STANDING JOINT COMMITTEE ON
COMITÉ MIXTE PERMANENT DES
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Wednesday, September 26, 2001
The Joint Chair (Senator Shirley Maheu (Rougemont, Lib.)):
I would like to welcome Ms. Adam and her team. We have a quorum,
so we can begin. You are here to present your second Annual
Report, Ms. Adam.
Ms. Dyane Adam (Commissioner of Official Languages): Thank
you for inviting me so early in your proceedings.
I know this is early in the new parliamentary session.
This is my chance to really get your attention on this
year's annual report. If you will allow me, I will take
more time than I normally would.
I would like to talk about the major themes of the report
and identify areas of strength and those which I feel may be of
interest to the joint committee and require a more thorough
I'd like to start by saying that it's been 30 years
since Keith Spicer, the first Commissioner of Official
Languages, tabled the very first report in Parliament.
At that time, the first Official Languages Act was
barely two years old, and many federal services were
available in English only.
The first commissioner, as well as politicians of all
political stripes—including both Prime Minister
Trudeau and Opposition Leader Robert
Stanfield—worked hard to explain the objectives in
linguistic duality to the population across the
country, and to encourage the two language groups to
get to know each other.
So on our 30th anniversary it was my pleasure to mark
this milestone, and to recognize the work of the four
commissioners who preceded me, by issuing a special
publication. It accompanies the annual report this
year, and you've all received a copy.
This publication looks at the evolution of
bilingualism in Canada over the past three decades—our
triumphs and our struggles. So before presenting my
annual report, I would like to briefly reflect on the
road we have travelled.
I think it is important to
remember that official bilingualism is really about
attitudes and behaviour—and like all social change, it
takes time to implement. There's no quick fix. Looking
back over the years, it's clear we have made some
progress, but there's still a long road ahead of us.
As was rightly stated in last year's throne
speech, linguistic duality is fundamental to our
Canadian identity and is a key element of our vibrant
society. Its ideal aptly expresses the spirit of our
country—a place in which people of diverse cultures
and languages try to live in harmony.
In light of the events of the past few weeks, I think
it is important to reflect on how this value has shaped
us as a democratic and tolerant society. We can all be
proud of the progress we have made over the past 30
years. But as I will tell you in a moment, much remains
to be done. We must persevere, because it's a
tremendous challenge to build a society in which
everyone feels truly at home.
I am pleased to meet with you this afternoon to present my
annual report and the key issues that parliamentarians should
examine over the coming year. And, of course, to answer your
My report is divided into five chapters: leadership on
official languages; government transformation;
community development; special studies and
investigation; and, finally, citizen concerns, which
provides an overview of some of the complaints we have
investigated over the course of the past year.
I would like to start by discussing the chapter on
leadership on official languages. The first chapter of my report
describes the leadership provided over the past year by the key
official languages stakeholders. I have devoted an entire chapter
to this because it is crucial. Progress cannot be made on
official languages without a firm commitment and consistent
One year ago, as you will recall, I reviewed the federal
government's action on official languages. My diagnosis was clear
and direct: I expressed my concerns about the cumulative erosion of
language rights and the striking lack of government leadership.
There has been a lack of attention to this question and I issued a
One year later, I can now say that my message has been heard
and understood, although it was difficult to swallow. Government
leaders and senior officials have accepted my diagnosis. I have
seen the first signs of serious reflection and renewed will within
government institutions to correct past wrongs and to work toward
the full implementation of the Official Languages Act. The winds
seem to have shifted.
Some decisions made over the past year truly suggest to me
that we are on the right track.
The government renewed its commitment to the protection and
promotion of official languages and to minority official language
communities in the January 2001 Speech from the Throne. This is the
first time since 1985 that official languages have figured so
prominently in a Speech from the Throne.
The Prime Minister appointed a minister responsible for
coordinating the issue of official languages, giving him the
mandate to develop a new "framework for action" and to implement
The Clerk of the Privy Council cited official languages as one
of the five priorities for government institutions. The Immigration
Minister showed leadership by amending her bill to recognize that
one of the objectives of immigration is to contribute to the
development of both linguistic groups in Canada. This bill is being
studied by the Senate at the moment.
These signs all augur well for the future. I think the
government deserves to be congratulated for these decisions.
Change involves several steps, and the first is acknowledging
the problem. That is what we did last year. The government has
taken its first step. This is where we are at today.
I hear the talk, but there is still too much of a gap between
the talk and the walk. It is time to go beyond acknowledging the
problem and move to the next step. The government now must move
quickly to the next step and put its words into action. There is an
urgent need to move beyond observations and good intentions.
For that reason, I must admit that I was a little shocked when
I heard of the presentation which the new minister responsible for
the co-ordination of the official languages file made before you
last week. I was disappointed, not by the assessment made by
minister Dion, because I share many of his views on the situation,
but rather because there was no draft action plan. I know that
several of you told him they also expected the same from him.
Indeed, in my report I mentioned the urgent need for a plan of
As the switchman for a train which never leaves the station,
Mr. Dion obviously cannot on his own meet these growing
expectations without receiving adequate resources and a specific
mandate which would help him to move the train forward. As it now
stands, I feel that both of these elements are sadly lacking.
Therefore, despite being in agreement with the essence of what
was said last week by the minister, I must add that the expected
action plan should give priority to the development of official
language communities throughout the country. In order to achieve
this, we must more than ever breathe new life into Part VII of the
act by recognizing its binding nature. The fact that Mr. Dion did
not speak to this leads me to believe that the government is still
a long way from creating a concrete plan of action which would help
to reverse the current downward trends. I expect concrete, vigorous
and quick actions which are in step with the commitments made in
the Speech from the Throne. We all agree that there are many
challenges and much work still needs to be done.
Official language minority communities also have many needs,
especially in the areas of health and education, but the government
still has no overall plan to foster their growth and development.
How can we achieve this? The government is a large beast. It
needs time, too much time, to act and to react. To get the
government moving, to mobilize it, we have to count on the
sustained and concerted efforts of many players working together
and in solidarity towards reaching the same goal. I am counting on
the political will of every member of cabinet to reach that goal
and the government bureaucracy must follow. This is not only
Mr. Dion's responsibility.
What are my expectations for the coming year in terms of
leadership? First and foremost, I expect that the government
quickly unveil a plan of action which includes clear objectives,
targeted measures and mechanisms of co-operation which will lead to
measurable outcomes. The plan must focus on the issue of official
languages within the public service, the provision of quality
services to the Canadian public, a global and co-ordinated approach
for the development of official language communities and measures
to promote official languages within Canadian society. In fact, we
will have to juggle many balls at the same time.
Second, we must do a better job of spreading out and investing
the resources available for official languages, but we must also
invest in adequate human and financial resources to achieve
concrete, durable and measurable outcomes in the short term.
In the last few years, the number of people responsible for
bilingualism within the federal administration has fallen by more
than half and investment in official languages has stagnated and
even decreased since 1990, as Mr. Dion remarked last week. The
government recognizes this. If official languages are truly a
priority, as was stated in the Speech from the Throne, we will have
to make the necessary investments to respect those commitments.
Third, linguistic duality is not just the
responsibility of the federal government. All parts of
Canadian society have a role to play, particularly the
provinces and territories. Since the adoption of the
charter in 1982, provincial and territorial authorities
have not always seemed to grasp the scope of their
responsibilities relating to linguistic duality.
The implementation of minority education rights across
the country was a long and arduous process, even though
this right was guaranteed by the constitution. Too often,
governments have waited for the courts to remind them
of their responsibilities and obligations. From now
on, the federal government must better coordinate its
action with the provinces and the territories.
This coordinated approach is essential to provide
support, since the growth and the vitality of minority
official language communities depends on a great many
factors that are provincial or shared responsibilities.
These include education, immigration, municipal
services, or health services.
The second chapter of my report deals with government
transformations. Year after year, the government signs agreements
to transfer certain responsibilities to other levels of government
or to the private sector or even to the community level. Too often,
these agreements do not recognize the acquired linguistic rights of
the population. Often the quality and quantity of services provided
in both official languages deteriorate after a transfer of
responsibility. I am calling upon the government to implement an
effective policy to protect the language rights when such
government transformations occur.
In 1997, my office identified this as a major issue for the
public's language rights. More than four years after this
diagnosis, we are still waiting for a policy to effectively foster
progress toward the equality of English and French. In fact, this
shows a clear discrepancy between words and action. This is not the
first time the Office of the Commissioner has raised the issue, but
it must now be the last. This type of slow response cannot be
allowed in areas relating to official languages as we should not
forget that respect for our constitutional rights are at issue. We
will never be able to fulfil the commitments made in the Speech
from the Throne at this rate. Action is good, but acting promptly
is better and it is imperative to do so in this matter.
