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QUESTION PERIOD — Privy Council Office

Governor-in-Council Appointments

May 18, 2022

My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Mr. Leader, this week, a Radio-Canada news report revealed that, even though 30.8% of public service employees are francophone, only 19% of deputy minister and associate deputy minister positions are occupied by francophones. Interestingly, these positions are Privy Council and PMO appointments.

When the RCMP Commissioner testified at the Special Joint Committee on the Declaration of Emergency last week, she did not utter a word of French. I asked the Library of Parliament to look into whether she had ever given a speech or answered questions in French. According to their research, there was no evidence that the RCMP Commissioner had ever spoken French. However, when she was hired, the language requirement for the job identified mastery of both official languages as an asset. In the official languages and diversity section, it says that the Government of Canada considers bilingual proficiency and diversity in evaluating candidates’ suitability for the position.

I really don’t understand it when the PMO says one thing and does the opposite. Does the PCO really prefer to appoint unilingual people to these key positions?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ + ]

Thank you for the question. It is not about a preference for appointing people who are not bilingual. Candidates for key positions, and I am talking about the positions you just mentioned, are selected on the basis of a whole host of criteria related to skills, experience, availability, willingness to serve and so on. Language is an important factor but not necessarily the only factor.

With regard to the Government of Canada’s commitment to this issue, it is important to point out that approximately 40% of public servants are bilingual. The government is moving forward with revisions and with Bill C-13. I hope that we will soon have the opportunity to thoroughly examine this bill, which is an important step in protecting and promoting French and linguistic minorities in Canada.

Part of sound human resource succession planning involves making sure that the pool or pyramid is larger at the bottom and that those individuals can move up through the ranks. It involves ensuring that there is a large enough pool of candidates who have the skills needed to carry out the duties.

How do you explain the fact that the pool is 30% francophone, but that only 19% of them are left at the top of the pyramid? Why does the government think that the francophone pool is less qualified?

Senator Gold [ + ]

Once again, I do not accept this characterization of the government’s motivation with respect to qualifications. As I just said, and will say again, the decision to fill a particular position must take into account the available candidates who have shown an interest as well as all the other criteria associated with the tasks of the position in question.

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