Official Languages Committee on April 3rd, 2012
A recording is available from Parliament.
On the agenda
- Charles Childs President, English Language Arts Network Quebec
- Guy Rodgers Executive Director, English Language Arts Network Quebec
- David D'Aoust President, Quebec English School Boards Association
- Michael Chiasson Executive Committee Member, Quebec English School Boards Association
- Gerald Cutting President, Townshippers' Association
- David Birnbaum Executive Director, Quebec English School Boards Association
- Ingrid Marini Executive Director, Townshippers' Association
The Chair Michael Chong
Welcome to the Standing Committee on Official Languages. Today is Tuesday, April 3, 2012, and this is our 35th meeting. We are here pursuant to Standing Order 108 with respect to a study on the Evaluation of the Roadmap: Improving Programs and Service Delivery.
Today we have three groups appearing before us.
We have Mr. Childs and Mr. Rodgers of the English Language Arts Network Quebec. We have Mr. D'Aoust, Mr. Chiasson, and Mr. Birnbaum of the Quebec English School Boards Association. Finally, we have Mr. Cutting and Madame Marini of the Townshippers' Association. Welcome to all of you.
We will begin with an opening statement from the English Language Arts Network Quebec.
Charles Childs President, English Language Arts Network Quebec
My name is Charles—although everyone calls me Chuck—Childs, and I am the president of the English Language Arts Network.
I'm here with Guy Rodgers, the executive director of ELAN.
We want to thank the Standing Committee on Official Languages for undertaking these hearings and for inviting us to make a presentation.
Arts and culture are vital components of community vitality. The importance of arts and culture for minority language communities has been well documented in recent years in a number of important reports: Bernard Lord's 2008 Report on the Government of Canada's Consultations on Linguistic Duality and Official Languages; the 2008 report of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, Federal Government Support for the Arts and Culture in Official Language Minority Communities; and the 2011 report of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, The Vitality of Quebec's English-speaking Communities: From Myth to Reality.
Current situation: By the mid-1980s, an arts community that had once produced internationally acclaimed artists such as Oscar Peterson, Mordecai Richler, Christopher Plummer, William Shatner, and Leonard Cohen was greatly diminished, and the theatre scene was virtually dead.
Guy Rodgers and I have been actively involved in our community for more than 30 years and have witnessed an amazing transformation in recent years. At the dawn of the new millennium, an artistic community was beginning to re-emerge with the assistance of recently created cultural institutions such as the Quebec Writers' Federation and the Quebec Drama Federation.
A major boost to the Quebec minority language community was provided by the IPOLC, a matching funds program between the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canada Council. IPOLC contributed directly to the work of artists, but equally importantly, it brought together a number of community leaders for several years in an IPOLC oversight committee, which formed the nucleus of ELAN.
The English Language Arts Network was created in 2005 following the Quebec Arts Summit, which brought together 200 senior artists and partners to examine the situation of English language artists in Quebec. The creation of ELAN as a hub and network gave the Quebec English-speaking community a nucleus of capacity that had not previously existed.
Another important structuring element was the creation of the Cultural Development Fund as part of the current road map. The English-speaking community of Quebec had lacked the capacity to be involved in preliminary discussions with PCH and FCCF concerning the creation of a cultural fund. To ensure that Quebec's English-speaking communities in all regions received equal consideration, equitable support, the Quebec Community Groups Network hired a consultant to work with ELAN and the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network. The work group developed a policy framework, which articulated the context and challenges of cultural expression for the English-speaking community of Quebec as well as key strategies with desired outcomes.
Guy Rodgers Executive Director, English Language Arts Network Quebec
Thank you, Chuck.
The policy framework devised some key priorities for the Cultural Development Fund. There were three.
The first was visibility. English-speaking artists in Quebec seek greater visibility, of course, within the English-speaking community. Because there has been so much recent growth, there's a lot of connecting to be done there. We're also trying to connect with the francophone majority, and some good work is being done there. Of course, within the francophone community, until recently, English-speaking artists were thought of as being Toronto and further west. We're slowly emerging the idea, thanks to Arcade Fire in some part, that there are anglo artists in Quebec. We're also trying to connect with the rest of English Canada...that there is still an English-speaking artistic community within Quebec, and that's coming forth as a revelation to a lot of people.
