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View Marie-France Lalonde Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Marie-France Lalonde Profile
2022-09-26 11:02 [p.7647]
Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak to the House about Bill C‑238 regarding the French language.
Everyone in Canada cares about protecting the French language. The latest census data show that French is in decline in Quebec and the rest of Canada. We must act swiftly and collectively. Our government agrees with the Government of Quebec on this matter. I think that everyone in the House has a shared objective to protect and promote the French language, although we disagree on how to do so.
The approach to the future of French in Canada set out under Bill C‑238, introduced by the Bloc Québécois, is very narrow. This bill takes a Quebec-centric approach to our language regime without regard for francophones across Canada, from coast to coast. In addition to the millions of Quebeckers who share the common language of French, there are more than one million francophones outside of Quebec who live, work and thrive in French. My francophone community in Orléans is just one example.
The Bloc Québécois is calling for the recognition of Quebec's language regime, enforcement of the Charter of the French Language for federally regulated private businesses located in Quebec and the requirement that those hoping to obtain Canadian citizenship while living in Quebec have an adequate knowledge of French.
Although we share the Bloc Québécois's concern over the future of French in North America, we do not agree with their solution. We believe that we must take a targeted approach to protect and promote French across Canada. That is what our government proposed in Bill C‑13, an act to amend the Official Languages Act, to enact the use of French in federally regulated private businesses act and to make related amendments to other acts, which we introduced in the House on March 1.
It is important to note that Bill C‑238 adopts a narrow view of the future of French, while our Bill C‑13 recognizes not only the linguistic reality of Quebec, but also the language regimes of other provinces and territories in Canada. Let us be clear, Bill C‑238 does nothing for francophones outside Quebec, while Bill C‑13 plans to create new rights for consumers and employees who work at federally regulated private businesses in Quebec, but also in regions outside Quebec with a high francophone presence.
Comparing the provisions of both bills, it is clear that the vision is narrower in one case and broader in the other, that the approach is exclusive in one case and more inclusive in the other, and that the priority is provincial in one case and national in the other. Bill C‑238 will fail to meet the expectations and demands of the majority of Canadians with respect to our two official languages.
This Bloc Québécois bill simply does not meet the priorities of francophone minority communities in provinces and territories outside Quebec. Bill C‑238 does not meet the needs of English-speaking communities in Quebec.
For these reasons, the government cannot support Bill C‑238. As I mentioned at the beginning, we are not against Bill C‑238's objectives. We are opposing the bill because there is so much missing in terms of adapting it to the reality of official language minority communities.
In other words, its vision is too narrow and lacks ambition. We are against Bill C‑238 because we want to go much further. The measures in our Bill C‑13 are ambitious and fine-tuned to meet communities' current and future needs.
Bill C‑13 covers broader segments of our Canadian linguistic regime and will have a real impact on the lives of Canadians. It covers the appointment of Supreme Court of Canada justices, enhances the Commissioner of Official Languages' powers, supports official language learning and addresses francophone immigration. In short, Bill C‑13 does more of what Canadians want than Bill C‑238 ever could.
Bill C‑13 offers a vision for francophones in Quebec and for all Canadians, because the Official Languages Act must reflect their needs and realities too. We are all aware of the facts. Canada's francophone population is declining; our government has clearly acknowledged that. We are also aware that Canadians want to be able to learn official languages. They want to be able to use them in their everyday lives. They want to enjoy the benefits of having French in Canada and of living in an officially bilingual country. Our Bill C‑13 meets those needs and puts forward a real, pan-Canadian vision for Canadians.
It is just such a pan-Canadian vision that is lacking in Bill C‑238. That is why we cannot support this bill. Together, we can reverse the decline of the French language, but we all have to work together to make that happen. That means reaching out to official language minority communities and coming up with policies and programs that meet their needs.
To conclude, let me say to my fellow members that I hope all parties will work with us to pass Bill C‑13 as quickly as possible.
View René Villemure Profile
View René Villemure Profile
2022-09-26 11:10 [p.7648]
Madam Speaker, it would be a mistake to oppose Bills C-13 and C-238, so I cannot agree with my colleague.
Bill C-238 aims to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Official Languages Act, the Canada Business Corporations Act and the Citizenship Act. I would like to start by telling my colleagues that, when they vote on this bill, they will not be doing Quebec any favours. What they will be doing by voting for Bill C-238 is correcting a historical error and giving justice where justice is due.
Everyone understands that Canada was founded by the French then conquered by the British a very long time ago. The two peoples have since lived together in times of peace and in more difficult times. Our history includes victories for some, and bitter losses for others. French Canadians became Quebeckers and chose to assert themselves, shouting until they were blue in the face that their culture, their identity and their language were precious to them.
In 1977, under Camille Laurin, Quebec enacted the Charter of the French Language, also known as Bill 101. Bill 101 made French the official language of the Quebec government and courts. French was now recognized as the normal and everyday language of work in education, trade, communications and business. Bill 101 enshrined in law the fact that French was the language of the majority. The French language was precious and statistically a minority language within English-speaking North America. That is why it needed protection.
Of course, not everyone was happy about Bill 101. Although it protected the anglophone minority in Quebec, which, incidentally, is the best-protected minority in Canada, the bill was challenged and cut back. Opponents tried to render it meaningless, and some of their efforts were successful.
Now we are in 2022, and statisticians have confirmed that the French language is in decline in Quebec, especially in the magnificent island of Montreal. I remember walking with my son on Notre-Dame Street in the middle of Saint-Henri, a neighbourhood Yvon Deschamps described as a place where francophone workers and the poor lived and worked. I remember seeing that the snack bars had been replaced with Internet coffee shops with English names. A very nice student from Toronto who had come to work there as part of a French immersion program spoke to us in English and understood nothing of our “gibberish” as we spoke French. I asked for “un espresso, s’il vous plaît”, and he answered, in as friendly and innocent a manner as can be, “Sorry, I don’t speak French”. This experience was repeated throughout our walk down Notre-Dame Street. Not only was the street anglicized in terms of language, but also in terms of social context. We could have been in Toronto, or anywhere in the globalized world. There is not much difference between “un espresso” and “an espresso”, but, still, French did not seem to be important.
