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Canada’s Official Languages Commissioner says he’s “shocked and disappointed” that the right of a Quebec cabinet minister to speak French in Parliament was questioned this week.

Raymond Théberge was reacting today to an incident in which a Conservative MP asked the Heritage Minister to speak English during a committee hearing.

In a statement, Théberge noted that since 1867, parliamentarians have been allowed to use either English or French in Parliament to perform their duties.

“I was shocked and disappointed when I found out that, in 2023, this right was being questioned by some parliamentarians,” said Théberge, noting that the right is protected under the Official Languages Act,

On Thursday, Rachael Thomas was questioning Pascale St-Onge during a hearing of the heritage committee when she remarked on the language the Quebec MP was speaking.

“Minister, I noticed that you answer my questions in French, but other English questions you answer in English, if they’re from your Liberal colleagues,” Thomas said.

“I realize it’s completely your choice, we’re a bilingual country, but if at all possible, I would love to have it in English.”

In a letter to the chair of the heritage committee later in the day, Thomas apologized for her comments. She asked that the apology be sent to the minister and other members of the committee.

Théberge took note of the apology, but said concerns linger.

“While I recognize that apologies have been made, I expect all parliamentarians to acknowledge and respect this fundamental right now and in the future.”

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you're reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY'S HEADLINES

Canada’s unemployment rate rises to 5.8% as job gains can’t offset population surge - So far in 2023, the labour market has experienced a net gain of around 430,000 positions – what is generally regarded as a robust year of job creation. But the country is also growing at historically strong rates.

Ontario Greens have won a second seat in the provincial legislature - Aislinn Clancy won a by-election in the riding of Kitchener Centre and will join Guelph MPP and Green Leader Mike Schreiner at Queen’s Park. Story here.

CSIS whistle-blower says they hope they ‘lit a match’ with allegations of rape and harassment - The agent says she and her colleagues want to “force change” at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, where they say they suffered abuse and ill-treatment at the hands of senior colleagues in the agency’s physical surveillance unit in B.C.

Rights commission’s humbug view of Christmas is just the gift the CAQ needed - Christopher Skeete, the province’s anti-racism minister, introduced a motion today condemning the Canadian Human Rights Commission for describing Christmas as an “obvious example” of systemic religious discrimination linked to Canada’s history of colonialism.

Wildfires could be triple Canada’s industrial emissions. But they’re excluded from the official carbon tally - In keeping with international reporting guidelines, Canada’s yearly National Inventory Report highlights human-caused, or anthropogenic, emissions rather than natural disturbances, such as insect outbreaks or wildfires. Story here.

Housing dominates B.C. legislative session with next election less than a year away - The seven-week session was highlighted by four NDP housing-related bills, concerns about the government’s safe drug supply and decriminalization initiatives, demands for carbon-pricing relief and the rise of B.C.’s Conservative Party, which now has two members in the 87-seat legislature.

THIS AND THAT

Housser seeking NDP nomination - Sally Housser, a former press secretary for federal NDP leader Jack Layton, is looking to enter the political spotlight as a candidate and prospective member of the Saskatchewan legislature. Housser is seeking the provincial NDP nomination in the riding of Regina University. She announced her bid here. Housser has most recently been a specialist in strategic communications and issues management for the Canadian Strategy Group.

Bail reform passed - British Columbia’s Attorney-General is pleased to see that long-awaited bail-reform legislation has passed, but says the process took a while. “Every system has checks and balances in it. What we need sometimes is faster results when it comes to getting through those checks and balances,” Niki Sharma said in an interview today. On Thursday, MPs in the House of Commons unanimously decided to accept changes the Senate made to Bill C-48 to make bail more difficult to access for repeat offenders. “It’s part of a tool the judges and Crown counsel can now use when they are dealing with repeat offenders,” said Sharma.

Today in the Commons – Projected Order of Business at the House of Commons, Dec. 1, accessible here.

Deputy Prime Minister’s Day - Private meetings in Calgary.

Ministers on the Road - Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault, in Edmonton, and Mayor Amarjeet Sohi made an announcement on the prevention of gun crime and gang violence in Edmonton. Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, in Dubai, attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP28, where he held a news conference today. Guilbeault is at the conference until Dec. 12. Immigration Minister Marc Miller, at city hall in the Quebec community of Sherbrooke, attended a ceremony to welcome 35 new Canadian citizens. Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez, in Halifax, made an announcement related to supply chains. Energy Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, in Vancouver, also made an announcement on Canada’s supply chains.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

Private meetings in the Toronto and Hamilton area and a meeting with women leaders to discuss affordability and health care. Trudeau also attended an evening party fundraising event in Toronto, accompanied by International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen.

LEADERS

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre delivered a speech at the inaugural Hugh and Laura MacKinnon Roundtable Luncheon, held, in Toronto, by the CD Howe Institute.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, in Dubai, is at the UN Climate Change Conference, COP28.

No schedules released for Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet or NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

THE DECIBEL

On today’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, postsecondary-education reporter Joe Friesen explains why university campuses are a flashpoint of spillover tensions from the Israel-Hamas war and why it’s testing how free speech is handled at universities. The Decibel is here.

TRIBUTE

Darcy McKeough - At one point in the 1970s, McKeough was Ontario’s minister of the treasury, economics, intergovernmental affairs, and municipal affairs – all at the same time. He died on Wednesday, aged 90. Obituary here.

OPINION

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on the holes in Canada’s climate strategy, and how to mend them: There are two truths: Canada has a lot of good ideas in its climate playbook but it’s been arduous to turn them into a durable reality. Ottawa, supported by the provinces, must make more progress – fast.”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on how Canadian content quotas for pension funds are bad for pensioners, and worse for Canada: “Among the many bad ideas in the Fall Economic Statement – reciprocity in procurement, a digital services tax, increased subsidies to the news industry – surely the worst was the scheme to tax people’s retirement savings to prop up the Canadian stock market. You might not have heard it described that way. Possibly it might have been referred to, instead, as a plan to require Canadian pension funds to invest a larger part of their portfolios in Canada, rather than in other countries. Indeed, if you read the statement, it wasn’t even a requirement: more an opportunity.”

Marsha Lederman (The Globe and Mail) on how the war in the Middle East is creating new divides in CanLit: For Kelly Baron, now ex-publisher of the Canadian literary journal Ex-Puritan, the final straw was a statement reposted by a colleague on Instagram. It accused Israelis of stealing Palestinian bodies for their skin due to allegedly high rates of skin cancer for Israelis – the suggestion being that Jews are not indigenous to the region. Even before the skin-stealing post, Ms. Baron felt, after the Hamas attacks on Israel and the subsequent war in Gaza by Israel, that some social-media activity by CanLit colleagues went beyond support for Palestinians and strayed into antisemitic territory.”

Eric Reguly (The Globe and Mail) on how COP28 is a chaotic climate jamboree that should be a slimmed-down negotiating session: It may be too early to call COP28, the latest edition of the United Nations’ annual climate summit, now under way in Dubai, a woeful failure. But the omens do not suggest a planet-cooling outcome – far from it. History is not on the summit’s side. Almost all of them end with desperate announcements full of photo-ops and fury that ultimately signify nothing. Carbon emissions keep rising, the planet keeps warming – global average temperatures were the highest on record in 2023 – and no breakthrough is made to phase out fossil fuels.”

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