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            INVESTIGATION REPORT
            CONCERNING THE BROADCASTS
            AND AVAILABILITY OF THE
            PROCEEDINGS OF THE HOUSE OF
            COMMONS IN BOTH OFFICIAL
            LANGUAGES


            OCTOBER 2000
PROTECTED




                        INVESTIGATION REPORT

              CONCERNING THE BROADCASTS AND

              AVAILABILITY OF THE PROCEEDINGS

                   OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS

                  IN BOTH OFFICIAL LANGUAGES


                            OCTOBER 2000




            Our Ref.:     1583-98-C61   0107-2000-C61
                          1312-99-C61   0108-2000-C61
                                        0457-2000-C61
                                        1083-2000-C61
                                              TABLE OF CONTENTS



                                                                                                                              PAGE


I     ALLEGATIONS ..................................................................................................................1


II    RELEVANT LEGISLATION ..............................................................................................1


III   ISSUE RAISED BY THE COMPLAINTS ..........................................................................2


IV    METHODOLOGY ...............................................................................................................2


V     INFORMATION GATHERED AND INVESTIGATION RESULTS ................................4
      1)   History of Television Broadcasting of House of Commons Proceedings ................. 4
      2)   Description of CPAC ................................................................................................... 4
      3)   Current Situation .......................................................................................................... 4

VI    ANALYSIS OF INVESTIGATION RESULTS ................................................................... 6
      4)   The linguistic obligations of the House of Commons
            under Part I of the OLA .......................................................................................... 6
      5)   The linguistic obligations of the House of Commons
            under Part IV of the OLA ....................................................................................... 9
      6)  Comments of interested parties on the preliminary report....................................... 10
      7)  Comments of the Commissioner ............................................................................... 13

VII   CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS .............................................................. 15
I      ALLEGATIONS

Since October 1998, the Commissioner has received six complaints concerning broadcasts of the
debates and proceedings of the House of Commons in the language of choice of the audience. The
first complainant (1583-98-C61) alleged that, because the Fundy Cable Company of Moncton, New
Brunswick now broadcasts only the floor sound (the language being spoken) of House debates with
no simultaneous interpretation, unilingual viewers are unable to comprehend a significant part of the
discussions, particularly during question period. The second, third and sixth complaints
(1312-99-C61, 0107-2000-C61 and 1083-2000-C61) concerned the fact that parliamentary debates
and question period are broadcast in English only in the Ottawa area on channel 24 (Cable Public
Affairs Channel or CPAC) of the Rogers Cable Company and that no channel is broadcasting the
same proceedings in French. The fourth complaint (0108-2000-C61) dealt with the broadcasting of
the debates in English only via Bell ExpressVu satellite distribution company in Fermont, Quebec.
The fifth complaint concerned the fact that parliamentary debates are broadcast in English only in the
Edmundston, New Brunswick, region on the CPAC channel by the cable broadcaster Shaw Cable.
The six complaints were investigated together.


II     RELEVANT LEGISLATION


Under Section 58 of the Official Languages Act (OLA), the Commissioner of Official Languages has
the authority to investigate any complaint made against a federal institution concerning a failure to
comply with the OLA or the spirit and intent of the Act. It should be noted that Subsection 3(1) of the
OLA, for its part, defines “federal institution” as including Parliament and the Government of
Canada, as well as other federal institutions expressly listed, including the House of Commons.


This investigation was conducted under Section 58 of the OLA and in particular took into account
the linguistic obligations set out in Subsection 4(3) and in Parts IV and VII of the OLA, and the spirit
and intent of the OLA.


Subsection 4(3) of the OLA specifies that the official reports of the debates of the House of
Commons shall be reported in the official language in which the remarks were made and a
translation of them into the other official language shall be included. Part IV of the OLA states that
every federal institution has the duty to ensure that members of the public can communicate with and
obtain services from its central office in English or French, and has the same duty with respect to
                                                    -3-

offices located within the National Capital Region, in areas where there is significant demand, or
when warranted by the nature of the office. Finally, Part VII of the OLA deals with the commitment
of the federal government to enhance the vitality of the English and French linguistic minority
communities in Canada and to foster the full recognition and use of both English and French in
Canadian society.


