Evidence of meeting #34 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 education.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Welcome to the 34th meeting of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, on this Thursday, March 29, 2012. Pursuant to Standing Order 108, today we are going to study the evaluation of the roadmap in order to improve programs and service delivery.

This morning, we are first going to hear from Mr. Saint-Maurice and Mr. Lacombe, from the Association canadienne d'éducation de langue française, followed by Mr. Taillefer and Mr. Boudreau, from the Canadian Teachers' Federation.

Welcome.

We are going to start with the Association canadienne d'éducation de langue française.

8:45 a.m.

Yves Saint-Maurice President, Association canadienne d'éducation de langue française

Mr. Chair, I would like to thank you for the invitation to appear before your committee this morning. It is a privilege for us, as representatives of the Association canadienne d'éducation de langue française, to be able to share our viewpoint with the members of the Standing Committee on Official Languages.

The Association canadienne d'éducation de langue française (ACELF) has been around for 65 years now and has contributed to developing French-language education to maintain the vitality of francophone communities in Canada. The ACELF is a leader in bringing together stakeholders by encouraging dialogue and reflection on current issues in education, primarily through an annual convention and through the publication of a scientific journal called Éducation et francophonie. In addition, we are sensitive to the needs of education networks, and we are aware of the dual mandate of francophone schools in minority situations. We provide them with training activities and educational materials that are always on the cutting edge in areas involving francophone identity and the sense of belonging to a contemporary and inclusive francophonie.

If you take a look at our association, you will see a Canada-wide network of members from all walks of life. We bring together stakeholders from all sectors in education, from early childhood to post-secondary education. These stakeholders work in educational institutions, for school boards, for associations, and with teacher and parent groups.

To develop its guidelines, the ACELF also relies on a board of governors, which includes stakeholders elected from four Canadian regions—Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario, and western Canada and the territories—and representatives from the 13 ministries of education of our Canadian provinces and territories. Those two features are unique to us in the world of French-language education; we have members across Canada, including Quebec, and representatives from each of the 13 ministries of education.

In terms of funding from the federal government, our association receives substantial financial support from the Department of Canadian Heritage. And we are very grateful for that. First, this financial support enables us to organize a nationwide annual convention that brings together Canada's major players in French-language education. It is actually the largest multi-network meeting in Canada's francophone education community.

This funding also enables us to offer continuing education to early childhood professional staff and to the staff of French-language schools in minority settings. Since implementing the internship program 25 years ago, 1,609 stakeholders have been able to benefit from it.

In addition, this funding allows us to publish a journal specialized in French-language education.

Furthermore, the funding helps us support young francophones aged 11 to 14 to participate in an exchange with young people from another francophone community in Canada. In over 25 years, almost 5,380 students have benefited from this cultural and educational experience.

Lastly, this money allows us to develop educational materials for francophone schools, helping to build the francophone identity of young people and their sense of belonging.

In terms of funding from the roadmap, the ACELF has not benefited from it directly. Actually, the grants we receive do not come directly from the roadmap budget. But, since almost 75% of our funding comes from programs under Canadian Heritage, we think we have some ideas on future priorities that may be of interest to you.

As for a new federal official languages support strategy, the ACELF wishes to affirm its support for the community strategic plan developed under the leadership of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada. The ACELF is a signatory to this leaders' forum and supports its implementation.

But today, we would like to talk about what we know best, which is French-language education. So we would like to take this opportunity to tell you about some of the major issues that need to be considered in order to better support the education sector. I would also like to mention that these issues were formally identified by our network.

The four issues that I am going to present to you already receive attention from our association, given that our three-year action plan for 2011-2014 includes many initiatives along those lines.

