Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Official Languages

Issue 21 - Evidence - Meeting of June 17, 2013


OTTAWA, Monday, June 17, 2013

The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages met this day at 4:30 p.m. to study Bill C-419, An Act respecting language skills.

Senator Maria Chaput (Chair) in the chair.

[Translation]

The Chair: Welcome to this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages. I am Senator Maria Chaput, from Manitoba, chair of the committee. Before I introduce the witnesses, I ask that the committee members introduce themselves.

Senator Champagne: Good afternoon. I am Andrée Champagne from the province of Quebec.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis from Quebec City.

Senator Demers: Jacques Demers from Quebec. I am sitting in for Senator Poirier.

Senator Tardif: Claudette Tardif from Alberta.

Senator Jaffer: Mobina Jaffer from British Columbia.

The Chair: Thank you very much. The committee is considering Bill C-419, An Act respecting language skills. In this study, we will hear from the sponsor of the bill and from the Commissioner of Official Languages. The committee has also invited representatives of official language minority communities to appear in relation to the study.

[English]

The Quebec Community Groups Network is, unfortunately, unable to participate in the meeting. Representatives of the organization appeared before the House of Commons Official Languages Committee when it considered the bill and informed the Senate committee that they did not have additional input on the version before it beyond what was already provided.

[Translation]

Unfortunately, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada is unable to participate in the meeting. Representatives of the organization appeared before the House of Commons Committee on Official Languages to unequivocally support the bill before the amendments were adopted. They told the Senate committee that they were very pleased that the House of Commons unanimously passed the bill and that they did not think it necessary to provide additional input.

We will now hear from our first witnesses. We are welcoming the Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser. Mr. Fraser, on behalf of the members of the committee, I thank you for taking the time to share your perspective, as it relates to our study of Bill C-419, and answering our questions.

Honourable senators, I want to point out that we have only 30 minutes for Mr. Fraser's appearance. That is something you should keep in mind when asking questions.

Commissioner, I now invite you to provide a quick statement, which will be followed by the senators' questions.

[English]

Graham Fraser, Commissioner of Official Languages, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages: Thank you for having me today. I am here with Johane Tremblay, General Counsel; Ghislaine Charlebois, Assistant Commissioner, Compliance and Assurance Branch; and Sylvain Giguère, Assistant Commissioner, Policy and Communications Branch.

From the very first version, I have supported Bill C-419, which was put forward by the NDP MP for Louis-Saint- Laurent, for it seemed to me complete and adequate. Its purpose is to ensure that persons whose appointment requires the approval by resolution of the Senate, House of Commons or both houses of Parliament can understand and express themselves clearly in both official languages, without the aid of an interpreter, from the moment they are appointed.

[Translation]

This bill remains important, despite the amendments adopted by the House of Commons.

The bill is more than a declaration of principles; it tackles a real problem. As you know, the controversy surrounding the high-profile appointment of a unilingual Canadian to the position of Auditor General of Canada resonated strongly with a segment of Canadian public opinion and with the parliamentary committees responsible for reviewing that decision. Following the appointment, my office received 43 complaints and has conducted an investigation.

I determined that the Privy Council Office had not met its obligations under part VII of the Official Languages Act with respect to the Auditor General's appointment process because it failed to take into account the language requirements under subsection 24(3) of the act, the spirit of parts IV, V and VII of the act, and the specific nature of the roles of certain agents of Parliament.

[English]

This bill is consistent with my own recommendations to the Privy Council Office. The latter must state loudly and clearly that linguistic qualifications deemed to be essential for candidates should not be seen merely as assets. Accordingly, candidates will be able to take steps to learn their second language in advance.

This will also encourage universities to do more in terms of offering second-language programs to students. Indeed, I made a recommendation to the government along those lines in my 2011-12 annual report.

[Translation]

Furthermore, at the beginning of 2013, my office launched a study to determine how the Privy Council Office establishes the language qualifications for positions whose incumbents are appointed by the Governor-in-Council. I would be delighted to share the findings with you once the study has been completed.

Thank you for your attention. I would now like to use the remaining time to answer your questions.

