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Thursday, November 29th 2018 - Motion to Reaffirm the Importance of Both Official Languages as the Foundation of Our Federation in Light of the Government of Ontario's Cuts to French Services - Senator Poirier's Debate

Motion to Reaffirm the Importance of Both Official Languages as the Foundation of Our Federation in Light of the Government of Ontario’s Cuts to French Services—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Miville-Dechêne, seconded by the Honourable Senator Klyne:

That the Senate, in light of the decisions made by the Government of Ontario with respect to the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner and the Université de l’Ontario français:

1.reaffirm the importance of both official languages as the foundation of our federation;

2.remind the Government of Canada of its responsibility to defend and promote language rights, as expressed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Official Languages Act; and

3.urge the Government of Canada to take all necessary measures, within its jurisdiction, to ensure the vitality and development of official language minority communities.

Hon. Rose-May Poirier: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak in support of Senator Miville-Dechêne’s motion. I rise in solidarity with the Franco-Ontarian community, and I also rise as Vice-Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, as a member of the Senate’s Conservative caucus, and, above all, as an Acadian from Saint-Louis-de-Kent, New Brunswick.

Honourable senators, what happened in Ontario on November 15, 2018, was a blow to linguistic minority communities. We are here in the Senate chamber to protect the interests of minorities. We are the chamber of sober second thought of the Parliament of Canada. Our purpose could not be more clear or more necessary than it is now, in the midst of this linguistic turmoil.

It is in this chamber, honourable senators, that many initiatives to promote, protect and defend the interests of linguistic minority communities have been brought forward. Take, for example, Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier’s bill to amend Part VII of the Official Languages Act in 2005, Senator Chaput’s determination to make amendments to the Official Languages Regulations, or the efforts of Senator Gerald Comeau, an Acadian from Nova Scotia, to get the National Acadian Day Act passed in 2003 to designate August 15 as National Acadian Day.

However, it is not just the actions of individual senators that have made a difference. The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages has, too. Whether it is a report on CBC/Radio-Canada and its language obligations, better practices to increase bilingualism of Canadian youth, or the current study on the modernization of Official Languages, the committee has been and continues to be a strong voice for linguistic minority communities.

When my staff met with the various members of the FCFA last Thursday, one of the representatives told us about the approach the organization is taking to the announcements. In every crisis, there is an opportunity. I believe, honourable senators, that our francophone minority communities have embraced the opportunity presented by this crisis.

We are here to reaffirm the importance of both official languages as the foundation of our federation. The importance of both languages is being affirmed from coast to coast to coast. More importantly, the announcements seem to have inspired Canadians of all ages, no matter where they are in Canada or what language they speak. To me, honourable senators, that proves that official languages are a Canadian value that crosses the political divide. It is a Canadian value that we not only all believe in, but that is also protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. What’s more, the Official Languages Act has quasi-constitutional status. It is therefore a cultural value, a legal value, but above all, a Canadian value.

Honourable senators, the solidarity between all the linguistic minority communities has been on full display over the past few weeks. It is clear that a blow to one is a blow to all and that they will support each other without hesitation.

We may be isolated from one another, from coast to coast to coast across our wonderful country, but we are all united by our language, our culture, our identity, and our fight. Thank you.

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