Mr. Dan McKenzie (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Veterans Affairs):
Madam Speaker, I gather that I am speaking to my amendment now.
I would like to point out and explain why so many amendments were tabled. We felt because a great number of witnesses who wished to appear before the committee, which was considerable-and they were very important witnesses from very important organizations, legal societies and individuals-were denied an opportunity to appear before that committee, we did not support the committee's decision that it would not travel.
This particular piece of legislation has caused great and serious concern right across the country. I can tell you, Madam Speaker, that it has very little support across Canada, especially western Canada. More time should have been spent hearing witnesses. It was a very serious error to deny all these responsible people a chance to appear. That was one of the main reasons why we had to table a number of amendments.
I would also like to point out that there is a theory among many Members in the House, which has been around a long time, that any time a language Bill comes up or anything to do with language, not one Member of Parliament is to question it. One cannot ask a question or make a statement about it. One cannot propose an amendment to it. If one does then immediately one is slandering. I do not mind being slandered, but I do not like my constituents being slandered, and Canadians being slandered because they ask questions about Bill C-72. I think that the comments that are being made by many Members of Parliament here daily about Canadians who would dare ask a question about official languages or any language Bill are absolutely insulting and intolerable. I will speak up for them at any time. No one will stop me with their name calling. I will try to be as constructive as I possibly can at all times.
With respect to the amendment, Motion No. 2, the clause would read:
The purpose of this Act is to
(a) ensure respect for English and French as the official languages of Canada and ensure equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all federal institutions, wherever it is reasonable to do so in the circumstances.
This amendment would prevent the emphasizing and the segregating of certain institutions, for example, a parliamentary proceeding. This amendment would also ensure that only where it is reasonable to do so would both languages get absolute equality of use. This amendment seeks to prevent a
Official Languages Act
great deal of superfluous work that would have to be done to ensure that the strict wording of the Bill was followed.
My Motion No. 2A amends Clause 2, lines two to five. Clause 2(a) would read:
-legislative and other instruments, in the administration of justice and in
communicating with or providing services to the public.
This amendment would delete from Clause 2(a) the words "and in carrying out the work of federal institutions". This amendment would allow the merit system to become intact, allowing hiring and promotion in the Public Service to be done on the basis of qualifications and experience rather than official language spoken. It would also close the floodgates on the interpretation of language of work of federal institutions. As the Bill stands, it is far too open-ended.
The reason we have to give serious consideration to the return of the merit system is because we had a recent case in Vancouver in which a civil servant was in line for a promotion. He was denied promotion because somebody here in Ottawa decided overnight to designate the senior position bilingual. This unilingual English-speaking Canadian was fully qualified for the job. The only way he could get his promotion was to hire lawyers and go to court to fight for his promotion. That is not acceptable to me or to the Canadian people. In this case the judge ruled in his favour. He said that there was no evidence presented that, overnight, this position in Vancouver had to be bilingual. He said it was inexcusable for the Government to be designating this position bilingual overnight. The man has been granted his promotion.
Another concern is that the Government has not responded to that court ruling. We do not know whether more and more unilingual Canadians are going to have to hire lawyers to go to court to get their promotions or not. If this is going to be the procedure from now on, then the Government is going to have to look to providing for compensation for individuals who are going to have to hire lawyers to get a job or to go to court for a promotion.
With my amendment, Motion No. 2B, the clause would read:
-support the development of English and French linguistic minority
communities and maintain the use of the English and French languages within
This amendment would state that a purpose of the Act is to "maintain" the use of the English and French languages in Canadian society rather than "generally advance the equality of status and use" of these languages. Purposeful advancement of either language would result in discrimination of one of them. Maintenance of both languages would ensure that both remain a part of Canadian society, but are not waged against each other.
I think that this is an important amendment. For example, there was a recent case involving an Anglophone who was running the post office in Otter Lake for 10 months. She could handle the work in French. She could speak reasonable French but all of a sudden Canada Post decided that it would give this
individual a language diagnostic analysis. It was found out that her French was not perfect. Thus she was fired.
There is a double standard here. I do not want to get into naming the other side. I have never heard of any people on the other side being fired because they cannot speak perfect English.
Even the French-Canadian community in Otter Lake took up her cause. They were out marching on the street trying to convince Canada Post to give her job back. Not everyone can reach level C French and not everyone can reach level C English.
As far as I am concerned, no one should be fired from their job in this country because they cannot speak perfect English or perfect French.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: OFFICIAL LANGUAGES ACT