The Chair: Thank you, commissioner. I will accept one question per senator. If we have time, we will go around the table again so that you can ask another question.

Senator Tardif: Good afternoon, commissioner. I want to welcome your team.

Significant changes have been made to Bill C-419 between the original version introduced before the House of Commons and the current version. One of those changes is the absence of a preamble. Section 13 of the Interpretation Act states the following, and I quote:

The preamble of an enactment shall be read as part of the enactment intended to assist in explaining its purport and objet.

Commissioner, what do you think the impact of removing the preamble will be? Do you think that could have any consequences on the bill's interpretation going forward?

Mr. Fraser: I have to say that I did not really understand why the preamble was removed. I think that preambles are useful. My understanding is that there will be no specific legal impact on the bill. However, I will ask Ms. Tremblay to talk more particularly about the legal relationship between a preamble and a bill.

Johane Tremblay, Director and General Counsel, Legal Affairs Branch, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages: Thank you. Senator, you are correct. A preamble is certainly a very useful tool for interpreting the objective of a piece of legislation or understanding the legislator's intent. However, not all pieces of legislation have preambles; actually, that is an exception. In the absence of a preamble, other methods exist for interpreting the legislator's intent, including parliamentary debates that are often used — even before courts — when ambiguities arise to try to help the court understand what the legislator's intent was. That would be an alternative approach in the absence of a preamble.

Senator Champagne: Thank you. Commissioner, I must admit that I am sad that we have to work on such a bill. Successive governments have all made huge efforts over the past 50 years — since the Official Languages Act was implemented — but we still have to deal with this kind of a bill today. I think that you — and all those who came before you — have worked so hard, and that we should no longer need these types of bills. Do you agree with me, or am I all alone in my corner?

Mr. Fraser: I fully understand your reaction. This raises a question that is somewhat related to our discussions with the Privy Council Office. Some of my predecessors suggested that any appointed governors in council should be bilingual, and every government has refused to accept that recommendation for reasons we understand. What is important to point out when it comes to agents of Parliament is that they have direct obligations toward parliamentarians. So it is very important for parliamentarians to be understood in the language of their choice.

For other appointments, we could discuss whether bilingualism would be an asset or an essential qualification for a specific position, and we would like to continue that discussion with the Privy Council Office to figure out what criteria the office uses in the linguistic assessment of a position when deciding whether a qualification is essential or more of an asset. However, I agree that, when it comes to agents of Parliament, I was also under the impression that the issue had already been resolved.

Senator Champagne: Will we reach a point when members and senators will have to be bilingual?

Mr. Fraser: No, absolutely not. I think a distinction should be made among the people who represent Canadians. The majority of Canadians are unilingual, as are the majority of anglophones and francophones. The members' choice is the choice of Canadians. I do not think that we could even consider limiting the public's democratic choice to an issue of language proficiency.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Thank you. Commissioner, I want to welcome you and your whole team, which does such a great job of assisting you. In line with our projections, this bill will be passed. It is certain that, in the Senate — both on the Liberal and the Conservative sides — the bill will be passed. Considering the bill's current wording, do you expect any difficulties to arise in the implementation of its provisions? The bill does not contain many provisions, but do you anticipate any problems?

Mr. Fraser: No, I do not think so. One of the amendments had to do with replacement, and I believe the legislation states that the replacement must have the same proficiencies as the person they are replacing. People who work closely with agents of Parliament are all public servants who have had to pass language tests.

As I said in my comments, what is significant about this bill is the fact that it is sending a message. During the controversy over the Auditor General's appointment, it was surprising that news outlets that were suspected of not always supporting the Official Languages Act — such as the Calgary Herald, the Edmonton Journal and the Ottawa Citizen — all agreed in saying that bilingualism was an essential qualification for certain positions. I think that what was presumed to be the case will now be supported by a bill that is making a position's essential nature mandatory.

Senator McIntyre: I apologize for being a little late. As you said, Commissioner Fraser, Bill C-419 is a nice piece of legislation. I think this bill aims to guarantee bilingualism as a hiring criterion for agents of Parliament. It is clear that the bill deals with linguistic duality, and that is appropriate, as this is the 50th anniversary of the Laurendeau-Dunton Commission.