Make no mistake: I have nothing against English. Rather, I am simply saying that I am pro-French. Coming back to the example I gave earlier, I find it curious that a student from Toronto who wants to broaden their horizons would come to Montreal, just to work in English in a café located in an area that was historically francophone but has since become primarily anglophone. So much for French immersion.
Beyond the statistics pointing to the decline of French in Quebec, simply walking through the streets of Montreal confirms it. From Second Cup to Five Guys, my beloved French is suffering.
It is important to understand that beyond fulfilling a simple communication function, language is also a political statement and, above all, a mindset. A bit of an explanation is in order.
Let us start by asking the following question: What is language? It is, first and foremost, a matter of linguistics. Language must first be regarded as a system of signs connecting words, drawn from a lexicon and according to specific grammatical rules established by a syntax. Language is the ability to express an idea and communicate through a system of signs. This is where we have a problem.
The rampant anglicization of Quebec society prevents people from thinking in French, creating in French and being French. Globalization, which made Céline Dion popular from Algeria to Indonesia, has also flattened cultures, all cultures except for one, the Anglo-Saxon culture. We were told that globalization liberated cultures whereas, in reality, it simply made people want to or have to live in English.
Language is all about communicating and thinking. Globalization has brought with it the danger of what I call a single mindset, which occurs when what is essential is no longer distinguished from what is secondary, when far-reaching intellectual projects face the powerful inertia of pervasive mediocrity and small-mindedness, and when tastes and ideas become homogeneous.
It is the very perception of existence that is at stake when we talk about a single mindset. English dominates the world and now serves as the platform for this single mindset. That is why we must resist. That is why we are studying Bill C-238 today.
Six living Quebec premiers supported the Quebec government's motion to the effect that the French requirement should apply to federally regulated businesses in Quebec. The fact that it is not being applied is anachronistic and can only be aimed at exacerbating the decline of the French language.
The former Bill C-223 proposed that those applying for citizenship in Quebec would need to possess an adequate knowledge of French. The fact that this requirement has not already been implemented is equally anachronistic and again can only be aimed at exacerbating the decline of the French language in Quebec.
This is why the Bloc Québécois is categorically opposed to the federal government's attempt to supersede provincial legislation in Quebec with its own law.
The federal government needs to recognize that the Government of Quebec must remain in charge of language planning within Quebec. Language is a fundamental aspect of the specificity and identity of the Quebec nation.
This is the most important part: We must preserve French in order to preserve freedom of thought. That is why I suggest that members of Parliament right a historical wrong and vote in favour of Bill C-238.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2022-09-26 11:17 [p.7649]
Madam Speaker, I am very happy to be participating in this debate. Before getting to the crux of the matter, I would like to send my best wishes to all of the Canadians and Quebeckers affected by hurricane Fiona. We were all stunned to see the devastation in the Atlantic provinces, as well as in the Magdalen Islands and on the Lower North Shore in Quebec. Our hearts go out to the brave residents who must now cope with the aftermath.
As the Deputy Premier of Quebec said, there were no serious injuries or deaths in the Magdalen Islands or on the Lower North Shore. The rest is just material things, but I do realize that people need material things to live. I would like to send my regards to the people who are facing this reality today, and I extend my heartfelt thanks to the first responders helping out on the ground in every province, including the military and public safety personnel.
I just want them to know that all of us in the House of Commons are here for them. If anyone needs anything at all at the federal level, Canada will be there to respond. This situation affects us all. Nature is bigger than any of us could ever be.
Today we are discussing the French language. Today we are discussing the official languages. Today we are discussing a reality that is demographically indisputable: The French language is in decline in Canada and Quebec.
This is nothing new at the sociological, demographic or geographical level. Consider the following: The population of North America, by which I mean Canada and the United States, our closest neighbour, is almost 380 million. Of that number, fewer than eight million speak French. Everyone else speaks English as their primary language.
That is like meeting a group of six people, five of whom speak English and one of whom speaks French. That is not quite precise, but I am rounding off the numbers to give an example that speaks for itself. From a mathematical point of view, the French-speaking person will feel dominated by the other five, who speak English. That person will feel strongly tempted to speak the language of the other five.
As I will explain later, wanting to speak two languages does not mean that we want to obliterate our first language.
In addition to this demographic reality that speaks for itself, the figures and the science show that the French language is indeed on the decline in Canada, especially in Quebec. According to the most recent figures from Statistics Canada, between 2016 and 2021, the number of French speakers went from 7.7 million to 7.8 million. Some of my colleagues may say that the opposite is true and that I am misleading the House by saying that the French language is in decline in Quebec when more people now speak French.
It is important to put this in perspective. The proportion of French speakers has declined from 22.4% to 21.4%. Yes, Statistics Canada's figures show that the French language is in decline throughout Canada. The situation is the same in Quebec, only worse. Five years ago, there were 6.4 million people in Quebec whose first language was French. Today, there are 6.5 million. This is an increase in number, but a decrease in percentage, from 79% to 77.5%. We completely agree that the French language is in decline and that something must be done.
We know that the New Brunswick, Quebec and federal governments are working to improve the situation. Bills have been tabled and passed. Quebec passed Bill 96 in June. It is now law.
I will always sincerely respect my commitment. As an elected official at the federal level, I do not get involved in provincial affairs. I have enough on my plate without playing armchair quarterback. A bill was passed at the end of a debate last year to protect the French language. Was that a good thing or a bad thing? We will let the public decide.
At the federal level, the government tabled Bill C-13, which is currently being considered.
I will get back to this later, but I must say something first. It brings me no happiness to say it. I have the utmost respect for the woman herself, but when the government appoints someone as head of state who cannot speak both official languages, it is sending the wrong message. I have nothing against her, but I have a lot against the choice made by this government, which claims to be the great defender of the two official languages.
