Official Languages Committee on March 27th, 2012
A recording is available from Parliament.
On the agenda
- 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
The Chair Michael Chong
Welcome to the 33rd meeting of the Standing Committee on Official Languages. Today is Tuesday, March 27, 2012, and we are here pursuant to Standing Order 108 to study the Evaluation of the Roadmap: Improving Programs and Service Delivery.
We have four groups making presentations today. First, we have representatives from Public Works and Government Services, namely, Ms. Achimov, Ms. Lorenzato and Mr. Olivier. We also have Mr. Moore and Ms. Anzolin from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.
We also have Ms. Perkins and Mr. Rothon, representing Canadian Parents for French.
Finally, we have Mr. Morrow, of the group Canadian Youth for French. Welcome to everybody.
We'll begin with a statement from the Department of Public Works and Government Services.
Donna Achimov Chief Executive Officer, Translation Bureau, Department of Public Works and Government Services
Good morning and thank you.
Mr. Chair, members of the committee, I am pleased to be here today to speak about PWGSC's progress with respect to the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality.
I am joined today by Diane Lorenzato, assistant deputy minister of Human Resources Branch.
It's a real pleasure for me to be here addressing this committee for the first time.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank my predecessor, Francine Kennedy, for her dedication and hard work in implementing the department's initiatives in response to the road map. I'll also talk about these initiatives shortly.
I'd like to begin by describing the role the Translation Bureau plays in promoting linguistic duality.
The Translation Bureau is the second-largest translation institution in the world. In 2010-11, the bureau translated more than 1.7 million pages in all areas of federal government activity, as well as provided translation and interpretation for over 2,000 parliamentary sittings and parliamentary committees such as these. The bureau also manages TERMIUM, the Government of Canada's terminology and linguistic databank, which contains almost 4 million English and French terms. The databank is used by teachers, students, writers, and translators, among others, in Canada and all over the world.
I would also like to highlight the recent efforts by the Translation Bureau to modernize its activities.
To achieve this objective, the Translation Bureau has adopted a transformation strategy that involves the use of new language technology and streamlined business processes.
In order to respond rapidly to the changing needs of Canadians and their government, the Translation Bureau is fully leveraging technology to provide its services via new channels such as social media.
Returning to today's main topic, I am pleased to report that, in response to commitments made by the federal government in the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality, the Translation Bureau launched the Language Portal of Canada and implemented the Canadian language sector enhancement program in 2009.
The portal funded by the road map—and we'll be showing you a short demo momentarily—provides free Internet access to the national collection of Canadian linguistic resources, such as online dictionaries, writing tools, and quizzes that help users improve their English and French skills. Canadian Internet users can go to the portal site and find anything they need to study, work, and communicate more effectively in both official languages. The portal currently contains more than 2,800 Canadian language resources, including about 1,800 links, 600 articles, and 400 linguistic games. The portal received over 29 million hits in the last 11 months alone. This is a significant increase from the 14 million hits recorded in the previous year.
To date, 14 Canadian partners have signed cooperation agreements, including the Canadian Association of Immersion Teachers and the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick. These partners have authored close to 50 articles that have been posted on the portal.
The portal is also receiving positive feedback from visitors. In fact, it was listed as one of the 10 best websites for French improvement by the Centre collégial de développement de matériel didactique in its web directory for 2011-12. We're very proud of that.
This Canadian organization produces print, digital and online materials for teaching staff and students throughout the Quebec college system. Its mandate is to ensure that students in the system have access to quality educational materials in both French and English.
The Translation Bureau also promotes linguistic duality through the Canadian language sector enhancement program. Its purpose is to support the development of a skilled linguistic labour force, and strengthen the capacity of the language industry in Canada. Funding for this program was given to Public Works and Government Services for five years, and that will end on March 31, 2013.
The program has two components. First is the university scholarships in translation program, which is intended to help post-secondary institutions increase the number of graduates in the field of translation. The second,
the language industry initiative, which helps strengthen the language industry's promotion and workforce development capacities and ability to integrate language technologies.