Bill C-419 is aimed solely at agents of Parliament. Could it have an impact on the appointment of unilingual justices to the Supreme Court of Canada? If so, why?

Mr. Fraser: Not directly, no. The bill is limited to the positions listed in the legislation. The removal of the preamble that defined the bill's position on the appointments made by the two Houses of Parliament may open the door to other positions, but the legislation would have to be formally amended. The bill itself affects only the positions listed in the legislation — agents of Parliament.

[English]

Senator Jaffer: Thank you for being here. It is a pleasure again to hear from you.

I was very interested in your remarks. You said this would encourage universities to do more in terms of offering second-language programs. Can you expand on that? My experience has been that what is being provided is lacking. How do you envisage that happening?

Mr. Fraser: We have already seen the impact that it has had in it becoming an unwritten but nevertheless powerful rule that to be the leader of a political party it is essential that one master both official languages so that those people who enter politics with long-range ambitions ensure that they master both official languages.

One of the things that happened with the controversy about the Supreme Court was that it sent a message to different levels, to lawyers generally and to law schools that this was an important aspect of the Canadian legal system. I heard that one of the most recent nominees to the Supreme Court benefited from the language training provided for judges which encouraged other judges to sign up for that language training.

We have done a study of post-secondary learning opportunities in Canada. When I visit universities and speak to university presidents, I continue to use that study to make the point that Canada's largest employer is the federal government and that its needs bilingual employees. It is part of the responsibility of universities, in preparing students for the job market, to offer them those language-learning opportunities.

Each time it becomes clear, either formally or informally, that bilingualism is an essential criterion for a senior position, it sends an important message to university students and to universities.

[Translation]

Senator Robichaud: Mr. Fraser, I would like to welcome you and your team. I just want to make sure that the argument of having professional skills will no longer be an option when discussing the knowledge of both official languages. With this bill and the Official Languages Act, does that become inevitable?

Mr. Fraser: That clearly becomes inevitable for those positions.

Senator Robichaud: I understand.

Mr. Fraser: I must say that there are other positions I worry about a little in terms of the argument that we need skills, not bilingualism, in a position where bilingualism is an essential skill and a unilingual candidate is literally not as competent as a bilingual candidate. I am as concerned as you are about using this argument, but the bill clearly provides a legal framework for when a job posting specifies that bilingualism is essential; that means it is mandatory. I always thought it was a bit risky to differentiate between essential and mandatory, but now there is legal protection for that requirement.

Senator Tardif: Bill C-419 specifies that officers of Parliament must understand and speak both official languages clearly. The initial version of the bill required an ability to communicate "without the aid of an interpreter", which is the benchmark used to describe language competence at an advanced level in order to hold a position such as that of a Federal Court judge.

Now, the requirement of being able to communicate "without the aid of an interpreter" was eliminated from the initial version of the bill and was replaced with the ability "to speak and understand clearly"; do you think that the bar has been set high enough to meet the requirements of a position like that?

Mr. Fraser: I believe so. Reading the transcripts of the debate on this amendment, we see that those two expressions have been debated at length; "without the aid of an interpreter" is an expression that is used in other sections in the Official Languages Act in reference to courts. My understanding is that the other expression is in other pieces of legislation.

I have trouble seeing how a candidate who needs an interpreter can say that he speaks and understands both languages clearly. If there is a distinction to be made, it is a rather fine one and it would be quite difficult to make a case for it if it were challenged in court.

Perhaps Ms. Tremblay has something to add.

Ms. Tremblay: No, not at all. I share the same opinion.

Senator Champagne: So we will no longer see those sentences telling us that bilingualism is an important asset.

Mr. Fraser: I must repeat that this bill pertains to a number of very specific positions. To our disappointment, there are other positions for which bilingualism is considered an asset. This bill pertains to officers of Parliament and the President of the Public Service Commission, who is not exactly an officer of Parliament, but whose appointment is confirmed by both houses. For those positions, it will no longer be possible to use that terminology, of course, but that does not mean that there will not be other positions where bilingualism will be labelled as an asset, unfortunately.

