Evidence of meeting #37 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

  • Josianne Beaumont  Second Vice-President, Board of Directors, Fédération franco-ténoise
  • Claire Beaubien  Executive Director, Fédération franco-ténoise
  • Mylène Chartrand  Vice Chair, Board of Directors, Association des francophones du Nunavut
  • Mathieu René  Director, Board of Directors, Association des francophones du Nunavut
  • Jules Custodio  President, Fédération des francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador
  • Éric Forgues  Researcher, Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities
  • Léo-Paul Provencher  Past Executive Director, Fédération franco-ténoise
  • Gaël Corbineau  Director General, Fédération des francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Welcome to the 37th meeting of the Standing Committee on Official Languages on this Tuesday, April 24, 2012. Pursuant to Standing Order 108, we are conducting the study on the evaluation of the roadmap: improving programs and service delivery.

Today we have two substitute members joining us: Mr. Sopuck and Madam Ambler. Welcome.

There are two new committee members: Mr. Benskin and Mr. Dionne Labelle. Welcome.

Today we have four groups: Ms. Beaubien, Ms. Beaumont and Mr. Provencher from the Fédération franco-ténoise, Ms. Chartrand and Mr. René from the Association des francophones du Nunavut, Mr. Custodio and Mr. Corbineau from the Fédération des francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador, and, lastly, Mr. Forgues from the Canadian Institute of Research on Linguistic Minorities. Welcome to you all.

We will begin with the Fédération franco-ténoise.

8:45 a.m.

Josianne Beaumont Second Vice-President, Board of Directors, Fédération franco-ténoise

Mr. Chair, members, good morning.

On behalf of the Fédération franco-ténoise and the Northwest Territories' francophone community, we are pleased to accept the invitation from the Standing Committee on Official Languages. My name is Josianne Beaumont, and I am the Second Vice-President of the board of directors. I am joined by Claire Beaubien, our Executive Director, and by Léo Paul Provencher, who was the FFT director for over seven years.

The FFT's mission is to promote, encourage and advocate for the NWT's French-Canadian cultural, political, economic, social and community life in order to enhance the vitality of the NWT's francophone communities. The FFT does this through representing, coordinating, promoting and supporting the development of these communities, together with its members and partners.

Our organization has been active in the NWT for 33 years, delivering a range of community services to a variety of client groups: French-language health services, youth, immigrant settlement, literacy and seniors' services. Our members are concentrated mostly in four local communities: Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River and Fort Smith. Apart from the weekly newspaper L'Aquilon and the community radio station, there are also four socio-cultural organizations.

According to the 2006 Census, over 3,720 residents, 9.1% of the population, across the NWT have the ability to speak French, and French was first official language of 2.6% of the NWT population. As for education, 230 students attend two French-language schools in Yellowknife and Hay River. There are also four French immersion programs with a combined enrolment of 350 students.

Since 2008, the FFT has had some major achievements, including creation of a post-secondary institution in Yellowknife, establishment of an immigrant settlement service, involvement in Destination Canada on two occasions and the release by the Réseau TNO Santé en français of a directory of human resources and institutions able to deliver French-language services. Our Jeunesse TNO service received an honourable mention from Canadian Heritage in recognition of the Multimedia Forum in 2009. These initiatives would not have been possible without the investments set out in the roadmap, and the outcomes provide ample evidence that the roadmap should be renewed.

In terms of community cooperation and consultation, we wish to underscore the efforts of certain federal agencies that take their obligations under part VII of the Official Languages Act seriously. Some members of your committee had the opportunity to visit our community last winter and learn about the difficulties we are facing in terms of community space. These problems remain unresolved, although we are pleased with what came out of our dealings with the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.

Looking at the investments under the current roadmap, we can see that a number of regional initiatives are included. We are disappointed to see that none of these initiatives pertain to the territories, despite the fact that our needs in terms of school and community infrastructure are just as pressing.

A recurring problem with living in the north is our highly mobile workforce. People who move here stay for less than five years; businesses and governments are barely able to fill all the positions available, and they spend a fortune on recruitment. This can be explained by a number of reasons, particularly early childhood services. In Yellowknife, child care costs $700 a month; in Inuvik, $850. This situation makes it difficult for young mothers to return to the workforce, thereby hampering economic development.

