50 years later. The FTQ has taken concrete action to promote and defend the French language. We have set up a francization service and we act as a catalyst for francization committees in companies. Over the years, we have also acquired expertise in the francization of immigrant workers in the workplace.
That said, the FTQ is pleased with the Government of Canada's willingness to modernize the Official Languages Act. For us, all measures seeking to improve the place of French are welcome, and that is why we applaud the February white paper. From this document, we hope that the government will come up with a more modern policy for linguistic duality and bilingualism in Canada.
We see clearly that not all languages are on an equal footing in Canada. English is not threatened anywhere in Canada, not in British Columbia, not in New Brunswick, not even in Quebec. However, indigenous languages and French are increasingly threatened, even in Quebec, particularly in Montreal. For the FTQ, it is therefore imperative that the federal and provincial governments take firm and coordinated actions in order to save and promote French in Canada.
We recognize that the federal government has an obligation to promote the principle of linguistic duality in Canada but, of the two official languages recognized in the Official Languages Act, French is the true minority language in Canada. French is under threat and must be protected. The white paper recognizes the decline of French, and we were pleased that the document recognized it.
In 1968, the future Official Languages Act provided for institutional bilingualism, to allow minority anglophones and francophones to have access to services in their language and to pursue a career in the public service in their language. However, those objectives have never been achieved for francophones outside Quebec.
What is even sadder is that this reality is taking hold in Quebec. This is the case with jobs in the federal public service. Our colleagues from the Public Service Alliance of Canada frequently call us to talk about distressing situations, particularly in terms of promotions. For a Quebec civil servant, it is necessary to be bilingual in order to have access to certain senior positions. The same requirement does not exist in New Brunswick, although it is an officially bilingual province, or even in the national capital, in Ottawa, where not speaking French is rarely a handicap or an impediment to obtaining a promotion.
It is clear to the FTQ that its Quebec members working in the public service should be able to enjoy a French-speaking work environment, period.
For years we have been calling for private companies under federal jurisdiction to be subject to the provisions of Quebec's Charter of the French Language. You will therefore not be surprised to hear that the FTQ fully supports the government's intention to “prohibit discrimination against an employee solely because he or she speaks only French or does not have sufficient knowledge of a language other than French in federally regulated private businesses established in Quebec and in other regions with a strong Francophone presence in the country.”
In Quebec, we are seeing a clear increase in bilingualism requirements in job postings. Francophones are often discriminated against in job interviews if they are not fluent in English. In addition, employers are finding all sorts of ways to get around the application of section 46 of the Charter of the French Language.
At the FTQ, we believe that the Office québécois de la langue française should be the body responsible for enforcing language of work rights in Quebec. The expertise of the Office goes back almost 45 years. Applying to two different systems would create ambiguities that are neither desirable nor necessary if we truly wish to improve the use of French in Quebec.
With respect to the appointment of Supreme Court judges, we believe that it is imperative that they be bilingual. In our opinion, the same requirement should apply to senior management positions in major Canadian government agencies and to positions in the senior Canadian public service.
I would like to conclude with a word on francophone culture and the availability of cultural, media and digital products in both official languages. The white paper mentions the importance of promoting French and culture in French. For us, it is simple: language and culture go hand in hand. The vitality of the French language must also be accompanied by a rich and diverse cultural life in French.
The Government of Canada has an important, not to say essential role to play in promoting French. Its role must complement the role of Quebec and of organized groups in civil society.
Thank you for your attention.
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View Steven Blaney Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
My thanks to Mr. Godin for his excellent work. It's a pleasure to be his colleague.
I want to thank the witnesses for shedding some extremely interesting light on a study that the committee sees as a major one. You may know that this is the first time that the Standing Committee on Official Languages has looked into the situation of French all across the country, and specifically in Quebec. In that regard, I must thank our participants today, Mr. Bolduc, Mr. Leckey and Ms. Meggs, who are from Quebec.
Mr. Bolduc, I agree with you, culture and language cannot be separated. We know that here because of our cultural and artistic community. We are also very proud of young Jacob who recently qualified for Star Académie. He is very talented.
Let me get right to the point.
Ms. Meggs, thank you for your incisive testimony. Actually, I would really like to start by asking you to repeat the last sentence of your remarks. You said that the language needing support in Quebec is French and that the dual approach in Quebec is devastating. That is what you said just before you ended.