I am proud to note that, under the Canadian language sector enhancement program, 16 projects were funded.
At its conclusion in March 2013, it's expected that the program will have achieved its performance objectives. So far we have achieved the following impressive results. There were 1,200 scholarships awarded for a total of more than $2 million; student registration has already increased by 50% at the Université de Moncton; 145 internships in private enterprises were financed for $1.3 million; three college and university programs are being developed—online translation, a master's in interpretation, and a para-language program—and a campaign promoting translation careers through the Atlantic provinces was created. We will be showing you that as well.
This concludes my opening remarks.
Mark Olivier, manager of the Linguistic Services Division in the Translation Bureau's Terminology Standardization Directorate, will now give a demonstration of the Language Portal of Canada.
I will be pleased to answer your questions along with my colleague, Ms. Diane Lorenzato.
Merci. Thank you very much.
Marc Olivier Manager, Translation Bureau, Linguistic Services Division, Department of Public Works and Government Services
Thank you, Ms. Achimov.
The Language Portal of Canada currently contains more than 2,800 Canadian language resources, including language news under the heading "Headlines", articles and games under the heading "Well Written, Well Said" and many links under the heading "Discover".
Here are a few examples of resources. Teachers or students can quickly find a list of useful links, including exercises and games, under the heading "My Portal at school".
We are proud to say that we have published, so far, more than 50 articles from our partners, like this one from the Government of Manitoba entitled “Court interpreting in Manitoba”. One of the major improvements we have made since 2009 is to offer users the option to share useful information by e-mail or through social networks like Twitter and Facebook. So if I want to share this interesting article with my friends, I just click on “share this article” and I can share it by e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter.
Our most popular online tool is TERMIUM Plus, the second-largest terminology bank in the world, with close to four million terms in English and French. So if I want to know how to say “House of Commons” in French, I just type “House of Commons”, click from English to French, and find the French equivalent, “Chambre des communes”.
As Ms. Achimov mentioned, we will be launching a mobile application of TERMIUM Plus in spring 2012 to allow users to consult this very popular data bank quickly on their BlackBerry smartphones or their iPhones.
That ends this very quick overview of the portal.
I will now show you the advertising message.
This is a television commercial that was created in English and French by New Brunswick Translation. This commercial is a direct result of funding received for the Canadian language sector enhancement program.
This ad has aired in movie theatres, on the radio and on television.
That was the French version. I'll now show you the English version.
That's all. Thanks.
The Chair Michael Chong
Thank you very much. That was exactly 10 minutes.
We'll now have an opening statement from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.
Jeff Moore Vice-President, Policy, Partnerships and Performance Management, Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for giving us this opportunity to appear before you to discuss the role of the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, better known as FedDev Ontario, in regards to the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality 2008-2013.
My name is Jeff Moore, vice president of Policy, Partnerships and Performance Management and official languages champion at FedDev Ontario. With me here today is my colleague Susan Anzolin, director general, Innovation and Economic Development.
FedDev Ontario was created in August 2009 when our government recognized the challenges facing southern Ontario in terms of the economy. The agency works to stimulate economic development and growth in the region by expressly meeting the needs and priorities of our workers, businesses and communities.
Our headquarters are in Kitchener, and we have offices in Ottawa, Toronto, Peterborough and Stratford. Our personnel are out in the field, ideally positioned to be in tune with local concerns and needs. Our employees work together with businesses and communities in southern Ontario to ensure the delivery of programs and services pertaining to the agency's role.
I am pleased to speak to you today about how the agency is working with the francophone communities in southern Ontario on projects funded through the roadmap's economic development initiative, as well as through other agency programs.
As FedDev Ontario is a newer agency, I thought I'd take a few minutes to explain our role.
During its first year, FedDev Ontario focused its efforts on targeted investments for creating jobs and for meeting immediate needs given the economic challenges being faced by the region.
