Bill C-273, a Liberal private member's bill that had its first reading on February 22, would require the minister of finance to develop a national strategy to assess possible models for implementing a guaranteed basic income program.
The bill also aims to establish a pilot project in one or more provinces to test models of guaranteed basic income, evaluating the costs, efficiency and effects this sort of program would have on Canadians' society and well-being.
During the 2018 provincial election, Québec solidaire (QS) leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois vowed to establish a guaranteed basic income program in Quebec if QS won the election — but the latter never came to fruition.
There are also groups like Revenu de base Québec advocating for basic income in the province and in the country.
Basic income program could 'lift many Canadians out of poverty'
The bill's preamble gives us insight into the reasoning behind the bill. It focuses on Canadians' rights to "have their basic needs met, to participate fully in society and to live with dignity" regardless of their employment status.
It also says the Government of Canada wants to support 21st-century workforces by being prepared for disruptions, such as a sudden pandemic.
The bill outlines several possible positive effects of a guaranteed basic income in Canada.
It states that the program could "enhance the economy’s ability to grow and improve its productivity" as well as "lift many Canadians out of poverty and provide them with the stability they need to access education and employment opportunities."
A report outlining the national strategy for a guaranteed basic income program would need to be completed within two years from the day the bill comes into force.
Since July 1, it has been possible for people who have had to recover from unemployment due to the pandemic and for people who have not been studying full time in the last 12 months to register for one of the training programs of the Program for the requalification and the accompaniment in information technology and communications (PRATIC).
Whether it's a college or university program, a certificate, an attestation of college studies (AEC) or a diploma of specialized graduate studies (DESS), among others, there are 142 training programs waiting for future students.
In Montreal alone, nearly sixty college programs and 20 university programs are available, and a total of 15 in the Capitale-Nationale region.
There are, for example, ACSs in programming, multimedia production, mobile application development or graphic design, to name a few.
The complete list of training courses offered by region can be found on the government website.
Thanks to a budget of some $39.6 million, financial assistance of $650 per week will be offered to 2,500 Quebecers for the duration of their full-time training. A $1,950 bursary will be awarded to graduates.
Who is eligible to enroll in PRATIC?
Two criteria will determine if a person is eligible to register for PRATIC. You must be unemployed and not have been a full-time student in the 12 months prior to applying.
The government suggests that you contact the Services Québec office in your area and an agent will determine with the future student if PRATIC corresponds to his/her needs.
The bill was first tabled by Quebec's Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Ian Lafrenière, in December 2020, and it was passed following consultations between the government and Indigenous families in Quebec.
The goal was to meet the needs of Indigenous families while respecting their "culture and language, and also their suffering," according to the ministry.
The ministry also said it hopes "to support families in their quest for truth and also in the healing process."
In 2019, a report by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls called on the Quebec government to provide Indigenous families with information on children who had been apprehended following admission to a hospital or health centre in Quebec.
How does the new law work?
Once it's implemented on September 21, Bill 79 will give Indigenous families access to personal information from "a health and social services institution, an organization or a religious congregation" about the circumstances surrounding the disappearance or death of children admitted to a health and social services institution in Quebec before December 31, 1992.
The government will provide the information through exemptions to Quebec's current laws that prevent disclosing personal information.
Under the new law, Quebec's minister responsible for Indigenous affairs will also have the power to launch an investigation if government information could help Indigenous families, but can't be disclosed because of the province's existing rules on disclosing personal information.
How have Indigenous leaders reacted to the new law?
On June 14, leaders from the Cree Nation said that while the law is an important step to "apologize or begin to compensate for the harm suffered by Indian Residential School survivors," the scope of the law needs to be revised since Indigenous children "were taken and never returned" for reasons beyond medical care in Quebec.
The Cree Nation specified that Quebec's education system was the largest "pretext for the institutionalized abduction of children," and that the school system's absence from Bill 79 means more action is needed.
The Grand Council of the Crees stated that not all Indigenous youth or community members will feel comfortable contacting the Quebec government for help with traumatic events that were associated with "governments they do not feel are their own."
The Council recommended that Quebec put mechanisms in place so Indigenous governments can represent and serve the needs of their own people.
Canada's statistical agency released the data on June 16 to create a "portrait" of the "demographic and social profile of Canada's diverse LGBTQ2+ communities" — however, much of the data "[focuses] on LGB Canadians (lesbian, gay, bisexual), since Statistics Canada has been collecting detailed information on these communities since 2003."