My report cites several specific examples of transformations
and devolutions that affect the public's language rights.
The Contraventions Act is a case in point that requires the
government to put words into action and to show leadership. As you
know, the Department of Justice must take all the required measures
by March 23, 2002 to comply with the federal court decision of last
March. I will follow these developments very closely because this
issue has an impact right across the country. I expect the
Department of Justice to make amendments to the Contraventions Act,
its regulations and the agreements reached with the Government of
Ontario and its municipalities to guarantee that accused parties in
Canada can truly exercise their language rights. I still have some
concerns about the implementation of these amendments and I would
ask you to follow this matter very closely.
Another governmental transformation is the question of
municipal mergers. As you know, over the past year my
office has been involved in the municipal merger issue
both in Quebec and in Ontario. As I have often stated,
the established language rights of minority communities
must be protected when amalgamations occur.
Since the end of the period covered by my annual
report, we intervened before the courts in Quebec
concerning an amendment made to the charter of the
French language. We argued that the Quebec government,
by making the criteria more stringent for
municipalities or boroughs to obtain bilingual status,
was diminishing the existing rights of the
English-speaking minority. We are awaiting the
decision of the Quebec Court of Appeal on this issue.
In Ontario, I worked to support municipal bilingualism
in Sudbury and Ottawa. Both these newly amalgamated
cities have now adopted policies of service to the
public in both official languages. In the case of
Ottawa, up till now, the province has refused to act on
the municipality's request to amend the City of
Ottawa Act to recognize the equal status of
English and French in our national capital.
The provincial government will have another
opportunity to change its mind when a private
member's bill is presented in the coming days. The
Ontario government must realize that it is a tremendous
privilege, an advantage, to have the national capital
in its territory. But with this privilege comes
obligations and responsibilities towards the entire
So should this new item to modify the City of Ottawa
Act fail, the federal government must demonstrate
leadership and intervene to find a solution. The
capital of a bilingual country must be officially
The third chapter deals with community development.
Many people agree that minority official language communities
represent the very essence of our country's spirit and values. In
spite of this, they nevertheless face multiple obstacles that
hamper their growth and development. In order to achieve full
growth and vitality, minority communities require more support from
As I said earlier, it is essential that federal institutions
fulfil their obligations as regards community development and the
recognition of English and French, as provided in Part VII of the
Official Languages Act. This is a key obligation and the duty to
provide leadership must be fully met by the government, without
leaving any room for doubt in key institutions.
The various institutions must therefore work together and
co-ordinate their efforts to crystallize their commitment to
minority communities. The scope of the federal commitment to
minority official language communities must be spelled out so that
all institutions subject to the Official Languages Act put in place
an appropriate implementation system. There must be no doubt as to
the urgent nature of this commitment.
While this government obligation cannot be overemphasized, we
must also recognize that much remains to be done to ensure that
government grasps all its ramifications and incorporates them into
its daily activities.
The role played by schools in passing on language and culture,
and in preserving and fostering the growth of official language
communities in Canada is more vital than ever. In view of this
crucial role, I ordered a study last year to analyze the changes in
school population at French language schools and to identify the
challenges in attracting and recruiting the target school
population and providing first rate education.
Some of you are already familiar with this study but, in
short, it shows, in spite of some progress, enrolment in French
language schools has levelled off in the past 10 years to just more
than half the target school population. This presents a major
challenge since enrolment in the schools must be increased to
strengthen the vitality of minority francophone communities. The
study presents a plan to recover the target school population over
the next 10 years.
Once again, to achieve this objective, several stakeholders
must clearly be mobilized: political leaders, to be sure, but also
French-language school boards, the leaders of francophone and
Acadian communities, education professionals and, above all,
families who must be made aware of the importance of passing French
on from one generation to the next.
Immigration is another key to ensuring the growth of these
communities. This also represents a great challenge to ensure
demographic balance and the future of linguistic duality from sea
to sea. Immigration has accounted for about 50% of demographic
growth in Canada in the last 15 years. Canada's francophone
communities have not benefited equitably from immigration. Although
this is nothing new in our country's history, its current effects
give cause for concern due to the recent drop in birth rates in
I have stated these priorities to this committee and to the
parliamentary committee reviewing the new immigration bill. As I
said earlier, I am delighted that Minister Caplan has agreed to
make amendments reflecting this priority. This is an issue that we
need to follow, as we are not talking only about the bill which
should be adopted during the course of the current session of
Parliament, but also the entire range of policies and programs
which will be developed over the next few months. They too warrant
Health Care is another key sector for the development of
minority anglophone and francophone communities. Health Canada made
a step in the right direction by creating a national committee of
officials and francophone representatives who have met about 10
times. A similar committee was also created to tackle the
challenges facing the anglophone community in Quebec.
Although these two committees are quite new, it is already
clear that this outstanding co-operation will lead to innovative
solutions to overcome the difficulties encountered by minority
anglophone and francophone communities in obtaining access to front
line health care services in their own language.
A truly key issue, the Montfort Hospital case saw some
important developments in 2000 when the Government of Ontario
decided to appeal the trial court judgment. You will recall that in
November of 1999, the Ontario Superior Court ruled in favour of the
Montfort Hospital on the basis of the unwritten constitutional
principle of the protection of minorities. I intervened in this
regard, and in the matter of municipal mergers and other matters
involving the public's language rights, to protect the existing
rights of our minority official language communities and to defend
the principle of the advancement of language rights.
With this matter still pending, the Government of Canada and
the provinces must at a minimum ensure that the measures they adopt
do not compromise or result in a setback to the hard-won language
rights of the country's minority official language communities. It
is deplorable that communities must still today appear before the
courts in defence of these rights.
The fourth chapter of my annual report provides an overview of
the main investigations and studies published during the last
reporting period. I have often stated that the recommendations made
at the end of an investigation do not always result in permanent
change in federal institutions. I intend to conduct more special
studies and investigations since they allow us to examine systemic
problems from every angle and to propose more comprehensive
measures. Moreover, we wish to involve institutions in the process
in order to achieve lasting solutions.
I would like to discuss here two specific issues from this
chapter: service to the public in English and French by our federal
institutions and Air Canada.
National report on service to the public. On April 24, I
tabled before this committee a national report on service to the
public in English and French.
This report points to a measure of stagnation in the offer of
bilingual services. Government transformations resulted in the
closing of 25% of bilingual offices since 1994 and the overall
capacity of offices designated bilingual to provide services in
English and French has dropped by 10% since 1994, falling from 76%
to 66%. This decline is unacceptable.
The report offers several courses of action to help the
federal government follow through on the commitment made in the
Speech from the Throne to mobilize its efforts to ensure that all
Canadians can communicate with the government in the official
language of their choice.
Most of my recommendations are directed to the Treasury Board,
which will have to play a more active role in monitoring and
evaluating the official languages program in federal institutions.
To ensure that offices designated bilingual offer quality
services in English and French, it must be clearly established that
the official languages program is a fundamental value in federal
institutions, in all parts of the country. I do not believe that we
can ever say this enough. Each employee in the federal public
service must contribute to changing the internal organizational
culture. To reach this objective, we must emphasize the value of a
bilingual public service, rather than strictly pushing rules and
regulations. Individuals will not change their behaviour unless the
rules and principles are internalized. As we all know, in all other
aspects of society, we respect the law when we have integrated it.
It must be part of our personal make-up and this is how the federal
government should be targeting its approach.
If the government succeeds in making this change, we will see
an improvement in the quality of services offered to the public in
both official languages, as well as greater respect for the right
of federal employees to work in the official language of their
choice in designated regions.
Over the next few years, the federal government will face the
challenge of renewing its workforce. This presents an incredible
opportunity for the government to reap the benefits of its
investment in immersion and second language education programs by
hiring young, bilingual recruits. The public service recently
announced that it will be recruiting hundreds of young public
servants. Where will it go to find these recruits? Did the public
service take any steps to encourage young bilingual people who were
trained by the federal government and the provincial governments to
work in the public service? We have a pool of young people who are
twice as bilingual as thirty years ago and who can assist the
public service in making the transition towards fully integrating
the values of linguistic duality.
I ask the members of this committee to support our efforts to
improve public services in both official languages and to ensure
that the public service reflects the values of linguistic duality.
This is not done by speeches and words alone, but by action and by
what one sees daily in the offices here, in Ottawa, or elsewhere in
The committee could review the recommendations contained in
our report and hear from the agencies that must play a key role in
their implementation: Treasury Board, the Public Service Commission
and the Canadian Centre for Management Development. These are all
players that are essential to our quest to change organizational
The government recently created a working group on the
modernization of human resources management, under the direction of
the Treasury Board President. I regard the official languages as an
inescapable part of any major reform of the public service. I
recently wrote to Ms. Robillard to share my recommendations with
her and I ask you to follow this process very closely.
