Evidence of meeting #32 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 roadmap.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Graham Fraser  Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages
  • Sylvain Giguère  Assistant Commissioner, Policy and Communications Branch, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages
  • Lise Cloutier  Assistant Commissioner, Corporate Management Branch, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Dan Harris Scarborough Southwest, ON

Sorry, just because I only have the five minutes.... Perhaps at the end after I've used that time.... You mentioned that, and certainly we think that's true, and it brings up another concern because they reported to us that, of course, they are only going to one third of the ministries each year to get evaluations from them on the road map. And then of course with virtually every ministry we've had before us, we've asked them about their evaluations and virtually none of them have completed evaluations that were supposed to be done by, usually, February of this year. Some of them are doing it, and some of them are not.

It seems that process is off the wheels. I mean my colleague was talking about methodology. There doesn't seem to be any. When we talk about unintended consequences—we see all the warning signs here that there could be serious things, but we won't really know.

We could be into the next road map before we start actually seeing the effects. Regarding the public service school cutting back its translation services, I mean, we asked them directly and they're not going to be able to continue some of those things unless they receive more funds. It just causes one problem after another.

Sorry to throw it all out there. I know the chair is going to cut me off now, but could you respond as much as possible to what I've just said?

10 a.m.

Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

Graham Fraser

The example I have in mind is that at one point an assistant deputy minister phoned me up and said there was a program they were funding that they didn't think worked, and he asked what my reaction would be if they were to cut funding to it. I said, “Hypothetical question: if you were to cut and if I were to receive complaints and were to do an investigation, the first thing I would ask is what kind of consultation you did to evaluate the effectiveness of that program.” And he said, “Oh, consultation”.

Six months later he phoned back and he said that they did consultations across the country. They found the people in the communities did not think that was a very effective program, and so they were proceeding.

Well, funding was cut and we're receiving complaints, but I was struck by how effective that process was in evaluating what the impact would be of reducing the funding to a program that the department found had not been effective.

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you, Mr. Harris, and thank you, Mr. Fraser.

Mr. Boughen.

March 15th, 2012 / 10 a.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thanks to the panel for appearing this morning and for sharing your time with us.

In your remarks, Mr. Fraser, you talked about visits with some of the communities. I'm just wondering, what do your visits focus on? What do you look for when you're in the communities?

10 a.m.

Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

Graham Fraser

It really depends. I've been to every province and every territory, at this point, and there are some communities, some provinces, that I've visited more often than others. I meet with the minority community organization, and often talk about the problems they've identified or the successes they've had.

When I'm travelling across the country, I also try to meet with universities and university presidents. One of the reports we did, and that I tried to make as relevant as possible, was the study on second language learning in Canada's universities.

For example, most recently I was in Winnipeg for the Festival du Voyageur. I met people from the federal council. I met people from the Société franco-manitobaine. I met with the presidents of the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg. I was at the banquet of the Festival du Voyageur and gave to them the commissioner's prize for the promotion of linguistic duality.

I then went to Regina and Saskatoon, and went to Duck Lake for the 100th anniversary celebrations of the Association communautaire fransaskoise.

I then went to Windsor and met people at the community association there. I met people at the University of Windsor. I met people at Collège Boréal. I met people at Border Services who have developed a partnership with Collège Boréal.

Those are only some of the activities I've engaged with. Usually I try to combine meetings with community organizations, meetings with federal institutions that are dealing with those organizations, and with universities as well.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

As you look down the highway—or in the crystal ball, whichever you will—how do you see the French program becoming more universal?

In Saskatchewan, for example, outside of Lafleche and Gravelbourg, French is not a language that's spoken. You wouldn't hear a paragraph in French in a year.

10:05 a.m.

Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

Graham Fraser

Well, you would if you listened to Radio-Canada, which plays an extremely important role. And 250 people showed up at this celebration in Duck Lake.

We did a vitality study in Saskatchewan, and there's no question that one of the real challenges of the francophone community in Saskatchewan is that it is dispersed. As people from those communities move to the cities, they don't have a concentrated neighbourhood to be in.

So they do have a challenge of visibility, but they are active. They are vital. They have a school system. They have school boards. There's the Association des juristes d'expression française de la Saskatchewan, which is very active.

I agree that you don't necessarily hear French spoken on the streets. What adds to the challenge, if you like, of the visibility is that members of the community are so bilingual that occasionally two members of the francophone community will encounter each other and not be aware that they are francophones just because their English is so accent-free.

That, I think, speaks to the importance of establishing French language spaces in which people can meet. It speaks to the critical importance of Radio-Canada and community radio stations, and to the importance of the schools and schools boards that have been created over the last 25 years.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you very much, Mr. Boughen and Mr. Fraser.

Mr. Ravignat now has the floor.

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thanks to the commissioner and the other witnesses for being here.

As you perhaps know, my riding is 20 minutes from here in western Quebec. There is a strong anglophone minority in part of my riding, Pontiac. I'm thinking of communities such as Shawville and Luskville. I say that to provide some background to my question.

Among the weaknesses that you denounced in the roadmap, you mentioned linguistic duality and, in particular, second-language instruction. I would like to hear what you have to say about the place of the anglophone minority in Quebec. Is that group taking enough advantage of the roadmap?

10:05 a.m.

Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

Graham Fraser

We've detected a problem in that regard, and it was moreover pointed out to this committee by representatives of the Quebec Community Groups Network. Some aspects of the roadmap were shaped based on francophone groups and then applied more or less as such to the needs of the anglophone majority. Some aspects are not that relevant to the needs of the anglophone community in Quebec.

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

I could be more specific; that would help you.

There is a shortage of resources in that community. Unlike francophones outside Quebec, the institutions of Quebec's anglophone community have no history. So they need to acquire resources.

Did the roadmap take this lack of resources into account? Could it take it into account in future, and, if so, how?

10:05 a.m.

Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

Graham Fraser

Some elements of the roadmap have played a very important role in the anglophone community. I am thinking of the community learning centres, which were created by the provincial government and the community. There is a network of those centres across Quebec, which is extraordinary. The network's strength is that it brings the community together and gives remote communities the opportunity to have access, through technology, to all kinds of things. That would previously have been unthinkable.

I saw a presentation at the opening of one of those centres in the Magdalen Islands. Those people have established a direct link with the inhabitants of Rivière-Saint-Paul, who described a little of what they had done. That's one example of resources that have been reinforced.

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

Thank you for those examples, commissioner. Now I'm going on to another question because I don't have a lot of time.

I'm originally Franco-Ontarian, and the assimilation of francophones outside Quebec is a great concern to me. I want to talk about research because assimilation is a sociological and demographic phenomenon. Without federal government research or research coordination, we will have a poor understanding of the issue and might risk taking a wrong turn when we move into action.

Do you think the roadmap has done enough for research and research coordination? What could be done in future to overcome this lack of knowledge?

10:10 a.m.

Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

Graham Fraser

That's a very good question. I'm reluctant to give you an answer.

Sylvain, can you add a comment?

10:10 a.m.

Assistant Commissioner, Policy and Communications Branch, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

Sylvain Giguère

Not really, because we haven't really looked into that aspect. We would have to conduct some research in order to answer you.