A bill that aims to enshrine a francophone immigration program into law is heading to the Senate after clearing the House of Commons.
Bill C-13 would modernize the Official Languages Act and recognize that French is the only official language in Canada that is under threat and therefore must be protected within federal workplaces.
The bill passed third reading in the House of Commons Monday with Montreal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, who has expressed concerns about its effect on the minority English-speaking community in Quebec, being the only one to vote against it.
“This is really a historic day. It’s a really important day for this legislation and an important day for our country,” said Official Languages Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor following the vote in the House.
The bill, if it becomes law, would introduce immigration in the Official Languages Act for the first time, and recognize its importance to the vitality of francophone minority communities outside Quebec.
The Liberal government believes this will help increase childcare, education and health-care services in French across Canada, where programs are affected by a lack of bilingual workers.
“Through this modernization we’re talking about putting in place an immigration policy with indicators and targets to make sure that we reverse that decline,” Petitpas Taylor said.
The bill would also require that all judges appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada are bilingual in order to improve access to justice and to ensure that future governments can’t change the policy.
The bill has been described by MPs as having more teeth, which they said was needed because “baby teeth are not forever teeth,” as Conservative MP Joel Godin said during a committee meeting.