Senator Champagne: From experience, I can tell you that a francophone, even if he thinks that he is bilingual, or almost bilingual, and he really is, can have a hard time with accents. Not all of us speak in the same way; it depends on where we come from and our home region. I think I am bilingual, but I had trouble understanding our friend Senator Finley, for instance. It took me several months to understand his Scottish accent. Even today, I sometimes have trouble understanding our colleague Senator Manning, if he speaks too quickly; he has a slightly different accent. The same thing can happen to an anglophone who hears different French accents. Who is going to decide on the level of bilingualism required or whether the person is really bilingual? Where is the schoolmaster?

Mr. Fraser: I think that will be part of the candidate's skills assessment, just like a candidate must have experience in senior management. It will be the evaluation committee's responsibility to say whether a candidate's years of experience in a given sector count. I think it is possible to assess the level of basic skills that can be developed on the job. I remember that, when I started as commissioner, I thought I was pretty good in French. At the end of my first week, I went to Vancouver and I met with people in the community and others. Six months later, I went back and I met with some of the same people and one of them told me that my French was much better than the last time I was there. I think it is possible to assess someone's basic skills and know whether that person can be in a parliamentary committee without the assistance of an interpreter.

[English]

Senator Jaffer: In my other life as a lawyer, I saw a change of attitude when it came to drinking and driving. Laws and education helped our attitude to really change. I am optimistic that our attitude will change and that it will be a given that you have to be bilingual if you feel you want to hold certain positions. I am also optimistic that there will be an aspiration for Canadians to want to be bilingual because they are Canadian and not because they want to hold a position.

You are living with this law all the time. What should the education piece be to raise the awareness of Canadians that it is a proud thing to be able to speak French and English in Canada?

Mr. Fraser: One of the recommendations I made in the last annual report was that the government use the opportunity of the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Confederation in 2017 as a way of increasing the number of learning opportunities, whether they are exchanges, programs for summer jobs, or university programs enabling students to study for a semester or more in a university of the other language. I am a great believer in the idea that there are other ways of learning a language than in the classroom. This should be understood and absorbed as part of our broader language-learning policies that could be supported by the federal government without interfering in provincial jurisdiction.

Even as it is, I sometimes worry that the amount of federal funding that goes to second-language learning has given the provinces a kind of free pass, that they say, "Oh, that is for the federal government to pay for and we do not have to concern ourselves with that." However, I think there are a number of ways. The European ERASMUS Programme, where thousands of students have been able to study in other countries and learn other European languages, is a very interesting model to be examined.

[Translation]

The Chair: Honourable senators, we have only one minute left and I would like to use it to thank the witnesses.

Thank you, Mr. Commissioner.

Mr. Fraser: If you have any other questions that I was not able to answer in the time I had, I would be delighted to forward the information in writing to the committee.

As Senator Fortin-Duplessis said, given that the bill received unanimous support, I do not see any major differences of opinion around the table as to the importance of the bill, but if I can help you in some other way, my team would be quite prepared to send you any other information you may need.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Commissioner. Senator Robichaud and Senator Mockler can submit their questions in writing if they wish and we could then receive an answer.

My thanks also go to your staff members who came here with you, Mr. Commissioner. Good luck with your work. We will now suspend the meeting for a few moments.

Honourable senators, let us now welcome Alexandrine Latendresse, Member of Parliament for Louis-Saint-Laurent and sponsor of Bill C-419. Ms. Latendresse, on behalf of the members of the committee, I would like to thank you for taking the time to share your views with us as part of our study on Bill C-419 and for answering our questions. The floor is yours.

Alexandrine Latendresse, Member of Parliament for Louis-Saint-Laurent, sponsor of the bill: Thank you very much, Madam Chair. First of all, I would like to thank the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages for giving me the opportunity to clarify my motivation behind Bill C-419 and its impact on our Parliament.

My bill received unanimous support from the House of Commons both at second and third reading. I am very happy to see that it was passed unanimously at second reading in the Senate. I think this shows that parliamentarians from all political parties can work together to serve all Canadians. I am very honoured to receive this non-partisan support driven by a genuine desire to support bilingualism in Canada.