III     ISSUE RAISED BY THE COMPLAINTS


The issue raised by the complaints is whether the House of Commons has an obligation under Part
I or Part IV of the OLA, or under its spirit and intent, to ensure that televised broadcasts of
parliamentary debates are available in both official languages everywhere in Canada. In other words,
do members of the Canadian public have a right under the OLA to access the televised debates of the
House of Commons in their preferred official language?


IV      METHODOLOGY


When the Commissioner receives a complaint, her office must first identify the content of the
complainant’s allegations and the federal institution or institutions involved. In the case at hand, the
Office of the Commissioner identified two federal institutions that could be involved: the Canadian
Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and the House of Commons.


The first three complaints that are the subject of this report were, initially, classified as being
complaints against the CRTC, given that broadcasting was involved and that the awarding of licences
to CPAC and cable broadcasting companies, as well as the conditions of these licences, are under the
jurisdiction of the CRTC. We concluded, however, that the Commissioner had no authority to
investigate the CRTC in this regard, even though the latter is a federal institution within the meaning
of Subsection 3(1) of the OLA, because the decisions to grant such licences constitute quasi-judicial
decisions. The Commissioner does not have the power to investigate the quasi-judicial functions of
an administrative tribunal. However, the Commissioner can investigate a tribunal’s administrative
functions or situations involving its linguistic obligations relating to pleadings and process as stipulated
in Part III of the OLA which concerns federal courts. A letter was sent to the CRTC concerning each
                                                    -4-

complaint to inform it of the problem, while stating that an investigation of the CRTC would not be
conducted.


The six complaints were then classified as complaints against the House of Commons because the
debates in question originate from this institution and it is clearly a federal institution within the
meaning of the OLA, being expressly mentioned in Subsection 3(1). We therefore forwarded, for
each of the complaints, a notice of intention to investigate to the House of Commons, pursuant to
our obligation under Section 59, and then began our investigation, bearing in mind the special role
assigned to the Commissioner to investigate any complaint brought to her attention in light of the
letter and the spirit of the OLA.


We wish to make it clear that the investigation was not conducted directly against CPAC or cable
broadcasting companies, because they are not institutions of the Parliament and Government of
Canada, or agencies responsible for administrative functions under a federal statute, or federal
departments, or Crown corporations created under a federal statute. Consequently, they are not
federal institutions within the meaning of Subsection 3(1) of the OLA and thus are not directly subject
to the linguistic obligations set out in the Act.


During our investigation, we took the complainants’ allegations into account and interviewed three
people in Information Services at the House of Commons: the Chief Information Officer and
Executive Director, the Head, Multimedia, and the Operations Manager. We also interviewed the
Interim General Manager of CPAC. In addition, we examined the agreement between the House
of Commons and the Chairman of CPAC, which covers the period September 1, 1994 to August 31,
2001.
                                                 -5-

V      INFORMATION GATHERED AND INVESTIGATION RESULTS


       a)      History of Television Broadcasting of House of Commons Proceedings


Our investigators learned that on January 25, 1977, the House of Commons approved the radio and
television broadcasting of its proceedings and of those of its committees on the basis of principles
similar to those that govern the publication of the printed official reports of debates. From 1979 to
April 1991, by virtue of either a temporary licence or a network licence from the CRTC, the
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)/Radio-Canada (SRC) broadcasted House proceedings
in the two official languages via the two Parliamentary channels set up for this purpose. However, as
of April 1991, due to budget restrictions, the CBC was unable to continue funding of its
Parliamentary Channels. In 1992, the House of Commons Board of Internal Economy approved
a CPAC proposal to assume the cost of the Parliamentary Channel for a period of two years. In
1994, the House of Commons and CPAC signed the above-mentioned agreement whereby CPAC
assumed responsibility for the national distribution by satellite of the signal of the televised House
Chamber and Committee proceedings.


