Federal Bill C-13 will be disastrous for Canadians and Canada

Are Federal politicians stupid, ignorant, or just pandering to Quebec? Perhaps it is all of the above. Bill C-13 is the revision of the Official Languages Act which was adopted in 1969 and amended in 1988 to bring it in line with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to provide more protections for English and French speaking minorities.

There is nothing wrong with the Act as it is written now. What is the government trying to fix with Bill C-13? Is it not enough that Quebec discriminates against its Anglophone minority (and religious minorities). Now the Federal government wants to discriminate as well? Perhaps the most serious problem with C-13 is that it incorporates the current version of Quebec’s language law. That means it implicitly accepts Quebec’s Bill 96 which pre-emptively used the Notwithstanding clause to trample fundamental freedoms in Canada and Quebec’s Charters. This is mind boggling when one considers that the Federal government has pledged to argue against the use of the Notwithstanding clause and Bill 96 when it gets to the Supreme Court. Further, no other Canadian law references a provincial law and C-13 gives certain businesses the right to abide by C-13 or Quebec’s Language law. The precedent could lead to other provinces adopting discriminatory laws using the Notwithstanding clause and expect Canada to incorporate their laws into Federal legislation. If we want one united Canada, you don’t make laws like this. It is beyond foolish, it is insane.

Yet, I have not heard any opposition parties object nor has the Senate taken a stand. Is tyranny of the majority in Quebec OK if it gets politicians votes? Is this worth risking the break up of Canada? There will be a backlash in the rest of Canada. Other provinces will retaliate with their own language laws making English the only official language in their provinces and taking away the rights of their French speaking minorities. Of course, they will also use the Notwithstanding clause.

For more on the Notwithstanding Clause, read Time for the Notwithstanding Clause to go.

The biggest problem with C-13 can be fixed easily by removing all references to Quebec’s Charter of the French Language. The Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) has prepared an open letter to the honourable David T. Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. Thousands have already signed the letter. I urge you to sign by following this link and by sharing with as many people as you can.  

C-13 has many additional problems

According to Statistics Canada only 18% of Canadians are bilingual and they are already favored in applying for jobs in the federal public service where about 40% of the jobs require bilingualism. That is discrimination against the 82% of Canadians who are not bilingual but I believe it is justified so that minority language speakers can be served in their language. Bill C-13 extends the bilingualism requirement to all federally regulated businesses including banks, interprovincial transport, rail companies, airlines, interprovincial energy companies and more. This will reduce employment opportunities for the majority of Canadians who are not bilingual.  It will also add millions in additional costs to the private sector because of the need to duplicate all computer systems in French as well as all documents. Those costs will be passed on to consumers. This aspect of the law will apply to Quebec and any region of Canada with a strong francophone presence. The latter is not defined and could be determined by bureaucrats after the law passes.

Lower quality Supreme Court Judges

Currently, Canadians have the right to a trial in English or French. If the judge is not bilingual interpreters can be used. With the new amendments, interpreters will not be accepted at the Supreme Court so at least 5 of the 9 judges (the minimum required at a hearing) will have to be bilingual. This means that many extremely qualified judges will not be eligible to sit on the country’s highest court because they are not bilingual. With a smaller pool to choose from, we will end up with less competent Supreme Court judges.

All Canadians should be outraged by Bill C-13. It favors French over English, implicitly supports the Notwithstanding Clause, gives special privileges to Quebec, favors the 18% bilingual minority for jobs well beyond what is currently the case, saddles businesses and consumers with unnecessary costs, and will weaken the quality of Supreme Court judges.


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Picture of Dr. Bill Steinberg

Dr. Bill Steinberg

Dr. Steinberg has a BSc from McGill University, a PhD in Psychology from Northwestern University, and was a professor at Concordia University. He was Mayor of the Town of Hampstead for 16 years and led the demerger battle. He was was awarded the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal and is currently President of the Cochlear Implant Recipients Association.

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