It sends a very strong message about the person representing the British monarch, not only symbolically but in actual terms. The late Queen spoke both official languages remarkably well, as does the current King, perhaps not as well as his mother, but we salute his outstanding effort. The government's appointee speaks French less proficiently than the person she is representing. The government is sending the wrong message.
We also understand that there is not a law in the world that could change anything about the reality people find themselves in today, whether they are accessing social media or any information that is disseminated around the world.
That is what I want to talk about. It is not because francophones learn English that they want to set the French language aside. The two languages are not mutually exclusive. We need to stop seeing English as the language of the Plains of Abraham. Rather, it is the language that is often used around the world today. It does not mean that we want to eradicate the French language. On the contrary, we must share with the world the fact that we speak French, that we are proud to speak French and that this country received the first Europeans who just happened to be French, like Jacques Cartier and Champlain.
Let us not forget former prime minister the Right Hon. Stephen Harper's lovely and meaningful custom of always starting his speeches in French wherever he was in the world, reminding people that Canada's first language was French.
Yes, people will be tempted to learn English. The two languages are not mutually exclusive.
One way we can make sure that francophones have an important place in our future is immigration policy. This is currently being debated in Quebec. Our history shows that the current debates on immigration in Quebec are nothing new.
In 1968, the Union Nationale government of the late Daniel Johnson Sr. created the ministry of immigration. In 1971, Pierre Elliott Trudeau's Liberal federal government entered into the Lang-Cloutier agreement with the Quebec government, allowing it to deploy agents abroad to recruit French-speaking immigrants to Quebec. The agreement was renewed in 1975. We mentioned the Andras-Bienvenue agreement, which recognized Quebec's special needs. There was also the milestone Cullen-Couture agreement in 1978. That is important because it was entered into by a sovereigntist government. Minster Couture reached an agreement with the federalist Liberal government of Canada led by Mr. Trudeau: it was this agreement that recognized Quebec and gave it decision-making powers over its choice of immigrants. In 1991, there was the extremely important Gagnon-Tremblay-McDougall agreement between Mr. Bourassa's provincial government and the Right Hon. Brian Mulroney's federal government.
In short, negotiations between the federal and provincial governments have been positive and productive for over 50 years now. Of course, they can always be better, but no one should think that the debate on immigration to strengthen the French fact in Quebec is brand new or that it was only sparked by some electoral fervour. Quebec and Ottawa have been getting along for more than half a century.
I had a lot more to say but, unfortunately, my time is running out. I would remind the House that Bill C-13 provides an opportunity to overhaul the Official Languages Act. The Official Languages Act was created in 1969 by a previous government under Trudeau senior, and has been updated only once, in 1988, under Brian Mulroney. This needs to be done, and it must be done properly. We hope that Bill C-13 will be given a lot more teeth in order to help ensure the survival of the French language.
View Bernard Généreux Profile
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the second reading debate on Bill C-238, An Act respecting the French language. This bill was introduced by the member for Salaberry—Suroît, and I thank her for her work on it. The member has concerns about the future of the French language, as do I, and as do we all.
I am proud to be a long-time member of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, which has been doing some very interesting work during this Parliament. I would also like to recognize my colleagues on the committee and to highlight the outstanding work being done by our official languages critic, the member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier.
French is declining in Quebec. That is unfortunately a fact. The proportion of French speakers across Canada has fallen since the last census in 2016. In fact, even though the number of Canadians who speak French has increased from 7.7 million to 7.8 million, an increase of 100,000 people over five years, the proportion of Canadians whose first language is French has decreased. According to Statistics Canada, that number dropped from 22.2% in 2016 to 21.4% in 2021.
If the trend continues, according to the famous formula, the weight of French in Canada will go into an irreversible decline. The same thing is happening even in Quebec. The proportion of people who use French fell from 79% to 77.5% over the same five-year period. It is urgent that we take action to halt the trend. The Conservative Party has always been a strong advocate for the French fact in Canada. Our country was born in French and must continue to live in French.
The bill we are discussing today contains four parts that address four very different issues. Although all four parts involve the French language, the fact remains that it is difficult to combine four subjects, four issues, four laws in one private member's bill.
I must say that one of the proposed changes rings a bell. I remember having the opportunity to study and vote in favour of Bill C-223, which the Conservatives supported at second reading before the last pointless election was called by the Liberal government less than a year ago. Yes, immigrants residing in Quebec should have an adequate knowledge of Quebec's French language. That is clear. No one is disputing that.
At the time, my colleague from Kildonan—St. Paul explained that the Conservatives supported the principle behind Bill C-223 based on two fundamental Conservative Party principles. The first is the recognition of the Quebec nation, as recognized by former prime minister Stephen Harper. The second is our commitment to protecting its language and culture. At the time, we did not even get to vote on the bill at second reading. We did not even get a chance to study the bill in committee, which is unfortunate.
I noticed that Bill C-238 contains three other measures. In addition to amending the Citizenship Act, the bill proposes amendments to three other acts, namely the Canada Business Corporations Act, the Official Languages Act and the Canada Labour Code.
Bill C-238 proposes that the Canada Business Corporations Act be amended to add the following: “the name of a corporation that carries on business in the Province of Quebec shall meet the requirements of the Charter of the French Language.”
It is important to bear in mind that Quebec passed Bill 96 only in June, which is not that long ago. On June 1, 2022, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec, also known as Bill 96, received royal assent, bringing into effect several provisions amending the Charter of the French Language and about 20 other acts and regulations.
The new charter sets out stricter requirements for public signs and posters bearing the company's name that are visible from outside premises, and French must be markedly predominant over any other language. The transition period for public signs and posters will end by May 2025. The Quebec government understood that it had to do something about the quality of signs and posters.
However, the bill we are currently discussing focuses the name of a business or corporation as it appears in the articles of incorporation. I own a business myself, and that is how I interpret it. It is also important to note that the decline of French will not be solved by fixing articles of incorporation.
