Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
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.
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
Senator Demers: Jacques Demers from Quebec. I am sitting in for
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.
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.
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
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
Commissioner, I now invite you to provide a quick statement, which will
be followed by the senators' questions.
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
This bill remains important, despite the amendments adopted by the House
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Ms. Latendresse: Or an amendment to this very piece of
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
Does everyone have a copy of the bill?
Hon. Senators: Yes.
Senator Robichaud: Do you need a motion to move to
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