Evidence of meeting #14 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 french.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Jean-Sébastien Blais  Vice-President, Association franco-yukonnaise
  • Régis St-Pierre  Co-Executive Director, Association franco-yukonnaise
  • Roger Paul  directeur général, Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones
  • Josée Forest-Niesing  President, Fédération des associations de juristes d'expression française de common law inc.
  • Rénald Rémillard  Executive Director, Fédération des associations de juristes d'expression française de common law inc.
  • Yolande Dupuis  Past-President, Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Welcome to the Standing Committee on Official Languages.

On this Tuesday, November 22, 2011, we are starting our 14th meeting. We are here pursuant to Standing Order 108 to study the evaluation of the Roadmap: improving programs and service delivery.

Today we are hearing from three groups. First, we have the Association franco-yukonnaise, represented by Mr. Blais and Mr. St-Pierre. Then we have Ms. Dupuis and Mr. Paul, from the Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones. Lastly, we have Ms. Forest-Niesing and Mr. Rémillard, from the Fédération des associations de juristes d'expression française de common law inc.

Welcome, everyone.

We'll begin with the Association franco-yukonnaise.

A point of order? Go ahead.

8:45 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Chairman, I believe we should take a little time at some point to look at the agenda and the witnesses. We haven't yet done that. The witnesses come any which way. I apologize to the witnesses. We have a minor internal problem.

We don't see any planning for the future. First, we should sit down and look at the witness list and what we have left so that we can then decide how much time this study will take. We'll have to do some planning.

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Okay.

The clerk distributed a calendar last week.

8:45 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

If we look at the calendar, we see that there's nothing next week. That's what we received.

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

Le président Michael Chong

I distributed them to all committee members

Okay.

I now hand the floor over to the Association franco-yukonnaise.

8:45 a.m.

Jean-Sébastien Blais Vice-President, Association franco-yukonnaise

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman, committee members, it is a pleasure for us to be here in the national capital. It is an honour and a privilege to be speaking with you today. On behalf of the AFY, I thank you for inviting us. As you can see, I am here with Régis St-Pierre, who is regional co-executive director of our association. Together we will show, in our presentation, that the Roadmap is having a positive impact on our community and that it should be renewed.

Today we have been asked to provide our evaluation of the Roadmap and its actual impact on and within the Franco-Yukon community. We will be focusing on two priorities. The first, which is a long-term priority, is to build a strong, viable and inclusive Franco-Yukon community supported by a number of partners that contribute to the Yukon's development, a community based on values such as accountability, respect, joint action, openness, innovation and creativity in order to contribute to the vitality of Canada's linguistic duality and of our two official languages.

The other priority, which concerns application in action, is consistent with the objectives of the strategic investments by the federal departments in the needs of Yukon's citizens. We believe that those investments are providing effective, efficient and concerted support for the needs of the Franco-Yukon community. Through those investments, we are taking an active part in the linguistic and cultural vitality of this community. We also believe we are complying with the current priorities of the Government of Canada.

So the idea is to analyze everything through two types of lenses. The first, which provides us with an overview, is entitled The Road to the Future, and the second, which informs us in more targeted fashion by area for action, is entitled The Road of the Present.

As Prime Minister Harper said in launching the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality 2008-2013: Acting for the Future: "Our federation was born of a desire by English- and French-speaking Canadians to share a common future."

To have a clear idea of where we are headed, we must know where we are coming from. The Franco-Yukon community wasn't born yesterday. We have been around since the territory was first colonized, since trading began in the Yukon, that is to say since the Hudson Bay Company was established. The Franco-Yukon community has developed in particular through the establishment of strategic institutions. We have seen that, without institutions in the territory, many francophones have quickly been assimilated. It's even been said that the assimilation rate reached 100%. However, as a result of federal government investments, the Franco-Yukon community, that is the francophones of the Yukon, have been able to develop, grow and enhance the vitality of the entire territory.

If you visit Yukon today, you will see a strong francophone presence and a contagious vitality that is producing convincing results. With the growth of the past 35 years, we've seen the Franco-Yukon population triple. The number of persons using French in the home across the territory has risen by 68%. French-English bilingualism is increasing in Yukon. Twelve per cent of our population today is bilingual.