We also took on the delivery of existing national programs, such as the economic development initiative, the community futures program, the eastern Ontario development program and infrastructure programs.
During this time, we had an opportunity to listen to what business, industrial and community leaders throughout our region had to say regarding productivity, competitiveness and innovation challenges.
We also learned, in particular, about other challenges facing the francophone communities in southern Ontario: low rates of entrepreneurship and education; high rates of youth out-migration; accessibility barriers to business counseling information in French and accessibility barriers to business financing, especially micro loans.
That is why, in our second year, the agency launched an array of initiatives aimed at strengthening the economy of southern Ontario and positioning the region to increase our competitiveness at the international level. Our objective is to develop the tools needed to make sure that our businesses and communities can continue to innovate so that the economy can continue to prosper today and into the future.
We are building on the region's strategic advantages to strengthen innovation and competitiveness through seven initiatives: Youth STEM (for science, technology, engineering and mathematics); Graduate Enterprise Internships; Scientists and Engineers in Business; the Applied Research and Commercialization Initiative; the Technology Development Program; Investing in Business Innovation; and the Prosperity Initiative.
Finally, we are fostering partnerships between research and innovation organizations, the private sector, post-secondary institutions, and not-for-profit organizations to accelerate technological advances and to bring new products to market.
Since its creation, the agency has invested more than $800 million in projects aimed at stimulating the economic development of communities in southern Ontario.
I would like to point out that all FedDev Ontario programs are available to the francophone community. Thanks to partners such as Heritage Canada, we have created geographic maps identifying the location of communities that have a high percentage of francophones. We have also developed an analysis grid for projects as well as clauses regarding official languages for contribution agreements. These tools help us enormously in determining if a funded project will have an impact on the francophone community.
For example, Ivaco Rolling Mills in L'Orignal, one of the key employers in this region, will receive $10 million as part of a prosperity initiative for an expansion project. This project will have numerous benefits for the region, from the creation of approximately 200 short-term construction jobs to the addition of approximately 50 new permanent positions within the company itself.
A large number of beneficiaries from our youth STEM initiative hire francophone students in their activities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Thanks to our applied research and commercialization initiative, francophone businesses are working with post-secondary institutions such as the Cité Collégiale here in Ottawa.
Of course, as part of the roadmap, the agency is responsible for delivering the economic development initiative in southern Ontario. The original budget from the Treasury Board proposals was for $8.9 million for all of Ontario, representing 29% of the national budget of $30.5 million for the economic development initiative.
FedDev Ontario received $4.5 million for delivery in southern Ontario for the 2009 to 2013 period. Of this amount, $500,000 was set aside to cover operating and maintenance costs, leaving $4 million for contributions.
To date, 30 projects across southern Ontario with a value of about $2.6 million have been approved and are either completed or in the process of being completed. This represents approximately 64% of the total announced budget for EDI.
Projects range from the development of strategic plans, to marketing initiatives, to youth internships, to the new microcredit investment fund recently announced.
All of these projects are helping to meet the needs of the francophone communities in southern Ontario.
As a new agency, we had to develop both the infrastructure and the relationships to effectively deliver our programming. So we did experience some challenges in spending our budget allocated to the economic development initiative. Despite our outreach activities and relaunching the program with a continuous intake process, we still faced challenges in receiving a sufficient number of proposals. Unfortunately, this resulted in lapsing $1.4 million of the $4 million budget.
Since then, we've made strong progress in reaching out to key francophone organizations and funding strategic projects. For example, the agency took a proactive approach and met with three key francophone economic development organizations to discuss how to better support the region's official language minority communities. They were La Fondation Franco-Ontarienne; the Réseau de développement économique et d'employabilité de l'Ontario; and the Association Franco-Ontarienne.
I will conclude there. Mr. Chair, members of the committee, I thank you once again for this invitation to appear before the Standing Committee on Official Languages.
