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


John Wesley Edwards

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. J. W. EDWARDS (Frontenac-Adding-ton):

Mr. Speaker, no person will deny for a moment that from a cultural standpoint two languages are better than one and three are better than two. The hon. member (Mr. Bourassa) said: This brings up not only a
principle but the application of a principle. This resolution proposes to give preference in future appointments to Canadians knowing the two official languages. Such a resolution it is impossible for this House to accept. This House cannot put itself on record as being in accord with a resolution of that kind because by. doing so we would place the English language in an inferior position to the French language in the Dominion of Canada, and it would be so regarded outside of Canada all over the world. There can be no question at all about that.
From the standpoint of efficiency, I presume that in conducting the affairs of this country, the various departments will take into consideration, when persons apply for a position, not only the French language but other languages that may dominate in that particular portion of Canada where the official is to act. It is quite conceivable to me that in certain parts of the northwest where you would have a strong German settlement, for instance, or a strong Polish settlement, it would be advisable in sending an official there to give preference among those applying for the position to the person who had a knowledge not only of the English language but of the language used in that particular locality.

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That, I presume, is being done now. I am sure it is being done now, and that preference is being given, in order that the affairs of the country may be the better administered, to the French language in many parts of the country. I think we may depend very well upon the various departments to handle that matter from that point of view, and to consider the qualifications of those applying for a position, having regard to the place where the appointee is to act, and to give preference to those who can speak the kind of language or languages that are spoken there. I believe that is being done now to a very large extent. I believe it should be done in the interests of good service to the country.
But, Sir, while I think we may very well depend upon the various deputies to administer their departments along that line, that is a very different thing from passing a law saying that those people in this country who possess a knowledge of the French language as well as of the English language must and shall be given a preference over all others. That is something, I say, which this government and no other government dare place on the statute books of this country.
In regard to giving additional remuneration to such people, that argument might just as well apply to the members of this House, and a French member might demand that he be given an extra indemnity because he was able to speak fluently in French as well as in English. The thing is ridiculous. You might carry out that same principle with regard to the employees of the Canadian National Railways. The railways are owned by the country, and although its employees are not listed as civil servants, they are in a sense civil servants. Would you apply the same principle there and let it be known throughout the world that in this Dominion of Canada, a supposedly British country, employees not only of the civil service at Ottawa, but also of the Canadian National Railways, if they speak French shall be given a preference every time over a man who understands the English language only? I say that is something which it would be impossible to apply.
I am not going to attempt to take up regulation 17.

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