Our community is dynamic. It has experienced very interesting developments in recent decades, including a francophone school, a francophone school commission and economic and cultural development tools. That is the result of strategic planning established in cooperation with our federal and territorial partners.

To tell you more and to delve more deeply into the subject, I invite my co-executive director to tell you about our community's achievements in the various sectors of activity.

Thank you.

8:50 a.m.

Régis St-Pierre Co-Executive Director, Association franco-yukonnaise

Let's talk more specifically about the five areas for action identified by the Government of Canada.

The first is emphasizing the value of linguistic duality among all Canadians. I'm going to provide a summary because I know you'll have some good questions for me.

We could say it's really important to make the connection between everything that's being done nationally, but also with statutes such as the Yukon's Languages Act. That legislation was introduced in the 1980s thanks to the federal government, which even entered into an agreement with the Yukon government. That act is 100% funded by the federal government, which ensures that it is implemented through the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality.

That act must be implemented if we want my children and those of Jean-Sébastien to benefit from it. The act must meet the expectations of legislators and the public. The federal government has given us enormous support and can continue to do so. The Languages Act must therefore be fully implemented in Yukon.

It should also be noted that a number of federal government services have been transferred to the Yukon government without any guarantee that French-language services will be provided. We must ensure that the francophone population receives services equal to those received by the anglophone population.

Here are a few examples. Recently, in 2010, there was a transfer for employment assistance services. All citizens, employers and businesses contribute to the Employment Insurance Fund. In Canada, all those services should be bilingual. These agreements have provided for a transfer to the Yukon government without any guarantee that French-language services will be provided for the Yukon population.

Let's consider the example of health services for which the federal government has an obligation in the Canadian north. Those services were transferred, but we are still waiting for French-language services to be implemented in Yukon. These are actual examples of things that can improve the situation every day.

We must build a future by investing in youth. This is the most important sector of our community, where we have made the biggest effort. We believe that youth is not the future, it's now. That is why our child care services are growing fast. They need investments and they will need support. Our school is growing and overflowing. That's why the Yukon francophone school commission—you could invite its representatives—has continued its legal efforts on behalf of the Franco-Yukon community. The Supreme Court judgment clearly reveals our needs with regard to infrastructure and schools management.

It will be recalled that nearly 50% of investments under the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality apply to the education system. It's extremely important for us that the money allocated by the federal government be used for citizens and have an impact on people's everyday lives. My daughter is currently at school. I would like her to be able to finish school in suitable facilities comparable to those of the anglophone majority.

Our objective is to promote collaboration among all levels of government. Researchers talk about a balance, a balance between the education system and a strong community in a minority environment where 90% of the population is anglophone, as is the case in Yukon.

There are also the first nations. It's important to have this balance between a strong community and a strong education system. Researchers call that the school-community balance.

We also have to improve access to French-language health services. To be brief, the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality has played an essential role. Support must continue for the Société santé en français and the Consortium national de formation en santé. There are very few French-language services, but what the federal government has done in the health sector has had a positive and direct impact on citizens' everyday lives.

Last week, there was a French-language vaccination clinic and that was made possible by partners' efforts to convince the territorial government. There were employees, and they were able to conduct a bilingual clinic. It was held at the francophone centre. This is a historic first, thanks to the partnership. Consequently, these investments must continue so that people can receive vaccine because that improves the conditions of everyday life.

I only have a few minutes left, so I will close by saying that a number of areas are like justice. Some stakeholders here today are in a much better position than I am to talk intelligently about that. I'm going to let them speak, and we'll be able to answer your questions.

We've been quick. We have a file here that we're going to hand over to the clerk. Now we'll be able to move on to the conclusion of our presentation.

8:55 a.m.

Vice-President, Association franco-yukonnaise

Jean-Sébastien Blais

Today, as I just said, the Franco-Yukon community has shown a strong presence and great vitality. It is dynamic because it has experienced promising developments thanks to effective partners. It is a community that has a francophone school, a francophone school commission and a French economic development mechanism.

There is also a cultural presence with artists who show off the vitality of French at cultural events and festivals.

We also have a close collaborative relationship with the city of Whitehorse, which is developing ties with francophones elsewhere in the country and in France. Next year, we will be celebrating the Franco-Yukon community's 30th anniversary. We believe that celebration will mark a turning point and that the future will prove us right thanks to larger investments in our francophone school.

