Modernization of the Official Languages Act: Francophones are getting impatient
The Standing Committee on Official Languages adds meetings to study Bill C- 13, which seeks to modernize the Official Languages Act.
Bill C-13, which amends the current Official Languages Act, is under consideration by the Standing Committee on Official Languages.
It was promised in 2021, was dismissed, resubmitted in 2022 and it is still under review: the new version of the Official Languages Act is long overdue. Bill C-13 could be under study longer than expected at the Standing Committee on Official Languages. Francophones living in a minority situation are starting to get impatient.
The Liberals in Ottawa and also the French-speaking communities outside Quebec have somehow lost control of the process, believes Rémi Léger, professor of political science at Simon Fraser University (SFU).
After a short stormy meeting, the Standing Committee on Official Languages decided to add 6.5 hours of extra time to debate Bill C-13.
The Committee is made up of six Liberals, including the Chair, four members from the Conservative Party, one from the Bloc Québécois and one member from the New Democratic Party. This situation is not to the advantage of the liberals to advance the discussions, observes the professor.
“The Liberals didn't see fit to make friends on the Official Languages Committee and so there the oppositions, when they work together, are in fact in the majority on the Official Languages Committee and can do as they please.” seems. »
— Rémi Léger, professor of political science at Simon Fraser University
Issues that affect Francophones living in a minority situation less are therefore very important. We are no longer in a debate about the Canadian Francophonie. We are in debates […] that do not concern us or really concern us indirectly, believes Rémi Léger.
Rémi Léger, professor of political science at Simon Fraser University.
However, Mr. Léger was encouraged to see, for a long period of time, that work around the modernization of the Act was focused on the interests of Francophones outside Quebec, because in his view, that is where the need is screaming. But in the last few months, it's really the Quebec question, the Quebec perspective, which has taken over, which has taken center stage in the discussions, he notes, disappointed.
However, constitutional lawyer Roger Lepage finds it important that the federal Official Languages Act recognize the fragility of the French language in Quebec. He believes that the federal government should support the French-speaking community in Quebec.
“Because the French-speaking community is still to lose feathers in Quebec, then, if the francophones of Quebec are not able to flourish, then to grow, we have cursed problems, we, outside Quebec. »
—Roger Lepage, constitutional lawyer
The president of the Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities (FCFA) of Canada, Liane Roy, admits that the issue has moved away from the Francophonie in a minority setting, especially in media coverage, but she believes that the work being done in scenes should not be underestimated.
Liane Roy is the President of the Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities of Canada.
She recalls that Francophone organizations have done important work in the past six years, and especially in the last months, to ensure that all parliamentarians agree and can adopt this bill.
She is hopeful that the bill will succeed.
“The Prime Minister is committed to see the bill succeed and also to defend the French fact, defend the French language everywhere in Canada, even in Quebec. So, for us, it's very important and we'll stick to it. »
—Liane Roy, President of the FCFA of Canada
On Tuesday afternoon, the Standing Committee on Official Languages voted, six to five, to add 6.5 hours of discussion on proposed amendments to the Act. The Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois would have liked even more, among other things to debate section 54, on the use of French within private companies under federal jurisdiction. The meeting was adjourned before the end of the discussions on this extension of the discussions.
Interrogated the day before, the Chairman of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, René Cormier, expressed a certain looking forward.
While respecting the democratic process under way in the House of Commons, we can only note the growing impatience of many member organizations of official language minority communities who have been waiting for the adoption of this bill for too long, he said in an emailed statement.
Minister of Official Languages, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, visiting the Radio-Canada studios in Vancouver on March 3, s is expressed with confidence.
“My number one priority is to pass the Official Languages Modernization Act and I believe that by the end of June 2023, this will be done. »
— Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Federal Minister of Official Languages
Lawyer Roger Lepage does not dare to hope for a quick outcome. He remembers that Ginette Petitpas Taylor had hinted that the Act would be passed before Christmas 2022 and that it would be a nice gift. I'm still waiting for Santa Claus.
Roger Lepage believes that the federal government is not enacting the official languages at heart.
Maître Lepage, who appeared twice before the Standing Committee on Official Languages on C-13, believed that everything would already be adopted, but noticed a big slowdown a few months ago.
Me, what I think is that there seems to be an unwillingness on the part of the Liberal Party to go ahead with really substantive changes that could help us, laments the Fransaskois.
Rémi Léger, he also believes that it is difficult to advance on a date of adoption, and allows himself to consider that the bill could die on the order paper, like its predecessor, C-32.
The bill has still been significantly amended, and the work of the Committee is not finished, he recalls. He wonders if the Liberals will still be in favor of this bill with all the changes.
The FCFA of Canada is more optimistic. Its president Liane Roy sees the finish line and is delighted with the amendments that have already been granted at the request of the Francophones she represents.
“We are very confident that this bill will succeed and that we will have made some gains. »
— Liane Roy, President of the FCFA of Canada
Once the parliamentary work is completed, Bill C-13 will be studied by the Senate Committee on Official Languages .