The previous example clearly illustrates the challenges caused by the high cost of living in the north. They are also reflected in the analysis of our results. In calculating the quantity of services delivered per dollar invested, we see that the territories are clearly far behind the provinces with large urban centres. Not only do we have low numbers in absolute terms, but also our costs in terms of salaries, housing, transportation and energy are vastly higher.

As a result, we believe that the principle of fairness and equal access needs to apply to the way northerners are treated when setting parameters for government programs and evaluating the results achieved. In recent weeks, the Government of the Northwest Territories and francophone community representatives finalized an implementation plan for French-language communications and services. This is an important and significant development in the history of the NWT's francophone community.

8:50 a.m.

Claire Beaubien Executive Director, Fédération franco-ténoise

Consequently, the FFT recommends: that the roadmap be renewed and that its funding reflect the government's obligations under part VII of the Official Languages Act; that the next roadmap include specific measures for the territories, particularly with respect to community infrastructure, since none of the regional initiatives in the current roadmap addressed northern challenges; that the next roadmap include a national early childhood strategy, given its importance to the vitality of francophone minority communities and northern economic development; that the principles of fairness and equal access be reflected in the parameters of departmental programs and in outcomes evaluation; that the Canadian government adequately support the Government of the Northwest Territories in implementing its strategic plan on French-language communications and services; that Treasury Board adopt a policy recognizing the responsibility of federal institutions to take the needs of official-language minority communities into account when disposing of public buildings, in order to act on the Commissioner of Official Languages' recommendation; and that the report on the Study on the Development of Linguistic Duality in Northern Canada, prepared in winter 2011, be completed and issued as soon as possible.

I will be pleased to answer your questions.

8:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you very much.

I now hand over the floor to the Association des francophones du Nunavut.

8:50 a.m.

Mylène Chartrand Vice Chair, Board of Directors, Association des francophones du Nunavut

Good morning, bonjour, ullaakkut.

Mr. Chair, committee members, thank you for your invitation to appear before the Standing Committee on Official Languages. We are pleased to come and share our experience with you and to contribute to the evaluation of the roadmap in order to improve programs and service delivery.

We will briefly present the Association des francophones du Nunavut, its accomplishments and its challenges. Then we will explain the positive impact the roadmap has had on the vitality of the francophone community of Nunavut and why it is essential to renew it.

As the organization representing the Franco-Nunavummiut community for the past 30 years, the AFN has a mission to work toward affirming and achieving the full potential of the francophone community in Nunavut in harmony with the other cultures there. The community governance of the francophone minority in Nunavut is an essential factor in the community's vitality.

As the community's representative organization, the AFN ensures the coordination and mobilization of the associative network. We take part in efforts to implement the territory's Official Languages Act

Few federal government departments are present in the territory and few services are provided in French. On the territorial side, Nunavut's Official Languages Act was passed in 2008 and should be implemented starting in 2012. Few French-language services have been offered to date, but the Government of Nunavut has an Official Languages Branch, a Minister of Languages and a Commissioner of Languages.

8:55 a.m.

Mathieu René Director, Board of Directors, Association des francophones du Nunavut

The Department of Canadian Heritage has provided financial support for the vitality of the francophone community since 1999. Under agreements on the transfer of funds from the Government of Canada to the provinces and territories, we also receive financial support from the Nunavut government's Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth. We have also received funding from HRSDC and CanNor.

These contributions enable us to work toward consolidating our gains because there is no guarantee that the vitality of an official language minority community will be preserved. We face many challenges, and maintaining linguistic and community vitality comes at a very significant real cost, particularly in the north.

In arts and culture, our community and cultural centre has a multidisciplinary purpose. The performing arts and music are in particular demand. As there is no auditorium in Iqaluit, the Franco-Centre is the preferred venue for local artists of all languages and for organizations seeking a room where they can present their cultural activities.

The financial support we receive contributes to the creation, improvement and delivery of activities and services to francophones and to the community as a whole. It is by continuing to invest in our activities that we will be able to diversify what we offer, enhance our programming and increase the number of activities and participants, while supporting community stakeholders in their efforts to promote culture in all its forms.

In communications, the station CFRT—which we call "C-FRET"—is not only a community radio station, but especially the only francophone radio station in Nunavut. It is the only available media outlet for francophones who want to be informed in French, to listen to a local radio station in their language and to broadcast advertising and government public announcements in French. The same is true of Nunavoix, our local newspaper. With the implementation of Nunavut's Official Languages Act, the French-language media will become essential because public communications will also have to be conducted in French. Without funding, there will be no more communications in French.