In closing, we are ready for all your questions. Don't hesitate to question us about our school community, the Centre de la francophonie and its economic, cultural and social development tools.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you.

Now I'll hand over to the representatives of the Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones.

8:55 a.m.

Roger Paul directeur général, Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Gourde, committee members, I very much enjoyed my colleague's speech, where he said not to hesitate to question him about the operation and challenges of the Conseil scolaire franco-yukonnais. That's a good introduction for me.

On behalf of the Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones and as executive director of the FNCSF, I want to thank you for your invitation to testify before the Standing Committee on Official Languages as part of its study entitled Evaluation of the Roadmap: Improving Programs and Service Delivery. I'm here today with Yolande Dupuis, who is the past president of the FNCSF.

In the presentation we will be making this morning, we will first tell you about the FNCSF and give you its views on the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality. During the presentation, we will tell you about the FNCSF's mission and orientations. Then we will briefly discuss major achievements in connection with the Roadmap. And lastly, we will outline our prospects for the future.

The Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones is a non-profit organization that represents 31 francophone and Acadian school boards and commissions across Canada. Those school boards and commissions provide educational services in French to nearly 150,000 students at more than 630 school facilities. Those students are spread across the provinces and territories of Canada where French is the language spoken by a minority of citizens.

I'll speak more slowly, since we have simultaneous interpretation. So I'll give a chance to the translators, who are nodding their heads at me.

The FNCSF's mission amounts to ensuring the vitality and continued existence of the French-language schools in Canada. It is also to contribute to the development and vitality of the francophone and Acadian communities. Our mission is carried out by means of strategic planning based on three major orientations.

The first major orientation is to pursue, in cooperation with our partners, the interests of our members and of the francophone and Acadian communities by influencing decision-making power in education. The second is to contribute to the vitality and continued existence of French-language minority schools in Canada to make them more attractive and to retain our staff. The third orientation is to maintain the dynamic character of the member network by promoting opportunities for exchange and joint training.

As you know, our 31 school boards are scattered across Canada. Having been executive director of a school board, the Conseil scolaire de district catholique de l'Est ontarien, I recognize some members who represent the Ottawa region. I realize the extent to which the national capital and eastern Ontario, where there are a lot of francophones, are privileged. They are privileged in a relative way, but nevertheless much more so than elsewhere. It easier when there are larger numbers. However, that is far from being the case across Canada.

For about 20 years now, since 1990, the FNCSF has had some major achievements. It has supported the francophone school boards in their demands for schools management to provide French-language education in accordance with section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In fact, the FNCSF obtained schools management only recently. Now we manage our schools. The FNCSF has contributed to numerous efforts in this area and is still a national and provincial presence.

As I'm only allotted 10 minutes today, I don't intend to talk about all of FNCSF's achievements. However, I will draw your attention to our annual report. It is on the FNCSF website. In reading it, you realize the extent to which our organization promotes French-language schools, networking, mutual cooperation and training. It's all there. I've brought copies, if you're interested.

In striving to achieve its strategic objectives, the federation collaborates with a number of partners who have an interest in French-language education. Among other activities, the federation makes a major contribution toward rallying numerous partners on one major issue, the Action Plan for the Implementation of Section 23.

At the Sommet des intervenants et des intervenantes en éducation in June 2005—I'm talking about the 2005 summit—the federation coordinated all the activities of the tripartite committee—I'll talk about that committee in a moment. We've been doing that for seven years. We're getting ready for the next education summit, which will be held in Edmonton in April 2012.

At the Sommet des intervenants et des intervenantes en éducation in June 2005, the some 200 participants representing various bodies with an interest in education and coming from various francophone and Acadian communities in Canada, assigned the Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones responsibility for coordinating the Action Plan for the Implementation of Section 23. The decision was made to form a tripartite committee, which is still operating. The tripartite committee has been in place for seven years now.