Bill C-419 is another step in the right direction, a direction in which we have been trying to move with the two language groups for over 40 years.

[English]

It is with great pride that I bring this one stone to contribute to the consolidation of the great house we are building together.

The Parliament of Canada functions in both official languages. This means that Parliament, as an institution representing the people of Canada, adapts to Canadians and the people sent here to work on their behalf.

[Translation]

Officers of Parliament are an integral part of the great machinery of Parliament and must meet the criteria established for Parliament. In a bilingual parliament, working in both French and English is an essential skill for those responsible for operating this machinery. That is the reasoning behind the whole spirit of Bill C-419.

[English]

When I started working on this bill, I had to consider several angles to this situation. As everyone here can easily testify, when language becomes a political issue, emotions quicken. Language lies so close to identity in the human heart that extra efforts are necessary to master oneself when a slight is perceived, be it genuine or imaginary. Sensibilities are so easily hurt that every last word must be chosen carefully.

[Translation]

My version of Bill C-419 has emerged from committee significantly abbreviated. Though it is now a relatively short and simple bill, it originally contained four elements related to one central issue, the list of the 10 officers of Parliament.

Those five separate elements were discussed, and only one of them remained unchanged: the list of the 10 positions in question.

First, the original version of Bill C-419 contained a preamble. The purpose of this preamble was to better define what is meant by an "officer of Parliament." Since this category is not clearly set out in the act, we thought it would be appropriate to include a specific definition of this term.

The preamble stated that officers of Parliament are persons appointed with the approval by resolution of the Senate, the House of Commons or both Houses of Parliament.

This clarification eliminated any legislative hesitation regarding the nature of the positions set out in the new law. Throughout my speech, I emphasized that this preamble was included by way of explanation and as a preventive measure. However, in the end, it was not retained.

The second element on which we could not agree was a phrase in the main clause of Bill C-419. In attempting to state what we meant by a clear understanding of both official languages, we believed that it would suffice to say that the candidate must be able to understand English and French without the assistance of an interpreter.

The reason I used that turn of phrase was that it is currently found in the Official Languages Act in reference to the appointment of superior court justices, and I quote:

Every federal court, other than the Supreme Court of Canada, has the duty to ensure that. . .(c) if both English and French are the languages chosen by the parties for proceedings conducted before it in any particular case, every judge or other officer who hears those proceedings is able to understand both languages without the assistance of an interpreter.

Nonetheless, that wording was amended and the idea of "without the aid of an interpreter" was removed from my bill.

[English]

Third, the first version of Bill C-419 would have given the Governor-in-Council the ability to add positions to the list in the future, as needed. Last, we felt it was necessary to specify that those appointed to one of the 10 offices listed in Bill C-419 on an interim basis must also meet the requirements. Those two clauses were removed as well, but I must say that overall I am satisfied with the final result because the essence of the bill remains intact: The list of 10 positions of officer of Parliament must henceforth be bilingual to comply with the law.

[Translation]

The institution of Parliament belongs to Canadians as a reflection of our democratic will. The institution must reflect our country and its linguistic duality. Everyone agrees on that. We now have an opportunity to take the logic behind our decision one step further, which is what I wanted to do with Bill C-419.

[English]

To conclude, I believe that honourable senators already understand the positive impact of this bill for the furthering of our goals as a country. I look forward to hearing the questions that this committee may wish to ask.

[Translation]

The Chair: Honourable senators, I will now take one question per senator and, if we have enough time, we will have a second round. The first question is from Senator Fortin-Duplessis.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: First of all, Ms. Latendresse, I would like to congratulate you for your bill. As you mentioned, Bill C-419 as presented before our Senate committee today was significantly amended during its consideration in the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages.

Based on what you said in English, my understanding is that the bill is different from the original version you presented. Are you actually satisfied with the outcome of this bill?

Ms. Latendresse: I must say that I am. During the discussions prior to the study in committee, the idea of removing positions from the list came up. There was the question of whether they are all considered to be officers of Parliament and whether there should be a six-month or one-year period after their appointment for them to meet the requirements. Those amendments would have really distorted the bill. I think it was important to keep those positions and to ensure that those people are considered bilingual when they are appointed. As for the rest, I would have liked the bill to remain unchanged with all the original clauses, such as interim appointments being specified in the act.