Air Canada is probably the best example of an
institution that has been chronically delinquent in
the matter of official languages. Over the years, Air
Canada has repeatedly appeared at the top of our list
of institutions having the greatest number of
complaints for violations of the Official Languages
Repeated investigation by my office has shown Air
Canada's inability to adequately provide air and
ground services in both official languages. Successive
commissioners have made recommendations, but the
carrier has failed to act on them. With this record,
Air Canada's senior executives have a lot of work to do
to convince travellers that they truly care about their
clientele's needs and rights to be served in the
official language of their choice.
Our national carrier must offer services of equal
quality in both of Canada's official languages. I ask Air
Canada to change its attitude and work towards
implementing a strategy drafted by my office, in order
to strengthen and better manage the official language
program at all levels of the company, both for service
to the public and for its own internal operations and
We are willing to work closely with the airline and
the Department of Transport to ensure that this
happens. Airlines are understandably concerned about
their bottom line—more than ever in these exceptional
times. But Canadians expect that respecting
travellers' linguistic needs would also be on their
checklist of sound business practices.
This committee began a study on Air Canada last
spring, and I understand you will be completing
your examination of this issue in the coming weeks. I
trust that your final report will be forceful in its
recommendations, to ensure that Air Canada complies
with its language obligations.
The final chapter of my report deals with complaints about the
linguistic shortcomings of institutions subject to the Official
Languages Act. Since our time is limited, I will just give an
overview of the communications received last year by the Office of
During the last fiscal year, I received over 2,500
communications from the public, including 1,320 complaints. Eighty
per cent (80%) of these complaints were admissible. Sixty per cent
(60%) of the complaints were from the National Capital Region and
elsewhere in Ontario and Quebec, and 80% of complainants were
francophone. The incidents reported again this year involve a
hundred or so institutions, fifteen (15) of which were the object
of two thirds of all complaints.
As you may recall, there are two main types of complaints,
those from members of the public unable to obtain effective service
in the official language of their choice, and those lodged by
federal employees claiming that their language rights in the
workplace are not being respected. The first group accounts for 75%
of all complaints, while the second category accounts for 16% of
all complaints. The remaining complaints pertain to the language
requirements for specific positions in federal institutions, the
equitable participation of anglophones and francophones in the
public service and equal employment and advancement opportunities.
The specific complaints cited in my report show once again how
important it is to inform the public of the full range of
linguistic guarantees and language programs available to them, and
secondly to inform federal institutions of the scope of their
official language obligations.
To sum up, the government now seems to understand what
it needs to do, but there are still discrepancies
between the talk and the walk. The commitments made in
the throne speech must set the tone for the years to
come, but in the near future we need to see more than
just good intentions. The hard part now is to make
this commitment a reality. The work of this committee
can go a long way towards helping the government to
reach this goal.
If I were to identify issues from my report that you
should examine closely in the coming months, I would
ask that you concentrate on three key areas. One is
Air Canada and how we can better ensure that the
airline respects its official language obligations.
Another is to study part VII of the act—the legal
scope of the government's commitment to minority
communities, with an appropriate implementation scheme to
ensure that all institutions subject to the act work
together to foster the communities' development and
Under that same objective is
the impact of government transformation on community
development and existing language rights.
Finally, we have services to the public in both English and
French and the effective implementation of my
recommendations by the Treasury Board Secretariat. My
first report pushed the federal government to take some
initial steps in the right direction. This second
report must now incite it to take vigorous action in
the near future.
Let me conclude by saying that the road to linguistic duality
may be paved with good intentions, but it can only be achieved
through concrete actions and tangible results.
Thank you for your attention. I will be pleased to answer your
questions and to hear your comments.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Mauril Bélanger (Ottawa—Vanier, Lib.)):
Thank you, Madam Commissioner. Let us begin the first round with
Mr. Scott Reid (Lanark—Carleton, Canadian
Alliance): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Dr.
Adam, for being here. Thank you as well for coming
around to members of the committee beforehand and
giving us a heads up on what your report was going
to say, and also for making yourself available to
answer questions during the summer. That was very
helpful of you, and I appreciate that.
I want to concentrate my questions today on Air
Canada, which of course is very much in the headlines
these last few days. Obviously the question comes up
of the airlines' ability to compete and to remain in
business. Now I could be wrong about this, but it seems
to me that the airline has been handicapped to some
degree by the fact that it is subject to a different
set of obligations under the law than its competitors
Of course, before its privatization it was subject to
Official Languages Act rules that required it to
provide some services that its competitors didn't—in
addition to the services that both Air Canada and its
competitors were required to provide. Then with its
privatization, section 10 of the Air Canada Public
Participation Act ensured that those particular
competitive restrictions would remain in effect.
The question I'm working towards is, do you have any
idea what the annual cost would be to Air Canada of
complying with section 10? Since you've proposed a
report titled Instituting a System at Air Canada to
Effectively Implement the Official Languages Act, I
wonder more particularly if you have the cost of
regulatory compliance worked out. How much would
this cost the airline per year?
Ms. Dyane Adam: I'd like to respond to the first
comment you made: is Air Canada handicapped in terms of
competitiveness by having the obligation to serve the
Canadian public in both official languages? You may
recall that not so long ago there were two major
airline companies in Canada. One was subject to the
act and it was called Air Canada. The other was not
subject to the act and it was called Canadian. The one
that did not make it was Canadian.
Mr. Scott Reid: As a former shareholder in
Canadian Airlines, I remember that very clearly. But
I'm well aware that this is not the only factor
involved. What I'm getting at here is a regulatory
compliance cost, and I'm simply asking if you've
worked out what that would be, and if you're able to
share it with us.
Ms. Dyane Adam: I'm not in the business of doing
numbers. My business is just to ensure that when
institutions are subject to the OLA, they do respect
it. I think it's up to Air Canada to determine those
numbers, if there's a case there. But as far as I'm
concerned, this is non-negotiable on any basis. They
are subject to the act, and it's also good business
As I said in my presentation, one in four
Canadians are francophones.
People travel all over Canada. If you
want Canadians to use airlines, to understand what is
happening, and to cover Canada, isn't it just basic
courtesy that you do this? Also, I think we should
push a bit outside Canada too. There are many airlines
throughout the world that have not only two but three
or more languages, yet they are operating and are not
failing in terms of economics.
Mr. Scott Reid: I guess my concern is that, in
looking through the press clippings of your comments to
the media yesterday, I note that you made an
observation. You said “If there's no airline, there's
no problem of bilingualism”, and there actually is a
realistic possibility that this could be the situation.
It does seem to me that all policies, no matter how
worthy they may be, do have some cost associated with
them, and that has to be taken into account. No one
would argue, for example, that important as they are,
official languages services trump, for example, the
need for health care services if push comes to shove, and
so on and so forth. Well, I think the same thing
applies here, and I very much would say that it's vital
that we take this into account. It may be an
insignificant cost or it may be a significant cost, but
I don't think we can simply dismiss it. So I would
encourage you as much as possible to try to get some
sense of the regulatory compliance costs.
I would note that one of your predecessors, Keith
Spicer, was very much an advocate of this point of
view. In 1975, in his annual report, he encouraged the
government to provide for an accurate accounting of the
costs of official languages programs—something that in
my opinion has never been successfully done—and then
if necessary to defend them. We should never avoid
discussing the issue as if dollars were not a
consideration in policy, which they have to be.
Ms. Dyane Adam: I think I'd like to respond to
that, Mr. Reid, by saying that it's not the
responsibility of the commissioner's office to do that
accounting business, okay? It may be done elsewhere,
and even Air Canada could do that, but it's not my
business. That's what I want to clarify.
Mr. Scott Reid: Thank you, Dr. Adam.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Mauril Bélanger): Mr. Reid,
Ms. Thibeault, please.
Ms. Yolande Thibeault (Saint-Lambert, Lib.): Good day, Ms.
Adam, ladies and gentlemen.
This afternoon, I will talk about immigration. I took the time
to read that specific chapter, which interested me because I also
sit on the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
You are talking about things that I worked on all last spring.
Undeniably, as you say in your report, immigration is important for
democracy and Canada. Unfortunately, we francophones do not always
get the most out of this.
In Chapter 3.1 of the report, you state:
...develop a plan to publicize the existence of Canada's
francophone minorities overseas, provide its overseas immigration
officers with written information about these minorities;
I suppose—and I hope that you will clarify this for me—that
you are talking about these things within the context of Bill C-11
and the ensuing regulation. If this is the case, I imagine that
none of this has been implemented.