Another aspect of visibility is for artists to present a modern face for the English-speaking community. There's no need to remind you of the negative stereotypes that the English-speaking community has been saddled with for many generations. It is time to lay them to rest now that 80% of our community is bilingual. Those numbers are even higher amongst our youth.
Over the past four years, many individual projects supported by the Cultural Development Fund have addressed the challenges of visibility for arts and culture in the English-speaking community. The most broadly based was ELAN's Recognizing Artists:Enfin Visibles!, which we called RAEV. Almost 2,000 names of artists were submitted for this project, artists who were considered important enough by their peers to receive greater recognition. We chose 150 from all disciplines and regions to present a family portrait of the current artistic situation in Quebec. We created 25 short videos that talk about why these artists live in Quebec, how it benefits them, the degree of bilingualism, their integration within the larger community—again to break down the stereotypes. We created short histories of each discipline—writing, theatre, film, etc.—to talk about how there was a golden era, there was a crash, and there's a steady rebuilding. Guernica Editions thought the story was so interesting that they brought it out last year in book form. If anybody wants to order copies, I'd be happy to take orders.
So visibility is a process we've been working on, and fairly successfully, certainly in the last two or three years.
The other big issue is access. What that means is access for artists to audiences, but more importantly, or as importantly, is access for the English-speaking community to live arts and culture. This is particularly important as you get away from Montreal. The townships have a pretty lively indigenous art scene, but as you get further removed, the need for live artists becomes greater and greater.
The most influential project for access so far has been ELAN's arts and community culture on the road, which is developing a network between artists and regions, to send artists to regions, to send artists between regions, and to develop local arts and culture—theatre groups, choirs, book clubs—to really mobilize the people who are interested in arts and culture.
The third leg of this plan for our strategy and the Cultural Development Fund was the creative economy. We're just in the process of putting the final touches to a research project that was funded by Industry Canada through the Quebec English language research program out of Concordia University, and we're hoping that's going to give us some really clear guidelines on where we can develop our community over the next five to ten years.
On access to supports and services, because ELAN is a fairly late arrival on the scene, we've worked very closely with our francophone colleagues to look at how the Official Languages Act and support has benefited them. There is, for example, a CRTC support group, and we attend those meetings twice a year to find out the issues in broadcasting. Because the English-speaking community has lacked resources, expertise, and capacity, we've neglected the entire communication-broadcasting dossier, so there's practically no representation of the English-speaking community in Quebec. We're working on that, but it's a big dossier and progress is fairly slow. We have also been working with the Canada Council. The FCCF sits down with the Canada Council once a year to look over all of the dossiers in arts and culture, so we have also started doing that with the Canada Council, which is extremely beneficial.
Last year the Department of Canadian Heritage set up a working group with all federal partners relating to arts and culture, which is extremely beneficial. The second meeting we had a couple of months ago brought in new partners who are not directly related to arts and culture, like Industry Canada and DEC, and that led to this research project in the creative economy. This support has been extremely helpful to us.
ELAN plays a national role, consulting with federal partners and agencies concerning policies and programs for the English-speaking community, serving all regions of Quebec and collaborating with other sectors, such as education, employability, and health. However, ELAN does not yet receive funding from national envelopes for the work it does at a national level. That's a whole story about regional envelopes versus national envelopes eligibility. Traditionally, you had to be present in three provinces to be eligible for the national envelopes. When there's only one province in which there's a minority anglophone community, it's hard to be eligible for some of these national programs. Groups like QCGN and ELAN, which do a lot of work at what is effectively a national level, need somehow to be brought into that national envelope.
President, English Language Arts Network Quebec
As with most things in Quebec, the language dynamics are complex. According to the most recent census, there are 8,500 anglophones working in arts and culture in Quebec. The percentage of artists among the Quebec English-speaking minority, almost 1%, is significantly higher than the national average of 0.65%. This is good news. Within 25 years a dramatic process of renewal has taken place. Unfortunately, increased vitality in the English-speaking community is invariably viewed by some in Quebec as a threat to the French language and culture.
