March 2, 1927 (16th Parliament, 1st Session)


Jean-Joseph Denis


Mr. J. J. DENIS (Joliette):

In opening
my remarks, I wish to congratulate very heartily the hon. member for L'Assomption-Montcalm (Mr. Seguin) on the excellent speech which he has just made. If one would consider this matter with an unbiased and an open mind I think he would find that the

resolution speaks for itself so clearly and eloquently that it need not be defended. There might be details which some hon. members would not be ready to accept, but I think the principle of the resolution is as solid as a rock in this country. I do not want to be called a nationalist, or to insist that every person must speak both languages or speak the French language. In dealing with this subject I have not in mind any particular race or any particular group; I am speaking only in the interests of Canada and in the public interest. I ask hon. members, is it not true that a public servant in this country who speaks both languages can render more efficient service? I do not refer to members of parliament or others in public life, but to those who are members of the civil service. Do hon. members not think that a man with a knowledge of both languages is in a better position to work in the public interest than the man who speaks only one language?
The soundness of the proposal involved in the resolution cannot be denied. One may like or dislike the fundamental principle of the resolution, but no one can deny the general proposition. Those who have lived in Ottawa for a few years and have had occasion to come in contact with the departments have found that in almost every department or branch the chief has two secretaries, one French and one English. Is that necessary? Who pays for that, if it is not the state? The state is paying two secretaries in many instances when only one should be employed. If this resolution were adopted it would mean that in every branch of a department one who could speak both languages would be employed rather than two, one for the English language and one for the French. We should have one employee, not French, not English, but bilingual. The resolution asks, therefore, that in all appointments candidates who understand both languages should have the preference. I submit that that is perfectly just and right. It is fair to the country that we should consider the public interest, and fair to the individual who has gone to the trouble of learning the two languages.
The resolution provides further that employees having a knowledge of both official languages should receive better remuneration.
I suppose some people might object to that proposition. I would not commit myself to it, because it is a detail. The point to which I want to commit myself is that the bilingual employee should have the preference.
The resolution states also that the superiority of the employees possessing a knowledge of both languages should be considered in all

Civil Service-French Language
classifications. I think if we accept the first half of the resolution we accept also the last part of it, because the moment you adopt the principle that the preference is to be given to those who speak both languages, you admit their superiority. I do not argue that all should speak both languages, but I want to give my humble support to the eloquent speech made by my hon. friend, and to announce to the House and the country at large that I am supporting the proposition.

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