The first issue has to do with developing early childhood resources and expanding family services. This challenge pertains not only to education, but also to the entire community and the organizations that provide services to the francophone population. Early childhood clientele must be at the heart of priorities in order to secure the long-term future of francophone communities. The recent study done by researcher Rodrigue Landry provides evidence to that end. The study “Petite enfance et autonomie culturelle” shows beyond any doubt that early childhood is the foundation for the vitality of a minority language. To achieve this, it is important to take action early on to develop a child's francophone identity. As a result, the actions taken by parents, institutions, the community and governments have to build on each other to advance towards the same goal. Appropriate resources and infrastructure must also be accessible.

With its partners from the Table nationale en développement de la petite enfance francophone, the ACELF is already committed to making early childhood and family services a priority for action. In addition to the continued training offered annually to early childhood professional staff, the ACELF and its partners have developed a number of educational tools and have a host of other initiatives in mind for the coming years, including an interactive Internet site for exogamous families to help them develop their children's francophone identity.

The second issue is to expand professional development that deals with the specific nature of teaching in minority settings. Teaching in French in a minority setting requires teachers to have specific skills. As we know, young people who live in francophone minority communities evolve in a physical, social, artistic and even virtual environment that is predominantly anglophone. So these young people don't have enough opportunities to live in French. As a result, teachers must come up with special strategies to overcome this challenge.

Not only does the need for specific skills hold true for teaching school subjects, but it is even more true for developing the francophone identity of these young people, since, may I remind you, French-language schools in minority settings have a dual mandate. In addition to academic learning, schools must support identity building by encouraging young people to have a strong sense of belonging to their language and their francophone culture. In terms of this identity-building mandate, the initial training offered to teachers is still not sufficient. To improve this aspect of teacher training, some faculties of education have some very promising initiatives, but we must also think about continuing education for the approximately 13,500 teachers and 1,000 principals who work in our schools. It is important for them to have opportunities to hone their skills.

Organizations like ours produce specialized educational materials for teaching in a minority setting. Although all the players in the education community recognize the quality of those materials, we don't have the tools we need to make all those resources known and to provide training.

Furthermore, several nationwide training initiatives are being implemented. I have in mind two projects sponsored by the Council of Ministers of Education Canada (CMEC). First, the cultural approach to teaching will allow teachers to help young people discover important and meaningful aspects of the collective francophone culture, whatever the subject studied may be. There is also the online training project that was developed by the Fédération canadienne des enseignantes et des enseignants. And there is the Trousse du passeur culturel, for which training is still required.

Those are just a few examples, but they clearly show that the movement to develop the skills of staff working in a minority setting is well under way. At the same time, they show that it is crucial to invest the funds needed to ensure that training for using those resources is available, depending on the various service delivery methods.

The third issue involves developing cross-cultural skills among stakeholders and young people. Canada has always been a land of immigrants and, over the past few years, this phenomenon of enrichment has been growing. The arrival of this diversity has significantly marked most francophone communities and many of our schools. In order to foster an inclusive environment, it is important to develop cross-cultural skills among young people and stakeholders in school networks.

By cross-cultural skills, we mean developing attitudes and skills that encourage the in-depth knowledge of one's culture and the culture of others, with a view to build a pluralistic and renewed collective francophone culture.

The fourth issue has to do with promoting the personal development of young people so that they become more involved in the Canadian francophonie. As a result of a wide range of activities, many young people are already working towards developing their francophone community. In order to encourage all young people to become more involved, it is important to give them the opportunity to have various personal experiences that will help them to become more familiar with the various facets of our contemporary francophonie; understand the issues that affect the future of our francophonie; be able to have personal opinions on the issue and make decisions consistent with their opinions; get involved based on their interests and talents; and take action that will contribute to the well-being of other members in the community.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you, Mr. Saint-Maurice.

Mr. Taillefer, the floor is yours.

8:55 a.m.

Paul Taillefer President, Canadian Teachers' Federation

Good morning. Thank you very much. The Canadian Teachers' Federation (CTF) is pleased to respond to the invitation to present our testimony. Joining me today is Mr. Ronald Boudreau, our Director of Services to Francophones.

