April 8, 1920

UNION

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Unionist

Mr. SPEAKER:

The committee must bear in mind that although in this instance the head of the branch is an English-speaking official that merely so happens. I can direct the attention of the hon. gentleman (Mr. Ethier) to the circumstances that within the last few months the head of the Stationery Branch who was English-speaking passed away and a French-speaking gentleman was appointed in his stead.

Topic:   QUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURNS.
Subtopic:   '10-38 COMMONS
Permalink
L LIB

Henri Sévérin Béland

Laurier Liberal

Mr. BELAND:

The principle of promotion was followed in that case.

Topic:   QUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURNS.
Subtopic:   '10-38 COMMONS
Permalink
UNION

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Unionist

Mr. SPEAKER:

Quite so. It means that the member of a staff, whether he be French or English, must take his turn in promotion. No doubt in the course of time the head of the Journals may be French-speaking, but in the present instance the senior officer in that branch, a man who is a wonderfully efficient public servant, happens to be English-speaking, and when the vacancy occurred he was appointed to the head of his branch.

Topic:   QUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURNS.
Subtopic:   '10-38 COMMONS
Permalink
L LIB

Emmanuel Berchmans Devlin

Laurier Liberal

Mr. DEVLIN:

I never like to take any part in a discussion where a question affecting language is concerned.

Topic:   QUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURNS.
Subtopic:   '10-38 COMMONS
Permalink
L LIB

Joseph-Charles-Théodore Gervais

Laurier Liberal

Mr. GERVAIS:

Why?

Topic:   QUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURNS.
Subtopic:   '10-38 COMMONS
Permalink
L LIB

Emmanuel Berchmans Devlin

Laurier Liberal

Mr. DEVLIN:

It is somewhat of a sensitive matter with people generally. However I believe in respecting the rights of all minorities where such rights exist. The French-speaking people of this country have the right to speak either language in this House. It is simply a matter of choice what language shall be used. I may get up and speak English one moment and then if I so wish I can speak French the next moment. While section 133 of the British North America Act makes the use of either language optional for debating purposes, it provides that the Journals and Votes and Proceedings shall be printed in both languages. That being so, if you make a distinction and say that the Votes and Proceedings shall be printed first in the English language and afterwards translated into French you are placing the latter language upon a footing of inferiority as compared with the English language. When I say that I know how sensitive people generally are in the matter of questions of language I feel that I can speak freely upon the subject. I know the feelings of my French-speaking friends and of my French-Canadian friends, and the moment you pass this particular item as it

stands with the explanation that has been given-and I am not criticising anything which Mr. Speaker has said-you will immediately make a certain class of people in this country who have equal rights with the majority, along certain lines at least, feel that they occupy a position of inferiority where those rights have been guaranteed by the British North America Act. What has been done in the past or what will be done in the future really does not affect the question at issue. The right which to-day belongs to the French-speaking people should be fconsecrated to them in order that the relations as between the English-speaking and the French-speaking people in this country may continue to be harmonious. I would like to use whatever influence I might have with a view, Mr. Speaker, toward delaying this item and giving further consideration to it with a view to finding some means by which, if necessary, the official at the head of this branch, shall know and be able to take his notes in both languages. I admit that it is a very difficult thing to do. It is a very difficult thing to become a good French scholar. I have been trying to learn the French language for a great many years and I have not as yet begun to do so. But while that is true we must respect the British North America Act as it stands, until we have another Act, giving the same guarantees, which will supplement it. Therefore I want, as strongly as possible, to approve the attitude of the hon. member for Quebec East and the hon. member for Beauce in the remarks which they have made this afternoon.

Topic:   QUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURNS.
Subtopic:   '10-38 COMMONS
Permalink
UNION

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Unionist

Mr. SPEAKER:

May I, in reply to the hon. member for Wright, offer some further observations? I hope it is not necessary to assure the hon. gentleman that he is presenting an aspect which never entered my mind.

Topic:   QUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURNS.
Subtopic:   '10-38 COMMONS
Permalink
L LIB

Emmanuel Berchmans Devlin

Laurier Liberal

Mr. DEVLIN:

Quite so.

Topic:   QUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURNS.
Subtopic:   '10-38 COMMONS
Permalink
UNION

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Unionist

Mr. SPEAKER:

Let us face the situation squarely. If you are to have two Journals of the House printed-one in English and one in French-each of equal force and effect prepared by different individuals it would be quite impossible to have those Journals in an exact position on certain important public matters of record unless they are prepared in collaboration and in the one office. So that, in effect, in order to have a Journal which is accurate the French and English Journals must be the same; one must be an exact transcription of the other. It may be that hon. members speaking the French tongue wish to press

for a French head of the Journals branch, and in that case it is not for me to insist upon the present plan. I feel that in the interests of efficiency and economy I am doing my duty in defending this proposal before the House, but I would be the last person to insist upon its acceptance if the House is of a contrary opinion. If the objection presented by the hon. member for Wright (Mr. Devlin) be insisted upon, I would ask that this item be allowed to stand.

Topic:   QUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURNS.
Subtopic:   '10-38 COMMONS
Permalink
L LIB

Emmanuel Berchmans Devlin

Laurier Liberal

Mr. DEVLIN:

Perhaps I did not make myself sufficiently clear. I did not blame the Speaker-I know him too well-nor did I impute any prejudice to him, if I may use that word for the moment for want of a more apt term, d simply submitted the constitutional aspect of the question to the Speaker and to the committee in order that it might be looked into. I certainly would be the last man to say anything against the Speaker.