The international juggernaut of English language business, politics, and Hollywood entertainment needs to be distinguished from the work of local artists. ELAN has worked very hard to link the visibility of English language artists to the benefits for the larger community. In March 2011, when Arcade Fire won a Grammy and said “Merci, Montréal!”, everybody noticed and wanted to share the glory of it all. Quebec's National Assembly passed a unanimous motion recognizing the contribution of artists, francophone and anglophone, in promoting Quebec culture.
In a recent QCGN priority-setting conference, the main story reported in the Montreal Gazette was that “Anglophone artists bridge linguistic divide”. The report referred to many success stories in the realm of arts and culture, but also noticed that the francophone media in recent months have been filled with stories about the troubling resurgence of English language in Quebec. This month's article in L'actualité is the most alarmist declaration to date. It is a reminder that no matter how bilingual anglophones become, someone will always question whether we play a positive role in Quebec society.
At a political and policy level, there's only one official language in Quebec, and it's not English. This fact complicates our relationship with the Government of Quebec and corporations and presents numerous challenges for English language artists.
What is the future for English language arts and culture in Quebec? The complex linguistic situation in Quebec makes support from Quebec City unpredictable and unreliable, at least in the near future. Therefore, federal support is vital, and the Cultural Development Fund has been immensely beneficial. A significant renewed investment in the Cultural Development Fund during the next five-year plan will have an immeasurably positive impact on minority official language communities.
Thank you, and we'll be happy to answer questions.
The Chair Michael Chong
Thank you, Mr. Childs.
Thank you, Mr. Rodgers.
Now we'll have an opening statement from the Quebec English School Boards Association.
David D'Aoust President, Quebec English School Boards Association
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the Standing Committee on Official Languages.
The Quebec English School Boards Association welcomes this opportunity to engage in an important discussion with you on the contributions, concerns, and expectations that characterize Canada's other official language minority community, which is the English linguistic minority in Quebec, or, if you like, as the QCGN developed two weekends ago,
we are English-speaking Quebeckers. That is new.
Our focus, of course, will be on public education. QESBA is the voice of English public education. We are now approximately 87 years old in Quebec—so it's not an institution born yesterday—and we have the wonderful responsibility and honourable task of educating the children of our artists in Quebec.
QESBA is the voice of English public education, representing nine English school boards, serving some 100,000 students, 340 elementary and secondary high schools, vocational and adult centres, and of course community learning centres, which you will hear us talk more about later.
Our clientele is about as large as the francophone minority in 8 of the 10 provinces. Mr. Bélanger will, I'm sure, correct me if I am mistaken.
QESBA was proud to appear before the Senate Committee on Official Languages, when it turned toward our province in the fall of 2010, and was greatly encouraged by its final report, The Vitality of Quebec's English-Speaking Communities: From Myth to Reality, released last March.
In the report's preamble were three messages identified as the key ones by the committee itself. Second among them was the quote:
The government needs to recognize that since the realities and challenges experienced by the English-speaking and French-speaking minorities are sometimes similar but sometimes different, each minority must be treated in a way that takes its specific needs into account.
I would say that speaks for our francophone brethren in other provinces, as well as the anglophones in Quebec.
Our brief remarks on the contributions, concerns, and expectations facing English public education in Quebec are predicated on this federal government and future ones, heeding an important second message from your Senate standing committee. Allow us to speak on four key contributions, and to hope that our subsequent discussion will leave time for a more complete list.
Firstly, with the vital help of the Canada-Québec Entente on minority and second language education, our students are graduating from English public schools with an increased capacity to live and work in French—I have three of those graduates in my family—who stay in the province and work in both languages. Our school system is a world pioneer of bilingualism. If you look at what's happened as a result of the financial support in this vital agreement, we have produced students who not only see it as not a chore to speak French, but see it as an automatisme. It is part of their daily life and culture, like our poutine would be to the kids.
Second, as you will surely hear from other groups, the growing network of community learning centres, CLCs, within our English schools is breathing new life, stability, creativity, and cooperation in urban, rural, and suburban communities across English-speaking Quebec. In some rural communities, the federal support for the CLC has made the difference between compromising the future of a community by closing down a school and building new coalitions and partnerships toward an invigorated community. Remember, for some communities, if there is no school, there is no more sustainability. Even if it's not in your little village, it may be the centre for many villages.
