June 30, 1908

IND

William Findlay Maclean

Independent Conservative

Mr. W. F. MACLEAN.

If you will pardon me-I would ask for the discharge of the other order on the paper, and if the House wishes to lose that time I will have to make a motion to that effect. I think it will facilitate the situation to allow the debate to go on now.

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LIB

Robert Franklin Sutherland (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER.

Unless the House directs otherwise I will have to rule it out of order. The question is now on the third reading of the Bill.

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CON

Frederick Debartzch Monk

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MONK.

I wish to move an amendment to section 22. Section 22 provides that there shall be a secretary who shall reside in the city of Ottawa. I move to amend this section by adding the following:

If the secretary appointed is not thoroughly versed in the French and English languages, the Governor in Council shall appoint a joint secretary having a thorough knowledge of the language in which the secretary appointed is deficient; the said joint secretary shall hold office during pleasure and reside in the city of Ottawa. The duties of the said joint secretary shall he determined by the board according to section 23 of this Act.

I do not wish to detain the House, but I wish merely to call the attention of the government to the fact that I have frequently raised this question since the con stitution of this board. My representations with regard to the matter have been considered by members of the government as reasonable, and 1 have been promised that they would receive consideration, but since the board has been constituted they have not had that consideration which I think they are entitled to. Let me remind the House that this tribunal is one of original jurisdiction, that it is informal in its nature and in the character of its proceedings, and it does not require the employment of lawyers. Its jurisdiction extends over the whole province of Quebec, and it is absolutely necessary that the secretary of the board should be able to correspond Mr. W. F. MACLEAN.

in the French language. Let the House for a single moment consider the position in which the board is to-day with regard to the curing of certain grievances. The jurisdiction is of a very varied character. A man may require a siding or a crossing, he enters upon correspondence with the board and he can do so without having recourse to any third party. But he finds out that the secretary does not understand the language and he is then obliged to have recourse to a third party. Nobody supposes that he will communicate with the secretary in his own mother tongue. The matter to him is one of great interest. He feels it to be his duty to have the secretary communicated with in the English language. Hence he is put in a position of disadvantage which should not be. I do not wish to detain the House, but it is a question which I think commends itself to the consideration of the House, and I think it is a question which we should settle now. I do not believe in carrying the question of language too, far unless it is necessary to secure one's rights. I think that, as far as possible, it is better not to raise such questions, but this is a matter in which I think if the House would now take action, we would avoid in future the discussion of a question which is always irritating. Therefore I have confidence that the House will receive my suggestion in the spirit in which I have made it, and that the government will accept it. I have many times called attention to this matter. When the board was constituted in the first place, I called the attention of the then Minister of Railways to it and he promised to give it his consideration and so did my right hop-friend every time I have raised it. This is a suitable time in which to bring the question up, and I hope the House will accept my amendment.

When previously I made this representation to the House and the government, I was told there was somebody who could make the necessary translation. No doubt that is the case. No doubt in an important commission of that kind, there is a member familiar with the French language, and no doubt among its employees there is one also conversant with that tongue. But that is not the point. The secretary himself should also be similarly qualified because in the province of Quebec many people who have occasion to correspond with the board, knowing that the secretary is not familiar with their language, will go to the trouble I have pointed out It is a matter of justice and right, and it is not a sufficient answer to say that somebody will be found who can do the necessary translation.

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LIB

George Perry Graham (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. GRAHAM.

My hon. friend, when he brought up his amendment recently, made similar remarks, and I assured him that the matter would be considered. Evidently he

has not taken me at my word. I just wish to say that there are a few officers appointed by the government who are not of necessity recommended by the commission, and that the balance of the staff must be recommended by the commission, the chairman of which understands the requirements better than any of us. The secretary is an officer appointed by the government. I have had a conference with the chairman of the board, and he has selected a member of the staff who will be called the assistant secretary, who will have a salary commensurate with that title, and do the work my hon. friend desires. He will be the French secretary to the commission. That has been arranged for, and there will be an item to meet it in the supplementary estimates.

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LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

I think it. would be unfortunate if we were to put in the form of legislative enactment the proposition contained in the amendement of my hon. friend. He has brought the matter to the attention of the government and the government have taken steps to have the wishes of my hon. friend, which are perfectly warranted, carried out. I hope therefore he will not persist in his amendment. The government are alive to the duties incumbent on the secretary and intend acting in the direction desired, and I hope my hon. friend will not persist in his amendment.

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CON

Frederick Debartzch Monk

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MONK.

I am very much gratified to find that the government takes the view it does of the suggestion I have made. That suggestion is made in a spirit of justice and fairness, but in view of what has been stated by the Minister of Railways, I cannot understand why it should not be incorporated in the law. I made the same representation to previous Ministers of Railways and they promised consideration and even more at that time. Now I think we should enact my suggestion and make it the law. The Board of Railway Commissioners is a tribunal of a special character. It has considerable work to do in the province of Quebec ; and if the people there have to deal with it through a third party, because the secretary is not conversant with their language, that will be a great disadvantage. We ought to put what the government has decided to do in the statutes, so that it shall bind all future ministers.