Topic:   QUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURNS.
Subtopic:   '10-38 COMMONS
Permalink
LIB

Charles Adolphe Stein

Liberal

Mr. STEIN:

Mr. Speaker brought forward the question of economy. I submit that it is rather a question of principle for the minority of this country. We can replace dollars and cents, but when we do away with principles they are often gone forever. I submit that we should not discuss this matter from the standpoint of dollars and cents.

Topic:   QUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURNS.
Subtopic:   '10-38 COMMONS
Permalink
UNION

John Allister Currie

Unionist

Mr. CURRIE:

It must be apparent to the House that it would be better to have this matter threshed out before a special committee. We do not want to get into an argument on the 'bilingual question. In spite of the assurance of Mr. Speaker, and while he may look upon this classification as something that does not disturb the existing state of affairs, there is no doubt that it contains the germ of deep fundamental changes. For instance, the House may not know that since an earlier re-organization of the staff the Votes and Proceedings Branch and the Journals Branch have been amalgamated, and for the first time we have only one document, the Votes and Proceedings, having virtually done away with the Journals. I find that the clerks of committees have been made simply officials under the head of the committee, and many other changes have been made-changes which I think the House could not very well discuss right now, and it would be far better to refer them to a special committee to go into the merits. II might say that although I have read the British North America Act several times I did not know

it was fundamentally necessary that special documents of the House should be simultaneously issued in both languages. The Speaker is imbued with the idea of economy and efficiency, and I agree with him on those matters, but there is a danger of going too far in this direction, and there might as a result be some further disturbance in the country-and we have enough disturbances now without inviting more trouble.

I would respectfully submit, Mr. Chairman, that the leader of the Government and the Speaker take steps to have this matter referred to a committee of the House. Then that committee can go into the question why some clerks have lost their promotion, why they have been placed in positions where they cannot hope to become chiefs of their staffs, and so forth. Of course, the House of Commons is supreme as to its own staff, and it should maintain its independence regardless of all other committees and act as it thinks best in the interests of the country and of the House.

Topic:   QUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURNS.
Subtopic:   '10-38 COMMONS
Permalink
UNION

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Unionist

Mr. SPEAKER:

1 should correct one statement made by the hon. member for Simcoe (Mr. Currie). The change in the practice of the House respecting the publication of the Journals and the Votes and Proceedings was made after a conference between the late Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the then leader of the Government, a special committee was appointed, the matter was inquired into, and a unanimous report was brought down that $11,000 a year could be saved-not by amalgamating the Journals and the Votes and Proceedings, but by so arranging the type of the Votes and Proceedings that it could be made available for printing the Journals, and thus save a large amount of labour and paper without in the slightest degree sacrificing efficiency.

II know there are objections to the proposed organization on the part of certain officials of the House, but it will be found in ninety-nine cases of a hundred that those objections have solely to do with the question of remuneration. It must be borne in mind that the House, by its own act, has divested itself of the right to say what pay its servants shall receive, unless it chooses to do so by a special Act, and in the present instance we are concerned solely with the plan of organization.

Topic:   QUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURNS.
Subtopic:   '10-38 COMMONS
Permalink
UNION

John Allister Currie

Unionist

Mr. CURRIE:

Mr. Chairman, I submit there is really little difference between us. The fact remains that the two staffs that

I referred to have been amalgamated, anc* the type set for the Votes and Proceedings does for the Journals. But when the matter of having the French language put on the same status as the English language so far as these documents and the staff are concerned is brought up, it is for us to decide, and it seems to me that the best course to pursue will be to refer the whole question to a special committee to thresh out.

Motion for postponement of this item carried.

Topic:   QUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURNS.
Subtopic:   '10-38 COMMONS
Permalink

COMMITTEES BRANCH.


Chief of Committees and Private Bills Branch. Assistant Chief of Committees and Private Bills Branch. Five officials. Sessional assistance as required.


L LIB

Lucien Cannon

Laurier Liberal

Mr. CANNON:

Can we find anywhere the salaries attached to these positions?

Topic:   QUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURNS.
Subtopic:   COMMITTEES BRANCH.
Permalink
UNION

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Unionist

Mr. SPEAKER:

No, for the reason that the matter of salary as well as that of who shall fill the positions is left with the Civil Service Commission.

Topic:   QUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURNS.
Subtopic:   COMMITTEES BRANCH.
Permalink
L LIB

Lucien Cannon

Laurier Liberal

Mr. CANNON:

Do I understand that

when the House adopts this plan of organization the salaries of the employees of the House will be determined by the Civil Service Commission and that Parliament will not know in advance what those salaries will be?

Topic:   QUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURNS.
Subtopic:   COMMITTEES BRANCH.
Permalink
UNION

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Unionist

Mr. SPEAKER:

That is the law. Section 34 of the Civil Service Act, 1918, as amended by the Statutes of 1919, provides that so much of the Act as relates to appointment, transfer, promotion, salaries, increases and classification shall apply to the permanent officers, clerks and employees of both Houses of Parliament.

Topic:   QUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURNS.
Subtopic:   COMMITTEES BRANCH.
Permalink

April 8, 1920