Ms. Dyane Adam: Regarding those issues, the government is not
starting from scratch. There is already one province, Manitoba,
where an initiative was launched several years ago. The province
and the federal government—but I think that it was the province's
initiative—invited the minority francophone community to join with
a delegation abroad to do recruiting and to develop materials.
These efforts by the Franco-Manitoban community have produced
very good results indeed. The other provinces may learn something
from that. We have noted that. I also have a report on immigration
underway, which should be released in November or December. It
deals with the issue of immigration and linguistic duality, and
goes into much greater details about what the federal government
and communities could do to reach the goal of providing minority
official language communities with immigrants.
That is already happening, but certainly not everywhere in
Canada. That is one thing that should flow from the new
regulations, once the new bill has been passed, of course.
Ms. Yolande Thibeault: Of course. As a matter of fact, you are
recommending that the regulations be referred to the standing
committee. You say:
...for studying regulations related to sections 1 to 32 of the
Immigration Act before they come into effect, in consultation with
minority official language communities.
Are there any specific areas you could recommend to the
Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, key areas it should focus
on when the time comes to study and debate those regulations?
Ms. Dyane Adam: Yes. Our study clearly identifies overseas
recruitment, a step we discussed earlier. There is reception, too.
Currently, reception services in a number of provinces are actually
set up to receive people only in the majority language. There are
few official services, and of course, there is also integration. We
even find in some provinces—and I will not name them—laws that
would prevent even a francophone immigrant from going to a French-
language school, because there is a requirement, in Ontario for
example, to have been born... there are criteria. That is the law
of the province.
So there is a lot of change, and it is not just the federal
government that has to make changes. There is the whole process of
reception, integration and even the impact on communities, on
school boards that must set up immigrant reception committees and
accept the fact that immigrants are arriving. We are talking here
about people with a very good command of French.
The study will in fact enable us to guide the work to be done
by identifying where the federal government should and can actually
intervene, and where it should instead concentrate on promotional
Ms. Yolande Thibeault: Thank you very much.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Mauril Bélanger): Thank you, Ms.
Mr. Benoît Sauvageau (Repentigny, BQ): Ms. Adam, once again,
I am going to say to you today what I said to you yesterday: thank
you for the report. It is very accurate and not too easy on the
government. I will bet the government is surprised to hear such
You have said, you have written and repeated that in terms of
culture and values, we have a long road ahead. The first
intervention we heard shows how long that road is. I am going to
explain to my friend something that has nothing to do with costs.
I was in Singapore for a committee. I was not on vacation. I
do not know how large the francophone minority in Singapore is. I
have not looked into that matter, but it must not be very large. On
the flight from Singapore to Vancouver, I was served in French the
whole way. I highly appreciated it. On the Air Canada flight from
Vancouver to Montreal, there was no service in French. That was a
shock. I do not know what the cost is, but... that is all I have to
say in response to your comments.
Now, with respect to the crux? of your brief—walking the
talk—I think that in order to find a solution to the problems we
have been rehashing year after year, we have to agree on the
diagnosis. You said that your report did not cover the period since
Mr. Dion's appointment, and yet you did refer to that. So I can
talk about it too. You said you agreed with part of his diagnosis,
and I suppose you agree on the quantitative diagnoses, on the
figures he quotes.
I do not know whether you agree qualitatively, on the causes
of those figures. That is what I want to ask you. He said that it
was mainly because of love and marriage between francophones and
anglophones, between anglophones and bilingual people, and between
bilingual people, and all that. But he never mentioned
assimilation. I would like to know whether assimilation is a
problem that may need to be identified before coming up with a
remedy or solution to the problem. Given that marriage and love
were the problem, he said we were going to produce bilingual
Once the quantitative diagnosis has been made, we have the
beginnings of an action plan based on the theory that it is
necessary to produce bilingual people. Are the beginnings of this
action plan, in your opinion, based on a valid premise?
Ms. Dyane Adam: That is a tough question.
Mr. Benoît Sauvageau: I can help you answer it. Do you think
that by producing bilingual people we are going to come up with a
solution, or is it by recognizing the difficult situation of
francophones and by starting the action plan with the development
of francophone communities and the application of section 41 of
Ms. Dyane Adam: I am not going to stick strictly to your
question. I am going to talk about the framework for action and the
action plan. The throne speech is quite clear. There is not just
one objective. There are several. First and foremost, it is a
matter of recognizing the fact that linguistic duality is at the
heart of Canadian identity. That is the main message. Consequently,
promoting and protecting Canada's official languages are a
priority. That discussion has begun. Mr. Dion may take action to
promote and protect Canada's official languages. He may want to
make all Canadians bilingual or give them the opportunity to learn
the other language. That is a right, and it should be accessible.
I believe that this is in keeping with that objective.
But there are other objectives in the throne speech. One of
those objectives is to serve Canadians in their language of choice.
So we are talking about service to the public. Another objective is
to ensure the development and the vitality of official language
communities. Another objective is to strengthen French language and
I see a number of commitments in this throne speech. The plan
I am expecting, and the committee should also expect, is a multi-
faceted plan. There is no miracle cure. There are a number of
objectives. I am also expecting an in-depth plan, one that spreads
over more than one year, and also, since we are talking about a
country in which the situation is very different from one province
to the next, one that goes beyond the statistical picture.
I would like to make a brief comment. We psychologists are
well trained in statistics and take them with a huge grain of salt.
Statistics give some indication of something, but are only the
average of the differences. Canada is a very diversified country,
and statistics are dangerous when they are not accompanied by field
work. Statistics must always be validated in the field. Only then
our statistics valid, because they provide trends and initial
So, not only is it important for this plan to have depth, it
must also be possible to apply it differently from province to
province. It must be possible for its implementation and action to
diverge from one province to another, for a community, or even for
the majority as much as for the minority. That's my vision of a
plan, a framework for action.
Mr. Benoît Sauvageau: So, if I understand you correctly, it is
not just a matter of manufacturing bilingual people. Could you tell
us whether an action plan is necessary or whether the government
could take action quickly and force the 173 institutions that it
itself exempted from section 41 of Part VII to respect its own act?
Is an action plan needed to do that, or is the will to do it
Ms. Dyane Adam: We have not exempted our institutions from the
obligation set out in the act, but they are not obliged to produce
a plan. They are supposed to respect this aspect or this objective
of the act, but they are not required to respond or to establish a
plan. It's an accountability mechanism.
Mr. Benoît Sauvageau: To establish the plan, is an action plan
needed or just the political will?
Ms. Dyane Adam: I think that we can have all kinds of will,
but if someone is poorly organized, no matter what his will may be,
he will do nothing. We understand each other. First of all, there
has to be a will. In my opinion, someone has to want to change. I
think that the government is clear on this: it has said that it
wanted to change. The government has also made a commitment to do
so. Then, you have to take the necessary steps. The government has
appointed a conductor and has established a committee. So, it has
set the table. Now, you have to go farther. You have to ask
yourself what the objectives are and do what has to be done to
reach them. Of course, some things could be done more quickly and
more easily than others while other things cannot be done until
later on, but at least you must know where you have to go. So, you
have to have clear objectives, a strategy, targeted measures,
adequate resources and accountability.
Mr. Benoît Sauvageau: What I am hearing—
The Joint Chair (Mr. Mauril Bélanger): You have already gone
over your time. We will come back to you.
Mr. Benoît Sauvageau: On the second round.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Mauril Bélanger): Senator Gauthier.
Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier (Ontario' Lib.): Thank you. Good
afternoon, Ms. Adam.
I have not had the time to read all of your report and digest
it, but I have gone through most of it. You should have told Mr.
Sauvageau that the political will is needed for things to move a
little in the whole area of official languages.
In your 1999-2000 report, you were pretty harsh. You said that
there had been a slow, cumulative erosion. You made reference to
the blatant lack of leadership. We met with the leader here, last
week. It is Mr. Dion. Well, the leader... Let's say that he is the
one who is responsible for enforcing the act and co-ordinating the
various departments' efforts. Mr. Dion told us that there was no
action plan, no clear objectives, and no targeted measures at
present. I will be quite frank. As I listened to Mr. Dion, I had
the impression that he was surrounded by advisers from the majority
and that he was receiving politically correct advice, as we say in
English. He came before us and talked about exogamy and second
language instruction for the majority. I was not impressed by his
Mr. Dion told us that his department had a fiduciary role to
play in the area of official languages and that his department was
not covered by the definition of "federal institution". I was
surprised when he told me that he was not required to table an
annual report on his activities. I am not making any of this up.