The Chair Michael Chong
Thank you, Mr. Moore.
Now we'll have Canadian Parents for French.
Lisa Marie Perkins President, National Office, Canadian Parents for French
Mr. Chair, members of the committee, my name is Lisa Marie Perkins, and I am the president of Canadian Parents for French.
I'm accompanied today by my executive director, Robert Rothon, and we are very pleased to have the opportunity to present to you today.
The road map for Canada's linguistic duality has provided Canadian Parents for French, or CPF, with an opportunity to promote FSL education in Canada. In this manner, CPF has also helped Canadians appreciate the road map's breadth and its depth. We've taken part in the mid-term consultations on the road map, and are pleased to be here today to follow up by speaking to its successes, and by helping conceptualize a possible successor.
One of the objectives of the road map is to allow all Canadians to enjoy the benefits that English and French have to offer. From our perspective, parents' increasing interest in choosing an FSL program—French immersion in particular—for their children is the most significant grassroots expression of support for linguistic duality in English Canada. In other words, anglophone and allophone parents are demonstrating their support for linguistic duality by opting to give their children the chance to be bilingual in both French and English.
With our French immersion numbers growing in the provinces of Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia—to name four—the road map's impact on FSL education can be deemed a true success.
CPF is a not-for-profit parent organization now celebrating our 35th year. We value linguistic duality, and we work to create, support, and promote opportunities for non-francophone youth to learn and to use French. Our three-tiered structure allows over 25,000 members across Canada to engage actively with the school system from top to bottom, and with the francophone minority official languages communities outside of Quebec.
In the latter case, CPF is more often than not a preferred point of contact between the broader English-speaking community and the francophones, especially in the west. CPF is seen to represent the point of view of francophiles—which is currently a popular designation for anyone who speaks French as a second or other language—as minority francophone communities increasingly warm to the idea of integrating French second-language speakers into their core communities.
Preliminary data from Ontario suggests that there may be a correlation between the higher enrolment in FSL programs and the presence of strong francophone communities, so the relationship is clearly mutually beneficial.
On one level, the greatest significance of the road map is a strong public statement of intent on the part of the government to support and enhance Canada's linguistic duality. When you consider that in 2006 over three-quarters of Canadians stated their support for bilingualism in Canada, a successor to the road map with an FSL focus is not only politically desirable, but also provides an opportunity for government to define its legacy in nation building through the enhancement of our linguistic duality.
At CPF our research, advocacy, support, guidance, and youth programs have paved the way for parents to complement and protect their children's linguistic education at every level of our three-tiered structure. Nationally, CPF helps inform policy-making through its biennial “State of French-Second-Language Education in Canada” reports, its FSL database, and targeted youth initiatives. The policies that support language education don't just enable parents to make the right choices for their children; they also help educators better access supports and teaching aids that benefit students; improve and define relationships between an educator, student, and parent; and help ensure that the overall teaching environment is one that is adaptable to all student needs.
CPF National also voices a unified national perspective on FSL education, first by providing leadership to the entire CPF network, and subsequently through dialogue with our other national organizations like the FSL Partner Network, which includes SEVEC, ACPI, CASLT, French for the Future, and Canadian Youth for French.
Provincially and territorially, CPF branches support and encourage ministries of education to enhance or increase their support of FSL. They also undertake socio-cultural initiatives such as Bilingualism Rocks, which was a specially commissioned piece highlighting the shared historical experiences of official language communities in B.C., Alberta, and the Yukon. This program alone gave 69 school performances in B.C., Alberta, and the Yukon. In fact, we still have a waiting list of schools looking for this presentation.
At the school district level and even within individual school communities, CPF chapters are parents right on the ground actively supporting FSL through programming activities. For example, our Camrose, Alberta, chapter reported that, last year alone, its activities for students reached approximately 954 children.
