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 community.

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

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you very much, Mr. Williamson, and Madame Marini.

Go ahead, Mr. Harris.

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Dan Harris Scarborough Southwest, ON

Welcome again to everyone. For those from the townships, I can certainly understand some of the challenges you face. My mother was from Sherbrooke and my grandparents lived in Lac-Mégantic. I spent many a summer in Lac-Mégantic, and it was very difficult to find anyone who spoke English in the area. Of course, for me the purpose was to be fully immersed in French. As a franco-Ontarian from Toronto, it's not something you get to experience at home.

As with the English school boards, we faced many similar parallels as a French language minority in Toronto. Back then, it was, like those in the townships say, a minority within a minority within a majority situation. We had a small number of French schools in what was then the largest English school board in Canada in the largest English city in Canada.

In terms of the funding we got, it was not on par with what the English schools in our own school board were getting. One of the best things that happened was when we finally got our own school board, and then suddenly the money started to flow, which led to positive changes.

It's a challenge. In the townships, if the economic opportunities for highly mobile young people and those getting educated aren't at home, they'll have to go elsewhere. It's unfortunate, and it presents another challenge.

I'm going to veer off from discussing those things. In terms of speaking about equity, as we talked about earlier, we have in this committee, with virtually all of the French language groups in minority situations, asked about the importance of Radio-Canada to their communities in terms of being able to access French language programming. Of course, according to last week's budget, CBC is now facing some rather hefty cuts.

In Quebec, there's a little bit more English programming than there is French programming outside of Canada. I'm going to ask each group to talk about the importance that CBC brings to maintaining those English communities in your minority situations.

We'll start with the arts.

10:10 a.m.

Executive Director, English Language Arts Network Quebec

Guy Rodgers

Obviously, in Quebec, the problem is not language. We just have to look south and we're swamped by English language products. It's not English language products, per se.

What CBC does is provide local content. CBC radio does a very fine job of telling local stories. Television is more complex. It tends to be Toronto-driven. There was a big article in the Montreal Gazette a few months ago about why has it been 30 years since there was a drama produced in Montreal. It's the most exciting, interesting city in Canada, in the view of many. Why can't we have a TV show produced there?

CBC radio does an excellent job and CBC television, despite being controlled from Toronto, does a better job than most of the private broadcasters.

10:10 a.m.

President, Quebec English School Boards Association

David D'Aoust

For our minority communities in Quebec, I think CBC radio is essential. As a listener to Radio-Canada and CBC for the past two or three years of my life...I know that people depend on it more than ever. I guess you reach a point in time when you want to hear more about the news of what is happening across this nation; it keeps us together.

I know there was $10 million in cutbacks for CBC—or was it $10 billion?

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Dan Harris Scarborough Southwest, ON

It's 10%.

10:10 a.m.

President, Quebec English School Boards Association

David D'Aoust

Oh, it's 10%, $115 million.

That's a big whack of money to a service that serves both languages across this country. I wish it were different; I wish the government would change that. I know that in the final passing of the budget they may let up on some of those things.

That's just my message to you, Mr. Chair. I'm sorry.

When you listen to Radio-Canada's French programming, you realize that they provide high-quality, good programs. I have seen that our young artists are being showcased more and more. We have discovered that there is a whole pool of culture amongst francophones in Quebec that we were totally unaware of when I was young. It is wonderful to see that, it is exciting.

It shows that we have two solitudes coming together, because often you hear French and English in productions. I know the program is not on the air on CBC, but Belle et Bum is a fine example of bringing francophones and anglophones together. They're artists and they need to be discovered and enjoyed.

Don't let Radio-Canada go down.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you very much.

Mr. Boughen.

April 3rd, 2012 / 10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

Thank you, Chair, and let me take a minute to thank the panel for visiting with us today and sharing its expertise.