There were 72,880 same-sex couples in Canada in 2016, making up 0.9% of all couples in Canada.
StatsCan said half of those same-sex couples lived in the major cities of Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa–Gatineau.
Between 2006 and 2016, the number of same-sex couples in Canada increased by 60.7%, compared to an increase of 9.6% in "opposite-sex" couples.
StatsCan said the increase "may be reflective, at least in part, of growing awareness and acceptance of sexual diversity in Canada."
LGBTQ2S+ hate crimes are on the rise in Canada
According to StatsCan's 2018 survey, LGB+ Canadians were both more likely to report being "violently victimized" throughout their lives and more likely to have experienced "inappropriate behaviours in public and online" than non-queer Canadians.
In 2018, LGB+ Canadians were "twice as likely" as non-queer Canadians "to report experiencing inappropriate behaviours" in the 12 months prior to the survey:
in public: 57% versus 22% of non-queer Canadians
online: 37% versus 15% of non-queer Canadians
at work: 44% versus 22% of non-queer Canadians.
Violent hate crimes against LGB+ Canadians were on par with violent racially-charged hate crimes in 2018.
Of hate crimes that targeted sexual orientation, 53% were violent crimes.
In comparison, 27% of hate crimes targeting religion and 52% of hate crimes targeting race or ethnicity were violent crimes, according to the data.
Further, according to StatsCan's 2018 survey, transgender Canadians were also more likely to report poorer mental health than cisgender Canadians.
They were also more likely to have "seriously contemplated suicide in their lifetimes."
Transgender Canadians were additionally more likely "to have been diagnosed with a mood or anxiety disorder" than cisgender Canadians.
The pandemic might have had a bigger effect on LGBTQ2S+ Canadians
StatsCan said that the LGBTQ2S+ population could have been "disproportionately affected" by job loss during the pandemic since a greater share of the communities' populations are between the ages of 15 and 24 — an age group whose employment levels "remains furthest from February 2020 levels."
LGBTQ2S+ Canadians also made less than their non-queer counterparts overall.
In 2018, 41% of LGBTQ2S+ Canadians "had a total personal income of less than $20,000" yearly, compared to 26% of non-queer Canadians.
In the same year, on average, queer income-earners in Canada made about 72% — $39,000 — of the average income of non-queer Canadians, at $54,000.
However, StatsCan noted that the income difference could partly be due to the large youth population in LGBTQ2S+ communities. Being enrolled in high school, CEGEPs or universities could reduce their potential income, the agency said.
In 2018, 33% of LGBTQ2S+ Canadians "found it difficult or very difficult to meet their needs in terms of transportation, housing, food, clothing, participation in some social activities and other necessary expenses," compared with just 27% of non-queer Canadians, according to StatsCan.
The Official Languages Act, which last got a major update in 1988, comes months after Joly introduced the Liberal government's vision for language reform in Canada in February.
In a press release, the government said amending the act "is necessary to allow the law to keep pace with the social, demographic and technological realities in today's society."
In a news conference on June 15, Joly added that the goal is to "bring the official languages Act into the 21st century."
She said that "the new law recognizes that the official language of Quebec is French."
"[It] also recognizes that Quebec and Manitoba have specific protections when it comes to the use of both official languages in the courts and provincial legislatures."
What could the revisions look like?
The bill, if passed, will guarantee the right to be served and to work in French in businesses under Canadian jurisdiction in Quebec — as well as in other Canadian regions with a "strong francophone presence."
The amendment to the Act will also "explicitly state" that it would "not undermine the status, maintenance or enhancement of Indigenous languages while including the important concepts of reappropriation, revitalization and strengthening that are specific to Indigenous languages."
Joly said the bill would also oblige the federal immigration ministry to develop a support program to enhance francophone immigration outside of Quebec.
It would further amend the Act to oblige Supreme Court of Canada judges to be bilingual.
The bill lays out that it would grant Canada's official languages commissioner more power to fully enforce French-language requirements in federally-regulated workplaces across Canada.
The commissioner would also have new powers to receive complaints about "language of service and language of work" from employees of private companies under federal jurisdiction in Quebec — such as banks, airports, railways, telephone companies, broadcasting and Crown corporations.