Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada: “The long-awaited tabling of Bill C‑13, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act, to enact the Use of French in Federally Regulated Private Businesses Act and to make related amendments to other Acts, is an essential step in advancing our official languages in Canada.
“This is a key phase in modernizing the Official Languages Act (the Act) to make it relevant, dynamic and strong. The Act, which has changed enormously since it was first adopted, needs to adapt to and evolve with the demands of Canadian society in the 21st century.
“I have read the proposed measures and believe that they will breathe new life into efforts to protect and promote both of our official languages and to strengthen linguistic duality in Canada.
“I am pleased that the federal government recognizes the importance of fostering the full development of official language minority communities, particularly by committing to support key sectors that contribute to this development, such as culture, education, health and immigration.
“I am also pleased to see that several of my recommendations have been retained in the Bill, such as requiring Supreme Court judges to be bilingual, improving access to court decisions and ensuring a regular review of the Act.
“I appreciate the measures proposed in Bill C‑13 to give the Act more teeth, particularly those that strengthen my powers by giving me more tools to help federal institutions improve their compliance with their official language obligations. I am also gratified to see that the government has given me the power to impose administrative monetary penalties under this new Bill. I will be looking into the details of this in the near future, but the new mechanism will help to ensure that organizations serving the travelling public meet their language obligations with respect to communications and services.
“Some language issues would benefit from further discussion, such as governance and horizontal coordination of official languages. I see that the government has taken into account the principles set out in the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision in the Fédération des francophones de la Colombie‑Britannique case, in particular by specifying federal institutions’ obligation to consult with both official language minority communities and to take their needs into account. However, I will be conducting a more in-depth analysis of the new approach established under Part VII of the Act.
“Now that the new bill has been tabled, I look forward to continuing to be an active participant in the modernization discussions, including sharing my thoughts with parliamentarians on the new proposed measures in terms of both the Act and the other related legislation covered by Bill C‑13.
“I urge all parliamentarians to work together to ensure that this modernization, which is long overdue, becomes a reality.
“It is high time Canada had an Official Languages Act that helps both of our official languages to thrive and that truly defends the language rights of all Canadians.”