What does "tripartite" mean? It's difficult to conceive. Every time I talk about it, people ask me when we meet, who sits around the table, a bit like this one. The committee consists of representatives of the three minority French education parties. Around that same table, we of course have representatives of the communities, including those of the school boards. These are representatives of communities that are interested in education. There are representatives—it's quite a feat—of the governments of all the provinces and territories. It's a feat in the sense that we had never seen representatives of all the education departments of all the provinces and territories, those of the Government of Canada, our third partner, and, of course, those of the communities at the same table. We had never brought all those people together to talk about education.

We were a bit nervous at first, thinking that people wouldn't come. As you know, education is a provincial and territorial jurisdiction. Bringing together, in the same room, people from the provinces and territories, people from the federal government and people from the communities to talk to each other was very interesting. Even the fact that it's continuing is very interesting. The people didn't leave the table. They're still there talking about French-language education across Canada. That's the result of the 2005 summit.

The federation has just prepared a very positive report on the efforts and achievements in connection with the Action Plan for the Implementation of Section 23. I don't know whether you have had the opportunity to see that document. It was written in both official languages and distributed and sent to your office. Or rather the clerk told me that it would be in the next few days or weeks. The report outlines all the efforts and achievements the tripartite committee has made over the past seven years. It's quite impressive.

We've entitled the report "L'école de Raphaël". The most recent documents we've prepared had much more general titles. We wondered why we had schools. We have schools for the little Raphaels, little Hamids, you name them, boys, girls, people here as a result of immigration. We want to personalize it. We have schools for children, as a result of which we entitled the report "L'école de Raphaël".

The report outlines an innovative experiment in collaboration, as I said, and a report on the work done in recent years. When we met seven years ago, we established six areas that were important to us. As a result, six working groups have been added over the past seven years. One of the areas is early childhood, our priority. Another is teaching.

Another area is action on culture and identity. Human resources is another area. There's also promoting French-language schools and, lastly, immigration. I forgot infrastructure.

These areas, on which we've been working for seven years, are still priorities. We'll be talking about them a little later.

In addition, the report presents the results of a broad consultation that enabled us to determine some priorities for the future. That's what we've done in the past, now we're wondering where we're headed. Everything I'm talking to you about is of course related to the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality.

Again in this spirit of collaboration, the federation chairs the National Table on Education. What is that about? This table brings together the main francophone organizations in Canada. We bring those principal organizations together so that they can talk to us not necessarily about their mandates, but about education, because it is a national table on education.

At that national table, which we are coordinating, are the Fédération de la jeunesse canadienne-française, the Fédération canadienne des enseignantes et des enseignants, the Fédération canadienne des directions d'écoles francophones, the Fédération des parents canadiens, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, the Fédération culturelle canadienne-française, the Fédération canadienne pour l'alphabétisation en français, the Regroupement des directions générales de l'éducation, the Association des Universities and Colleges of Canada and the Folklore Studies Association of Canada, the FSAC.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you.

Now we'll move on to the Fédération des associations de juristes d'expression française de common law inc.

9:10 a.m.

Josée Forest-Niesing President, Fédération des associations de juristes d'expression française de common law inc.

Chairman Chong, Vice-Chairs Bélanger and Godin, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Josée Forest-Niesing, and I am president of the Fédération des associations de juristes d'expression française de common law inc., the FAJEF. Today I'm here with Rénald Rémillard, executive director of FAJEF. I want to thank you for your invitation, and for allowing us to speak to you briefly about the FAJEF and the progress that has been made as a result of the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality.

The FAJEF represents seven associations of francophone lawyers and its mission is to promote access to justice for francophone minorities. Consisting largely of professionals, the FAJEF has a community mandate and works closely with its network and with numerous citizens' groups. For your information, there are associations of francophone lawyers in the four western provinces, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The seven associations of francophone jurists represent approximately 1,400 lawyers, and the number is increasing every year.

This presentation will focus on some of the effects of the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality and, more generally, on the recent projects in the area of access to justice in French outside Quebec. As you probably know, Justice Canada provides financial support under its Initiative in Support of Access to Justice in Both Official Languages. In practical terms, this support fund enables various stakeholders, including associations of francophone lawyers, to carry out projects, among other things, to promote careers in justice, provide legal training in French to numerous stakeholders in the justice sector—among others, to Crown counsel, clerks, defence lawyers, judges and others—and also to increase awareness among the general public and, more particularly, seniors, youth and francophone newcomers, in numerous legal topics and concerns, including the criminal field, which concern them directly as citizens.