At the same time, even though it is not written in black and white in Bill C-419, the fact that it will be in the act will still exert some pressure to look for someone bilingual as much as possible, even when they are appointed in the interim. Then if they do not find someone bilingual or they appoint someone unilingual, we can say that it is not acceptable. The act says that the incumbents of those positions must be bilingual. Even if it is not in black and white, the pressure is there. In a number of these cases, at the end of the day, that is not enough to say that the bill is completely gutted, because the essence is still there. Its pith and substance are unchanged.

Senator McIntyre: Ms. Latendresse, congratulations on your wonderful bill. I call it wonderful because it deals with linguistic duality.

That said, as I go over the usual list of officers of Parliament, I understand that the President of the Public Service Commission and the Senate Ethics Officer are not part of that list. Why are they included in the list in clause 2 of the bill?

Ms. Latendresse: As I explained when I was talking about the preamble, the idea of officer of Parliament is not fully defined. As a group, it is not fixed and very clear. In selecting the officers of Parliament who must be bilingual, one of the criteria was that the people applying to an appointed position must have the approval of the House of Commons, the Senate, or both. That makes our path clearer: if we have a new position that requires the approval of the House and the Senate, then that incumbent either becomes an officer of Parliament or may eventually be added to that list. We have a clear idea of what we consider an officer of Parliament.

Senator Tardif: Thank you for your legislative initiative, Madam MP, and congratulations.

Ms. Latendresse: Thank you very much.

Senator Tardif: According to the Official Languages Act, the Auditor General, among others, is listed as an agent of Parliament and, as such, he must be able to communicate with Canadians, parliamentarians and the general public.

Did you think about amending the Official Languages Act? Why did you decide on a new bill?

Ms. Latendresse: Both options were valid. We decided to go with a separate bill that specifically concerns agents of Parliament, but we could also simply amend the Official Languages Act through some amendments. That is also what the parliamentary legislative team told us.

Senator Tardif: Do you think this would fit well with the Official Languages Act?

Ms. Latendresse: Yes, they complement each other very well, and Mr. Fraser agreed when we talked to him about it.

Senator Champagne: Ms. Latendresse, I find it unfortunate that we had to resort to such a bill. It is not that I oppose the bill, but I am sorry it had to come to this. Why is that?

The Official Languages Act has been around for 50 years. The majority of successive governments have made sure to encourage people to be bilingual. Here we have an exception to the rule, and now we have this bill. That is what saddens me. It will not prevent me from supporting the bill, but it is still troublesome. I have been in politics since 1984 — so I have been around for a few years — and it is difficult that we find ourselves having to adopt such a bill, that francophones are still in this position in Canada.

On behalf of everyone, thank you for your initiative, but we should not have to need it.

Ms. Latendresse: I could not agree more. A good tradition has been broken. It really is a pity to have to put this in a bill to ensure that nothing like this happens again. This bill is a case in point because most people see how important it is. As you say, it is a pity to have to resort to legislative measures to ensure this, but now we do not need to worry that this kind of thing will happen again.

Senator Mockler: I would also like to congratulate you, Ms. Latendresse. You said that we should not completely distort the bill, either. To follow up on Senator Tardif's question about the choice between the Official Languages Act and a new bill, if I understand correctly, you took the opportunity to speak with other people who more or less recommended that you choose the private member's bill. Why not the Official Languages Act then?

Ms. Latendresse: The purpose of both options was the same, but this approach allowed us to have a bill that had to go through all the stages. The parliamentary legislative advisors explained to us that there would be very little difference when it was applied later. That is what we chose, but the other option would have been just as valid and feasible.

Senator Mockler: If you had instead decided to amend the Official Languages Act, do you think you would have had the same support? Would there have been some resistance had you chosen the Official Languages Act or would it have opened a can of worms?

