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 community.

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

9:15 a.m.

President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

Dolorèse Nolette

With your permission, Paul, I'll answer first.

Ideally, new agreements should come out of talks among the various parties. That means the federal government, the provincial government—Albertan, in our case—and the community. The roles, responsibilities and commitments of each of the parties would be very clear from the outset.

That's one of the things we really appreciated about the way the health funding was distributed and monitored. That would be ideal because, in that way, we would really feel we were partners and stakeholders in linguistic duality.

We'd also have a chance to have an agreement with the Albertan government on understanding developments in these agreements and responsibility.

9:15 a.m.

President, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise

Paul Heppelle

I can cite some examples.

Saskatchewan has a higher immigration rate. Immigrants are mainly non-francophones and non-anglophones—allophones, in other words—mainly from francophone Africa and are not rights holders. All the programming that concerns them, in areas such as improved education, learning English or French-language development, is done out of the budgets of the francophone school division, which has no money granted for that purpose. For example, the network's immigration coordinator alone probably costs $100,000 and the grants from the province do not reflect that work, which has to be done to ensure the education and academic success of those people.

Now let's consider another area and the example of child care facilities, which are often funded out of money from the community or the Fransaskois school division. There is no funding for that. And yet, if we lose three- or four-year-old children, they'll never come back to us.

We've negotiated more than $30 million for the community at the postsecondary level since 1968. Today, what do we have at the University of Regina, for example? Very little.

The answer to your question, Mr. Godin, is that, yes, we have an idea of the amounts that are being invested. As for how they are spent, we are often at the mercy of a majority community or a majority institution over which we have no legal authority. We are somewhat at the mercy of a number of people who do not necessarily accept our influence or intervention. However, we can't say that there has been no success or that the investment has been of no value. We have a school system; we have public and college-level education, and we have child care services, but the question is: at what cost?

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you very much.

Mr. Gourde, go ahead, please.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I also want to thank the witnesses for being with us this morning.

Ms. Nolette, you talked a lot about figures, which I found interesting. You said that 69% of the francophones in your province were not born in Alberta. In fact, that must no doubt be as a result of labour mobility. Personally, I know people from my region who decided to go and work in Alberta, while others chose Saskatchewan.

It's always tough seeing people leave our region because we also have labour problems. Leaders in certain sectors—transportation, construction and health—are leaving our region. We are sort of in competition.

Once the decision is made, the usual pattern is that the man leaves to work in another province for a year or two. The families have to make a decision. They often have young children. Sometimes, the wife has a job in Quebec, but it's possible for her to be transferred to Alberta. The families sometimes decide to go and live in Alberta for a few years or for the rest of their lives.

I believe your organization has a role to play with regard to integration. These people definitely choose to go and live in an anglophone environment, but they remain very much attached to their mother tongue. Living in a francophone environment and integrating into a francophone community in Alberta is more difficult.

How do the services you can offer these people help them integrate and enjoy their stay, which would enable you to keep them for longer?

Alberta and Saskatchewan are experiencing a major economic boom. You need labour, but if people come and settle in your province for two or three years, that isn't enough. You want to keep them for longer. We're happy to see them come back to us. We say we've won because their love for their home has made them come back. You want the opposite. Explain to me what you do.

9:20 a.m.

President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

Dolorèse Nolette

In fact, the question is what services the francophones who want to come and settle in Alberta in order to work will need. It will be employment services and various other types of services that meet their needs as citizens. Those services are provided by the provincial government or by the municipalities.

Our organization wants to stimulate newcomers' efforts and everyday lives through community life. For example, someone may leave for Alberta with a very clear plan in mind, may know he is coming to work and even have a job waiting for him. However, he sometimes needs services in order to learn English, which is necessary in order to live in Alberta, or various other services.

That's where we come in. We take over when the Albertan government does not feel it has to promote linguistic duality or to serve the public in both languages. We support all kinds of initiatives that should ultimately be provided by government institutions, whether they be provincial or municipal.

We are very much aware that those 69% of francophones do not all come from Quebec. They also come from other provinces where people speak French or from other countries, and they have very big needs.

I'll give you a specific example that might answer Mr. Godin's question. It illustrates the fact that our relationship with the Alberta government does not work all the time when francophones have to be served in the official language of their choice. This past spring, an invitation to tender was issued for an employment agency in Fort McMurray. Fort McMurray is a place that takes in a very large population, both anglophone and francophone, from elsewhere. Large numbers of francophones have come to us in recent years.

Ultimately, the invitation to tender to serve... Pardon me, sometimes I get confused with the wording of the invitation to tender as it was issued. I know that Denis has the exact wording of the invitation to tender.

Incidentally, I didn't take advantage of my presentation to introduce us: Denis Perreaux is our director general, and I am our volunteer president.

So I'll let my colleague talk about the invitation to tender.

November 3rd, 2011 / 9:20 a.m.

Denis Perreaux Director General, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

It was an invitation to tender issued under the Canada-Alberta labour market agreement, which has been in effect since 1996. One of the components of that agreement concerns the offer of services in French.

The wording of the invitation to tender referred to a service to Albertans for whom English is an additional language. That wording strayed somewhat from the principles of the Official Languages Act. In fact, the bid of an agency that provides services in other languages was accepted. That agency had to ask the francophone community for help regarding the offer in French.

This is an example of a service that may not do a very good job of meeting the needs of francophones who arrive from another province or country.

9:25 a.m.

President, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise

Paul Heppelle

In our province, we are very much involved with immigration. For example, we have just signed a collaboration agreement with Mauritius, which also includes the UN's International Organization for Migration. We have professional recruiters involved in this matter. The first recruits already have their bags packed. For the moment, we're talking about some 100 skilled workers who will be arriving in the coming months. Then there will probably be about 100 workers, or even more, in every subsequent year.

We're doing very targeted recruitment. We aren't just recruiting workers; we are also recruiting their families. So if we hire a man from Mauritius as a level 4 mechanic, we also ensure that his wife—if he is married, of course—also has a job opportunity. We are working directly and in cooperation with employers back home. They may be logistics companies, trucking companies, companies in the mining industry or the oil industry.

The ACF is now recognized as a port of entry to Saskatchewan as a whole for francophone immigration. There is still a minor problem: although we have to cover the entire province, which is quite big, we are still funded on a project basis. It is therefore very difficult to determine what we could do next year, even though we are very sure about what we should do and about the measures that should be taken to do it.

We are very much involved in this field, and it is very important, because we are really changing our demographics with regard to the francophonie.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

All right, thank you.

Mr. Bélanger, go ahead, please.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for being here.

Ms. Nolette, I can't wait to read your more comprehensive report because I'm very concerned about what I heard. You say there is a democratic deficit of 9,000 children and that French is being transmitted to only 0.7% of the children of the 2% of individuals whose first language is French. That means that Alberta's francophone community will be disappearing in two generations.

9:25 a.m.

President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

Dolorèse Nolette

That would be possible if the trend continued, but that is not the case for the moment.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

There's reason for concern.

9:25 a.m.

President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

Dolorèse Nolette

Yes, but it isn't—

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

So I can't wait to read what you are going to prepare for us.

9:25 a.m.

Director General, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

Denis Perreaux

With regard to that question—

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Go ahead very quickly.