       2)      Description of CPAC


CPAC is a non-profit corporation, which is operated as a non-commercial programming service and
is fully funded by a consortium of over 100 Canadian cable companies. It is a national service that
broadcasts two main types of programming, the proceedings of the House Chamber and of certain
House Committees and public affairs activities happening across the country. However, the
broadcast of House debates takes precedence over public affairs programming. CPAC has a
seven-year operating licence from the CRTC which ends on August 31, 2002.


       c)      Current Situation


The 1994 agreement between the House of Commons and CPAC on the broadcasting of debates
specifies the obligations of each party. Essentially, clauses 2 and 3 provide for the production of the
debates in both official languages by the House of Commons and the distribution to cable
broadcasting companies via satellite (preferably by Telesat Canada) of the television signal of the
                                                   -6-

debates in three audio formats (English, French and floor sound) and one video format by CPAC.
The purpose of this agreement, according to its own wording, is to provide all Canadians with the
widest possible distribution of signals transmitted by its broadcasting service.


In fact and pursuant to the agreement, the House of Commons Broadcasting Service (HCBS)
transmits the proceedings of the House Chamber and of certain Committees in both official
languages to CPAC. The Operations Centre of the HCBS transmits one live video signal and three
audio signals (English, French, and floor sound) to CPAC, which then broadcasts these signals by
satellite to cable companies, the two satellite Direct to Home (DTH) broadcast distributors, and
Look TV, throughout Canada. It should be noted, however, that these cable companies are not
parties to the agreement and that, when they receive the signals transmitted by CPAC, they choose
the language of the audio signal they offer free of charge to their viewers. Consequently, depending
on the cable broadcasting company and the location where the debates of the House of Commons
are being broadcast, the result is that the public does not always have access, in both official languages,
to these televised debates. It should also be noted that distribution of CPAC is optional for cable
companies.


It is also important to note that during the period 1979 to 1991 when CBC/SRC was broadcasting
House proceedings in both official languages on its Parliamentary channels, the CRTC played an
important role because it issued a decision facilitating cable companies’ broadcasts of House debates.
As a result, these proceedings were potentially available to about 50% of Canadian households in
both official languages. In 2000, about 80% of Canadian households have cable, which means that
broadcasts of House proceedings now reach approximately seven million households.


Broadcasts of House proceedings are equivalent to a video version of “Hansard”. Because of current
technological limitations and public demands for increased channel capacity, a very few cable
companies choose the floor sound audio signal as their primary audio feed to broadcast to their
audiences rather than the two separate English and French signals. The vast majority of cable
companies choose a combination of two of the three audio feeds to make available to their viewers.
Because the floor sound does not include simultaneous interpretation, unilingual viewers are now
unable to comprehend a significant part of the broadcasts of House proceedings.
                                                   -7-

Also, it is worth noting that a new technology, the Multi-Channel TV Sound (MTS) and the Second
Audio Program (SAP), by which a single television channel can carry one video signal and two audio
signals at the same time, has been available for a few years. It means that the viewer can now choose
between two of the three audio signals provided by CPAC to the cable or satellite distribution
companies. However, this technology is not widely known and not readily accessible to everyone,
since it depends on the type and the age of the television set.


VI      ANALYSIS OF INVESTIGATION RESULTS


        a)      The linguistic obligations of the House of Commons under Part I of the OLA


The provisions of Part I of the OLA concerning the proceedings of Parliament are rooted in the
Canadian Constitution. Section 133 of the Constitution Act, 1867, confers the right to use either of
the two official languages in the debates of the House of Commons and states that both languages
shall be used in the records and journals of the House. Section 18 of the Canadian Charter of Rights
and Freedoms, for its part, sets out the obligation to print and publish the statutes, records and
journals of Parliament in both official languages.