One of the most unexpected results of this growing fervour in anglophone Canada for linguistic duality through French as a second language school programs is the intergenerational transmission of French as a second language. The first generation that went through immersion is now putting their children through the same school program and we're seeing that, in some families, this is even the third generation of learners going through immersion.
I am proud to say that I am one of them, and as one of the first immersion graduates, I have, myself, chosen to put my child in French immersion.
In our opinion, this phenomenon raises learning French from personal choice and individual accomplishment and puts it in a broader socio-cultural trend, meaning the emergence of an institutionalized culture of learning a second official language by an increasingly large part of the Canadian population. There is a parallel phenomenon here with respect to teachers, where individuals who went through the immersion program are themselves becoming immersion teachers.
Moreover, this intergenerational transfer of French as a second language shows the commitment of anglophone Canada toward this language, its cultures and its households in minority situations, which could lead to positive reflection about how we, in Canada, define the linguistic identity of each citizen.
Younger Canadians who became literate in both official languages see their ability to communicate and participate in both languages as normal.
CPF sees the need to develop legislation, policy, and practices that started and should continue with the road map as an opportunity to bring us closer to this reality for all Canadian youth, and to the expectation that these opportunities should be available to all students.
It is through this passion and dedication of the CPF parents that a number of school boards across Canada continue to offer, if not broaden, the offering of French as a second language programs, at a time when boards are facing serious financial pressures that elsewhere have led to the consolidation of schools or the straight out elimination of programs.
In many cases, the actions of CPF, which are to help school superintendents better understand the use of the funding guide for bilateral agreements and information sharing to facilitate dialogue between the school system stakeholders, have lead to solutions that keep teaching programs in our Canadian schools.
Along those same lines, and in relation to the roadmap, CPF acts as a volunteer custodian of federal interests when it comes to using funding for bilateral agreements stemming from the Official Languages in Education Protocol.
For us, what would a successor to the road map look like and what should be its goals? The Commissioner of Official Languages has written that official languages rests on the notion that a majority of all Canadians will remain unilingual. That may have been true 40 years ago; however, we are coming to realize that it may be time to rethink this assumption.
Parents increasingly seek to ensure that their children have the opportunity to learn both official languages by demanding or choosing that learning opportunity. Through a process of grassroots appropriation, many Canadians now interpret official languages, and the underlying notion of linguistic duality, as meaning individual official languages bilingualism. That is, to be truly Canadian is to be bilingual in both French and English, and that access to programs like French immersion should be seen as a right.
However challenging from a legislative and a policy perspective, this last notion provides an unparalleled opportunity for government to display leadership and to continue to display this leadership on a number of fronts and to advance an ambitious agenda.
There are some pragmatic arguments to be made, as well, for a successor to the road map, such as the recruiting of bilingual candidates to the public service renewal, building support for official languages among new Canadians, extending our success with FSL into the post-secondary area, securing an adequate supply of qualified FSL teachers, and using official language bilingualism as a springboard to individual plurilingualism, in order to position our youth in a multilingual, global economy.
In sum, the road map for Canada's linguistic duality has helped contribute to public recognition of the importance of official bilingualism. Support for Canada's official languages is on the rise, with more youth engaging with linguistic duality across the country. This support is starting to be manifest as support for individual official bilingualism.
We recommend that the federal government plan a successor to the road map; that a successor to the road map build on the latter's successes in FSL education; that future OLEP agreements focus on increasing the proportion of official language bilingualism; and that the overarching goal of a successor be the gift to all Canadian children of the right to learn both official languages through the most effective programs.
CPF is proud to be a supporter of the road map, and indeed the embodiment of what the road map is trying to achieve. We encourage you to build upon the road map's success by ensuring that every young Canadian has the opportunity to fully engage in the Canadian experience of our linguistic duality.
The Chair Michael Chong
Thank you, Madam Perkins. I'll tell you that both my children are in French immersion, so what you said rings very true to me.
Finally, we'll have a statement from Canadian Youth for French, Mr. Morrow.