At the outset, we wish to stress that we appreciate your open-mindedness in wanting to better understand the challenges surrounding the official languages, although it seems as if the whole exercise has gradually turned into a consultation process in view of a federal strategy. We would be remiss if we did not mention that we would have hoped for a more formal consultation mechanism if indeed the presentations made before the committee were to lead to the next roadmap.

Moreover, the Sommet des communautés francophones et acadiennes (Summit of Francophone and Acadian Communities of Canada) held in June 2007 laid the foundations for strategic planning by minority francophone community partners, including the CTF. The Government of Canada should give special consideration to the strategic community plan that grew out of the summit and involve in a special manner those stakeholders who speak on behalf of their members while encouraging the development of structures that would strengthen the autonomy of minority communities.

The CTF represents approximately 200,000 teachers through its member organizations. Of these, over 10,000 work in minority French-language schools and approximately 8,000 in English-language schools in Quebec. Given this particularity of our membership reflecting both Canadian linguistic minorities, we are confident that we can bring a balanced perspective to a federal official languages support strategy.

Let us first emphasize that the notion of equality between both official language communities will be at the heart of our presentation. The CTF has for a long time defended the rights of its members and advocated for a just and equitable public education system in Canada and throughout the world. However, we are increasingly aware that even though schools provide an unrivalled development tool to ensure the preservation of languages in minority settings, they cannot counter on their own the effects of linguistic assimilation.

We have just published a survey prepared by the researcher Diane Gerin-Lajoie that compares the reality of francophones living in minority settings and that of Quebec anglophones, also a minority group in that province. This study confirms, among other things, that the visibility of the minority language and culture in the public space has an important impact on an individual’s connection to identity. Not surprisingly, identity building has become one of the key elements of the francophone communities' mandate. It is however disturbing to think that the lack of French in the public space can bring young francophones to question the relevance of their mother tongue when the time comes to contemplate their future.

We will therefore focus in this presentation on some of the many challenges related to living in French in a sustained manner in minority settings, while recognizing that the development of the next federal official languages support strategy will also foster the preservation and full development of Quebec's anglophone community. Our presentation will also include a few recommendations in three areas that are particularly dear to our hearts as teacher representatives.

The first area is early childhood and welcoming measures. In 2004, the CTF published a study entitled Teachers and the Challenge of Teaching in Francophone Minority Settings. A high percentage of teachers reported the dominance of English in their communities as one of the main challenges they were facing. This situation is greatly exacerbated by key demographic considerations: the rural depopulation weakens regions where the concentration of francophones is highest; and the growing number of francophones living in urban settings is also having a direct impact on their escalating assimilation.

Two other factors must also be considered: the recruitment of children of rights-holders and the welcoming of newcomers. Teachers in French-language schools fully support the efforts being made by all stakeholders to welcome the largest possible number of children entitled to a French-language education in their schools, but they are deeply concerned over the diversity in family backgrounds, especially when these children speak little or no French upon their enrolment in French-language schools.

Teachers also greatly support the intake of children of immigrant families, but worry about the lack of measures to support these families both at the school and community levels. The linguistic challenges are obvious, but there can be other equally important concerns.

In the summer of 2007, the CTF commissioned a study on the intake of immigrant families into French-language schools. The research demonstrated just how poorly prepared minority communities are for welcoming newcomers, whether into the school system or in the community.

This gives rise to two observations. First of all, the next federal official languages support strategy must provide substantial support for early childhood development, which is the avenue most likely to be able to support recruitment efforts in French-language schools. Furthermore, this component of the strategy must go hand and hand with a set of welcoming measures, both at the school and community levels, so that the children of rights holders, as well as those from immigrant communities, will be able to contribute to the francophonie and to Canadian society as a whole.

We recommend that the federal official languages strategies invest in intake and support initiatives of those generations wishing to renew their ties with French or for immigrant families wanting to enrol their children in French-language schools. We also recommend that it promote the establishment of French-language early childhood centres across the country to prepare children for their active participation in French-language schools and in the francophone community generally.

