Adrian Wyld The Canadian Press Conservative MP Joël Godin proposed an amendment to the bill C-13 to make the count a government commitment.
The federal government will not have to commit to periodically counting the number of children eligible for instruction in the minority official language, as the Conservatives wanted in the parliamentary committee studying Bill C-13. Ottawa will only have to estimate the number of students in this situation.
French-language school boards outside Quebec have been fighting for a long time to have Statistics Canada count the children of rights holders. Access to this type of data is important, particularly since “important decisions concerning the management of minority schools depend on statistical and demographic data”, noted a report by the official languages committee published in 2017.
< p>According to experts and school boards consulted for this report, Statistics Canada's short census questionnaire is the only way to adequately count these children since it is given to all Canadians. This is what the agency did for the first time in 2021. Among other things, the exercise made it possible to determine, last November, that nearly a third of children eligible for education in the minority language were not benefiting of law.
The Conservative amendment presented would have enshrined this exercise in law. Statistics Canada's decision to count rights holders as it did in 2021 came after years of effort by minority school boards and federations. “We are disappointed that the amendment was refused since we could have ensured that regardless of the government, the questions would be there”, commented in an interview Simon Poirier, president of the National Federation of Francophone School Boards (FNCSF) .
An important difference
Conservative Joël Godin reported on what he described as a “discord” within the Liberal caucus before proposing an amendment to make the count a government commitment. For the past few days, Montreal Liberal MPs such as Marc Miller, Marc Garneau and Anthony Housefather have hinted over the past few days that they may vote against their own party's bill at third reading.
MP Godin moved the amendment with emotion. There is, according to him, a big difference between the terms “count” and “estimate”. The term “estimate”, he said, is “loophole”. “I'm flabbergasted to hear that the term 'estimate' is stronger than 'count',” he continued. The Conservative MP from the Quebec region believes that the amendment was of major importance. “I hope we don't back down,” he said.
The Liberals, however, introduced a subamendment replacing the word “count” with “estimate.” This subamendment was adopted. MP Godin's amendment as amended was also subsequently adopted, even though the Conservative voted against, obviously judging that his initial amendment had been weakened too much. The curator asked for unanimous consent to withdraw his amendment, which he did not obtain.
Because of the decisions taken on Friday morning, Simon Poirier affirms that the FNCSF will therefore have to continue to make ” lobbying” to ensure that Statistics Canada asks the necessary questions in the census short form.
This story is supported by the Local Journalism Initiative, funded by the Government of Canada .