Justin Morrow Founder and Executive Director, Canadian Youth for French
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, my name is Justin Morrow. I come from Shedden, the rhubarb capital of Ontario.
In Shedden, we are taught to recognize those who help us in our lives. You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours, as the saying goes. I have always interpreted this expression in a broader sense. I have associated that way of life to both things and people. I could give you many concrete examples, but I wanted to say this because that is why I founded the Canadian Youth for French organization.
Five years ago, I could not speak a word of French. I was recruited to play football at Université Laval, in Quebec City. I was not a good student, I did not have a lot of self-confidence and I was constantly afraid of falling in depression. Learning French has completely changed my life.
In less than three years, I won two national football championships, I had the best marks I've ever had in school and my career took off. In addition, I had an incredible international experience and I developed so much self-confidence that I believe nothing is impossible. I owe all that to speaking French. I feel indebted to this language and I feel obliged to share my experience with other young people so that they can also benefit from learning French, just like I did.
You have called upon Canadian Youth for French to share our opinion with you regarding the road map for Canada’s linguistic duality, and it is my privilege and honour to be here representing both the organization and the demographic. Thank you very much for allowing me to be here.
A few points before I get started.
First, I want to apologize for not having any material for you. The week’s preparation that I had for this meeting, combined with the fact that we don’t have an executive staff right now, and I’m working full time toward my CA, didn't give me much time to concentrate on anything but this presentation to you now.
Second, I want to clarify that I don't have any expertise with regard to minority situations. I don't know the reality and don't feel comfortable speaking on their behalf. Ever since we began dealing with the official languages portfolio, we've strictly been involved with the promotion of linguistic duality. That being said, if there's one thing that I know about our official languages program, it's that a large majority of young Canadians want to be able to communicate in both of our official languages. This is a fact, and our experiences in the schools have proven that time and time again.
Keeping this fact in mind, I want to try to get you to dream a little, and think of a country in which the majority of all of those young people, who want to speak both the official languages, can speak the other official language. Would we even be here right now? How much better off would we be, if everyone spoke the other language? This ideal is unbelievable, and I dream about this every day before I go to bed, and I'm not kidding you.
Back to reality. The title of this meeting is “Evaluation of the Roadmap”. I can’t really fathom how you'd want to hear about our experience with the road map seeing that we've only received two small grants over the past three fiscal years.
So, if we were not invited here to talk about the past, we must be here to talk about introducing you to our present—where we're at, where we're going, and where we see this road map taking us. So I'll tell you a little about who we are now, and where we think we're going to go.
Canadian Youth for French is a youth-led, not-for-profit organization that exists to increase the number of bilingual Canadians, while inspiring a greater appreciation for French throughout English Canada.
We accomplish this mission through two main activities. The first is the CYF discover zone, which is an interactive, web-based tool that gives senior high school students a place to discover the post-secondary French as a second language learning opportunities that best suit their individual needs and interests. The second is our unique presentation model, which introduces students to some of the many benefits of speaking French via first-hand experiences told by our presentation staff.
The long-term vision of Canadian Youth for French is one of a country in which the majority that we speak of is no longer French or English, but rather officially bilingual. Again, I love thinking about that ideal; it's just too beautiful.
To realize this we've simplified it into a six-step process. The first four steps have been looked at for years, and they're tweaked as much as possible, almost to their full potential. Canadian Youth for French has come in to take care of the fifth step. We're looking toward our government for a little direction with the sixth step, and with your help we can achieve this.
It starts with informed parents who understand the competitive advantage their children will be able to have by speaking more than one language. Then we need to maximize the number of students who are enrolled in French immersion classes. Then we need to ensure that we have enough able-bodied and professional teachers to properly supply the demand for French in school, and then we need to maximize the number of students who take French all the way through to grade 12.
But even if we are successful in getting 100% of the students all the way through to grade 12, a little more work needs to be done. We still won't be able to achieve our goal if those students don't know where to go to use their French after high school. How are they going to incorporate French into their post-secondary lives? So CYF has arrived to fill this void. We communicate on the ground, we’re measurable, and we’re driven to realize our ideal.