How can we change things, make big government do something,
enforce the act in the public service of Canada first, where there
are serious problems? You talked about this in your report. In
1972, when I came here, Mr. Spicer was even then talking about the
problems with enforcing the act. There are also the costs. We know
what it costs for the entire federal government, but there is a
cost for being Canadian. What can you do, it is part of the
package. If we do not want to have institutional bilingualism, if
we do not want to have individual bilingualism, well let's say so
and take it out of the Charter and the Constitution. But for the
time being, it is in the Charter and in the country's Constitution.
I do not think it is your job to tell us how much it costs. The
government will tell us that when it comes to see us.
I am going to talk about a minimalist interpretation of
section 41 of the Official Languages Act. If I remember correctly,
Mr. Dion told me that the Department of Justice had told him that
section 41 was a declaratory provision. I disagree. I told him that
he was mistaken and that it was a binding provision. He told me
that the Department of Justice had advised the government and
consequently, that was the government's position. All of this is
Later on in his remarks—I believe it was in response to
Mr. Sauvageau—he said that the government was willing to review
the Official Languages Act, and to re-evaluate it. This had been
done previously in 1998. I was here. At the time I was the Liberal
Party's spokesperson for official languages. Reviewing an act is
quite a feat. What do you think? Do you think that after 13 years,
it is time for us to review the act, yes or no? That is my first
Ms. Dyane Adam: I would say that we have not completely
reached the objective of the current act. If I rely on the memory
of some of my colleagues who took part in the review of the
Official Languages Act that led to the 1998 act, it is a process
that requires a great deal of hard work that could occupy many
people. During that time, assimilation might increase. Would
services be any better?
It is a matter of making a choice. The Commissioner is not the
one who can choose, or who will make a decision about that. It is
your choice. If we were to take that route, you would have to be
well aware that during that time, we would not be doing anything
Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier: I accept that, but as I see the
situation, right now we are just marking time. The status quo
prevails when it comes to section 41. The Department of Justice
said that it was declaratory. It is game over, as they say in
Nor is any progress being made with regard to the National
Capital. Mr. Dion said that the province would discuss it and that
the official opposition would introduce a bill. Mr. Lalonde, the
MPP for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, did introduce a motion. That
is just lip service. I have not seen the bill yet.
Thirdly, there is no action plan with a clear strategy and
targeted actions. It seems to me that this is essential for a
minister who is responsible for co-ordinating activities. There is
no money; there are no resources, and you know so because he told
us so. In response to Mr. Sauvageau, he said that there were no
more than five employees who were working on that file. He also co-
ordinates Heritage Canada. They have money. Human Resources
Development Canada has money. Sometimes they even lose track of
billions. The Department of Justice has money too.
If Mr. Dion does not have any money, well he should go cap in
hand to the departments that have some so that he can take action.
Don't you think this makes sense?
Ms. Dyane Adam: I think that your remarks are in line with
what I found in my report, Senator Gauthier: resources are needed,
a plan is needed, there is a need for—
Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier: I have not read all of it yet.
I have one last question. The francophone minorities and the
anglophone minority in Quebec are drifting right now. I am not
making any of this up. In my opinion, the officers who are
responsible for the boat are asleep at the wheel. If the committee
were to ask you to come and make some suggestions or proposals for
study, for example, an examination of section 41 of Part VII or a
look at Air Canada, which we have been talking about during the
last three or four meetings, would you be willing to come and help
Ms. Dyane Adam: Yes, I am at the committee's disposal. During
the last session of Parliament, we had a meeting about that very
matter, namely the Commissioner playing a more active role. We also
said that we could always have at least one resource person who
would attend your meetings to answer questions and handle
substantive issues, so that you will be in a better position to
question your witnesses. We will be there if that is what the
committee wants. Actually, I have already talked about that with
the two joint chairs.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Mauril Bélanger): Thank you, Senator.
Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier: May I ask another question?
The Joint Chair (Mr. Mauril Bélanger): I will come back to you
on the second round.
May I make a comment, Mr. Godin, before you ask your question,
or do you wish to proceed right away?
Mr. Yvon Godin (Acadie—Bathurst, NDP): No, that is fine.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Mauril Bélanger): Go ahead, Mr. Godin.
Please, I insist. I will make my comment after you ask your
Mr. Yvon Godin: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for being
with us today, Commissioner.
I have a problem with some of the things you said. Let me
explain why. You say that a great deal of progress has been made in
the last 30 years. I have here a report dated last year in which
you are very critical of the government. This year, the report says
that the government has taken a first step. It is as though the
government never learned to walk. It simply cannot take the second
The government has appointed a minister responsible for
official languages. You said that he was not responsible for
everything. I have the impression that you are defending him. This
is the same minister that appeared before us last week. I cannot
speak for the others, but he did not impress me. He went to
Bathurst on the Acadian Peninsula, where he made a speech that did
not impress the Acadians at all.
If we have a great deal of progress, I would like to know
where, particularly since you state at page 46 of your report:
The investigation also showed that once the 10-year operating
agreements expire, the airports will no longer have any obligation
to provide services in the minority official language.
We are moving backwards in this area. We are also regressing
when we transfer responsibilities from the federal government to
the provinces. You have accused the federal government of doing
that. So we are moving backwards in all areas. The capital of
Canada cannot even be designated bilingual. We would be prepared to
have the capital in New Brunswick, and we would find a bilingual
That is one of my many questions.
Ms. Dyane Adam: As I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks,
the 30th anniversary of the commissioner's office occurred in
2000-2001. To mark the anniversary, we have taken a look back and
described the situation of the official languages in the country in
1969, and compared it to the present situation. That is noted in
this year's report, which is very easy to read. You will see that
some fairly significant progress has been made.
Thirty years ago, a number of federal buildings were not even
identified in both official languages, even here on Parliament
Hill. We could look at all sorts of areas, and I could talk about
this for a long time. There have been significant changes in
education and in service to the public. We must realize that 30
years ago, only a few services were offered in French. This was
done mainly in Quebec, to some extent in Ontario and New Brunswick,
but apart from that, there were no services offered in French. Even
in Quebec, it was difficult to get service in French. The right to
work in one's own language did not exist.
I would advise you strongly to read the report, because it is
important to have a historical perspective. There has been a social
change in this country. There are people here, like Mr. Gauthier,
who worked very hard to get these initial changes. So we should not
disregard our history.
You refer to a very real phenomenon. We are moving backwards.
The train is not moving forward. It is backing up. That is what we
identified very clearly this year. We cannot continue to regress or
to tread water. We must move forward, and the measures introduced
must be dynamic and strong. I don't think there is any
contradiction here. The two areas are not mutually exclusive.
I do not know whether I've answered all the aspects of your
question. As regards the future and Minister Dion, I think we have
to avoid thinking that there are saviours around.
A number of ministers currently share responsibilities
regarding official languages. This is stated in the act and there
has been no change in this regard. The Department of Canadian
Heritage is still there and must be accountable, as must
Ms. Robillard, at Treasury Board. The fact that Mr. Dion has been
appointed minister responsible for official languages does not mean
that all the other ministers no longer have any responsibility
The important point, and the one we made to parliamentarians
and to the government in our last report, is that leadership on
this issue must not be fragmented. The issue of official languages
affects everyone in a horizontal fashion, and all departments are
involved. We need a concerted, consistent and uniform effort. In
order to do that, the leadership must be more consistent and
centralized so as to give Cabinet proper guidance. That is the main
reason why the Prime Minister appointed a minister to coordinate
actions regarding official languages.
You say that you were not impressed by the Minister's first
performance. It is not up to me to assess that. This is a very
recent responsibility assumed by the minister. Mr. Dion or staff
from his office are present, and I think they are listening to the
fears or comments you have expressed here today. They will
certainly take into account your remarks, which, I think, could
help them to discharge their mandate. Personally, I think we are
talking here about suggestions for improvement.
Mr. Yvon Godin: You say yourself, as has been said before,
that the act has no teeth, that there are no sanctions or negative
consequences for those who do not comply with the act. In addition,
you say that you would not want the government to adopt this
approach. However, if there are no penalties for non-compliance
with the act, will the same behaviour simply not continue? We have
been talking about Air Canada, for example, for a number of months
and years now, and it could be said that there has been no
progress. Things are going from bad to worse. This is not for lack
of talking about it. Personally, I send my complaints to Air
Canada, and it appears that the more I complain, the worse things
get. You seem to be opposed to the idea of penalties. Normally,
legislation is accompanied by measures to ensure compliance.
Ms. Dyane Adam: Let me answer you in this way. I am not
opposed to the introduction of coercive measures. I think this is
necessary in some cases. An ombudsman or a commissioner can do
nothing more than make recommendations. We should not confuse the
roles. The commissioner has more powers than a number of ombudsmen
elsewhere in the country and in the world. Not many ombudsmen have
the power to take legal remedies.
