Evidence of meeting #33 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 portal.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Donna Achimov  Chief Executive Officer, Translation Bureau, Department of Public Works and Government Services
  • Marc Olivier  Manager, Translation Bureau, Linguistic Services Division, Department of Public Works and Government Services
  • Jeff Moore  Vice-President, Policy, Partnerships and Performance Management, Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario
  • Lisa Marie Perkins  President, National Office, Canadian Parents for French
  • Justin Morrow  Founder and Executive Director, Canadian Youth for French
  • Robert Rothon  Executive Director, National Office, Canadian Parents for French
  • Susan Anzolin  Director General, Innovation and Economic Development, Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you, Mr. Trottier and Mr. Moore.

We are now going to take a two-minute break.

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

We now resume the 33rd meeting of the Standing Committee on Official Languages.

We'll begin with Monsieur Aubin.

March 27th, 2012 / 10 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I certainly support Mr. Bélanger's proposal to have fewer witnesses at each meeting. It seems like I have to ask thousands of questions in five minutes, and it is almost getting ridiculous.

I have some questions for the people from Public Works and Government Services. I also have some for Canadian Parents for French and Canadian Youth for French. Your presentations were very enjoyable and I am looking forward to discussing them with you.

My first question goes to the representatives from the department of Public Works and Government Services. Perhaps you have read, as I have, the report entitled “Highlights of the midterm consultations” – there is some great bedside reading material for you – produced by Heritage Canada. It contains really interesting statistics on 29 programs, some of which are yours, and which are looked at in terms of how familiar minority language communities are with them. So the object was to find out whether those programs of yours are well known. Of the 29 programs described in the report, only seven received a familiarity rating over 50%, meaning that more than half the people in a given language community said that they knew about the programs.

In the programs that are more directly yours, the language industry initiative seems to be little known by official language minority communities. Only 15% of respondents said that they were familiar with it. Then only 14% of respondents said that they knew about the university scholarships in translation.

Can you explain those less than stellar results?

10 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Translation Bureau, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Donna Achimov

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

We are working very closely with language associations and with associations and organizations that train translators and interpreters to make sure that the promotion is ongoing, available all across Canada and targeted to minority communities. Our target is really university students. We always try to target our programs to, and promote them in, minority language communities. That actually helps us to reach young people, and, we hope, to interest them in the profession.

We have held discussions and consultations on the best way to do that promotion but we depend on organizations that do it specifically. For example, Translation New Brunswick has created ads for television, radio and movie theatres. They decided that that is the best way to deliver their message to Canadians in general and to minority communities.

10 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

In terms of the Translation Bureau, could you tell me how many jobs have been lost in the bureau in the last five years? If you cannot do that, could you perhaps send the figures to us?

Aren’t you afraid that you might suffer the same fate as the School of Public Service?

10 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Translation Bureau, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Donna Achimov

I cannot comment on the School of Public Service, but I can tell you that there has been some attrition in the Translation Bureau in the last five years, caused by people retiring or leaving. That is about 120 or 130 people per year. There was one exception.

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Those people have not been replaced?

10:05 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Translation Bureau, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Donna Achimov

They have been strategically realigned. Given the current reality of budget cuts and decreasing revenues, our approach to replacement has been more strategic. Of course, we have a human resources plan to replace people in key positions. Attrition gives us the opportunity to change what I like to call our skill mix. For example, we now need people with skills in social media. This is a style of translation that is quite different from the one we have been familiar with up to now.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Okay.

Thank you, Mr. Aubin and Ms. Achimov.

Mr. Weston.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would also like to thank our guests. It really is a pleasure to hear from you. This is probably the first time that guests like Ms. Achimov and Ms. Lorenzato have come before us to testify with such pride and such confidence in their work. Thank you.

Ms. Perkins, may I ask which province you are from?

10:05 a.m.

President, National Office, Canadian Parents for French

Lisa Marie Perkins

Mr. Chair, members of the committee, I am from Red Deer, Alberta.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Canadian Parents for French has a number of supporters in this room. I come from British Columbia. My children have been in immersion programs there since grade one. Last week, we went to the premiere of a film about the francophone contribution to the history of British Columbia. Super! It is a wonderful piece of work.

Congratulations, Mr. Morrow. I don’t know if it is the Ottawa air, or the pressure that a football player knows so well, or bilingualism. But congratulations!

If you caricatured members of Parliament today, you might have, on the one hand, those who do not care about facts or social programs or bilingualism, but who are just concerned about money and costs. Then, on the other hand, you might have those who believe that social programs and bilingualism are so important that they cannot be allowed to fail. I don’t think that either picture is a real one. Our work is often about bringing those two extremes together.

My first question is for Ms. Perkins. How can we foster bilingualism while at the same time facing the challenges of economic development? Is there an answer to that question?

10:05 a.m.

President, National Office, Canadian Parents for French

Lisa Marie Perkins

How can we foster bilingualism and consider economic development at the same time? We in Canadian Parents for French see that, in school systems and education ministries,

we're very creative in terms of developing opportunities for children to be bilingual. Some of that is by working with our partners and some of that is through supporting each other.

Primarily we're here to offer information and support to parents to make the right choice and to encourage, through the school system, our teachers and the education system to take care of the rest, with us standing on the side, sometimes encouraging and cheerleading, and sometimes, I don't know, giving them a little shove or a nudge in the right direction, I would say.

But I will ask Robert to give you perhaps some concrete details from some of our strategic planning—

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Can I interject? It has certainly worked in our family. Our kids have better and more promising careers because of what your association has done.

But go ahead. I hope to hear from Mr. Morrow, too, on this one.

10:10 a.m.

Executive Director, National Office, Canadian Parents for French

Robert Rothon

I'll try to be brief. To come to your question, one of the better ways, I think, of positioning official languages in education is the fact that it's a wonderful long-term investment for Canadians in their youth. In fact, our feeling is that if you.... This is not an official CPF position, but it's a discussion we're having within our network and with our partners but I'd say that if you....

It's our feeling that official languages bilingualism should naturally lead into plurilingualism. There's a lot of talk about the impact of globalization. Coming from B.C. as I do, people often ask why we aren't teaching our children Mandarin, a useful language, a useful international language, and why we are teaching them French—