The second challenge has to do with new technologies. Education in French in Canadian minority settings makes sense only in an economic framework that gives it an equitable place. Parents who choose to send their children to French-language schools do so in part because of their attachment to the language, but also in the hope that the next generation will be provided with more opportunities to live in French in every sphere of human endeavour. The driving force behind young people's decision to continue their education in French-language public and post-secondary schools is the opportunity to work in their language or to benefit from their bilingual skills.

The CTF is concerned about how little attention is being paid to technology in the measures to support official language communities. We released last year the results of a survey involving more than 1,600 French-language school students on technology and building a francophone identity. Given our previous comments on public space and resulting concerns, we are disturbed by the lack of opportunities to communicate in French through technologies since they are the media most widely used by young people throughout the world. We therefore believe that the federal official languages strategy must promote increased French-language content on the web and infrastructures that monitor, update and renew information. We also believe that the government must support innovative initiatives for the use of technology in areas like networking, distance education, language learning and dissemination of cultural content.

The third challenge has to do with research support. For the past 15 years, children have been educated in French in communities where several generations before them would never have dreamed of the possibility. Thus the advent of French-language school governance by the francophone community, sometimes after a hard-fought battle, marks an important turning point in the history of Canadian bilingualism. The empowerment of the francophone community in education has yielded sound results. It is contributing to the progress of bilingualism and to respect for cultural diversity across the country. The Government of Canada needs to learn lessons from this experience and to try to apply it in other areas. This empowerment of the community cannot take place without relevant information on the realities and challenges that are at the heart of the French-language schools’ mandate.

Therefore, we cannot overemphasize the importance of research for the advancement of language communities, particularly in minority settings. The numerous studies conducted by the CTF received solid support in the past from the federal government through the Department of Canadian Heritage. These studies and surveys enabled us to better understand the realities of communities and to intervene more coherently with young people on whom rests the future of Canadian bilingualism.

The federal official languages strategy must support research and dissemination of knowledge so that decisions and investments are based on reliable data that would be likely to yield results.

To conclude, the CTF is one of the national organizations to have followed the lead of the Canadian government with respect to bilingualism and the modernization of its structure. Our federation defines itself as bilingual in its operations and publications, and serves organizations whose membership reflects Canada's linguistic duality.

We are proud to contribute in a significant manner to the development of our country and of the values that make it strong and unique, both at home and abroad. Much remains to be done to give language minorities all the elements they need to live in French on an everyday basis. This is what drives our actions as a Canadian federation, and we can only hope that this will equally be the driving force and ultimate goal of the Canadian government in the development of its next official languages support strategy.

Thank you.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you, Mr. Taillefer.

We have 35 minutes for questions and comments.

Go ahead, Mr. Aubin.

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Good morning, everyone, and welcome. Thank you for being here and let me congratulate you on the quality of your presentations that shed some light on this topic for us. I feel like I am going back to when I first fell in love with teaching. It sort of feels like home.

My first questions are for Mr. Saint-Maurice.

In your presentation, you said you receive significant financial support from Canadian Heritage, but, if I am not mistaken, almost no support from the roadmap before us. When you have so many ideas and so many projects, I am trying to understand why you have no or very little funding from the roadmap. Is that because of not being familiar with the roadmap programs or because the projects you presented did not meet the criteria? I feel that things don't add up.

9:10 a.m.

President, Association canadienne d'éducation de langue française

Yves Saint-Maurice

I wouldn’t say that the projects presented didn’t meet the criteria, given that we did not present any as part of the roadmap, as such.

Actually, in the areas we usually work in, Canadian Heritage is our major source of financial support. So we meet Canadian Heritage’s criteria. Indirectly, we are able to reach francophone minority communities and all of Canada. We have partners across the country. We really do work in cooperation with others. Some of the organizations with which we are closely linked and with which we move education forward are very dependent, if I may say so, on the roadmap.