These constitutional obligations concerning parliamentary bilingualism are made explicit in Part I of
the OLA. Subsection 4(1) provides that English and French are the official languages of Parliament
and that everyone has the right to use either of those languages in any debates and other proceedings
of Parliament. Subsection 4(2) provides for the introduction of simultaneous interpretation facilities
for the debates and other proceedings of Parliament. Finally, Subsection 4(3) provides that everything
reported in the official reports of debates and other proceedings of Parliament “shall be reported in
the official language in which it was said and a translation thereof into the other official language shall
be included therewith.”


It is true that these constitutional and legislative provisions do not impose any obligation on the
House of Commons to disseminate its debates. Aside perhaps from the written method (because of
the wording of Section 18 of the Charter), the choice of the method of dissemination is for the House
to make and falls within the exercise of its privileges. In the case at hand, in addition to the written
                                                   -8-

form, the House has chosen to broadcast its debates. It is therefore a question of determining what
linguistic obligations the House is bound to respect with regard to the broadcasting of its debates.


While the constitutional provisions and those of the OLA on the language of the debates and reports
of Parliament do not deal explicitly with televised debates, this silence is not sufficient to permit the
Commissioner to conclude that the House of Commons is not bound to any linguistic obligation
under these provisions. It must be borne in mind that the Supreme Court of Canada established, in
the recent Beaulac case, the principles of interpretation that must guide us in interpreting language
rights of both a constitutional and a legislative nature. Accordingly, the language rights guaranteed by
the OLA must be given a broad and liberal interpretation based on their aim, the principle of the
equality of the two official languages and compatibility with the preservation and vitality of the official
language communities.


It must also be borne in mind that the Commissioner has been assigned the role of examining, in the
course of her investigations, possible contraventions not only of the letter but also of the spirit of the
OLA. The courts have recognized that her mission is exceptional in the Canadian legislative context
in view of the quasi-constitutional nature of the OLA and the fact that she has the duty to get to the
root of things in reviewing the complaints she receives. This is why, in the context of this investigation,
the Commissioner believes that she is empowered to review the linguistic practice adopted by the
House of Commons with regard to the televising of its debates and to determine its impact on the
principle of the equality of status and privileges of the two official languages without this being
considered an intrusion into the parliamentary process.


Applying the principles of interpretation set out in the Beaulac judgment, the Commissioner must
interpret the rights granted in Section 4 of the OLA with respect to the debates and proceedings of
Parliament in light of their aim, on the basis of the principle of the equality of status and privileges of
English and French and in a manner compatible with the preservation and vitality of the official
language communities. The aim of prescribing bilingualism in the parliamentary sphere is to ensure
equal access to the law, to parliamentary proceedings and also to parliamentary information. In other
words, we believe that, both in respect of the Constitution and the OLA, there is a right of individuals
to access to parliamentary information in their preferred official language.
                                                  -9-

The aim of Part I which we have identified is, moreover, consistent with the spirit of the Act as
gleaned from both the preamble and the purposes of the OLA, as set out in Section 2. The preamble
to the OLA states that the Constitution provides for “full and equal access to Parliament, to the laws
of Canada and to courts established by Parliament in both official languages,” while one of the
purposes of the OLA set out in Section 2 is to “advance the equality of status and use of the English
and French languages within Canadian society.” Finally, we must not ignore the importance of Part
VII of the OLA, which provides for the preservation and vitality of the official language communities
and the full recognition and use of English and French in Canadian society.


In view of the purpose of Section 4, the spirit of the OLA and the intent of the legislator, we therefore
believe that parliamentary debates must be accessible to the public equally in both official languages.
When the House of Commons chooses to disseminate them by one method or another, it must
respect the principle of equal access to the proceedings of Parliament and the requirement for
bilingualism which flows from it.