Now take it a little further. Even if we are to be 100% successful in getting 100% of all young Canadians into post-secondary experiences in French, we still won’t be able to achieve our goal because of one fundamental problem. There is no recognized space for those of us who are bilingual to just be bilingual.
To give you a little more information about what I mean, I'm talking about English Canadians having their space in our society, French-Canadians having our space in society, but bilingual Canadians unfortunately have a quasi-space, and it's kind of here and there, but we would like it to be more prominent.
So to give you an example of what I'm talking about, if an English Canadian wants to watch TV he turns on his TV to CBC, or any other English TV station, with all the English content that they want. A French Canadian turns on the TV station Radio-Canada, or any other French TV station, with all the French content there that they want. A bilingual Canadian turns on the TV, and they must either suffer through dubbed voices or flip back and forth between CBC and Radio-Canada to get information and to hear something in the language of their choice.
Now if we go back to our ideal for a second, it would be pretty amazing to be able to watch TV for any of us who are bilingual and not have to deal with dubbed voices, and not have to flip back and forth between the two. It would also be pretty ideal for us to wake up and read the paper in the morning and be able to read an article in French, and an article in English. I know I'm speaking of an ideal, but if we're going to go towards something I think it should be an ideal.
The bottom line is this: if we are ever to come close to living in a country where two official languages live in harmonious bliss, we are going to need to create a space for somebody to be bilingual, a space that bridges the two solitudes and the first step to making this a reality will be through the next road map. So how should this road map be implemented? We have a few suggestions for you.
First, it was extremely difficult for me to get this organization off the ground. For me to be here today, there was a lot of sacrifice, blood, sweat, and tears that went into this. So I would suggest an innovative fund for young individuals to foster the growth of new ideas, to make it easier for us to come and bring forth our creative ways.
Second, we need to have a standard language proficiency test that is used throughout the country everywhere.
Third, successful project applications should have a strong communications marketing component. The general public should know that the money you'll be spending through this road map is an investment in their future and something we should take pride in.
Fourth, accountability and measurability should continue to be pillars of the road map, and we strongly believe there is a way to measure anything and we should be firm in setting that standard and not be afraid to set it high.
Fifth, there should be a preference towards projects that promote the collaboration between French Canadians and English Canadians who are trying to become more proficient in their second language.
Lastly, there is the creation of a bilingual space, one that doesn't take away from our two already existing English and French spaces—just a space where those who choose to communicate in both languages at the same time can do so.
Canadian Youth for French is the perfect example of a project to fund. Communication is at the core of our organization and of what we do. We spread the word directly to students. Our actions are measurable. Our client certification system enables us to see how many students have heard about our organization and to follow them until they become bilingual.
Furthermore, we are actively looking for opportunities for young people to learn French and to practice speaking in minority situations, without forcing them, of course.
When we launch our new website in the spring, you are also going to see the space we have created for people who want bilingual information. You are going to see the words “English”, “français” and what we call “Canadien” or “Canadian”, or “Canadiæn” with the “a” and “e” joined together. We can pronounce it like the word “Canadian”.
or Canadian. That's our way of doing that.
To conclude, let me remind you that our ideal is not unattainable.
Canadian youth wants to be bilingual. A Canada where the majority of people are bilingual by choice is possible; it is a beautiful ideal. All they need is their own space.
Thank you for your time and for inviting me.
The Chair Michael Chong
Thank you, Mr. Morrow.
We will now move to questions and comments.
Mr. Godin, you have the floor.
Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I would like to thank our witnesses.
It's really good to hear what you have to say, Justin, and congratulations.
I want to tell you this. When I started, I went to northern Ontario. I didn't know one word in English. I started learning it at the age of 16. I remember my first job was at a gas pump. My boss came to me and asked if my restroom was clean. I thought she was talking about the restaurant and I said, no, not here, across the road. I almost lost the first job I had. The little bit I have today I'm so proud of, and I want to translate that to my children.
