March 27, 2003 (37th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Tony Tirabassi


Mr. Tony Tirabassi (Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, we should remember that bilingualism is rooted in Canadians' deeply held values of inclusiveness, tolerance and respect for others. Bilingualism is part of our heritage. It is what this country was founded on and it is what we continue to evolve toward.
The respect we show to our colleagues, public servants and fellow citizens must bear witness to this fact.
It is a principle that is widely recognized and accepted by Canadians, who expect bilingual services from public servants where bilingual services are mandated in regions designated bilingual.
Serving the public in both official languages comes down to a matter of respect for the public, a principle that the Public Service of Canada upholds. This is shown in the study entitled “Attitudes Towards the Use of Both Official Languages Within the Public Service of Canada”, which was carried out last year among more than 5,000 federal employees. Of these 5,000 federal employees, 92% of these public servants consider that it is important for them to serve the Canadian public in both official languages.
The results of this study not only confirm that official language are strongly anchored in public servants' day to day working lives, but also show that most federal employees are prepared to make an effort to encourage bilingualism.
The Public Service of Canada reflects the Canadian population and conveys Canadian values. In this perspective, the federal government endeavours to promote bilingualism in the public service.
What the government is promoting is not radical, but a progressive approach to ensure, as a first step, that Canadians in regions designated bilingual can exercise their right to receive federal services and communicate with the federal government in the official language of their choice.
To this end, the government must start by making sure that all federal employees who provide services to the public in these regions can do so in both official languages; in other words, that they are bilingual. Second, the government must ensure that these employees can communicate with their managers in the official language of their choice; in other words, that these managers too are bilingual.
This is how bilingualism has become one criterion among others for appointment to bilingual positions in the Public Service of Canada in bilingual regions. These positions account for only 37% of all positions in the federal public service.
The Official Languages Act nevertheless emphasizes that the language requirements of a position must be established in a spirit of objectivity. Consequently, no federal institution may arbitrarily establish language requirements, and language requirements that are established must be truly necessary for the performance of the duties of that position. Moreover, all federal government staffing policies with official language implications are rooted in the Official Languages Act.
The statistics clearly show that overall the government has been successful in fulfilling its commitment on this issue. The workforce of the various federal institutions does tend to reflect the respective presence of the two official language communities in the population as a whole without resorting to filling positions by the quota system or reserving positions for one language group in preference to another.
We must recognize success where it occurs. Where bilingualism is concerned, the government's practices are exemplary. Let us acknowledge and appreciate that fact.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   User Fees Act
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