Evidence of meeting #11 for Official Languages in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was alberta.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Dolorèse Nolette  President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta
  • Paul Heppelle  President, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise
  • Denis Simard  Director General, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise
  • Denis Perreaux  Director General, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

9 a.m.

President, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise

Paul Heppelle

The current Roadmap targets five priority areas for action. In the area of emphasizing the value of linguistic duality among all Canadians, in 2003, Saskatchewan adopted a policy on French-language services. With Roadmap funding, the province is now funding the Direction des affaires francophones. That provincial unit is an essential link with the government and a privileged entryway into the provision of provincial services in French. This kind of initiative is central to the current Roadmap. These are investments that make it possible for French-speaking Saskatchewan citizens to live their everyday lives in French.

The area for action "Building the future by investing in youth" is also of capital importance for us. It is one of the major areas underpinning the continued existence and vitality of our community. These initiatives would require four actual investments.

The first is an additional investment in the Fransaskois school system for both the first and second language sectors.

9 a.m.

Director General, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise

Denis Simard

Second, funding must be provided for youth initiatives that will help equip young Fransaskois to become citizens who play leadership roles in our community.

Third, funding must be provided for access to French-language media, which includes Radio-Canada, and any other form of private or public broadcasting. Let's be clear on this: Radio-Canada's regional services enable the Fransaskois to see themselves, to see each other and to hear their own voice on the air, and to access programming that is of interest to them. Note as well that the community newspapers are the archives of our communities and an essential tool.

Fourth, we must invest in postsecondary education in French. The best way to build postsecondary education in French in a sustainable and effective manner in a minority setting is to encourage the province-wide creation of a highly francophone independent inter-institutional postsecondary sector that forms the continuation of French-language preschool and school education. The two levels of government must fund this kind of project on a joint basis, separate from the anglophone sector, in accordance with criteria adapted to the educational needs of the minority group.

9 a.m.

President, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise

Paul Heppelle

In the area for action "Improving access to services for official language minority communities", we note five areas.

In health, access to services in French goes beyond mere respect for the language of the individual. This is also a matter of personal safety, for both patient and health provider. The Fransaskois population is aging and renewing itself through immigration and inter-provincial migration, particularly by non-anglophones. In addition, our educational institutions are enabling young Fransaskois to be increasingly dominant in their mother tongue.

In justice, we must continue to increase the number and variety of legal services. Not only is the Fransaskois population getting used to justice in French, but the number of people employed in this sector in Saskatchewan has increased by nearly 40% since 2008.

In immigration, since 2008, the ACF has helped 360 persons and their families with immigration services, and we have supported an average of 85 immigrants a year. In addition to being highly involved in immigrant recruitment internationally and in eastern Canada, we launched the Réseau provincial en immigration in 2004. It allows for better coordination of activities, which enhances the effect of the actions of each of its members.

In early childhood, the current network consists of six educational centres, 12 pre-kindergartens, 10 play groups and three family and childhood support centres. Access to this network is possible mainly as a result of investments in kind and financial investments by our own community network, as Roadmap investments have not managed to meet our needs in this regard. For example, in 2010, 108 children were on the waiting list for child care services. One year later, 227 children are still awaiting services. To meet the specific needs of parents' groups, we recommend that the decision as to who will be responsible for the early childhood file and how that funding is disbursed be reached in consultation with the Commission nationale des parents francophones.

Sufficient funding must also be maintained for the arts, culture and heritage. This year, for example, the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Saskatchewan Arts Board established the Portail culturel fransaskois, a fund that provides direct support for Fransaskois artists through an investment of $690,000 over two years. However, it will also be necessary for the Roadmap to encourage national cultural agencies such as the National Film Board, the Canada Council for the Arts and Telefilm Canada to invest in Saskatchewan because it's also their turn to support our cultural institutions in our province.

9:05 a.m.

Director General, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise

Denis Simard

In the area for action "Capitalizing on economic benefits", Roadmap investments enabled the Conseil de la coopération de la Saskatchewan to take part in the Place de la Francophonie during the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games. This kind of contribution should be part of a future Roadmap because this showcase made it possible to introduce Canada's francophone economic agencies to the national and international public.

