Court Challenges Program (CCP)
Set up to protect minorities in upholding their rights and freedoms under the Charter when such rights were ignored or violated, CCP is now considered a “wasteful” program. Many of you will recall the struggle the community in Ottawa-Vanier lead to ensure its own Montfort Hospital remained open. Such challenges were made possible through the help of programs such as the CCP and now this very program will cease to exist.
As an answer and of pressure, since last September 25, I made many interventions in the media. As a parliamentarian, I tabled, debated and participated in the adoption of a motion asking the government to re-establish funding for the CCP by a majority of Members of Parliament.
I deplore that the program faces its second abolition. Indeed, it was abolished for the first time under the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney, before being reinstated by the liberals under Jean Chrétien in 1994.
It is unfortunate that a number of francophone MPs from the Ottawa region did not vote to reinstate the program. My position on this program is clear and solid. I strongly believe on his utility and I will continue to defend it. I will also add that on April 19th, the Leader of the Official Opposition, Mr. Stéphane Dion, tabled a notice of motion calling on the government to restore the CCP in its entirety.
As a member of the Official Opposition and former Critic for Canadian Heritage, I fully support a strong public broadcaster. We have urged the Harper government to proceed cautiously with any possible mandate review of CBC/Radio-Canada. We have stressed that such a review should occur prior to any license renewal process and should take into account an enhanced, workable funding formula that would assist CBC/Radio-Canada’s ability to fulfill any re-defined mandate. We also ask that the mandate review exercise be a broad-based public consultation.
As I have publicly expressed in the past, my support for public broadcasting in Canada is strong and I have seriously committed to defending the mandate of the CBC/Radio-Canada, as well as enhancing the role it plays. In light of increasing foreign content in radio and television programming, our role as parliamentarians is to ensure Canadian content through public broadcasting is well protected.
Liberal members both in the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and in the House of Commons have been and remain strong supporters of public broadcasting. As an example, last May the House of Commons adopted a motion that I presented calling on the government to ensure the protection of domestic cultural rights by maintaining or enhancing content requirements, foreign ownership restrictions and financial support for public broadcasting in both official languages.
On July 12th 2006, Bell Globemedia announced its purchase offer of CHUM Limited. In addition the same year CanWest Global and Goldman Sachs & Co. announced its acquisition of Alliance Atlantis. The increasing concentration of media ownership implies that Canadians are left with fewer choices. It also reinforces the need for a strong, clearly mandated and properly financed public broadcaster in Canada. We are in favor of strengthening the mandate of public broadcasting in line with adequate funding levels and we will be watching very closely any Harper government plan to review the mandate of the CBC/Radio-Canada.
We will not be isolated!
In May 2007, I expressed concern vis-à-vis MP Pierre Lemieux from Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, having given notice in the House of Commons of a motion calling on the federal government to “create a program to guarantee the recognition of linguistic rights for official language minority communities in Canada”. The motion will most probably be debated and voted this Fall.
Last September 25th, the Harper government issued a press release entitled “Canada’s New Government cuts wasteful programs, refocuses spending on priorities, achieves major debt reduction as promised”. Among these “wasteful” programs was the Court Challenges Program (CCP). The CCP was set up to enable minorities to bring legal actions in support of their equality and language rights, as guaranteed by the Canadian Constitution; the government considers this program useless.
Many of us recall the battle fought by Francophones in Eastern Ontario and elsewhere to keep the Montfort Hospital open. Campaigns such as this one were made possible thanks to the support of programs such as the CCP, which will no longer be available. Mr. Lemieux contributed towards the loss of the CCP, by supporting the cuts and by his silence.
The CCP goes well beyond the single issue of language rights, as the Program had also dealt with equality rights. Among the number of cases funded by the CCP was one involving the disability of a child, another the exclusion of Inuit women from employment insurance programs, and another the lack of interpreters and interpretation services for persons with hearing impairments.
Mr. Lemieux confirms having obtained the support of a number of francophone minority organizations, such as the Assemblée de la francophonie de l'Ontario (AFO) and the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadiennes du Canada (FCFA). This is not true. Neither the FCFA nor the AFO support the creation of a court challenges program solely for the language communities. Ask Jean-Guy Rioux, President of the FCFA. Ask Mariette Carrier-Fraser, President of the AFO.
As Francophones, we are proud members of the Canadian society and we stand on an equal footing with others. We have a duty to demonstrate solidarity with the other individuals and groups protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I will also add that on April 19th, the Leader of the Official Opposition, Mr. Stéphane Dion, tabled a notice of motion calling on the government to restore the CCP in its entirety.
Lastly, isn’t it ironic that the Harper government justifies eliminating the CCP, which cost $2.8 million a year, on the grounds of saving money, while the same government is committing an annual expenditure of $22 million toward the operating expenses of the Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg?
If we needed proof that eliminating the CCP was based on ideological and not financial considerations, there it is!