Even if changes were made to company names in Quebec's business registry but not reflected in signs and posters outside, it would obviously not make a difference. The French language is in decline, and we need far more effective measures.
Bill C-238 also amends the Canada Labour Code to subject it to the Charter of the French Language. As it happens, with respect to working in French, my colleagues and I will be studying the application of the Official Languages Act to workers.
I would also like to ask the following question: Would it not have been better to propose a bill like Bill C‑238, which amends the charter, after the final version of the National Assembly's Bill 96 came out in June? We shall see. Perhaps this bill should have been tabled after Bill 96 was passed in Quebec. That would probably have made it easier to understand.
Lastly, with respect to the Official Languages Act, as I was saying, the Standing Committee on Official Languages is are already working to improve the substance of Bill C-13. If we want to amend the Official Languages Act, the committee study of Bill C‑13 provides the opportunity to do so. That is why I am convinced that it is by working hard to improve Bill C‑13 that we will achieve the objectives I share with Bill C‑238's sponsor, who is concerned, as I am, about the future of French not only in Canada, but in Quebec as well.
It is no secret that this government has been rattled by non-stop scandals involving official languages since Bill C‑13 was tabled. The Minister of Official Languages only seems to be working part time, since she is responsible for two totally different departments. This government almost sued B.C. francophones because the Minister of Justice was working against the Minister of Official Languages. There is a lot of coordination that should be done, but the government is not doing it. This government holds unilingual briefing sessions and is not even ashamed of it.
The Standing Committee on Official Languages regularly hears from witnesses who very clearly tell us that there has to be an agency within government that is responsible for official languages, and that is the Treasury Board. This has been repeated ad nauseam. I sincerely believe that we will have to present an amendment to Bill C-13 in that regard.
There is clearly a lot of work to be done to address the French language issue, not just in Canada but also in Quebec. We have to look to legislative measures to stop the decline of French all across Canada. I believe we will achieve that by working together. I would like to again thank my colleague for introducing this bill. Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that it will go very far, because it proposes changes to too vast a body of laws and regulations. However, on a positive note, Bill C-13 gives us a real opportunity to change things.
In fact, before leaving for the summer break in June, the government wanted to rush the bill through, and just yesterday we resumed hearing from witnesses in committee. These witnesses more or less unanimously agree that if we really want to stop the decline of French in Canada and Quebec, then we must, especially in Canada, have a government agency that manages our official languages, and I nominate the Treasury Board. The Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, or FCFA, is saying, along with everyone else, that the government will have to think long and hard before passing this bill that will make fundamental changes within the machinery of government.
One thing is very clear: We are getting complaints. The Commissioner of Official Languages is also receiving a whole lot of complaints. There is still much work to be done, but we will work with my colleague and her party to improve the future of French in Canada.
View Peter Julian Profile
Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today to express the NDP's support for Bill C‑238 at second reading.
Later in my speech I will talk about our concerns with some aspects of the bill, in particular regarding citizenship granted to immigrants who come through the family reunification stream and to refugees. I will get back to this, but this is a significant concern that has been debated at length in parliamentary committee.
There is no problem with the first part of the bill, which deals with federally regulated businesses, and that is why we will support sending Bill C‑238 to committee. That said, as members know, the NDP has always been the only party in the House to champion and advocate for the rights of linguistic minorities and the French language, not just in Quebec, but all across the country.
To illustrate, I can point to British Columbia, where a provincial NDP government created the existing French-language school board network and umbrella programs in francophone schools across the province. This was a unique, important initiative from the NDP.
I could also give the example of the New Democrat government in Saskatchewan. It did the same thing: It opened French-language schools throughout the province. The New Democrat government in Manitoba established a network of French-language schools and school boards across the province.
We also mentioned New Democrat member Léo Piquette, a Franco-Albertan and the strongest advocate for French-language rights in Alberta. New Democrat governments in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces expanded the network of French-language colleges.
I could give numerous examples of New Democrat governments and members that have always pushed to advance the rights of francophone minority-language communities and, of course, to defend the French language.
These are undeniable facts no one can challenge. It may be easy to speak before the House, but it is more difficult to talk to people across the country, as we did. We are also proud of our past record in this respect, and our efforts continue into the present. New Democrat members always advocate for the French language and linguistic minorities, which, of course, include francophone linguistic minorities.
Since adopting the Sherbrooke Declaration, the New Democrats have been pushing for legislation concerning federally regulated businesses. As our members know, it has been years. Obviously, I am referring to the party under Jack Layton, Thomas Mulcair, Nycole Turmel and, of course, our current leader, the hon. member for Burnaby South.
At every opportunity, the NDP has taken a stand and tabled bills on the subject. We have fought for this in the House. It only makes sense that workers in Quebec have the right to work in French. This is not currently the case, since federally regulated businesses are exempt from the obligation to provide a workplace in which people can communicate in French.
It also makes sense that workers in caisses populaires be able to speak, communicate and work in French. When it comes to the major Canadian banks, workers no longer have these rights. That is why the NDP has been demanding for years that federally regulated businesses be subject to the same obligation to create a work environment where employers and workers have the right to express themselves, communicate and work in French.
It only makes sense. It is like what I said earlier. We have always advocated for the right of francophones to have access to services. It is a basic right to be able to work in French, whether one is in Montreal or Quebec City. If someone works in a federally regulated business, it is only logical that they have the right to work in French.
It is precisely this first part of the bill that we fully support. For years now, our party has been saying that workers in businesses under federal jurisdiction should be granted this basic right. It only makes sense.
As I mentioned earlier, I have a big problem with the second part of the bill. When it comes to economic immigration, Quebec already has tools to choose the immigrants it receives and to make sure they are able to express themselves in French. Of that there is no doubt. Now, extending this requirement to immigrants received under family reunification and to refugees, and making them wait for their full rights as Canadian citizens, that, we find very worrying. As the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie so eloquently said a few weeks ago, applying this requirement to refugees is abusive.