I'm going to turn this over now to my colleague, Michael Chiasson. Mike, by the way, is the chairman of the Western Quebec School Board, just across the river from here. It covers the territory from east of Gatineau to the Ontario border. We count the beavers in his enrollment as well.
Michael Chiasson Executive Committee Member, Quebec English School Boards Association
We certainly do.
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I am the product of the education system, like my mother and my children. We live in Quebec, and I work there in both official languages. I belong to the community.
Education is a provincial jurisdiction, and it is important to note that Quebec's Ministère de l'Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport has been an instrumental partner in this new and exciting venture. The roots and the core support for the community learning centre initiative remain nonetheless the fruits of federal languages support.
Third, our English public network, by force of distance, low population density, and limited resources, has become a laboratory for innovation and invention. Twenty-first century learning techniques for distance education, e-learning, shared programs and services, and exchanges with our French school board neighbours are just a few examples of our English public schools adapting to changing needs and challenges.
Our high school graduation rates are far above the Quebec average. Compassionate and forward-looking programs of inclusion for students with special needs are hallmarks of our school system. They are also made possible, we must remind you, through the funding and oversight of the Government of Canada.
Fourth, English public schools are contributing to and not working against the common future of all Quebeckers in our own province. While there remains a tendency within Canada's majority language communities—often exploited by the media and aggravated by certain political figures—to frame every question of language as a tug of war with a winner or loser, our English schools and the communities we serve are increasingly involved in contributing to the economic and cultural life of Quebec. Furthermore, they are actually contributing to the strength and security of the French language in Quebec. There need not be winners and losers on this matter.
As far as our concerns, support for and interest in the vitality and development of minority language communities has not always topped the list of priorities identified by Canadians or embraced by governments. Too often, and falsely, there is a perception that linguistic duality is a burden rather than a fundamental characteristic of Canada. English-speaking Quebec, in all its diversity, is among Canada's most bilingual communities, and becoming more so each day. That is an asset for the country, but assets must be nurtured.
Any weakening of the levels of federal support in future Canada-Quebec education accords, any lessening of the community's strong consultative role in decisions on the allocation of funds under those accords, any structural shift that would weaken, and any structural shift that would remove federal oversight over transferred funds for minority language education in Quebec would be of real and present concern to us.
Quebec enjoys a legislative regime of English and French school boards, elected by universal suffrage. While there are some questions about the status and timing of those elections, we remain confident in the future of this vital level of local government that is so important to our community. But the political winds often shift in Quebec, and a vigilant and solid federal government regime of official language support is a beacon that must not fade.
President, Quebec English School Boards Association
Let's talk about our expectations.
Our first expectation is that the concern we just voiced will prove unfounded, and a future road map will be developed, embraced, funded, and enforced by this government, securing the place of future ententes, and moving forward from the end of the current ones in 2013.
In the short time available today we think that QESBA must echo an expectation that is longstanding and was reinforced only last weekend at an important and inspiring gathering of some 185 community partners organized by the Quebec Community Groups Network. Mr. Chair, we were honoured by your presence and encouraged by your words at that event. We even got to shake your hand over coffee, which was nice. You stayed for a while, and it was very noticeable.
Our second expectation is for equity. The gathering produced a draft declaration of very progressive priorities for the future of English-speaking Quebec. It won't satisfy everybody, but at least it is a central communication. It was adopted in principle in a spirit of real optimism and strength. But to move further there must be equitable federal funding and support for the visions outlined in that declaration for community building; inclusion of English speakers of all origins, mother tongues, and cultures; expanded research; and economic development and guaranteed service access in English.
Canada's English-speaking minority community has benefited from a founding presence and a critical population mass around the city of Montreal. No doubt a dispersed francophone community across Canada has not had that luxury, and we recognize that. Nonetheless, our diverse needs are there, and they must be addressed equitably.
Based on the measure of first official language spoken, our total population is roughly equivalent to that of francophone Canada outside of Quebec. The needs are there, particularly when in the region there are six-year-olds on school buses for as long as two and a half hours a day or more. Students are waiting for appointments with school psychologists and speech therapists for years, not months. There are still challenges in renewing our communities and encouraging newcomers to join us.
