Patrick Doyle The Canadian Press “I cannot support Bill [C-13] if it contains certain Conservative and Bloc amendments,” the English-speaking federal MP elected in the riding of Mount Royal said on Tuesday.
Montreal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather will vote to defeat the reform of the Official Languages Act proposed by his own party if it extends the powers of the Quebec Charter of the French language.
“I cannot not support Bill [C-13] if it contains certain Conservative and Bloc amendments,” the English-speaking MP for the riding of Mount Royal said on Tuesday.
Anthony Housefather stopped for several minutes to share his thoughts with the media after a meeting of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, which is examining the clauses of Bill C-13 one by one. Dissatisfied with the changes already made to the text, he clings to the hope that the House of Commons will amend it again — otherwise he will oppose the legislative text in the final vote, at third reading.
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Opposition parties are in the majority on federal parliamentary committees. Thus, the Conservative Party of Canada, the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party have come together to make certain changes requested by Quebec to this reform of the Official Languages Act. They also blocked attempts by some Liberal MPs to remove any reference to the Charter of the French language.
Mr. Housefather thus asserts that he does not know whether he can support Bill C-13 if this Quebec law is mentioned in it.
Division within a “united” caucus
Like him, elected Liberals from the Montreal region — Marc Garneau (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce–Westmount) and Emmanuella Lambropoulos (Saint-Laurent), in particular — brought to the defense of the English-speaking community of Quebec against the alleged wrongs of the Charter of the French language of Quebec, modified last year by law 96.
And this, although their party had announced in 2021 that it would henceforth strengthen French everywhere in the country, including in Quebec.
“Until now, I have not supported anything that was not supported by my party. […] I am absolutely aligned [with the Liberal caucus],” Housefather repeated. However, he says he is attached to the current principles of the Official Languages Act, which treats the French-speaking communities outside Quebec and the English-speaking community in Quebec on the same footing.
The office of the Minister of Official Languages, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, confirmed to Devoir that Mr. Housefather was seeking to amend the bill. “All MPs are free to table amendments,” said the minister's press secretary, Marianne Blondin.
Last week, Justin Trudeau's Quebec lieutenant, Pablo Rodriguez, claimed that the Liberal caucus was “united” on the issue. “We're moving forward, we're going to support C-13,” he promised.
The position of the MP for Mount Royal may surprise Franco-Ontarian Liberal MP Francis Drouin, who indicated on the sidelines of the committee meeting on Tuesday evening “not [to know] anyone who says they do not vote in favor of C-13” within his caucus. “We support what the Minister of Official Languages and the Prime Minister are putting forward. »
Bloc Québécois MP Mario Beaulieu, some of whose amendments were defeated on Tuesday, said in passing that he does not consider the English-speaking community of Quebec as a real linguistic minority, but rather as a Quebec part of the North American majority. An assertion that stung Anthony Housefather to the quick.
“It's hard for me to hear that, he said to Devoir. Because we are a minority that is very distinct from the rest of the country's anglophones. […] I have a great understanding of francophones across Canada, including Quebec. Because when you are a minority, you are very attached to your language, your culture. It is an important part of your daily life. And you have a defensive position which is exactly the same. […] We have so much in common, to say that we are not in the minority, to reduce our services… This is not the way to attract [sympathy] towards an important cause, which is the promotion of French. »
Marc Garneau, for his part, did not wish to comment on leaving the meeting, in which he participated as an observer.
In addition to the Bloc Québécois, the Conservative Party and the NDP have already stated that they want to modify Bill C-13 in order to force the application of the Charter of the French language to companies under federal jurisdiction present on the territory of Quebec. Proposals to this effect will be examined at the next meetings of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, which may need more time than expected to complete its examination of this reform.