Ms. Latendresse: That is a good question. I had never thought about it. The way it was explained to me, it would not have changed how the bill was worded or the amendment to the act. So I do not think the support would have changed because the purpose remains the same. It is just the process that changes a little.

Senator Robichaud: I have an observation. When the unilingual Auditor General was appointed, I asked myself whether a unilingual francophone could have gotten the job. We really need to ask ourselves that.

My question is this: certain clauses were removed from your bill, and I understand that people do not really want to put them back in because we could do it here. How do you feel about that?

Ms. Latendresse: As I said earlier, I think the bill has greater scope with the clauses as we drafted them and that were included at the outset.

If you want to try to put them back in, you would have my support, but I am aware that in a majority government and a majority Senate situation, these amendments are not the end of the world. They were reasonable, but I would have liked more of an explanation as to why these amendments have been made because some of them have still not been explained.

As for removing the preamble, for example, I asked my MP colleagues who presented the amendment, but I failed to understand why they decided to remove the preamble, which is useful for future legislators. So I do not understand why, but at the same time it is not really part of the legislative aspect of the bill, as many people have already mentioned; it is simply an explanation and does not change the scope of the bill.

Whether the preamble is there or not does not change the scope, but it provides a better explanation of the reasons behind the bill. Ultimately, I do not have a lot of problem with the fact that it is no longer there.

Senator Robichaud: I assure you, Ms. Latendresse, that I do not intend to propose we reintroduce the clauses for the simple reason that we are between a rock and a hard place, because to do so would mean sending the bill back to the House of Commons. The House of Commons might be adjourned at this very moment, it might have prorogued, and your bill would be lost. We would have to start all over again in a new parliamentary session. I will be pleased to support it with all my energy.

Ms. Latendresse: Just to assure you, as well, what you are saying does not apply to private member's bills. Private member's bills pick up where they left off when Parliament prorogued. However, it is important that this bill be passed as quickly as possible.

Senator Robichaud: That would be another reason to abolish the Senate, would it not?

Senator Tardif: I am disappointed that the preamble is not there because I think it is important and creates the context, the interpretation framework for the bill.

I would like to go back to clause 3, which was removed and which dealt with offices that the Governor-in-Council may, by order, add to the list of offices in section 2. What offices do you think could be added to the list?

Ms. Latendresse: Last week, there was a bill to ensure that the Parliamentary Budget Officer becomes an official agent of Parliament, with the office and resources that come with the position. The bill also mentioned that the candidate had to be selected by the House.

As soon as the government or the House of Commons decides to add an agent of Parliament office to its roster, I think it would have been good to have the Governor-in-Council automatically say that legislation exists requiring agent of Parliament offices to be bilingual. It would be logical for this new agent of Parliament to be included on the list.

We had no problem with allowing the Governor-in-Council to add offices. Removing that clause would mean that full parliamentary approval would be required to add an office.

Senator Tardif: That would require new legislation or an amendment.

Ms. Latendresse: Or an amendment to this very piece of legislation.

Senator Tardif: That is regrettable.

The Chair: If there are no further questions, Ms. Latendresse, I would like to thank you, on behalf of the committee, for appearing here today. Congratulations on your bill. Good work.

Ms. Latendresse: Thank you.

The Chair: Honourable senators, we will now move to clause-by-clause.

Does everyone have a copy of the bill?

Hon. Senators: Yes.

Senator Robichaud: Do you need a motion to move to clause-by-clause?

The Chair: Yes, I am getting to that. You have a copy of Bill C-419, An Act respecting language skills. The bill contains two clauses.

Is it agreed that the committee proceed to clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-419, An Act respecting language skills?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall the title stand postponed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Agreed.

Shall clause 1, which contains the short title, stand postponed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Agreed.

Shall clause 2 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried.

Shall clause 1, which contains the short title, carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried.

Shall the title carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried.

Shall the bill carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried.

Is it agreed that I report this bill to the Senate?

Hon. Senators: Yes.

The Chair: We will table it while the Senate is sitting tonight.

Honourable senators, this is our last committee meeting before we adjourn for the summer. I would like to thank the staff and wish the committee members and staff a wonderful summer. Thank you very much for your cooperation.

(The committee adjourned.)