I would like to make a connection between your question and
the one asked by Senator Gauthier, who talked about amending the
act. I think you should ask the question of Mr. Dion. Why should
the act be amended? If the idea is to make Part VII binding, that
is interesting. If you want to adopt measures you think are
required in order to give the act more teeth, I think it would be
worth studying this option. Air Canada, however, is a different
matter. I am only the commissioner, and I do not have the authority
that some would like me to have or claim that I have.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Mauril Bélanger): Thank you, Mr. Godin.
I will now turn the floor over to you, Mr. Binet.
Mr. Gérard Binet (Frontenac—Mégantic, Lib.): Thank you,
Good afternoon, Ms. Adam. When did you present your first
report? Was it in February or March?
Ms. Dyane Adam: I presented my annual report in October 2000.
Mr. Gérard Binet: I saw you come before the committee for the
first time in February or at the end of January 2001.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Mauril Bélanger): Parliament was not
sitting at that time. So Ms. Adam testified after Parliament
reconvened and when the committee was reconfigured. That explains
the delay, Mr. Binet.
Mr. Gérard Binet: Someone mentioned last year, which confused
me because I was elected less than a year ago. I saw you on
television at the height of the debate on municipal mergers. You
were becoming a star in Quebec. I don't know where you come from.
Are you from Quebec?
Ms. Dyane Adam: No, I'm a Franco-Ontarian.
Mr. Gérard Binet: Ontario. I was curious, because the report,
of course, lays out some facts, which is very good. I feel there
are many challenges to be met, since it is hardest to talk to
people who don't want to listen. Take Air Canada, for instance. I
fly. Two airlines were merged. It is obviously hard to ask
unionized employees to learn English and French as soon as
In my view, that might be more easily achieved within the
public service. Of course, it's harder to expect a 50-year old
unionized employee to learn French. I feel it would be easier for
new public servant employees to learn French when they are hired.
I would like to know what you think of this.
Ms. Dyane Adam: Are you asking me?
Mr. Gérard Binet: Yes.
Ms. Dyane Adam: Thirty years ago, the language situation was
not the same in the public service. There were many older employees
at the time. It was harder for them to learn a second language,
because as we all know, it's much harder to do this when you're
So it was a huge challenge, but certain things were achieved.
For 30 years, the federal government and the provinces decided to
invest in second language education. As a result, we created
bilingual people in Canada, to use Mr. Dion's expression. There are
now many more bilingual young people in Canada. Today, a quarter of
the young people between the ages of 14 and 19 are bilingual. These
people live across the country. We are in the process of renewing
the public service. I'm afraid, and I say this publicly, that
instead of adopting proactive measures to attract young bilingual
people, the public service has not changed its ways because it is
hiring people without regard to language skills. The government
will therefore have to invest even more than before, than it did
upstream, if I may put it that way. I feel we should invest
upstream and not downstream. That way, you can reap the rewards of
your investment. The public service must recruit bilingual people,
since approximately 35% of public service positions are designated
bilingual. So we should not only seek bilingual candidates, but
also make it a point to fill those positions with bilingual people.
If the people we hire are already bilingual, we won't have to
invest as much in training as we did in the past.
All these strategies are relevant, but I fear we are still
working in the old mode.
Mr. Gérard Binet: Of course, some people were not impressed by
Mr. Dion's report of last week. I myself rather liked it because it
contained figures. It is easier to grasp some facts if you have the
numbers to support them, rather than just words.
In my opinion, the provinces bear a great deal of
responsibility in this area, since education is a provincial
jurisdiction. Let me tell you a story. I asked you a little earlier
which province or region you were from. I'm from Quebec. The area
I'm from is almost exclusively francophone; there is only a small
number of anglophones. I'm 45 years old and my teachers told me
that it wasn't necessary to learn English, because the province
would secede and English wouldn't be spoken anymore.
So I think that if we want to create bilingual people, the
province will have to get involved and we will have to put more
pressure on schools to do so. Is there any way to pressure the
provinces to use their schools to that effect?
Ms. Dyane Adam: Well, you surely are taking me back in time.
Before being appointed commissioner, I was an academic working in
bilingual colleges and universities. To briefly recount my
experience, throughout the school system, the provinces were
generally more involved in second language training programs 10
years ago than they are today. There was a time in Canada when you
had to have a second language to be an academic. But that's not the
case anymore today; that has become obsolete.
Your solution is to work with the provinces to move forward
the issue of linguistic duality and language. As for language
training at the provincial level—and I'm referring to languages in
general and not only to official languages—the government
champions language training, not in a negative way, but in terms of
promotion. I feel this is perfectly right. We already have the
Council of Ministers of Education. The federal government has
already been involved in the past. If you go back in time, you'll
see that it was the federal government which promoted second
language monitors. So the government has already played that type
of role. Perhaps it should do so again.
It is very timely that the issue be discussed in an era of
globalization. People say that it is even more important for
children to master languages. However autonomous a country might
be, it still has to deal with other countries, so perhaps we
shouldn't only be promoting two languages, but three or four. But
let's start with our own two official languages.
I think your strategy sits at another level. These are
promotion strategies, and Mr. Dion, in his capacity as Minister of
Intergovernmental Affairs, is surely well placed to be the champion
of the provinces, not only in education, in my view, but also in
other areas which are crucial or important to the vitality of
official language communities.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Mauril Bélanger): Do you have another
Mr. Gérard Binet: Yes. I would like to come back to an issue
you raised earlier. Education is very important. That is a basic
fact that had to be grasped at the outset. But if the government
does not pressure the provinces into providing a bilingual
education... After your report was tabled, you may have seen
Quebec's Education Minister, Mr. Legault, on television. He took a
fairly objective approach to the possibility of providing bilingual
education at an earlier stage. I heard some teachers say that
bilingual programs should only be implemented at the high school
level because the French language had to be protected. But as we
know, a culture dies if it is not exported. The best example of
this is of the French who settled in Canada. We are still speaking
French. Do you really think that we could convince every province
of the merits of bilingual education?
Ms. Dyane Adam: You mean on behalf of the federal government?
Mr. Gérard Binet: Yes.
Ms. Dyane Adam: I believe the federal government has already
made significant investments. Heritage Canada manages several
programs. Under transfer payments or various agreements,
significant funding is earmarked for French education, be it French
as a mother tongue or French as a second language. This is a tool
which the federal government uses to show leadership. It's already
Mr. Gérard Binet: We know that that is inadequate. It means
that more pressure will have to be used.
Ms. Dyane Adam: Yes, and it is not easy.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Mauril Bélanger): Thank you. We will now
start a second round. I will give the floor to Mr. Goldring, but
first I would like, if I may, to briefly summarize for the members
of the committee what happened at the steering committee yesterday.
The next issue that the committee will have to deal with is
the whole Air Canada affair, as we agreed, beginning with a
briefing for members of the committee next week. You will recall
that we agreed to have some research done over the summer. The
researchers would like to present the results of their work to the
After the Thanksgiving week break, we will hear witnesses that
we identified last spring, that is, the Minister of Transport, the
President of the Treasury Board and people from Air Canada,
including the president. That is the next issue that the committee
Right after that, we will get into Part VII of the act. There
will be a whole series of meetings, starting with a sort of
briefing for committee members. In the meantime, other things may
come up and we will do our best to look at them.
I have two housekeeping items, if you will allow me. As this
afternoon demonstrates, Wednesday afternoons are very difficult for
our Senate colleagues. So the steering committee would like to
suggest that we meet twice a week, since I believe that there is a
consensus around the table that one meeting a week does not give us
enough time to do everything we would like to do. So we will meet
twice a week, on Monday and Tuesday afternoon, at 3:30.
Senator, I will come back to you in a moment.
The last thing is that it was agreed that we would ask the
commissioner how she would like to get more involved in the
committee's work. These discussions are under way. It might be
appropriate to come back to this when the committee reconvenes in
the next few days. That sums up what I wanted to pass along to you
from the meeting yesterday of the Sub-committee on Agenda and
Senator, do you have a question?
Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier: I wanted to make the following
point. Wednesday afternoons are not a problem for senators.
Wednesday afternoons are devoted entirely to committee work as of
3:30. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays can be more of a problem, but
Wednesday afternoons we are all free.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Mauril Bélanger): The senators on the
committee nearly all told us that Wednesday was impossible. So we
are accommodating them by trying to meet on Monday.
Mr. Goldring, you have five minutes.
Mr. Peter Goldring (Edmonton Centre-East, Canadian
Alliance): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Madam Commissioner, I too would like to thank you for
appearing today and for your presentation today.
