Bill C-13: Conservatives and Bloc Québécois accused of obstructing the official languages ​​committee

This is the story of the gagged gags. For seven meetings, the members who sit on the parliamentary committee studying the modernization of the Official Languages ​​Act have been entangled in a procedural impasse, to such an extent that the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party (NDP) are now accusing the minority made up of the Conservative Party and the Bloc Québécois to filibuster.

The saga at the Standing Committee on Official Languages ​​began almost a month ago when the Liberals tabled without warning a motion to speed up the adoption of the reform by limiting the time for debate through a series of deadlines.

Their goal was to get the bill out of the House of Commons by the holidays. However, the motion continues to be debated, amended and sub-amended, each time on several points, in particular because certain dates have passed.

Despite their majority, the Liberals and NDP MP Niki Ashton, who support them, are trapped in the face of opponents who use their leeway.

Again during Tuesday’s meeting, Bloc Québécois critic for official languages, Mario Beaulieu, reminded the chair of the committee that « you cannot prevent me, prevent a member from speaking, if it is related, even remotely, to the question at stake”.

And Mr. Beaulieu, who does not digest the reform proposal, judging it contrary to the interests of Quebec, held the fort for almost half an hour this time before the president, René Arseneault, who had put the deputy in careful on numerous occasions to stick to the subject and to stop repeating himself, judged that it was too much and gave the floor to the Conservative vice-president, Joël Godin. “I take back a right to speak”, returned illico Mr. Beaulieu.

Over the past few weeks, the MP has seen fit to give what has been described as a ‘history lesson’, going so far as to deal with Lord Durham or to discuss matters within provincial jurisdiction. At times, obviously, no other member, except the chair of the committee, was listening to him. All those present in person were checking their phones or chatting with political staff, found The Canadian Press.

Mr. Godin, who had previously warned the president that he is “much better off” with his colleague from the Bloc, hinting that he himself has expertise in stretching the sauces, woke up the room by proposing that everyone put “partisanship” aside and that a meeting be held bringing together an elected official from each party to try to resolve the impasse.

The Liberals were skeptical, but eventually agreed. MP Francis Drouin notably noted that « there is obstruction » at the public security and national committee as well as at the Canadian heritage committee and said he believed that « there is an order from above to obstruct all the committees », which Mr. Godin vigorously objected to.

No consensus

Thus, the room was emptied for this meeting behind closed doors and, an hour later, the deputies confirmed when they left that they had not come to an agreement.

The exasperation of Marc Serré, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Official Languages, was palpable. “It’s been seven sessions!, he launched in a press scrum. It’s completely a waste of time. […] It’s filibuster with subamendments. »

Mr. Serré admitted to fearing for the very future of the bill since even when it is adopted by the House of Commons, it will have to continue its path in the Senate and the deputies will have to draft the regulations. “We are in a minority situation. As you know, minority governments usually last 18 months. »

In turn, the representatives of the Conservative Party and the Bloc have declared that they refuse to be “gagged”.

“There are people who play petty politics on the back of the French. Then, that is unacceptable, ”supported Joël Godin.

Mario Beaulieu pointed out that by speaking during the last meetings, he is forcing a « debate » in committee, but also in the media, on the idea that the Official Languages ​​Act is « one of the main factors of anglicization of Quebec”.

Ottawa’s bill enshrines a new right to work and be served in French in Quebec and in regions with a strong French-speaking presence in other provinces in private businesses under federal jurisdiction, such as banks, airlines or railways .

However, Quebec wants instead to subject these companies established on its territory to the Charter of the French language, which does not give a choice and makes French the only language of work.

“What tools do we have left?” asked Mr. Beaulieu to journalists who wanted to know if another 13 hours of debate on the motion are to be expected. “Let’s just say they can’t override parliamentary regulations either. […] We won’t let go, ”he said.

For the NDP, the Bloc and the Conservatives are “delaying” the bill, but the Liberals are also to blame for having delayed introducing it. Ms Ashton, who wants to add meetings, said she wants to see « political will […] to move forward a historic bill that is needed as soon as possible”.

The Liberals could force the House of Commons to take the situation in hand, but that would require the support of the NDP, which does not seem keen on the idea. “We still think it’s possible to do this work in committee,” Ms. Ashton noted when asked the question.

In short, in the absence of an agreement, the deliberations will continue on Thursday. We are about to hear Mr. Beaulieu speak to Ms. Ashton’s subamendment number 3. And no one is able to say whether we will still be in this same type of debate in seven other sessions.

To see in video

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