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

There is no substantial difference, as respects the matter to which my hon. friend refers,.between the Board of Railway Commissioners and any department of the government. It is most desirable in every department of the government ithat there should be on its staff officials conversant with both languages and that naturally is looked after. If it is necessary to incorporate this proposal of my hon. friend into an Act of parliament as respects the Railway Commission, it is equally necessary in the other departments.

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CON
LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

Every department of the government has relations with every province in the Dominion and must naturaly receive communications in both languages ; and it is only right and proper that communications in the French language should go into the hands of officials who understand that tongue, so that the department may have the benefit of the full force of the representations made. The object of the hon. gentleman is good, but it would be equally good as respects every department of the government ; and inasmuch as in every department we bring this about by ordinary business arrangements, I fail to see the necessity of enacting such legislation as respects one branch only.

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CON

Frederick Debartzch Monk

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MONK.

There is a great difference. People dealing with any department of the government deal with it, as a rule, through their representatives.

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

I have to dissent from that entirely.

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CON

Frederick Debartzch Monk

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MONK.

That is a view which seems a reasonable one. But the Railway Commission is a court and people deal with it directly. People in the province of Quebec who have to deal with the departments of the government, as a rule, do so through their representatives. In that province we learn the English language and are disposed to use it and are not disposed to ask what is unreasonable. And in this case what we ' are asking for is reasonable.

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

My hon. friend is mistaken when he says that people deal with the departments only through their representatives. Every minister and deputy receive a large amount of correspondence which does not pass through the representatives at all.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

There is this to be said about it, that the Board of Railway Commissioners is, to all intents and purposes, a court exercising jurisdiction and carrying on its work in every province in Canada. It would seem therefore proper % that that board should be so equipped in its official staff that there would not be the slightest inconvenience experienced by any one throughout the country transacting business with it. The Minister of Finance has truly said that there is no statutory provision in the matter with regard to the departments of the government. But this is a matter materially different, as my hon. friend (Mr. Monk) has pointed out. It is different in this respect that the Railway Commission is a court and not a depart-

ment of tlie government; and it is a court of the people and not of the lawyers. That difference might be emphasized by the further observation that the various departments of the government are closely in touch with this parliament, which exercises a certain control over them, over their expenditure and their officials, but the same is not true to the same degree with regard to this tribunal. It would seem proper therefore that necessary precaution should be taken in order that there might be no inconvenience experienced in any part of the country by reason of the circumstances pointed out by my hon. friend from Jacques Cartier (Mr. Monk).

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LIB

George Perry Graham (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Hon. GEO. P. GRAHAM (Minister of Railways and Canals).

I just want to say this : Acting ia good faith, on the suggestion of the hon. member and other members, I proceeded to carry out absolutely the suggestion made that there should be an official of the board, either the secretary or the assistant of the secretary, competent to read and write the French language and to handle the French correspondence so that there might be no delay in business where the French language is used. That must be the object of my hon. friend (Mr. Monk). I immediately took the matter up without waiting to pass any Act and I had a consultation with the chairman of the commission.

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CON

Edward Arthur Lancaster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LANCASTER.

What is the obiec-tion to putting it in the statute?

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LIB

George Perry Graham (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. GRAHAM.

What my hon. friend (Mr. Monk) seeks to accomplish is accomplished without waiting for a statute.

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CON
LIB

George Perry Graham (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. GRAHAM.

Arrangements have been made for just such an official for just such work, so that the objection which formerly existed has been overcome. We are passing an Act this session for civil service reform so as to place the civil servants away from the influence of the government, and for the proper working of the Railway Commission we should allow the board as far as possible to appoint and manage their own staff. This official will be appointed, under the arrangement I have made, by the commission itself to do the work selected by the commission, and he will have the title of assistant secretary, which, to my mind, accomplishes the very thing the hon. gentleman (Mr. Monk) or any person else can ask. That course will do away with what we pretend to be doing away with, namely, the appointment of such an official by a member of the government.

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CON

Joseph Gédéon Horace Bergeron

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. J. G. H. BERGERON (Beauharnois).

I cannot understand why the government does not accept the amendment proposed by my hon. friend (Mr. Monk). It cannot be that it is to avoid expense, because ac-Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

corling to what the Minister of Railways has just said a gentleman will be appointed to fill that position, and if he has the capabilities required his salary will be just as high as that suggested by my hon. friend (Mr. Monk). The amendment says that in case the secretary of the board does not understand the two languages another secretary familiar with the French language will be appointed. The right hon. gentleman said that such a thing does not exist anywhere under the government at present, but we have an example in this very House where if the Mr. Speaker is of one language the Deputy Speaker must be of the other language.

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June 30, 1908