We know full well that immigrants to Quebec want to learn French. Clearly, there was not enough money to ensure that they were given the opportunity to learn French. As members know, I spent many years in Quebec, first in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, then in the Eastern Townships. These are very beautiful regions in Quebec. I find them magnificent. Then I went to Montreal and the Outaouais. During all my years in Quebec, I saw that immigrants were interested in learning French.
Often, there were not enough resources or programs to enable them to learn French. We should focus on having the resources for these people who bring their skills and interests to Quebec and Canada. Refugees are often fleeing horrible situations, human rights violations and war. When they come to Quebec and Canada, they want to contribute. We need to have the resources to enable them to learn French. It is crucial. Saying that if they do not learn French well enough they will be refused Canadian citizenship, the right to vote and any other rights dependent on Canadian citizenship is definitely not the right thing to do. As a progressive party, we believe we need to have the necessary resources to enable them to learn French.
People I have met throughout Quebec want to learn French. There are not enough programs. Let us then implement programs to make it possible for them to learn French.
We support sending the bill back to committee specifically to fix these flaws.
View Jean-Denis Garon Profile
View Jean-Denis Garon Profile
2022-09-26 11:46 [p.7653]
Madam Speaker, I have been following this morning's debate and, in my view, there seems to be a bit of a cat fight in the House between Bill C-238, which seeks to comply with the will of the Quebec National Assembly on matters relating to Quebec's only official language, and Bill C-13.
I was surprised to hear the parliamentary secretary say earlier that Bill C-238 takes a Quebec-centric approach and fails to respect the rights of francophones outside Quebec, let alone even acknowledge the reality of francophones outside Quebec.
Unlike Bill C-238, what the government is offering us in Bill C-13 is essentially English in Montreal and English in Quebec. It is really important to compare and contrast these two bills. Unlike Bill C-238, Bill C-13 gives federally regulated businesses in Quebec the pretense of choice. It is merely a pretense of choice, giving them the option to operate in one official language or the other. Government members, some of whom have actually stood here in the House and publicly denied that French is in decline, seem to magically believe that a bank headquartered in Toronto, with the majority of its staff in Toronto and 80% of its market in English-speaking Canada, will be naturally inclined to offer services of equal quality in both English and French. Saying something like that is akin to leaving the future of our language in the hands of Michael Rousseau of Air Canada or in the hands of the Royal Bank of Canada, which once was “La Banque royale du Canada”.
The fact is, when these companies located in Quebec are given some semblance of a choice, they choose English. They choose English because it is easier, cheaper and more efficient for their accounting departments. Quebeckers are the ones who end up paying the price. This is happening despite the fact that French as a language of work works. It works for big corporations and multinationals, and for the flagship companies we are so proud of. That same model should apply to our federally governed enterprises.
Can anyone explain to me why the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, one of the largest pension funds in the world, which is governed by Quebec law, is able to operate in French and abide by the Charter of the French Language while making investments around the world? I would like someone to explain to me why the Caisse is able to do that.
Can anyone explain to me why Couche-Tard, headquartered in Laval, Quebec, can operate entirely in French at its headquarters while doing business internationally in pretty much every language of every country in which it does business? Couche-Tard can do that because the right signal and the right message have been sent. Do not try to tell me that an anglophone who goes to a Couche-Tard cannot buy a bag of chips in English.
The model that is working in Quebec should be replicated in businesses under federal jurisdiction. That is hardly small potatoes. We are talking about a major group of businesses with a large number of employees located for the most part in downtown Montreal, working mainly in English in some cases, which contributes to the anglicization of Montreal, its downtown and its cultural life.
Take telecommunications, for example. BCE has more than 14,000 employees, Rogers has 3,000 and Cogeco has 1,700. That means Quebec's telecommunications sector alone employs about 18,000 people. That is equivalent to the population of Sainte‑Anne‑des‑Plaines, a town in my riding. That is a lot of people.
Then there are the banks. National Bank has 10,200 employees. I am not saying that they all necessarily speak English at work. What I am saying is that these thousands of workers have the right to work in French. They should not fall under a legislative regime where if just one person comes from Toronto or if just one person speaks English, everyone switches to English. We know what happens when there are 10 francophones and one anglophone at the table: They speak English over lunch. That is exactly what happens.
Quebeckers must be guaranteed the right to speak French at work. French is the only official and national language of Quebec. It is an inclusive language because it is our common language. The French language allows us to understand one another, integrate and grow together.
Quebec's banking sector alone employs 23,000 people. The aviation and rail transportation sectors would add another 9,000 or 10,000 people. The Liberals' bilingualism model is to linguistic policy what tax evasion is to taxation. It allows these businesses to be different from others. It gives these businesses a free pass and lets them break the rules. Francophones who want to work in telecommunications or in the rail transportation sector are subject to a regime that prevents them from working in Quebec's historical, national language.
The purpose of Bill C‑238 is to implement legislation that acknowledges the reality, the facts, the history and, most importantly, the unanimous will of the Quebec National Assembly. This is a bill that reflects the realities of Quebeckers and addresses the current confusion, which leaves Quebeckers under the impression that they are free to work in French in all federally regulated businesses. One does not need to have visited these businesses to understand that this is not the case.
There is another positive aspect to Bill C-238, specifically asymmetry. It is something that Canadian federalism has rejected all too often. In many provinces, such as Quebec, people's preferences and expectations, history, culture, the working world, practices and legislative agendas are not the same. Language in the workplace must also be dealt with a bit differently.
The principle of asymmetry is accepted in numerous areas, for example, in health care. The very fact that we are a federation implies that different provinces with different needs should work differently. There is also a certain asymmetry in the immigration system. Quebec has a certain number of targets in a certain number of programs, but not in all of them. For some time now, job training has been delegated to the Quebec government through special agreements. Why? Because Quebec has its own business ecosystem, its own community sector, its own institutions, and its own expectations. Bill C-238 does exactly the same thing.
