Mr. Jacques Guilbault (Saint-Jacques):
Madam Speaker, I would like to deal more specifically with motion No. 1A on the Order Paper, which is being put forward by my colleague for Ottawa-Vanier (Mr. Gauthier). It aims at restoring the original wording of the Bill, that is to restore the concept that the purpose of the Government legislation now before the House is to extend the Official Languages Act.
Historically, what transpired is that the Bill included that extension concept, but before the House Committee to which the Bill was referred an amendment was introduced to take that concept out. If I understood correctly the committee proceedings, it is the Hon. Member for Charlevoix (Mr. Hamelin), who usually acts as a champion of official languages and the French language in particular who, interestingly enough-but since I did not attend the committee, I would like him to explain why he did that.
I read in the committee proceedings that he did so in a spirit of consensus in order I suppose to try and rally the most regressive Members of his party whith whom there was difficulty in committee in support of official languages. We are seeing the results. Unmoved, the dinosaurs came back with some 136 amendments they put on the Order Paper in order to
Official Languages Act
try not only to completely water down the Official Languages Act, but clearly to try and kill the legislation because as we know the session already is well-advanced. We know we have very little time left, and if each of those amendments were to have been discussed one by one, the legislation would have died on the Order Paper. This is why last week, in the Official Opposition, we challenged the Government to bring in time limitation on the Bill, in order to ensure that the Conservative dinosaurs would not succeed in killing the Official Languages Act.
But to come back to the relevant amendment, what happened in committee in my view is a serious change that significantly weakens the Official Languages Act. To answer the question put by an Hon. Member, let me repeat that it is the Hon. Member for Charlevoix who in committee, to everyone's surprise, put forward that amendment that significantly weakens the Official Languages Act since in fact it deletes from the Act, in clause 2, which is an interpretation clause, therefore a very important clause, a clause that will guide the court when it will interpret the Act, and render a legal decision. In the original wording put forward by the Government, the bill read: "The purpose of this Act is to extend the present laws of Canada relating to official languages to ensure respect.. . ". Those are the terms, "to extend the present laws of Canada relating to official languages" that were taken out by the amendment put forward by the Hon. Member for Charlevoix. Thus, the English version reads:
-the purpose of the Act is to extend the present laws of Canada relating to official languages, and so on, and to ensure the respect for both languages, blah, blah, blah. This concept, in French, "renforcer", and in English, "to extend", has been removed by the amendment, all in an attempt to try to appease the most regressive elements of the Conservative Party.
Subtopic: OFFICIAL LANGUAGES ACT