8:55 a.m.

Vice Chair, Board of Directors, Association des francophones du Nunavut

Mylène Chartrand

In education, the Commission scolaire francophone du Nunavut, or CSFN, offers educational services to preschool, primary and secondary students. In 2013, it will have its first grade 12 graduating class. Francophone students in grades 9 to 12 currently have a French-language program in collaboration with the Inukshuk English-language school.

In the wake of the economic development of Iqaluit and Nunavut, CSFN's enrolment has doubled from 47 students in 2006 to 93 in 2011. It also offers home schooling support services to francophone students from Coral Harbour and Pangnirtung.

In cooperation with Nunavut's Department of Education and Canadian Heritage, CSFN would like soon to offer a full-time francization class for four-year-old children and gradually return grade 9 students to the École des Trois-Soleils, along with high school students. Returning to French-language schools would enable them to consolidate their francophone identity and sense of belonging to a community, which very much needs all its members to ensure its survival and growth.

In early childhood, Les Petits Nanooks early childhood centre offers a high-quality educational service based on the educational francization program. Les Petits Nanooks also offers exogamous families tools for using French in the home. However, given the geographic realities, costs are high, student numbers limited, staff retention difficult and educational resources lacking or inaccessible. In addition, low capacity is undermining the day care centre's development. Demand is increasing, but the number of available spaces has remained the same. The challenges are great and it is therefore essential that we obtain financial support to ensure continuity of French-language services for families and children.

In health, Résefan is working for the greater well-being of the francophone community, the health of its members and on issues of access to health and social services. Résefan offers activities for people's everyday lives, including badminton, family swims, Saturday youth days and health awareness. Much remains to be done in the area of health promotion and implementing services in cooperation with the territorial government.

As for economic development, Nunavut's cooperation council was established in 2009. The council promotes sustainable development and social entrepreneurship in harmony with the cultures and populations of the north, while promoting the interests of Nunavut's francophone community.

In short, with financial support, AFN and Nunavut's community organizations have managed to achieve tangible results for the Franco-Nunavummiut community, and those results are consistent with the Canadian government's commitment to assist in the development of the official language minority communities. That is why we recommend renewing and improving the roadmap to ensure the continued existence and vitality of our community.

9 a.m.

Director, Board of Directors, Association des francophones du Nunavut

Mathieu René

For the next roadmap, we recommend building on the expertise of the francophone community's organizations and conducting consultations. We are firmly rooted in the community and we understand the reality of the Franco-Nunavummiut. It is important for the vitality and development of our community that the roadmap correspond to the situation, needs, expectations and priorities of the Franco-Nunavummiut community.

We also recommend reinforcing the capacity of the community organizations and increasing investments to enable us to continue offering products and services that meet citizens' expectations and to which they are entitled. As a result of our knowledge of our milieu, we are able to make a significant contribution to the vitality of the community we serve.

There is one factor that should not be disregarded: in Nunavut, it is difficult to recruit the necessary human resources and the turnover rate is high. If our financial capacity also declines, the services offered will quickly be eroded. This state of affairs undermines the ability of individuals and families to obtain French-language services, the health, education and early childhood services and the cultural, artistic and recreation products they need and to which they are entitled.

We also recommend promoting cooperation and collaboration among all the components of society. Networking, partnership and cooperation among francophone organizations are essential because we have the same challenges, the same problems and the same desire to improve access to services. In addition, in Nunavut, we need support for the implementation of the territory's Official Languages Act in order to achieve tangible results.

9 a.m.

Vice Chair, Board of Directors, Association des francophones du Nunavut

Mylène Chartrand

In closing, committee members, we thank you for your attention. Thank you for allowing us to share our expectations, our challenges and our pride in saying, "Yes, we live in French here."

We will now be pleased to answer your questions.

9 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you.

I now hand the floor over to the Fédération des francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador.

April 24th, 2012 / 9 a.m.

Jules Custodio President, Fédération des francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador

Mr. Chair, members, my name is Jules Custodio, and I am President of the Fédération des francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador. With me is Gaël Corbineau, Director General. First we would like to thank you for your invitation to appear and thus for giving our community the chance to speak about the roadmap.