I'd also like to comment on a newspaper article that
stated that you've been aggressive in investigating
complaints and obtaining redress to complaints. In
that same article too it mentioned Canada Post. I know
we've talked about Air Canada, which is a private
corporation under federal guidelines. Canada Post,
however, is a crown corporation, and it is having
difficulties following these rules and adhering to
these wishes. That to me indicates a very serious
problem, that if we cannot implement these rules in the
most basic of our institutions, it suggests a serious
problem all the way through.
My question centres on your suggestion that perhaps
one method of obtaining adherence to these
regulations... and my concern here is with Canada Post.
There is this one particular instance, a complaint that
was lodged two years ago, one where this person's
livelihood has been affected for a considerable length
of time, surely a lot longer than should have been
necessary. You have suggested that a method of
controlling this might be through transfer payments to
provinces in some way to put pressure on so that rules and
guidelines are adhered to. That sounds to me to be a
very long-term and cumbersome method. Surely we must
have other means we can use to practically address
these problems on a much more rapid basis.
I'd like your comments on why this issue has existed for
two years, and to one employee in this particular case,
and it has not been resolved. What happened?
Ms. Dyane Adam: Mr. Goldring, I don't know which
article you read, but certainly the journalists did not
do a great job, because there are things
brought together in your comments that have no
linkages. So I will try to answer your question as
best I can, but do not hesitate to correct me if I did
not really grasp or understand what you asked.
The first question concerns Air Canada and Canada
Post, one being a private company and the other being a
crown corporation. As Commissioner of Official
Languages, I don't care what you are, assuming
you're an institution, if you are
subject to the act, which is the case of Air Canada,
Canada Post, or a federal institution, you have to abide
by it, whoever you are. For me, your status should
not effect special privilege to anyone.
Going back to Canada Post and the specific case
whereby this complaint, a single individual... But
again, we're not talking about a single complaint;
we're talking about at least six complaints that were
presented to my office over a period of about eight or
nine months. Those complaints were from different
individuals or groups of individuals, and they were
really all linked to three basic work-related issues:
whether the environment was conducive to the
use of the two official languages; the question
of the linguistic requirements for positions; and the
one linked to the participation of anglophones and
francophones in this particular office.
As I said in the media, rather than investigate each
complaint individually—because all of them were linked
to the same issue—we combined them, making a single
one. Not only that, we went back in our files and
discovered that in the period from 1994 to 1999 there were
about 60 complaints on issues similar to the ones
brought to our attention by those six complainants.
We're talking about a chronic or what we call a
systemic problem. So what was presented as a single
complaint is no longer a single complaint but a
As I said to the media yesterday, when we go into that
type of investigation it takes more time. You have to
be thorough in it, and you have to ensure that you
cover all the angles. So during that period—is it two
years?—both the complainants and the institution had
the preliminary report. It's not as if the
investigation was not done; it's done. They have the
chance, according to our procedures, to react to the
investigation. It's still not finished in terms of a
final report, so I cannot really go into the details;
it's not public. But each party involved in the
investigation knows about the recommendations, and they
have reacted to that. We have integrated their
comments into our final report, and it should be issued
in the next week.
Regarding my job, as one judge told the
commissioner's office—not under my mandate but the
previous one—the commissioner has the responsibility
to look at the spirit and the intent of the act but
also to investigate to the bottom, aller au fond des
choses, to go to the source, not just
The Joint Chair (Mr. Mauril Bélanger): Yes.
Mr. Peter Goldring: Thank you.
In your report you mentioned the Contraventions
Act. I'm sorry, I'm not very familiar with that.
Is that an existing act, and are these suggested
improvements that are due to be out, or is the act
itself to be out, by March 2002? Will there be
provisions in that act that will help to overcome, or
speed up discussions with the various parties concerned
about problems with the implementation? In other
words, what is the Contraventions Act, and what are we
talking about here on the improvements to come in March
2002? And will they be retroactive?
Ms. Dyane Adam: Okay. That's another issue.
That's completely different. It's about a decision
that was made by the Federal Court last March. We, the
commissioner's office, went to court against Justice
Canada on the issue that in the process of transferring
responsibility from the federal government to the
Province of Ontario to apply or administer some parts
of federal laws—I would think minor offences, like
not parking in the right place on federal
property—which was again diluted by the province
through the municipalities, so we're going to a
third level, there was no linguistic clause in the
understanding ensuring that services will still be
provided in both official languages. This was done by
the federal department.
The judge looked at all the facts presented both by
the commissioner's office and Justice Canada and ruled
in favour of the commissioner, saying that when the
federal government makes any type of transfer, it does
not alleviate or eliminate its obligations and
responsibilities towards sustaining the linguistic
rights of Canadians.
He added that the government has now a year to rectify
the situation. I understand that Justice Canada is
working on that, and I have some concerns in the way
they might be interpreting the judgment so far. That's
why I said in my opening remarks that this is something
you need to look at.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Mauril Bélanger): Thank you, Ms. Adam.
Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I can send Mr. Goldring documentation on the Contravention
Act. I have a ton of documents on that.
Commissioner, in 1976-77, just to refresh the memory of
committee members, Mr. Trudeau appointed Pierre Juneau to be the
facilitator or co-ordinator of official languages because there
were serious problems with implementation of the act past in 1969.
I still do not understand Mr. Dion's exact role. I know what
Mr. Juneau tried to do, but I do not really understand Mr. Dion's
I have a question for you. Who do you believe is the minister
responsible for Part VII or for section 41?
Ms. Dyane Adam: This is a big test. I believe it is the
Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier: No. The Heritage Minister is
responsible for tabling your report in the House of Commons.
Ms. Dyane Adam: No, not my report. I don't believe I
understood your question, Mr. Gauthier.
Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier: Who is responsible for the
enforcement of section 41?
Ms. Dyane Adam: Who's responsible? I would say all federal
institutions together are. The institution responsible for tabling
the report is the Department of Canadian Heritage, of course. I
think that is what you wanted. I believe you are testing me.
Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier: Fine. Therefore, Canadian
Heritage has a role to play. Human Resources Development also has
a role to play.
Ms. Dyane Adam: Treasury Board.
Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier: The Department of Justice. If I
understand correctly, Mr. Dion has an important role to play in
co-ordinating the work of the Department of Justice, Heritage
Canada and so on. One cannot say that there is a single minister
responsible for enforcing the act. Mr. Dion is responsible for
We were discussing Part VII. If I understood the law, there is
no legal remedy possible under section 41 of Part VII. Am I
Ms. Dyane Adam: No, that is correct.
Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier: If there is no legal remedy, we
don't have any big stick.
Ms. Dyane Adam: No.
Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier: Therefore we must amend section
41 in order to give it a binding nature. Do you have any comments
Ms. Dyane Adam: Senator Gauthier, I think that you have tabled
an amendment on Part VII. My team and I were looking at that today.
In that amendment, the wording is more binding, but it does not
include what you just brought up, that is to say that Part VII
contain the possibility of legal remedies.
Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier: One last question.
Your strategy is to encourage the provinces to comply with the
constitutional principle of subsection 16(3) of the Canadian
Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Do you know what I mean?
Ms. Dyane Adam: Yes, I understand.
Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier: Do you have a strategy to try
and convince them? This was very difficult for us. Section 23 was
adopted in 1982. It took 17 years before we had a completely French
school in Ontario. Seventeen years! We had to bring this before the
courts and so on. Do you have a strategy to try and convince the
Ms. Dyane Adam: The strategy is to convince ministers to meet
their commitments. All the provincial legislatures signed section
16, except for Quebec. It is their own commitment.
As we mentioned in the report, it is mainly the courts that
forced the provinces to move forward, that obliged the provincial
governments to respect their constitutional obligations. It is
unfortunate and regrettable.
As concerns strategy, I call on Mr. Dion, both as minister
responsible for co-ordinating the official languages file and as
the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, to champion these
causes, to play a proactive role. He also has to bring this to the
table. In any agreement between a province and the federal
government, the issue of official languages simply must be
addressed. What services will you offer to the minority? I think
that would be a good starting point. As for more detailed strategy,
I obviously would like to think about that.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Mauril Bélanger): Mr. Sauvageau, you have
Mr. Benoît Sauvageau: Ms. Adam, you are asking for an action
plan. That is the main conclusion of your report. In 1977, the
Fédération des francophones hors Québec, in your rapport entitled
The Heirs of Lord Durham: The Manifests of a Vanishing People, also
asked for an action plan. In 1994, the Fédération des communautés
francophones et acadienne du Canada asked the then Minister of
Heritage, Michel Dupuy, to draw up an action plan. The minister
replied that an action plan was on the drawing board. I hope that
this plan has been dusted off because it must be covered in dust by
now. In 1999, the late senator Jean-Maurice Simard published his
report asking for an action plan. An action plan was promised in
the throne speech. We are now in 2001 and you are once again asking
for an action plan. I would like to remain optimistic but that is
quite difficult under the circumstances.
