Evidence of meeting #35 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

  • 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

9:20 a.m.

David Birnbaum Executive Director, Quebec English School Boards Association

We agree that a large portion is allocated to Quebec, because we have the good fortune, under the act, to have two education networks: one anglophone and one francophone.

But there is about $26 million a year that is designated to community initiatives that are absolutely essential. As the president mentioned, the CLCs are one of them. One of our main reasons for being here, first of all, is to give you a “yes” in capital letters to the absolute urgency for the road map to be renewed. If it is not, it is our view that the meaning of sections 41 to 43 of the Official Languages Act is evacuated. Federal oversight is absolutely essential, and the Official Languages Act and subsequent decisions say there has to be an active offer and protection of services, so the road map has to be renewed.

We're getting our share of the money, with some real accountability difficulties at times, but under the current regime—and we want to make sure that regime remains—there are at least two pillars that are essential. One is that for the money that is not simply put into the general coffers for the delivery of a two-language education system, there is a defined, clear, and transparent consultation process during which we get to recommend the kinds of services that are not equitably offered under the Quebec regime on its own. Those include community learning centres. They include all kinds of support and training for teachers and students. They include adaptations to programs that fall through the cracks for us.

We can give you an example just very quickly. The major expenditure we've seen over the last number of years is on lowering class sizes in Quebec. Because of the dispersed nature of our schools and the small populations, eight of our nine school boards have not benefited by getting a single additional class, despite an expenditure of over $400 million.

We fill those gaps by virtue of the money we receive through the Canada-Québec Entente, so it is absolutely essential to us.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you very much.

Thank you, Mr. Godin.

9:25 a.m.

President, Quebec English School Boards Association

David D'Aoust

Mr. Chairman, yes, we do want the program to continue.

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Somebody should confirm that with the other two also, because I want everybody to know their opinion on this.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you.

Mr. Menegakis, the floor is yours.

April 3rd, 2012 / 9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Good morning. Welcome to you all.

I listened quite attentively to your presentations. It was very interesting to hear what you had to say, particularly in relation to the road map.

As you know, this is a fairly significant initiative for our government. It represents somewhere in excess of $1 billion, hence the length we are taking to study it. We believe, on the government side, that we need to meet with as many stakeholders as possible. Had we finished the study, we wouldn't have had an opportunity to meet you today and hear what you have to say. We're delighted that you're here and delighted to hear your comments.

I'd like to begin with the Quebec English School Boards Association, partially because I'm a little biased that way. I was born, schooled, and raised in Montreal. I'm a product of, I believe, one of your school boards, the Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal. I went to Van Horne school, Northmount high school, and Concordia University, and I had to live through the trials and tribulations of Bill 22 and Bill 101. Certainly in my professional career, on several occasions, I had to deal with l'Office québécois de la langue française, which was, I believe, a good initiative at the time. I don't know if they still do what they used to do.

Getting back to the road map, I heard you loud and clear that you'd like to see the road map continue. We're about 60% into it now. We're studying it midway because we want to see its impact. We want to hear what kind of impact it's had on you, the stakeholders, and on the community across the country.

What would you like to see in the next phase of the road map? This is assuming that we're going to renew it; we're hearing a lot of that from a lot of people who are coming here to testify before us. People would like to see it renewed.

So what would you like to see, and where would you focus your efforts in the next phase?

9:25 a.m.

President, Quebec English School Boards Association

David D'Aoust

Certainly the whole area of special education is depleting our reserves. We have more and more needs in our schools in terms of psycho-educators, psychologists, and behaviourists to help out in the classroom at the resource level.

We don't have to worry about class size in the outer areas. They're either split classes or, if they are a single-level class, they're very small. As David said, when they applied new norms and reduced the norms, it didn't give us anything.

We are concerned about the increasing demand by parents for bilingualism. We're having to strive to keep our kids in our school system.

Remember, with Bill 101,

breathing new life into our schools is no easy task.

It's not easy to bring in new enrolments. We depend on our kids. As René Lévesque said in 1976, the future of your generation is in the power of your loins.

9:25 a.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

9:25 a.m.

President, Quebec English School Boards Association

David D'Aoust

You'll notice that having children is being put off to a later date. Childbirth is not a number one priority for young married couples or couples that get together.

Certainly the language issue is a big challenge for us to produce bilingual graduates, and it takes a lot of money to do that.

This responsibility of the neighbouring francophone school board was not a burden.

We do it out of our existing funds, and we need more funds to carry that out.

Then there's the recognition in those communities of sustaining small schools. Nobody wants to hear that their small school is going to be closed. If you're in the vicinity of Montreal, people will tell you if you close one school here in Montreal, it's still a tragedy despite the fact that you have to commute a few kilometres to another. In the country, you're talking 20, 30, 40, or 50 kilometres to the next school, so when you put an end to that school, bingo.

We require help in maintaining those schools, physical accommodations that have to be changed, and schools that don't have a gymnasium. You have helped us with those structures through that Canada-Québec Entente. We need to expand on that.

They are also beneficial to CLCs, because if you have, for instance, a national art gallery attached to your school, and I jest.... If you do have an auditorium attached to your school, you can bring people in for the arts and drama, which is part of the culture that has to be perpetuated and maintained. People will rally to support their school when they know that it is a centre of community life. That is very important to us.

The CLCs are new. They are taking hold. They're bringing communities together. Communities are turning more and more to their English-speaking school that has a CLC attached to it or that is becoming a CLC for services.

Rather than knocking on 15 doors, those schools are becoming un guichet unique for a lot of our community members. It's not a new idea in the French communities of Canada. Many of them have asked for money for the physical expansion of their schools and for physical projects. I remember reading one. I think it was in the Saint-Boniface area and how the attitude of the whole community, and toward their own French language, changed when they brought in a new gymnasium and an auditorium. It became like a British pub, a centre for people to meet.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you. I have a minute left.

9:30 a.m.

President, Quebec English School Boards Association

David D'Aoust

Oh, sorry.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

No, that's okay. I'd like to hear, if possible, from the other groups as well.

Mr. Childs, I assumed from your presentation that your focus was really on the professionals providing arts and culture. Are the youth programs that you're affiliated with a little bit in line with what we just heard about the gymnasiums? I think sports and culture programs among youth really help promote the language as well.

9:30 a.m.

President, English Language Arts Network Quebec

Charles Childs

Well, ELAN is focused on art and supporting professionals. As Mr. Rodgers said, there's no question that, especially in communities involved in existing book clubs, amateur choirs, whatever's going on within the community, this would provide a structuring element to bring those together. It would also provide an opportunity, we feel, and the desire to include professional artists, so that we could invite professional singers to join the choir on one or two particular occasions.

So it goes to the vitality of the community, to the development of arts and culture and heritage within the community, and, yes, indeed, in answer to the question, it is the road map that is critical to our survival. I would like to see an opportunity to expand the concept of the network.

In Quebec, we have an organization like RIDEAU, which provides touring opportunities, but we need to create a network in those communities and give them the resources and infrastructure to present art and heritage in their communities.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you very much.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you very much.

Mr. Bélanger.