In the case at hand, the House of Commons chose to televise its debates and proceedings. That is its
privilege. To do so, it put in place a production system that fully meets the requirements of the OLA
since it produces its debates in both official languages before transmitting them to CPAC. It is with
respect to the broadcasting system put in place under its authority that the House of Commons does
not meet the requirements of Section 4 of the OLA and its spirit. The complaints showed that, in
various locations in Canada, members of the public do not have access to televised debates of the
House of Commons in their preferred official language. Yet, just as the House ensured, through its
agreement with CPAC, that the latter would make its debates available to cable broadcasting
companies in three audio formats (English, French and floor sound), it was also required to take the
measures necessary to ensure that the television broadcasting process as a whole permits the effective
implementation of the right of members of the public to have equal access to televised parliamentary
debates in their preferred language. In short, we believe that the House of Commons cannot divide
or fragment the process of broadcasting its debates into various contractual parts and thereby
ultimately evade its linguistic obligations.
                                                  - 10 -

Consequently, we believe that the House of Commons is not fully complying with its linguistic
obligations as set out in Part I of the OLA or with the spirit of the Act as regards the televising of its
debates.


        b)      The linguistic obligations of the House of Commons under Part IV of the OLA

The House of Commons is also required to comply with the obligations set out in Part IV concerning
communications with and services to the public. Section 21 provides that any member of the public
in Canada has the right to communicate with and to receive available services from federal
institutions, while Section 22 states that every federal institution has the duty to ensure that any
member of the public can communicate with and obtain available services from its head or central
office in either official language. It should also be noted that Section 25 requires an institution to
ensure that services provided to members of the public by another person or organization on behalf
of a federal institution are provided in either official language and that any member of the public can
communicate with that person or organization in either official language.


In view of the principles of interpretation referred to above, we consider that the televising or
audio-visual publication of parliamentary debates constitutes a service provided to the public. When
the House chose to proceed with the television rebroadcasting of its debates, it became subject to the
linguistic provisions set out in Section 22 of the OLA. Since it also contracted with CPAC for this
purpose, and it appears from the agreement and the facts that CPAC acts on its behalf within the
meaning of Section 25, the House must ensure that CPAC takes the measures required to guarantee,
pursuant to the objectives of the OLA, effective communication with members of the public in their
preferred official language. The House did not ensure that its parliamentary debates would ultimately
be broadcast in both official languages. It could, for example, have required that CPAC, in its turn,
ensure, before going on air, that the cable broadcasting companies would reach the two official
language communities by broadcasting the debates in both official languages across Canada.


        c)      Comments of Interested Parties on the Preliminary Report


On June 22, 2000, we forwarded our preliminary report to the Speaker of the House of Commons
and the complainants as well as to CPAC in order to give them an opportunity to provide their
                                                - 11 -

comments on our findings and the two recommendations the Commissioner had made. The House
of Commons, CPAC and three of the complainants have submitted their comments and positions
which we have taken into careful consideration in our final analysis of the issues.


               i) House of Commons’ Comments


The Board of Internal Economy of the House of Commons met on September 26, 2000 to discuss
our preliminary report and recommendations. On October 3, 2000, the Law Clerk and
Parliamentary Counsel responded to the Commissioner on behalf of the Board with the following
points:


1. The Board is of the view that the House is fulfilling its obligation by making its proceedings
available in English, French and floor sound to all cable companies.


2. The Board felt that the difficulties identified by the complainants related to the choices made by
the cable companies as to the distribution of the broadcast feed as part of their service offerings. It
suggested that this question be brought to the attention of the CRTC and the Canadian Cable
Television Association.


3. The Board maintained that the House is committed to providing public access to its proceedings
in both official languages and stated that as new technologies become available, the House will
maintain its investment in ensuring that proceedings are made available according to industry
standards.


               ii) Complainants’ Comments


Two (0457-2000-C61 and 1083-2000-C61) of the six complainants informed us that they agreed
and were pleased with the preliminary report.


The first complainant (1583-98-C61) provided us with much more detailed feed-back. Although
he was pleased that our investigation revealed that his complaint was founded, he nevertheless
                                                 - 12 -

disagreed with certain findings and conclusions. He indicated his disagreement with our two
recommendations.