We are looking for equitable support from our federal government as QESBA joins other community partners in addressing these challenges.
Thank you. We look forward to exchanging with you. Please do not be shy about asking us any questions.
The Chair Michael Chong
Thank you very much.
Now we'll have an opening statement from the Townshippers' Association.
Gerald Cutting President, Townshippers' Association
Bonjour, Monsieur Chong.
Thank you, all members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages.
Thank you for granting us this opportunity to appear before you this morning and to share some of our experiences concerning the road map for Canada's linguistic duality.
I am Gerald Cutting, president of the Townshippers' Association. Just to set a context, our territory is as large as some European countries.
We have been working on behalf of the English-speaking community since 1979, and since then, we have had 32 townshippers' days, awarded 56 individuals as outstanding townshippers for their amazing contributions, and celebrated 23 youth for their incredible demonstrations of leadership and commitment to our community.
Our association has evolved greatly over the past three decades, but so has our community.
We are the door that the English-speaking community knocks on. We are a reliable source of information and the go-to place for multiple services and resources. We work with the federal government to ensure that the English-speaking community in the townships has the best possible access to services, information, and representation. We continue to find innovative and sustainable ways to mobilize and inform our community.
As the cost of operating a non-profit organization rises, the funding available to answer to the increasing demands of our population becomes scarcer, while contribution agreements add tremendous administrative requirements that place additional burdens on administration, leaving fewer funds available for ground work.
Fortunately, our association has gained momentum over the years. We have a solid knowledge base and the experience to represent our community, rally on its behalf, and build capacity.
Helping community members mobilize and form sustainable support groups and grassroots initiatives is just one example.
Network development through strategic collaboration has been an objective of our association over the past five years, and it will continue to be in the next five. In all sectors—health and social services, community renewal, economic prosperity, youth—a strong network with stakeholders that work collaboratively to achieve positive results is a key factor to guarantee this success.
Road map funding over the past five years has contributed to the development of these networks, and through these programs we have recognized very positive and concrete results.
These networks have become solid structures that are crucial to help support us in our important mission to maintain the vitality of the English-speaking community of the Eastern Townships. Over the past five years we have hired eight students with the Young Canada Works program.
We have helped support 20 interns studying in the health and services sector, and we have helped them find employment in the regions through the McGill recruitment and retention program funded by Health Canada.
We also helped 21 young adults gain experience and reintegrate into the work market with funding from Service Canada and their skills development program. This is not to mention the artists we have helped with marketing their work; the thousands of participants annually at our townshippers' day; the hundreds of underprivileged families that we help with income tax clinics, legal information hotlines, referral services; and so much more.
Although requests for our service have increased, our credibility rises and we accomplish solid, measurable, and sustainable results with the funding that is accorded to us, despite the fact that our reality is one of an aging, low income, scattered community with low levels of education. We can no longer rely on donations and membership fees to support all of our initiatives. Government funding is crucial to our existence. And I assure you of this: our existence is crucial in assuring the vitality of our community, granting us a voice, and forging for us a place within Quebec society.
The federal government must continue to recognize the importance of developing programs that support official language minority communities, through both program funding and project funding that will allow us to continue our work and to maintain the momentum we have gained over the past years, and by supporting us in the continual development of relationships with our public and community partners through our well-established networks, while continuing to recognize the concrete and measurable results we have achieved.
To reiterate some of the points already made in the Senate report, The Vitality of Quebec's English-Speaking Communities: From Myth to Reality , there were 16 excellent recommendations that were made.
We trust that you will consider these recommendations, as well as the issues and priorities that have been identified by community groups from across Quebec, along with the help of the Quebec Community Groups Network. The big three for us are consultation, communication, and cooperation between governments, with community organizations, and within the networks. These are the keys that will ensure positive results and help identify key priorities. Through the implementation of these strategies together, as partners working in support of our linguistic minority communities, we can continue to accomplish outstanding positive results.
Thank you once again for granting us this opportunity to demonstrate the crucial nature of this funding and the necessity of supporting our association. We remain humbled by this opportunity to appear before you, and we are ready to attempt to answer any and all questions.
Thank you again.
