Hon. Don Boudria (Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, it is rather ironic. Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier, for whom we all had great respect, introduced as his last bill before leaving the Parliament of Canada, Bill-S-3, to amend the Official Languages Act. If things proceed as we might hope, it is highly possible that this will also be the last bill on which I will myself have occasion to work prior to leaving this Parliament.
Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier and myself are both francophones from outside Quebec, and specifically Franco-Ontarians. I am in fact of Quebec stock, since I was born in Quebec with one Franco-Ontarian and one Quebecois parent. I am nonetheless a Franco-Ontarian through and through.
I grew up during the post-Regulation 17 era in Ontario. The member, my colleague from Nova Scotia, referred to a period when the teaching of French was prohibited in his province. That was also the case in my province. Admittedly, I was not attending school at that time, but I was able to recognize its vestiges. It was practically impossible to attend high school in French, except at sectarian schools, when I was going to school. My children, however, were able to attend elementary school, high school and university, even do a Master's degree, in Ontario entirely in French, thanks to section 23 and the legislation we had. Today, we are in the process of passing new legislation so that my children's children can have an even brighter future. As I mention frequently, I am a grandfather.
In conclusion, in addition to adding my own thanks to the hon. Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier, I would like to thank all my colleagues. Sometimes we were in agreement, sometimes not. All in all, however, I think that it is the wish of all those to whom I have spoken that the circumstances of those who live in minority communities should be improved.
I would like to clarify that part VII, which becomes enforceable, is justiciable. Not only section 41, but also sections 42 and 43 can be used as the basis for launching a court proceeding. This is the possibility we are giving ourselves today. I am not worried that this will result in millions of cases being brought before the courts. However, it is no bad thing if a case is brought from time to time, as happened with section 23. Remember the school management issue. It is not inherently bad if it happens from time to time, just not often.
On the other hand, the Government of Canada will have to do everything it can to avoid being taken to court. That enhances the accountability throughout the entire system and makes it better. The minority communities are the ones who will emerge victorious, of that I am convinced.
Again, I want to thank my colleagues as this may very well be the last piece of legislation on which I will work prior to my retirement. I have a hard time using that word, but I guess I will have to get used to it some day.
I thank my colleagues on all sides of the House for their support on this bill, which hopefully I will get in a minute or two. I thank them in advance for their generosity not toward me, although that is appreciated too, but more important, toward those we are called upon to serve.
Subtopic: Official Languages Act