More particularly, he maintained that CPAC does not offer the parliamentary broadcasts free of
charge, but rather that the CPAC broadcasts form part of a “package” offered to cable subscribers
at a price. He indicated that citizens unable or unwilling to pay that price are deprived of receiving
Parliamentary broadcasts.


He stated that our reference on page five to a “video version of Hansard” is incomplete. Referring
to the fact that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms stipulates that the statutes, records
and journals of Parliament shall be printed and published in English and French, he expressed the
view that the concept of “record” has a broad meaning as defined by the Dictionary of Canadian
Law, 1991 and can include


       “... any information that is recorded or stored by means of a device. Includes any
       correspondence, memorandum, book, plan, map, drawing, diagram, pictorial or
       graphic work, photograph, film, microfilm, sound recording, videotape, machine
       readable record and any other documentary material regardless of physical form or
       characteristics, and any copy thereof.”


He indicated his surprise that our investigators did not interview members of the House of
Commons Board of Internal Economy and that the Office of the Commissioner of Official
Languages (OCOL) did not require the Speaker of the House to respond to our investigation. He
quoted from the current agreement between the House and the Chairman of CPAC, “The Speaker
holds exclusive control over broadcasting and repeat broadcasting of the proceedings of the House
of Commons and those of the committees.”


He believed that the tone of our report is deferential to the House and avoids any hint of criticism,
excluding any suggestion of censure for this serious breach of law.” He further stated that our
report does not explain the circumstances which led to this situation (whether it resulted from an
                                                - 13 -

act of commission or omission); nor why the situation was allowed to continue after the Speaker
became aware of the problem.


He also felt that the Commissioner was taking a “hands-off approach” with the CRTC. He
mentioned that a condition of the CRTC’s approval of CPAC’s licence was that CPAC adhere to
some key principles, one of which included the reflection of “Canada’s dual linguistic nature as an
essential element.”


He was concerned about our reference to subtitles in the first recommendation. He believed they
would be too cumbersome for viewers to read (especially senior citizens) and he believed the use
of subtitles would not represent equality of service in both official languages.


Lastly, he was of the view that the Commissioner should recommend that the Speaker of the House
reopen the existing agreement immediately so that viewers everywhere would have fully bilingual
broadcasts when the House resumed in the Fall of 2000, not the Fall of 2001.


               iii) CPAC’s Comments


We consulted with the CPAC’s General Manager in order to ensure the accuracy of our
observations. We have thus corrected some factual errors and added a few clarifications on pages
four and five of the report. In addition, CPAC’s General Manager informed us that it is not able to
direct which linguistic version of its service its network affiliates should elect to make available at
no charge to the subscribers of their respective cable or DTH distribution systems.


With regard to our recommendation containing the reference to subtitles as a means of addressing
the issues under review, CPAC’s General Manager expressed the view that subtitling raised a
number of very serious problems from the technical, human resources and production point of
view. Firstly, the technology is not yet available to provide “real-time” subtitling, which
transcribes all the words spoken, as opposed to captioning where the captioner sometimes
condenses the spoken words in order to keep up with the pace of the dialogue. Secondly, he
indicated that it would be virtually impossible to find subtitlers with the required skill-set to
                                                 - 14 -

transcribe into a second language in real time. Finally, the camera shooting pattern would be
disconcerting for the viewers as the text elements could fill as much as half the television screen.


       4)      Comments of the Commissoner


As we outlined on page five of the report, those cable companies who choose to broadcast CPAC,
do so free of charge to their subscribers, because CPAC is part of the basic cable service. Even when
House proceedings were broadcast by CBC/SRC on the Parliamentary Channels, viewers had to
subscribe to cable to access them. Thus, it is true that citizens who do not subscribe to cable cannot
receive broadcasts of House of Commons proceedings.