Our director general works full time. I am a volunteer. Mr. Lacombe is in a better position to give you an accurate answer about the ramifications and all the details.

9:10 a.m.

Richard Lacombe Director General, Association canadienne d'éducation de langue française

Under the roadmap, preferred sectors were identified and education was not really one of them. But we can’t say that we have been neglected, because we still receive the financial support we need to do what we want in education in the years covered by the roadmap. That’s the explanation.

Furthermore, there are two versions of the roadmap: one with the additional amount and the other with all the amounts together. It is still not quite clear for us: do we get funding from the additional envelope or the comprehensive envelope? If it is the comprehensive envelope, then we have received funding from the roadmap because we were already receiving funding from existing envelopes. If it is the additional envelope, we did not receive any additional funding.

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Thank you.

I will now turn to Mr. Taillefer and Mr. Boudreau.

In your presentation, you talked a great deal about the importance of research. You referred to a number of studies that have been conducted over the years and you presented the findings.

Have the findings from those studies led to concrete projects, supported by the roadmap, that can change how people live in French in communities?

9:10 a.m.

President, Canadian Teachers' Federation

Paul Taillefer

Thank you for that excellent question.

In our view, everything needs to be based on research. The research we did in partnership with ACELF primarily, but also with other organizations, has led to action.

Before taking action, there has to be a clearly defined scope of action. That is what helped us identify the major challenges and issues. Together with ACELF, among others, we then developed a number of very important projects whose results were distributed across Canada. They are concrete tools that teachers use in the classroom.

Mr. Boudreau works on those projects. He could give you some concrete examples.

9:10 a.m.

Ronald Boudreau Director, Services to Francophones, Canadian Teachers' Federation

Yes, absolutely.

Our studies have actually led to projects. We feel that it is important to really understand a situation in order to be able to react to it. That research has enabled us to create tools that deal with teenagers, for example. There is a real problem with drop-out rates based on language and also dropping out of French-language schools to go to English-language schools or immersion schools. In our view, it is important to reach out to those young people to understand exactly what is happening at that critical age. With ACELF, we created a tool designed to start a dialogue with teenagers. That is a concrete example.

There are also training opportunities and meetings with teachers in order to talk about those issues that are crucial for the future of the francophonie. Losing our good kids aged 15 to 18 is definitely very worrisome.

9:15 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Thank you.

I also share another of your viewpoints. It has to do with the quality of the roadmap evaluation process. Let’s say another roadmap is implemented, whatever it may be called. Would you be worried that this new financial envelope will force you to create new projects rather than support the ones that you have already set up and that probably did not get a chance to fully come to fruition?

9:15 a.m.

President, Canadian Teachers' Federation

Paul Taillefer

Thank you very much.

We think that it is absolutely necessary that our projects come to fruition and that we make sure they are sustainable. Our challenge is not a one-time challenge; it is there on a daily basis. So it is important to continue doing research, to assess the situation in minority settings and to take action that will encourage young people, who are really our future, to want to continue living in French.

As we said in our presentation, the whole economic aspect is very important for families and young people. We want them to picture a future in French in Canada. So yes, it is important to support those projects. Of course, some of them will come to an end, but others must continue, and the support has to be ongoing.

In addition, as we continue to study the situation, new challenges may come up. We talked about technology in particular. This will certainly be the focus of discussions for years to come, especially in the context of a francophone space.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Okay.

Thank you, Mr. Aubin and Mr. Taillefer.

Your turn, Mr. Menegakis.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you for testifying before us today.

As you know, we are studying the Roadmap for Linguistic Duality. Our government has invested more than $1 billion in the roadmap.

Thank you for your presentations. I thought they were very interesting.

My first question is for the representatives from the Association canadienne d'éducation de langue française.

I was struck by your comments, and very pleasantly so, that yours is a national organization with representation from every province and every territory across the country.

You seem satisfied with the funding you're getting from Heritage Canada. You said it is a significant amount. Could you tell us how much it is annually?