The Chair Michael Chong
Thank you very much.
We'll have about an hour and 15 minutes of questions and comments from members of the committee, beginning with Monsieur Godin.
Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to welcome you all here this morning. As you saw, we're doing this study on the road map. It has been the longest study I've ever seen in my life. I know sometimes we pass a bill in the House within two days, but here's a study we've been doing since September. I hope that something good comes from this.
First of all, I want to say that I am sorry that I was not at your event two weeks ago, your convention, because I do love to go. I was there when you came to Gatineau; I attended. They're really good events and I wanted to be there. But as you know, we had our NDP convention to choose our next prime minister of the country, and I wanted to be there. We were trying to find Pierre Poutine; we didn't find him. He's going to come later on.
To get to the study, when we look at education—and you said it well, Mr. D'Aoust, when you said that education is under provincial jurisdiction. At the same time, in the Official Languages Act, if you look at part VII, I believe sections 41, 42, and 43 talk about the federal government promoting in provinces where there's a minority.
There's this question of whether they're using the money in the right place. We raised the question with the Commissioner of Official Languages, who said it wasn't his responsibility to investigate in the provinces. And we're not just talking about Quebec; we're talking about across the country. I'm not going to pick on Quebec. I'll pick on New Brunswick. Is New Brunswick taking the money and putting it in the right place for francophones? Is Nova Scotia taking the money and putting it in education?
The commissioner said, when he was talking to one of the education ministers, that when they get the money they put it where they feel it's most important to put it. Sometimes it doesn't even go to education.
Do you feel that you get the money? We have you here, Mr. D'Aoust, and you work in education. Do you feel you get the money? That's one thing.
Is the money spread well across the province? I'm talking about Quebec now. I'm coming back to Quebec. The English minority is only in Quebec. It's not in New Brunswick, it's not in Nova Scotia, it's not in Ontario—it's not any place in the country except Quebec.
But is it going...? For example, I don't think Montreal is the worst served. You've got the universities, you've got the health care, the hospitals and all that, but when we're talking about Rivière-au-Renard, for example, the Fox River.... The first time I heard that was when I went for a tour. Official language...and they were talking about the Fox River. I didn't know they had a Fox River, but now I know this was Rivière-au-Renard.
Are you getting what you're supposed to get? That's one question.
The other question I want to raise, because we only have seven minutes and I want to get an answer.... To the three groups, do you think the road map should continue? If the road map is good and if there are programs where you people can attach yourselves with your organization and get something noticeable, do you think it should continue, and not just last until 2013? In the last budget they said they would not touch the road map; they will do it, but what about the future?
I think it's serious if you say you feel it's good or not, because that gives a signal to the government.
I'd like to hear you on this.
President, Quebec English School Boards Association
Perhaps I'll speak and my colleagues will join me.
You're quite right. My experience and education go back to 1967, when I first became a teacher. I must tell you, I was an associate deputy minister and also saw some of the spending of this money. Years ago, my elected minister was Mr. Ryan. When I commented to him that I was concerned that all of the money being received for the minority linguistic community wasn't being spent on that community, he corrected me quickly and said, “No, Quebec spends more money on its minority linguistic community in education than it receives from the federal government.” I don't know if that has changed with regard to the money, but I will tell you that we are pleased with what we have received with minority spending.
Out of the Canada-Québec Entente we have seen more of it over the last few years, especially since we've had a deputy minister for the English-speaking community. We have seen it in particular recently with the CLCs. If it were not for that money, I don't think we would be able to offer our school network up in Lourdes-de-Blanc-Sablon, with the Littoral School Board, as far away as the Gaspé, and up in parts of northwestern Quebec and in central Quebec. We would be closing more schools, and that total of 340 I told you about would have diminished.
Do we get the money? Yes, we get the money. I'm pleased to say that. Can I tell you that we get it all? I can't tell you that, but I would say we're getting a big chunk of that money and that it is well spent.
Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB
I'm sorry, but I want you to explain that to me: “Yes, we get the money. Yes, we have lots of money. Do we get it all?” Are you saying you're not getting it all?
President, Quebec English School Boards Association
I can't tell you if we're getting every bit of it that reaches our schools. That's what I'm telling you.