As for the area for action "Ensuring efficient governance to better serve Canadians", let's specifically address the issue of the collaboration agreements of the Department of Canadian Heritage. These are still the cornerstone of our community's development. These funds constitute the majority of funding available for the operation of our network. However, the overall funding provided by the department to Fransaskois agencies has not increased in real terms since 2000. This means that our purchasing power has definitely been eroded. Let's not forget that the Fransaskois community is in effect a community development agency acting, as it were, on behalf of the Government of Canada in respect of its constitutional linguistic obligations.

9:05 a.m.

President, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise

Paul Heppelle

In conclusion, we unreservedly recommend that the Roadmap for Canada's linguistic duality be renewed and improved, particularly on a multi-year basis. This Canadian government initiative has been and still is of capital importance to us. The Roadmap will guarantee that the Fransaskois community receives services in French from our two levels of government, socio-cultural activities to ensure ongoing and increased contact with our language, and the preservation of our heritage and programs in key sectors that will guarantee our development and vitality.

The enhancement of future contribution agreements is an essential condition for the Fransaskois community. Far from being an unreasonable solution in these times of budget austerity, such enhancement should be perceived instead as a strategic realignment of resources. Further reduction in federal investments in our agencies and institutions would leave them incapable of delivering the services Fransaskois citizens expect, services to which they are entitled and which are the political and financial responsibility of the Government of Canada.

Those are the essential points of our message to the Standing Committee on Official Languages. Note that the complete version of our brief will be forwarded to you as soon as possible. Ladies and gentlemen, committee members, on behalf of all Fransaskois and our francophile partners in Saskatchewan, we sincerely thank you for your attention.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you very much.

We have an hour and a quarter for questions and comments. We'll begin with Mr. Godin.

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would like to welcome all the witnesses.

It's always a pleasure to see you again. We have seen each other on various occasions, such as during the trip to Alberta with the French. We visited Edmonton and Calgary and tried to see Fort McMurray, but I believe people didn't want to show us that place. There were such big clouds that we were unable to land. We really would have liked to go there; that was part of our mission to Alberta. I hope we can do that one day.

With regard to the Roadmap, your testimony makes me think that Alberta has taken advantage of the program. Am I right?

9:10 a.m.

President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

As regards the investments that have been made—you talked about education and health—I'd like to know whether your associations were consulted. Was the francophone community consulted? I'm not just talking about the government, but about the community as well.

9:10 a.m.

President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

Dolorèse Nolette

With regard to health, yes. We took part in the consultation and talked about pushing projects and setting priorities. In education, the consultation model was different, I believe, but we were consulted.

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

You say the model is different for education. Was there any follow-up?

People say they don't get the impression the money is going to the right place. The federal government sends money to the province, but we don't get the impression all the money is reaching the minority community.

I don't want to make a mistake, but I believe that, under Part VII of the Official Languages Act, the federal government has the power to invest in the minority communities.

One case has become public. It has already been admitted in Nova Scotia that the money wasn't really going to the francophone community. And yet the money was sent for that purpose.

We asked the Commissioner of Official Languages whether he could verify that. He said he had no right to interfere in the matter as it did not involve federal institutions. However, certain ministers from the provinces tell me they do what they want with the money that comes in.

Do you get the same impression in Alberta?

9:10 a.m.

President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

Dolorèse Nolette

It's very hard to determine exactly how much funding there is and where it goes. That's a major concern for us, particularly with regard to education. It's very difficult to determine what the funding is.

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Don't you think the areas of provincial jurisdiction stop there?

The program as such and the way education services are provided are the jurisdiction of the provinces. It's not up to the federal government to go and create programs. It's really an area of provincial jurisdiction.

However, if money is sent and they say a school should be built or that there should be something for early childhood such as a child care facility, wouldn't the federal government be responsible for ensuring that the money is used for that?

We don't want to know how you build your building or what furniture you put in it, but we want to know that the money has been used for that and not for something else.

9:15 a.m.

President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

Dolorèse Nolette

Is that question for me too?

9:15 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

It's for anyone.