Uncertainties on the Liberal party line on its official languages ​​reform

Uncertainties on the Liberal party line on its official languages ​​reform

Uncertainty over the Liberal party line on its official languages ​​reform

Adrian Wyld The Canadian Press The Trudeau government has yet to decide whether to impose the party line in the upcoming vote on the reform of the Official Languages ​​Act.

The Trudeau government is toying with the idea of ​​forcing elected Liberals to vote in favor of adopting its reform of the Official Languages ​​Act. Liberal Whip Steven MacKinnon said Wednesday the decision has yet to be made.

“There is no decision made, and the legislative process is ongoing,” said know the Liberal party discipline official shortly before his weekly caucus meeting.

On Tuesday, Montreal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather threatened to oppose Bill C-13, introduced by his own government but then amended at parliamentary committee stage by opposition parties.

< p>Despite attempts at amendment by Liberal MPs from more English-speaking ridings, references to the Quebec Charter of the French language are still found in the text. This charter was amended last year by Bill 96, and Mr. Housefather sees a setback in the rights of English speakers.

The Bloc Québécois, the Conservative Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party have already voted for certain amendments requested by Quebec aimed at broadening, in federal law, the scope of the Quebec Charter on the territory of Quebec. Other significant changes still need to be considered in parliamentary committee, after which the bill will be voted on in the House of Commons for a third reading.

Party discipline

If he cannot purge the text of Bill C-13 of these various opposition additions, Mr. Housefather believes that his government will then let him vote in Parliament according to his conscience.

“I don't think this vote will be subject to the party line. I can't imagine why it would be. […] I believe there will be the understanding at the end that everyone can look at the bill and make up their mind,” he said Tuesday evening.

The Liberal Party of Canada allows free votes for its MPs most of the time, except on an issue involving the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a matter of confidence in the government or a party election promise. .

However, the Liberal election platform specifically promises such a reform “aiming for the substantive equality of French and English”, in the spirit of the reform document which recognizes that French is under threat even in Quebec. This was presented as a change of course by the Liberals, who until then had put French-speaking minorities outside Quebec and English-speaking minorities in Quebec on an equal footing.

The Liberal lieutenant in Quebec, Pablo Rodriguez, “hopes” that his entire caucus will vote in favor of the text, a “very, very good bill”.

“C-13 recognizes that there is a language that is threatened in Canada, and it's French. And that more must be done for French, in Quebec and elsewhere. We want to ensure that Francophones can work and have services in their language in businesses under federal jurisdiction. »

Her Franco-Ontarian colleague and President of the Treasury Board, Mona Fortier, announced bluntly that she will vote for the bill “which is solid, which is strong”.

Not all of the same opinion

Montrealer and Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Marc Miller, was much less clear. “There are amendments from the Bloc, from the Conservative Party, which obviously completely undermine the spirit of the law,” he said Wednesday. He also said he would like the final version of the text to be amended again to make it acceptable to all Liberals.

Liberal MP Marc Garneau meanwhile attacked the media on Wednesday, the accusing in writing of not quoting him when he “consistently asserts that French is the official language of Quebec”. And this even if large parts of his speech on the defense of Anglo-Quebecers were quoted in Le Devoirand after declining to answer any questions on Tuesday.

In an open letter published on his website and primarily addressed to La Presse columnist Paul Journet, the MP for Notre- Dame-de-Grâce — Westmount acknowledges that it “does not take lightly” criticism of its own government on this issue. He believes that Quebec's Bill 96 has no place in federal law.

“Now imagine if other provinces decide to create their own language charter and insist on the same treatment [ than Anglophones by Quebec]? Who will be there to defend the language rights of minorities across the country, if there is a violation of their rights? “, he writes.

The study clause by clause of Bill C-13 in parliamentary committee must be completed before the text can be voted on in the House of Commons. This could still take some time, especially if the committee members agree to add meetings to examine all the amendments requested by Quebec.