What worries me about some of the speeches I have heard today, including the one from the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, a colleague I hold in high regard, is the fact that we are still having debates about whether francophones are or are not disappearing, whether French is or is not declining, and so on. Some Conservatives in the House, including the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, claim to be experts in mathematics. They look at three or four data points, see that such-and-such a statistic shows that there are three or four more francophones in such-and-such a place, and then some claim that there is no loss of francophones and no need to protect French. Just the fact that we are talking about it, that it is being brought up again, and that it is on the agenda demonstrates that there is a problem in Quebec. Can anyone tell me where in Canada there are debates about the disappearance of English? Nowhere. That is because it is obvious that English is not disappearing. French needs to be protected.
Bill C-238 is balanced, respectful, asymmetrical and well-thought-out. It will ensure that the real language of work in Quebec is French. Large companies will still be able to do business in English because that is the language everyone naturally gravitates to in North America. If we do not pass Bill C-238 but do pass Bill C-13, that force of gravity will simply lead us to unilingualism, eventually.
It is important to note, and I appreciated the speech by my colleague from the NDP, that the law applies only to Canadian citizens. Refugees and new immigrants under the family reunification program are exempt. This is an inclusive bill. I congratulate my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît for introducing this bill. Of course, I am looking forward to voting for it.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
Madam Speaker, as you probably know, the International Day of Older Persons is coming up soon. I would like to take advantage of the debate on my bill to draw everyone's attention to this important day, because the generation before mine did so much for the French language. As a society, it waged major battles. Its story is the story of a nation that owns its uniqueness. It is therefore fitting, on the eve of the International Day of Older Persons, to thank those who have done so much for our national language and who, quite frankly, are just as concerned about the decline of French as we are.
For some, conversations about the decline of French elicit a shrug of the shoulders. Members of Parliament say we are getting too worked up about it. They say we are misinterpreting the statistics, that the indicators do not accurately reflect new linguistic dynamics. It is a tempest in a teapot, they say. That was the message during the first hour of debate on Bill C‑238. However, Statistics Canada shed new light this summer on what is happening with French across Canada and in Quebec.
We knew it, but now it is clear. My colleague, the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, predicted it. No matter what measure we use, we see a decline in French. In Quebec, there are fewer people whose mother tongue is French. The same goes for the primary language spoken at home and the language spoken in public, and that is key. It is a serious slide, to the benefit of English. What will my bill, which I have the honour of introducing on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, do to stop this decline?
It addresses two things: language of work and the language of newcomers. For language of work, Bill C‑238 incorporates the National Assembly's unanimous request to apply Bill 101 to federally regulated businesses. Again, this was a unanimous request. Every Quebec member thought about the issue and came to the same conclusion. I hope that the House will be able to show a bit of consideration for democracy in Quebec.
During the first hour of debate, I heard someone say that Bill C‑13 would be better at protecting French at federally regulated businesses in Quebec. To say that is to flat out say no to the National Assembly. That is serious.
I have to say what I think. I do not trust the federal government to truly fight for the French language. It is the federal government that is responsible for the fact that, as we speak, a francophone veteran has to wait an average of 45 weeks for a decision on their file. An anglophone waits only 24 weeks. In Canada, discrimination based on language is tolerated. It is the federal government that is responsible for the fact that, in the House, ministers hold important briefings on their bills with no consideration for French. It is the federal government that tolerates the fact that it is very difficult for francophones to get top jobs in the government even though many francophones work in the public service. Despite efforts made in recent decades to protect French in Canada, everything is done in English.
I therefore place my trust in the Quebec government to ensure respect for Quebeckers' language rights, which is why Bill 101 must be applied to federally regulated businesses. Bill C‑238 has a second element, namely knowledge of French as a requirement for Quebec citizenship. To be clear, knowledge of French would be a requirement to obtain citizenship for people residing in Quebec. This would change nothing for people claiming refugee status or permanent residency. I think that this is a very reasonable provision.
There are all kinds of ways for people to step up and help stop the decline of the French language. I know that my bill is just one among many others. If I have not been convincing, I ask members to send Bill C‑238 to committee so that experts can come explain why it is so important. That is what Wednesday's vote will be about. My bill represents the first opportunity for all members of Parliament to show that they are concerned about the decline of French. My bill would give Quebec two new tools to help it wage this crucial, magnificent battle for the French language, for its words, its accents and its future. I urge members not to undermine the efforts of such a resilient nation. Let us pass Bill C‑238.
View Carol Hughes Profile
The question is on the motion.
If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes to request a recorded division or that the motion be adopted on division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
Madam Speaker, I request a recorded division.
View Carol Hughes Profile
Pursuant to order made on Thursday, June 23, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, September 28, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, we are here in Parliament today talking about the affordability crisis that so many Canadians are dealing with, and in a way it feels like progress that we are even talking about this, because most of the debates that happen in Parliament are scheduled by the government, and for two years the government has been ignoring the problem of “Justinflation” that so many Canadians have been dealing with. For two years the government has been ignoring the cost of living crisis, but the election of the member for Carleton as Leader of the Opposition has really focused the mind of the government. Immediately after the Leader of the Opposition took his position, the government started saying that now it needs to try to talk about the affordability issue.
However, unfortunately, the measures the government has put in place are not moving us forward. They are not actually addressing the problem. In fact, in some respects they are making the problem worse. The government still does not appreciate the degree to which it really is its policies, the policies of the current Prime Minister, that have created and continue to create the kind of affordability crisis we are talking about.
At the outset, I think it is important to go over a bit of the history of this. Back in 2020, the member for Carleton, who was at the time our shadow minister for finance, said that Canada was about to face this problem of significant increasing inflation. He said that the significant increase we were seeing in government spending was going to drive inflation. Government being more expensive was going to make it more expensive for everyday Canadians to buy the various goods they needed.