With respect to the first complainant’s comment on our methodology and the fact that we did not
require the Speaker of the House to respond to our investigation, we wish to clarify that the Speaker
received our preliminary investigation report and will receive a copy of our final report. The fact that
the Speaker has decided to refer the matter to the House of Commons Board of Internal Economy
for its deliberation is a House internal operational matter. It should also be noted that the Board of
Internal Economy had approved the original CPAC proposal in 1992. We recognize that the
Speaker can take action only after reviewing the final report. The OLA does not contain any
provisions pertaining to the Commissioner “censuring” federal institutions officials. The OLA is
based on the concept of institutional bilingualism and as in all of our investigations, our
recommendations are therefore addressed to the House of Commons as a federal institution.


Regarding our approach with the CRTC, as mentioned in the last paragraph on page two, the
Commissioner does not have the power to investigate the quasi-judicial functions of an administrative
tribunal. We therefore have no authority to investigate the CRTC in this regard because decisions to
grant licences and the conditions of those licences constitute quasi-judicial decisions. However, it is
the Commissioner’s intention to inform the CRTC of her concerns about its licensing decisions
during the public consultation process that the CRTC has undertaken following the
Governor-in-Council Order on April 5, 2000. It should also be noted that former Commissioners
have made presentations to the CRTC.
                                                 - 15 -

We did not believe it was necessary to recommend that the House Speaker reopen the existing
agreement with CPAC, which ends on September 1, 2001. We recognize the complexity of this
problem and the fact that it could take several months to resolve it.


With regard to CPAC’s concerns about the use of subtitles as one method of providing access to
televised debates of the House in the public’s preferred official language, we recognize that the
implementation of this solution would involve complex technical and human resources issues. In
light of the information received from CPAC, we have removed the reference to subtitling in our first
recommendation.


Finally, we note that the House did not explain the reason for its disagreement with our detailed
description of its constitutional and legal obligations under Parts I and IV of the OLA outlined on
pages five to nine of the preliminary report. However, we were somewhat reassured to receive the
House’s commitment to providing access to its proceedings in both official languages and to
maintaining its investment in this regard.




VII    CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS


We consider that Part I of the OLA and its spirit require that parliamentary debates, regardless of
their methods of dissemination, be accessible to the two official language communities equally when
the House of Commons chooses to disseminate them in one form or another, and that the
responsibility for this lies with the House of Commons. It is also the responsibility of the House to
ensure that the television broadcasting services it provides to Canadians through a third party, in this
instance CPAC, comply with the linguistic requirements set out in Sections 22 and 25 of the OLA.


Having considered all the information provided by the complainants, the House of Commons and
CPAC, and for the reasons set out in this report, we conclude that the current practice of the House
of Commons with regard to the televising of its proceedings and its failure to ensure that the debates
                                                 - 16 -

it has chosen to televise are ultimately broadcast in both official languages and reach the two official
language communities constitute a contravention of Part I of the OLA,
Sections 22 and 25, as well as of the spirit of the Act. Consequently, we conclude that the six
complaints dealt with in this report are founded.


While the advent, in a few years, of the digital era when the accessibility to the public of the
Multi-Channel TV Sound referred to above will probably make it possible to ensure members of the
public full access to parliamentary debates televised in their preferred official language, the House of
Commons must, meanwhile, take all the measures required to achieve this objective. For example,
we believe it is the House of Commons’ responsibility to bring this issue to the attention of the CRTC
and explore with all interested parties, including the Canadian Cable Television Association, any
short-term solutions which would give the Canadian public access to televised parliamentary
proceedings in the public’s preferred official language.




The Commissioner therefore recommends that the House of Commons:


1.      immediately take, with all interested parties, all the measures and steps required to
        ensure the implementation of the right of members of the public to access televised
        debates in their preferred official language, pending the advent of more effective
        technologies; and


2.      take into account its linguistic obligations under Part I and Part IV of the Official
        Languages Act when it renews or concludes a new agreement with a third party to
        ensure that the latter takes all the measures required to ensure that parliamentary
        debates are ultimately televised in both official languages, so as to guarantee the
        effective implementation of the right of members of the public to access these
        debates in their preferred official language.
- 17 -

				
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