I really believe our country is a bilingual country, and it should be bilingual. The services should be. We're not asking all the anglophones to become French. We're not asking all the francophones to become English. But we have to give services in both languages. We created and fought hard and worked hard to build this country with the aboriginals, and to be in peace instead of dividing ourselves. Your message to me is very positive.
And for you, Madam Perkins, it is the same thing. You did learn and it's not easy. It's not an easy task and I really believe you're proud of it. Parents for French, I lift my hat to you people because you're doing a great job.
In New Brunswick, for the first time in my life, I saw anglophones rally in the streets because they wanted to learn French. They did that in Fredericton. There were about 350 people in front of the legislature. When the government decided to start immersion at grade 5 instead of grade 1, parents were not happy. The government was not listening to the parents. The government of the only officially bilingual province in our country—in the Constitution—told parents that they were not allowed to have their children in immersion until grade 5.
I saw that in your report you gave to us this morning, you spoke about four other provinces, but you didn't speak about New Brunswick, except to say that New Brunswick is not doing its job. Now, this morning, the Premier of New Brunswick will hear Yvon Godin tell him that they are not doing their job. They should listen to the parents, work with the parents, and help them to do what needs to be done. I hope it gets done and I want to say that.
Now, Madame Perkins, I want to hear more about the road map and the money put into the provinces. The Commissioner of Official Languages says that he cannot go in the provinces and see where the money is spent. You know that money is going to the provinces. It's supposed to put money towards the language, to help francophones be able to stay alive and keep their language. At the same time, anglophones would be able to learn the other language. Do you feel that there is enough transparency in this, or do you just not know where the money is going?
President, National Office, Canadian Parents for French
Mr. Chair, members of the committee, thank you for your question regarding the transparency of road map funding, or funding for official languages in the provinces.
Across Canada we have, I would say, different degrees of success of being able to follow where the money goes, from the national right down, in some cases, to the school boards themselves. Our branches and our national office has been working with Canadian Heritage, with ministries of education, and indeed with local school boards to increase that transparency. Most important for us is knowing where those funds go, because I think it celebrates some great success of what those moneys go for, and translating that into those outcomes. However, it is a current challenge that our parents are facing across the country.
Robert, do you have anything to add?
March 27th, 2012 / 9:30 a.m.
Robert Rothon Executive Director, National Office, Canadian Parents for French
I would like to mention that transparency in terms of how those funds are used is always somewhat problematic, given that it depends on the province. Some provinces have rather tough reporting requirements, other less so.
I come from British Columbia and we have one of the most developed systems where school boards have to fill out a form and then post it on the website of the Ministry of Education. However, the ministry does not have enough staff to check those expenses. So the system is sort of based on good faith, but it is not really verifiable. If I were an accountant or an auditor, I would not be very happy with it.
Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB
Let me go back to the immersion programs in New Brunswick that they wanted to offer starting in grade 5, but are now offered starting in grade 3.
Parents for French was saying at that time that it should be grade 1. It should stay there.
Do you still believe today that it should be grade 1, right at the beginning? At that time, we brought people from the University of Toronto. We spoke to people at the Université de Moncton. We spoke to experts, and they said no, it should be right at the early age.
I'd like to hear your opinion on it.
President, National Office, Canadian Parents for French
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, the position of Canadian Parents for French is, first of all, that parents should have that choice. If in New Brunswick parents want immersion starting in grade 1, then that's the program that should be offered. We also have a lot of research that demonstrates that early immersion is the most effective way of giving our youth and children the ability to be bilingual.
Having said that, I was also very pleased that the New Brunswick government has been in discussions about that decision. The president of CPF New Brunswick has been participating in that discussion at the strategic level, and is helping to inform the New Brunswick government's decision with respect to offering immersion programming.