At the time, those concerns were dismissed by the government, including the finance minister, who is still the finance minister. She was more concerned about apparent impending deflation, and that of course turned out to be very wrong. It was clear from the arguments being made at the time, and it is clear now, that when we have the government pouring more and more money out there, borrowing more and spending more but not actually driving increases in production, that is simply going to be inflationary. When we have more money chasing fewer goods, that is going to make everything more expensive.
These arguments were made and have been made over the last two years, but they have been continuously ignored by a government that clearly would rather talk about other issues. It clearly would rather be trying to shift attention away from those things, which really are the fundamental priorities of Canadians.
The government also, first of all, denied it. It was refusing to acknowledge the inflation crisis that it was causing, but as the numbers have come out and as we have seen increasing inflation, it has been harder and harder for the government to deny it. The new form of denial is for them to say, “It is not our fault,” and that they have nothing to do with it. They say that inflation is happening everywhere and is the result of the invasion of Ukraine and other such events, or it is supply blockages and is really an issue of the challenges in global supply chains.
I have a few responses to that. Number one is that this inflation was clearly an issue prior to the invasion of Ukraine, but it was two years ago that we started sounding the alarm on this issue of inflation. Of course, the invasion of Ukraine, as such, started in 2014, but this particular further invasion of Ukraine started six months ago.
It is also hard to make sense of the claim that global supply chains are responsible for instances where the goods are produced here in Canada yet the prices have been going up. Global supply chains can hardly be blamed for the escalating price of property and real estate that makes it increasingly difficult for Canadians in my age demographic and younger to be able to afford housing.
The government is constantly looking for other people to blame. It no doubt will blame the previous government at some point in today's debate, as well as global events that are beyond its control, but the reality is that the government is pursuing policies and pouring more money through borrowing and spending, without proper controls or encouraging more production. These economic policies of the government are driving inflation.
Canada is not the only country with rising inflation, but the point is that other countries that have this problem have pursued the same policies that the Liberal government has pursued. Some countries that are pursuing policies that entail exactly the same problems are getting the same results. However, other countries that are being more prudent and responsible in their spending are not experiencing the same challenges, and that is the reality. The escalating inflation is the result of the economic policies of the government, and it needs to own that challenge.
This is where we have been for the last two years. The government has been trying to distract attention on other issues, but then we have the Leader of the Opposition come into his position and continue his laser focus on issues of affordability and cost of living. Then, right away, the government says that perhaps its needs to talk about this affordability and cost of living thing, so it has tried to come up with a solution. Unfortunately, when we have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. The government's approach when it comes to the economy is always the same: more spending, more borrowing and higher taxes. That solution to the inflation crisis is going to make the problem even worse.
The government wants Canadians to believe that their lives will be made better and more affordable by giving away more money. I will share a little story.
I have five children and my three-old son recently came to me with a wad of U.S. dollars. I knew exactly where he got them from, because I had just returned from a trip to Washington and had left the money on the counter. He said, “Daddy, look what I got.” Then he very generously said he would give me one. I told him that was great, but asked him where he got it from. I think that is how Canadians feel when the government offers them more money. The government says that it will be generous and give more money to people, but Canadians want to know where that money has come from.
The government does not generate any money of its own. Government does not work to produce money. It takes money from taxpayers and then redistributes it. Just like my son, who I know is not going out, earning that money and generously offering it to me. I know that he is finding it somewhere around the house. When the government says that it will give more money, it clearly has to find it somewhere around the house, and that is the issue with it. It wants everyone to see how generous it is being, that it is giving away more money. In question period the other day, the Deputy Prime Minister said that the government was giving $1,000 to these families and $500 to those families, but Canadians are asking where the money is coming from.
We have run up more debt under the current Prime Minister than in the entire country's history prior to 2015. That is incredible. That is more debt than in the country's entire history from 1867 up until 2015. This is driving the challenges in the cost of living and inflation. Then the government's solution to the problem it has caused is to do more of the same. We have inflation because of high taxes, high borrowing and high spending and the government tries to solve that problem through more taxes, more borrowing and more spending.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The Liberals' approach is going to cost more, and any of these giveaways that they are promising to Canadians, such as these $500 here and $1,000 there, is real money. This is significant money for people, but I think they also understand that the money comes from somewhere and that those dollars are eaten up every day by higher prices. The same government that is saying that it is going to do more on these spending items is actually eroding the value of that money as it is handing it out.
This is a failed policy. Again, doubling down on the same failed approach of more borrowing, more taxes and more spending is not going to achieve a different result. It is “Justinflation” from start to finish. This is what we predicted two years ago. That is what we are seeing now and that is what is going to be further exacerbated by these new policies.
I note that expert analysis from Canada's leading banks said that these policies from the government are going to be inflationary.
l listened to the leader of the NDP, the coalition partner of the government, talking about this issue on CBC's The House. I think it was this past weekend. He said that the NDP did not agree with the analysis from the big banks. The leading economists in the country are saying that the government's policy is going to be more inflationary. Dismissing that expert analysis because people have an axe to grind with the big banks is really missing the point. The government talks about drawing from experts. It should listen to experts and acknowledge that its policies will continue to be inflationary going forward.
The Conservatives are offering a better approach, a common-sense approach for moving us forward.
First, we need a dollar-for-dollar rule when it comes to new spending. If the government is going to approve new spending of $1, $10, $1 million or $1 billion, it should first find an equivalent amount of savings. If there are new areas needing money to be spent, it should identify areas for those savings, areas to find efficiencies, and then put those dollars to toward the new areas.
There are new emerging priorities. There are always going to be new things needing money, but there are also going to be plenty of examples where dollars that were spent in the past no longer need to be spent or, perhaps, should not have been spent in the first place.
I think about some of the things that the government has spent money on, like the $25 million on the ArriveCAN app, which could have been easily saved. We could talk about the failed $35-billion Infrastructure Bank. We could talk about the subsidy package for private media, which is unfortunately eroding confidence in the media. We could talk about the government's various corporate welfare programs. All of those things have, frankly, hurt Canadians instead of helped them.