I look at our agenda. We have three groups this morning, and other mornings we've had other groups. I forget the total number of groups we've had, but we have had a lot. I'm wondering whether it's time to redesign the structures. Certainly in education there has been a redesign that has happened because of issues outside of the classroom, having to do with issues of disobedience in young people and behavioural problems—as the chair said, bringing in people with a background in psychology and working with special needs students.

When you look at the whole spectrum of the language question, English and French, it seems to me we have a whole lot of different compartments. These compartments build on one another, and sometimes there's some interface, but most times they seem to go their own ways. I'm wondering whether it's not time to redesign these.

For example, in a school there's nothing wrong with having the municipal government in that school; just design the building so that it happens. There's nothing wrong with a school offering adult education programs. You can do it; just design a room for adult education.

I guess I'm wondering, as we are examining the road map, whether it's not time for agencies to examine their own operations and either confirm that what they're doing is very good or is okay or ask whether it needs to be changed.

May I have your comments on that, Madame, and gentlemen?

10:15 a.m.

Executive Director, Townshippers' Association

Ingrid Marini

I believe many of the big victories we've had and the measurable positive results over the past few years go almost against that perception, because of the building of the networks, because of the application of the CLCs, which bring together multiple players from many different groups and give us the opportunity to exchange and interchange and discuss and view things from different points of view.

Those structures that are being developed are just starting to gain momentum with the past road map, and there's so much potential going forward. The more opportunities we have to consult and to cooperate, the more chance we will have to verify and bring forward the best practices so that we can evaluate which ways are the best ways to move forward. We don't always have to reinvent the wheel. We can build and learn from each other's experiences, and we'll only be able to do that if we work within these networks and discuss together, absolutely.

10:15 a.m.

Executive Committee Member, Quebec English School Boards Association

Michael Chiasson

Our CLCs are perfect examples of that. We have CLCs that have the health services in there and adult education and elementary education. We have engineers coming in to help our children with science and technology; we have musicians and artists coming in with our art students, competing in some of the competitions, whether provincial or regional. We have all these people who are coming together at these CLCs. They are so precious.

With the video conferencing equipment we have there, we can communicate with other regions. We often have resources that are absolutely precious to us that come in over video conferencing. When you see a student or someone saying “I finally got it, I finally understand”, and you go to that student's graduation at the end of the year, you feel like a million bucks. Those CLCs are bringing results that I never would have estimated back then, and I see it regularly now.

10:15 a.m.

President, English Language Arts Network Quebec

Charles Childs

I would also agree. I think what we've seen in our field is that without the community groups, without the people in the communities to share their experience and knowledge and share best practices among them.... For us to build on that is absolutely necessary.

It's about the partnership. You're absolutely right: we can't do it alone. We shouldn't be trying to do it alone, and I don't think we are. That's what we have learned, and I think the road map has definitely helped us move forward in that way.

10:15 a.m.

Executive Director, Quebec English School Boards Association

David Birnbaum

I understand the question to be going at economies of scale and efficiencies and so on. On that ground we would stand by everything we've told you so far.

Quebec school boards offer one example. They have a ratio of administrative costs to direct student services of about 6%. There's not a municipality in Quebec—and certainly not l'ensemble—that's anywhere near that rate of efficiency. There's not a government department that's near that rate of efficiency.

So we would reject any oblique suggestion, with respect, that there's a sort of tour de Babel of bureaucracies here that are getting in the way. We would tell you that the table you are setting to allow us to serve our official language minority communities is working. We're worried that some of the accountability measures that are there to make sure we're using the money efficiently might be compromised in the absence of a future road map, or, as we say, in contribution agreements rather than bilateral ententes, whereby you get the oversight you need and you protect our communities' involvement in how the money is spent.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Okay. Thank you very much.

I'm going to go to Madame Boutin-Sweet.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Hochelaga, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, to the witnesses.

First of all, I would like to make a comment. To quote Mr. Rodgers, I come from a strategic marriage.

10:15 a.m.

Executive Director, English Language Arts Network Quebec

Guy Rodgers

That is wonderful.