I would like to make one recommendation to you and I would
appreciate your feedback on what I have to say. Your report is very
good. However, your recommendations get lost in the body of the
report. Would it not be possible for you to follow the lead of the
Auditor General of Canada and table a report which highlights your
recommendations? You have made some concrete recommendations, but
you have to make them stand out. That is what the Auditor General
does with his recommendations. As a result, the Public Accounts
Committee is able to invite ministers and the appropriate public
servants to explain what they have already done or what they intend
to do to address the recommendations pertaining to their particular
jurisdiction. In light of the fact that there have been repeated
calls for an action plan dating back to at least 1977, which have
gone completely unheeded, I think that we should perhaps change our
Ms. Dyane Adam: I think that your suggestion is a very good
one and it is duly noted.
We have a type of precedent in terms of the commissioner's
annual report. As far as I know, this report has never, or very
rarely contained recommendations. However, the commissioner does
publish other reports. For instance, earlier, I mentioned a report
on service in both official languages entitled Time for Change in
Culture. This report did indeed put forward numerous
recommendations. What was the follow-up? The recommendations made
in this report are clear and mainly targeted at Treasury Board.
As for Mr. Dion, you have to understand that at the time,
there was no minister responsible for co-ordination. However, you
have set me a fine challenge. I will keep your recommendation in
mind for the next report.
Mr. Benoît Sauvageau: It is not a challenge, but rather a
suggestion. When Mr. Desautels was Auditor General, we were able to
follow up on his recommendations at the Public Accounts Committee.
I recall one memorable meeting where the Minister of National
Defence was forced to take action because the Auditor General had
made a specific recommendation aimed directly at him. The deputy
minister and other officials were present at this meeting. It seems
to me that when we adopt this type of approach, it is much easier
to pinpoint the appropriate official and to hold him or her
Ms. Dyane Adam: Undoubtedly. That is a very good suggestion.
I appreciate it.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Mauril Bélanger): Ms. Thibault.
Ms. Yolande Thibeault: I have a brief question, Ms. Adam.
On the issue of municipal mergers, you stated that you had
made representations to the Quebec Court and that you are waiting
for the ruling of the Quebec Court of Appeal on this issue. That
type of statement always surprises me and I wonder when this
decision will be handed down. Do you expect the Court of Appeal
ruling before January 1, 2002?
Ms. Dyane Adam: You will have to ask the appropriate justice.
Ms. Yolande Thibeault: Has the court given you any indication
of a date?
Ms. Dyane Adam: Once again, you will have to ask the
appropriate justice that question. We are at the mercy of the
courts. We are waiting for rulings on several appeals which I
mentioned in my annual report. In one of them, in New Brunswick, we
have been waiting for a ruling since January. As far as the appeal
on the Montreal merger is concerned, we were told that the decision
will be handed down fairly quickly, but we are still waiting. It is
in the hands of the courts for the time being.
Ms. Yolande Thibeault: Thank you.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Mauril Bélanger): Thank you.
Mr. Godin, you have the floor.
Mr. Yvon Godin: I would like to talk about something which
happened when you came to New Brunswick during the weekend.
Everything seemed to be going quite well when you came to speak to
the SAANB on Friday. The Minister of Education stated that you were
congratulating New Brunswick.
I would like to quote an excerpt from a newspaper article. I
would like to know whether the journalist did in fact get his or
her facts right and what your real point of view on this is. The
New Brunswick Education Minister Elvy Robichaud added
that the commissioner's comments are particularly
surprising because only
last Friday she praised the province's
French-language school system as an
“unparalleled success” when she spoke at the
annual general meeting of
the Société des Acadiens et Acadiennes
However, it would seem that immediately afterwards, everything
went sour. I would like to get your real opinion on the situation
in New Brunswick, on education in particular, but also on the RCMP
or even on the Société des Acadiens et Acadiennes du Nouveau-
Brunswick which put its signature to a type of protocol asking the
New Brunswick government to go further in its own official
languages act. I am not pointing the finger at you, but there has
been a misunderstanding and I would like you to explain to us what
really took place.
Ms. Dyane Adam: You are all politicians and you all have to
deal with the media from time to time. They sometimes link two
issues which are not really related, even if they appear to be.
Were you not there on Friday? When I spoke to the Société des
Acadiens et des Acadiennes du Nouveau-Brunswick, I said that New
Brunswick is in a unique situation. It has been successful in
attracting 80% of the target school population. No other province
has succeeded in attracting and retaining as many eligible
students. This is a success story.
The newspaper article deals with two issues, because it
reports Mr. Robichaud's reaction. In my address to the media, I
talk about the following situation.
New Brunswick is also unique in Canada because in terms of the
Constitution, it has much more detailed language legislation than
any other province. In New Brunswick, there is provincial language
legislation which not only puts both official languages, but also
both communities, on an equal footing. There is also federal
language legislation. As a result, there are three levels of
legislation which support or guarantee linguistic duality in New
In my annual report this year, I made reference to the fact
that New Brunswick is the province with the highest number of
language-related court appeals. The three appeals in question are
the following: the Charlebois case, dealing with municipal
services, and a case involving education, which falls under
provincial jurisdiction. The third case involves the RCMP and we
are waiting to see whether this case can be heard by the provincial
court or whether it will have to be sent elsewhere.
I think that the complaint against the RCMP also and more
particularly involves the province. I said that it was quite
astonishing that such issues should arise there, given the
constitutional framework that exists in New Brunswick, and given
the fact that it is, apart from Quebec, the province with the
highest percentage of francophones.
Mr. Yvon Godin: Don't you think that the fact that there are
87 complaints in New Brunswick and the fact that there are more
complaints in New Brunswick than elsewhere is possibly due to the
fact that people in New Brunswick are more proactive when the law
is breached, and that those people who lodged complaints are just
not prepared to put up with the situation like people in Ontario or
Manitoba prefer to do? New Brunswick is much more aggressive in
terms of the equality of both official languages.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Mauril Bélanger): You prove that fact to
us on a daily basis, Mr. Godin.
Mr. Yvon Godin: Thank you. I will take that as a compliment.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Mauril Bélanger): I would just like to
extend my thanks to the commissioner and to her colleagues for
being here today.
You can see that, generally speaking, the people sitting
around this table share your desire to promote Canada's linguistic
duality. You will also note, during the meetings that will be held
this fall, that we wish to collaborate even more closely than we
did in the past, if possible.
If I may, I would like to make a comment that some people may
perceive as being partisan. I hope that you will not take it that
I fully support the wish expressed by all the people around
this table that the government, through its Minister of
Intergovernmental Affairs, adopt an action plan. Personally, I
think that last week's meeting with Minister Dion was very useful.
After all, the self-criticism made by the minister speaking on
behalf of the government was quite severe. In interpreting the
questions raised during this meeting, I would say that the
observation itself was not questioned.
We all agree that, in order to resolve a problem, we have to
have an adequate grasp of what this problem is all about, which
seems to have been done last Tuesday. In this regard, I think that
this meeting was very useful and I thanked the minister for having
reported on the situation. I would also invite him—I have already
done so and I will have an opportunity to invite him again—to come
and see us once the plan is more substantial. I would, however, ask
the committee not to forget that he did talk about several
He mentioned a Treasury Board initiative which is well under
way and which we should be hearing about shortly. He talked about
how these transformations would be implemented, one of the priority
issues raised by the commissioner. He also talked about language of
service and language of work within the public service, which are
two very thorny issues. I am very pleased to see that there is a
will to deal with these issues. Finally, he talked about education
and relations with the provinces. It will, then, be up to us to
ensure that this plan contains all the necessary details.
I simply wanted to make these few remarks, and I hope that you
will perceive them as being well intentioned.
[Editor's note: Inaudible]
Mr. Yvon Godin: —
The Joint Chair (Mr. Mauril Bélanger): No, no. In my opinion,
we must do this. I always try to take everything into account and
I hope that you will see things this way. The floor is yours,
Mr. Benoît Sauvageau: Perhaps the researcher could find out
how many times the co-ordination committee has met since it was
The Joint Chair (Mr. Mauril Bélanger): We could find that out,
of course. There will therefore be a briefing session held next
week—I believe this will be taking place on Tuesday—about Air
Canada. This will be an in camera meeting to brief all committee
members on the issues we will be examining after the Thanksgiving
On behalf of all my colleagues, Madam Commissioner, thank you
for coming and we hope to see you again shortly.
Ms. Dyane Adam: Thank you.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Mauril Bélanger): The meeting is