Since 1973, the Fédération des francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador has worked for the advancement, vitality and recognition of the francophone and Acadian communities of our province. The federation now has six members; three represent the main francophone regions of the province and the other three are provincial organizations operating in early childhood development, youth and the economy.

Our communities, which have been in existence for more than 500 years, are now mainly scattered across three regions, separated from one another by distances of 800 kilometres to 2,100 kilometres. As you will guess, geographic isolation is a major obstacle for us.

According to the 2006 census, our community represents 0.4% of the provincial population. Another 25,000 people or so are able to speak French. In 2009, with the support of Canadian Heritage, we established an overall development plan for 2009-2014, which sets out the priority areas for action and objectives for our community corresponding to the areas outlined in the roadmap 2008-2013.

Now let's consider the impact of the 2008-2013 roadmap on our communities. The interdepartmental approach of the current roadmap has facilitated our development in all priority areas by emphasizing the responsibility of all federal departments in the development of our communities. Since 2008, the roadmap has had numerous positive effects on the everyday lives of our communities.

First, there are early childhood services. By supporting continuity of offer, the roadmap has promoted sharp growth in this area, to the point where the challenge for us is now to respond to the demand and thus to limit the assimilation of our youngest children. For example, the francophone child care centre in St. John's has space for 14 children, but has an average of 30 on its waiting list. All these children are at great risk of being assimilated because they cannot be accommodated in a francophone environment.

Second, we have community infrastructure. In recent years, our community has benefited from extensive new infrastructure that is important for our development, including a new building for the Boréale French-language school in Goose Bay, the creation of community websites to facilitate communication about activities and services in the community, and the establishment of our provincial community radio station. These investments are essential to maintaining and developing our communities and make it possible to offer citizens even more activities.

We have also created a francophone immigration network. As we carry little demographic weight, and the community wishes to maintain and even increase it, we have established a francophone immigration network. Our results are improving from year to year. We assist newcomers, the community and employers whose demands are growing in proportion to our province's positive economic situation.

There is also funding for a French-language services office. Through the roadmap, our provincial government is funding the Bureau des services en français, which provides invaluable assistance to our organizations by guiding them through the processes of the provincial government. We regret that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has yet to implement a policy on French-language services. We nevertheless see that the awareness work done by the Bureau des services en français with provincial officials has been productive, given the regular increase in the offer of services and the supply of information in French.

Now I'm going to present our findings and recommendations by addressing the lack of transparency regarding funding allocated under the roadmap. We have unfortunately observed that it is very difficult to determine with any accuracy the amount of funding that is being spent in our province under the roadmap and how it is being used. Furthermore, uncertainty prevails with regard to the way in which funding that goes through the provincial government is used.

We believe it would be beneficial for the federal government and the minority language communities for a policy of complete transparency to be adopted with regard to the monitoring of funding under the roadmap. This would make federal government action much clearer for citizens by providing information on amounts actually spent in their communities rather than on significant national amounts that very often are unclear in people's minds.

With regard to the cultural sector and program funding, of all the fields on which the communities are working, the cultural sector is suffering terribly from a lack of funding, whereas it is a priority under our overall development plan. Since culture is essential to the preservation of our cultural identity, the need in such a small community as ours is proportionately more glaring. Although we have done everything to increase and diversify our network's revenues in recent years, we unfortunately see that it will be impossible for it to be financially self-sufficient if it has to rely solely on project funding. Consequently, we would like future roadmaps to provide for operating budgets for the cultural networks so that they can meet these challenges and provide our citizens with the service they are entitled to expect.

With regard to the multi-year nature of contribution agreements, we are delighted that multi-year contribution agreements are increasingly being signed, but that is not always the case. This is a factor in the instability and vulnerability of our organizations, particularly because it is difficult to retain our staff in these kinds of situations. We therefore hope that a three-year term becomes the general rule for all contribution agreements signed between the community organizations and the federal departments and that a commitment is made to ensure that the process for renewing those agreements is completed no later than three months before they expire.

As for early childhood development, Mr. Chair, we believe that it is fundamentally important that it remain an urgent priority of the future roadmap and that efforts be increased to reduce assimilation by promoting the retention of children in the French-language system.

In conclusion, in these times of budgetary restrictions, we note the disastrous effects that cutbacks to the already tight budgets of the community organizations would have, and we unreservedly recommend that the roadmap be renewed and improved, as that is essential to the vitality and dynamism of our communities and to Canada's bilingualism.