For example, the website of the AJEFS, the Association des juristes d'expression française de la Saskatchewan, currently has more than 229 documents providing legal information for the public. Here are a few brief examples of justice projects for seniors, youth and francophone newcomers. For lack of time, we won't be talking about families.

With regard to seniors, a few days ago, the Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Alberta, gave information sessions on the prevention of senior abuse to 85 participants in Calgary and Edmonton. Twenty-five similar information sessions will be offered in New Brunswick very soon. Similar projects are also under way elsewhere.

The FAJEF has provided training sessions to approximately 200 lawyers to date, in Ontario, Manitoba, British Columbia, Alberta, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, to enable them to better advise their senior clients who are dealing with abuse or fraud.

The Association des juristes d'expression française de la Nouvelle-Écosse has prepared and distributed excellent legal information sheets of interest to Nova Scotia seniors. Those sheets concern subjects such as wills, power of attorney, medical directives and so on.

We believe that this project should be exported elsewhere and that the needs of this clientele will continue to grow, particularly with the aging of the population.

As for youth, we must mention the numerous activities and successes of the AJEFO, the Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Ontario, in promoting careers in justice, careers as police officers, probation officers, lawyers and social workers, not only to young francophones in Ontario, but also elsewhere in Canada, with the aid of other provincial AJEFs.

In New Brunswick, the AJEFNB has organized a summer law camp every year for the past few years to stimulate young people's interest in this field. In addition to promoting careers in justice to students at French and immersion schools, a number of AJEFs are helping to organize school debates and information sessions on crime prevention, the youth criminal justice system, criminal law and so on.

As for awareness and integration of francophone newcomers to Canadian society, the AJEFs and the FAJEF are already working with various local, provincial and national immigrant groups to promote careers in justice to newcomers as police officers, clerks, probation officers and Correctional Service officers and to better inform the members of those communities of their rights and obligations in Canada. For example, every month, with the help of the AJEFM, Accueil francophone du Manitoba offers information sessions in Winnipeg on topics related to family law, criminal law, wills, employment standards, rental issues and so on. The level of interest in and need for these information sessions is obvious from the fact that more 20 persons regularly attend them, even though they are offered on Friday evenings.

As you know, the Roadmap focused to a great extent on training to increase and promote better access to justice in French. We feel some recent progress in this area is worthy of note. For example, the Centre canadien de français juridique, which was established by the FAJEF in 2010, has offered remedial training in legal French to more than 100 provincial and territorial stakeholders, clerks, probation officers, Crown counsel and legal aid lawyers operating in the provincial and territorial systems and the administration of justice outside Quebec and Ontario.

Face-to-face training sessions, which are receiving excellent evaluations, will very soon be combined with aspects of distance training. Lastly, the centre is also providing significant support, through its expertise, for the development of a national training program for provincially appointed judges. That program will include a major evaluation component and a competency grid.

In Ontario, a family mediation training project is currently underway to enable francophone couples and families to receive more of these services in French. In British Columbia, the AJEF is helping to develop lawyers' legal French by organizing mock trials in which the community and youth take part, which provides them with an opportunity to learn more about the Canadian legal system.

As you can see from these few examples of projects, recent investments in the justice sector are having an impact and direct and real effects for citizens as well as on the capacity of the legal system and the administration of justice to provide better access to that system in French. Of course, access to justice in French is not easy or perfect, but we nevertheless believe the Roadmap is producing positive results, and in a number of cases even very positive results. We believe we should continue building on that progress.

Those are our preliminary comments. Mr. Rémillard and I will be pleased to answer your questions.

Thank you for your attention.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you.

We'll now move on to questions and comments by committee members.

Mr. Godin.

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would like to welcome you all.

We have previously met some of you in this committee. As we only have seven minutes, I'm going to focus on topics of interest to me. I'm going to ask you all the questions, and if you see that I'm not asking you any, it's because another committee member will be asking them, particularly on education.

I appreciate the fact that you're speaking about the Roadmap in a positive way. That indicates a need for it to continue. On that point, I would simply like to ask you the following question: do you want the Roadmap to continue?

9:20 a.m.

Co-Executive Director, Association franco-yukonnaise

Régis St-Pierre

Yes, we want that 200%.