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Anne Meggs
View Anne Meggs Profile
Anne Meggs
2021-04-29 16:01
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I am sorry, Mr. Chair. I have an old 2011 computer that I am trying to keep alive, but I don't know how long it will last. I am very proud of it but it is a little slow. I am trying to find the passage you referred to again.
Essentially, what I said is that I do not see how we can protect French and promote English in Quebec at the same time.
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View Steven Blaney Profile
CPC (QC)
You also talked about a false symmetry between French speakers outside Quebec and English speakers inside Quebec. Can you tell us more about what you mean by that?
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Anne Meggs
View Anne Meggs Profile
Anne Meggs
2021-04-29 16:02
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I think that Mr. Bolduc mentioned it; I also feel that you previously have attended a number of presentations on Part 1, which I did not bring up. It is becoming quite clear that only one language is in decline in Canada and that it is declining in the face of English, whether we like it or not.
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View Niki Ashton Profile
NDP (MB)
You also propose that businesses with 50 or more employees be required to establish joint francization committees so workers can act as watchdogs for French in the workplace.
Do you think that would be enough to restore French to its important position?
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Denis Bolduc
View Denis Bolduc Profile
Denis Bolduc
2021-04-29 16:25
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It would definitely help. The vast majority of businesses in Quebec have 100 or fewer employees. These are small and medium-sized businesses. A requirement for small businesses to establish francization committees would obviously be welcome and would help promote and protect the French language in Quebec.
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View Joël Godin Profile
CPC (QC)
My second question, Mr. Bolduc, concerns the option of choosing your language of work if you're an employee of a business in a sector under federal jurisdiction. Francophones are intimidated in meetings. You discussed that earlier. They can assert their wish to work in French all they want, but they can't do it.
Shouldn't French be established as the language of work in federally regulated businesses located in Quebec?
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Denis Bolduc
View Denis Bolduc Profile
Denis Bolduc
2021-04-29 16:57
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Yes, indeed. Earlier I cited the example of federal public servants who work in Gatineau. They're uncomfortable—and I mean "uncomfortable"—speaking French in the workplace. I don't think that should be the case in Quebec. People should speak French in a francophone workplace. As I said, when I attended national union meetings in and outside Quebec, people often spoke English if there was a single anglophone in the room.
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View Joël Godin Profile
CPC (QC)
Even as Quebec citizens, we automatically speak English when a tourist asks for information in English. We also have a responsibility to promote French.
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Denis Bolduc
View Denis Bolduc Profile
Denis Bolduc
2021-04-29 16:58
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Yes, we have the same responsibility when people enter a business in Quebec.
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Denis Bolduc
View Denis Bolduc Profile
Denis Bolduc
2021-04-29 16:58
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When someone answers us in English, we have a responsibility to ask that person to respond in French too.
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View Steven Blaney Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you very much, dear colleague from the Rive-Nord.
My question will be for Mr. Leckey and the three witnesses.
Do you acknowledge that French in Quebec is in the minority in the North American context?
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Robert Leckey
View Robert Leckey Profile
Robert Leckey
2021-04-29 16:59
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Yes, of course.
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View Steven Blaney Profile
CPC (QC)
Do you acknowledge that the federal government must take specific measures to protect French in Quebec in that context?
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Robert Leckey
View Robert Leckey Profile
Robert Leckey
2021-04-29 17:00
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What do you mean?
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View Steven Blaney Profile
CPC (QC)
Since French is in the minority in Quebec, does the federal government have a responsibility to promote one of its two official languages in its national home, which is Quebec City?
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Robert Leckey
View Robert Leckey Profile
Robert Leckey
2021-04-29 17:00
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I'd like to think about that.
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View Steven Blaney Profile
CPC (QC)
I'll allow you the time to do that.
I'm going to put my question to Mr. Bolduc.
Mr. Bolduc, you said that French is clearly in the minority in the North American context. We nevertheless have to admit that we aren't speaking to each other in English, and that's a good thing.
Do you think the federal government has a bigger role to play in the new version of the Official Languages Act with respect to the promotion and preservation of French in Quebec?
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Denis Bolduc
View Denis Bolduc Profile
Denis Bolduc
2021-04-29 17:00
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You have to accept that the situations are different if you're in Quebec or elsewhere in Canada.
Can anyone seriously claim that English needs the same protection as French across the country, mainly in Quebec? The answer's obvious.
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View Steven Blaney Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Bolduc.
Ms. Meggs, should we put an end to the false symmetry in Quebec, by which I mean should we introduce specific measures designed to promote French in Quebec?
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