There have been many opportunities with respect to wasteful spending within the government or spending that was poorly targeted toward objectives. It is great to find new areas to make investments. Let us apply the same discipline that households and businesses have to apply by having a dollar-for-dollar rule.
A great way to help make life more affordable for Canadians would be to stop increasing taxes. Of course, we would like to see lower tax on this side of the House, but as a first step for the government, stop making the problem worse. Right now, the government has automatic scheduled tax increases for next year. On January 1 of next year, happy new year, and on April 1 of next year, which is sadly not an April fool's joke, tax increases are currently scheduled: increases to the carbon tax, which will drive up the cost of gas, groceries and home heating; increases as well to payroll taxes. Those payroll tax increases will take effect on January 1 and then subsequently the carbon tax hike.
It would be a very basic first step for the government to acknowledge it is in a hole right now, so it should stop digging, stop making the problem worse and stop inflicting more pain on Canadians by raising their taxes. Although that would be against the basic instincts of the government, that would be an important step to take, to recognize there is actually a problem that needs to be solved. If the government is unwilling to listen to us and reverse these planned tax increases, then I think it will be clear that the government's words about affordability are just that, only words. We have seen this before. When Canadians are connecting with and responding to a Conservative message, sometimes the government tries to use the same words. It tries to talk about the same things.
The proof is going to be in the pudding. The proof is going to be whether the government follows through with its planned tax hikes, or whether it continues with its approach of borrowing, spending and taxing always going up, or whether it will listen to Canadians, who are feeling the squeeze as a result of “Justinflation”, stop this damage and try to reverse the planned tax—
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2022-09-26 12:18 [p.7657]
Madam Speaker, on a point of order, I have been somewhat patient with the member. This was the third time the member has made reference to the term “Justinflation”. He is obviously doing something indirectly, knowing full well that he cannot do it directly. It has been ruled on previously by the Speaker that it is an inappropriate phrase, and this is the third time he has used it. I would suggest it is being done intentionally by the member and that he should try to improve by not using that term, which is unparliamentary, as previously ruled.
View Charlie Angus Profile
View Charlie Angus Profile
2022-09-26 12:18 [p.7657]
Madam Speaker, we have heard the member use that term all the time. It is a little lame and I do not think it is appropriate. We can lead a horse to water, but we cannot make it think. The Speaker should ask the member to withdraw his lame comment.
View Carol Hughes Profile
I will remind the hon. member that using that term was already ruled on. I know the member is working it into his speech a little differently, but again I want to caution him on the use of that word.
The hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, I know the member for Timmins—James Bay is excited to hear the rest of my remarks and it sounds like he is chomping at the bit for the privilege of debate that may be coming. I look forward to his remarks. I would encourage him to make sure he has consulted with the rest of his party around the position he takes on that, because there may be some differences of opinion around that important and sensitive issue.
With respect to the remarks I was making, it is very clear that we have two different approaches in front of us when it comes to responding to the economy. The Liberals have started to try to adopt Conservative language, although not all of it, as maybe the point of order demonstrates. They do not want to acknowledge their own responsibility when it comes to inflation, but they have started to acknowledge that there is a problem of inflation. They just think it has nothing to do with the policies of the government, which obviously stretches credibility.
The government has, in the last two years, pursued a radically different direction. In some respects, it has the last seven years, but it has escalated in the last two years. They have pursued a radically different direction with respect to economic policy. We have gone from tens of billions of dollars of deficit, which felt quite significant, and was quite significant, to hundreds of billions of dollars in terms of deficit, and they want to pretend as if that approach has had no consequences with respect to affordability. The reality is that it obviously has and Canadians are seeing the direct impacts on their lives when it comes to rising costs of all sorts of different goods. The government's efforts to pass the blame for this onto everybody but themselves really stretches credibility. Now their proposals of more taxes, more spending and more borrowing are simply going to make the problem worse.
I appeal to the government, on behalf of my constituents and many Canadians who have raised concerns about affordability, that if it wants to show that it has a modicum of sincerity when it comes to the issue of affordability, it should cancel the planned tax increases for next year. It would be a simple way for the government to show that it is actually listening to Canadians.
I want to talk specifically about the issue of the carbon tax. The Liberals think that a tax increase is a replacement for a meaningful response to the challenges we face with environmental policy. It is clear from various reports that their carbon tax is not working to achieve environmental objectives. Many of the groups that have supported them on this are saying it is a dramatic increase they want in terms of the carbon tax, and the Liberals are planning, I believe, and forecasting it.
Before the previous election, they had promised that they would not increase the carbon tax, but then they did increase it. It is continually going up and up. When is it going to stop? Every time their carbon tax fails to achieve their environmental objectives, instead of changing approach and realizing that we actually need an approach that emphasizes technology instead of taxes, they are just doubling down on the taxation approach. It is just not working; it is not achieving the objectives they said it will.
The government really needs to be responsive to what Canadians are telling it and it needs to be willing to make changes in its direction when the evidence clearly suggests it. I repeat that appeal again: no new taxes. The least the government can do is stop the damage, and that means to commit to not proceeding with the tax increases that it has scheduled for next year.
It is a clear choice and a clear contrast. We have a government that is talking about borrowing, spending and taxation, and that is leading to inflation. Then in the official opposition, we are talking about more freedom, giving individuals back control of their lives, reversing tax increases, lowering taxes and fundamentally replacing big government with big citizens, with a big society, as David Cameron talked about, with the idea that a strong society, with people standing together and supporting each other's needs, is much better at bringing us together as communities and moving us forward than the government. I am proud to continue to champion that vision and make the case for that vision in the House and beyond.
At this point, I would like to move an amendment. I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
"the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-31, An Act respecting cost of living relief measures related to dental care and rental housing, since the bill will fuel inflation and fails to address the government's excessive borrowing and spending that lead to the inflation crisis in the first place.”
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