Mr. Chair, members, on behalf of all the francophones of Newfoundland and Labrador, we thank you for your attention.

I feel as though this is a race against the clock.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you.

Now we will hear from the representative of the Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities.

9:10 a.m.

Éric Forgues Researcher, Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities

Good morning. I am here today to talk to you about the importance of research for supporting the development of the official language minority communities.

As I represent a research institute, you will certainly not be surprised at that. However, we are not alone in seeing the importance of research. Actually, I asked myself if the research issue had been addressed by your committee. According to the minutes of the committee's public sessions that are available online, 20 community organizations, agencies and government departments mentioned research. I consulted the minutes of meetings 1 to 32. An update should be done.

Many organizations expressed the need for research and evidence to carry out their activities. The need is being felt at two important levels in the projects undertaken by government agencies: during the project design and planning and during the outcome assessment. The danger of a lack of research is developing public policies or community projects that do not maximize the resources invested. The risk of error is enhanced.

I quote two excerpts from testimony heard here:

As we don't have conclusive data, we're forced to go into the field to try to identify needs in a hit or miss manner.

That was a comment by Aurel Schofield, of the Société Santé en français.

Another excerpt reads as follows:

Without research, there's quite a bit of, I would say, playing around before you hit on a model that's going to make a difference.

That passage comes from the testimony of a representative of the Black Community Resource Centre.

The question I have for the government is this: does the government want to invest effectively in the communities or does it prefer to take a chance on investing in risky projects? In fact, the answer can be found in the mid-term report on the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality 2008-2013: Acting for the Future.

As the Government is confronted with challenging economic times, in the final year of the Roadmap, efforts will be made to maximize the use of public investments in the pursuit of the best possible results for Canadians.

The government and organizations are responsible for the amounts they invest in the communities. In order to ensure maximum impact within the communities, the government must anticipate dedicating a proportion of the investments to research, studies and the gathering of evidence.

We agree with the FANE that pleaded here for strengthening the capacity of its organizations and institutions, mainly with regard to research and evaluation. I quote its representative:

The language clauses in the transfer agreements currently do not enable the government to ensure that funding has been well spent in the planned manner, with benefits for francophone minority citizens. And yet this is taxpayers' money…. We currently have trouble determining certain aspects such as vitality indicators, and that makes work on the ground difficult.

If I were in the government's shoes, I would be concerned about these types of statements. It is getting ready to invest a significant amount of money in the communities. Every organization should anticipate dedicating a portion of its budget to research and evaluation in order to maximize its action.

We agree with the Alliance des femmes de la francophonie canadienne which recommended that each spokesgroup for minority communities receive funding in order to be able to work with minority life researchers so that an ongoing study is conducted on the impacts of investments.

At the Sommet des communautés francophones et acadiennes held in 2007, the organizations and the roughly 700 participants also recognized the importance of research for the development of francophone communities.

I acknowledge the efforts and resources dedicated by the government in the area of health research, but we will need to allocate equal resources in other sectors such as economic and social development, the development of human resources, core competencies and literacy, arts and culture and immigration. Many stakeholders see a connection between research and the vitality and development of OLMCs. In a study sponsored by the Commissioner of Official Languages, the authors reveal the following link. I am citing a passage from it:

Knowledge, research and evaluation pertaining to vitality seem to be essential to enhancing it.

However, it also depends on basic research and, with this in mind, the SSHRC and the CIHR must play an important role. In 2008, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages released a report on The Role of Canadian Federal Research Funding Agencies in the Promotion of Official Languages. After addressing the numerous barriers and challenges facing the OLMCs in the area of research, many recommendations were made, two of which I will mention here:

Establish a specific funding mechanism targeted at small bilingual and official language minority universities to help sustain research capacity at the professor and student levels, and provide adequate administrative support; ... Set aside stable funding for research on official languages issues and disseminate the results.

The CIHR, however, recently abandoned its research program for the OLMCs. The SSHRC also had a similar program in place that they also abandoned a few years ago. I think we should bring back these programs and that these federal agencies should be included as roadmap partners. In part, these programs were a way of addressing the barriers facing researchers in minority communities.

Moreover, I believe we should also recognize Statistics Canada as a roadmap partner. As pointed out by its representative sitting on your committee, Statistics Canada plays a role in the implementation of the roadmap by providing analyses and data that are essential to the work of departments and community organizations.

In conclusion, I would say that the federal government must recognize research as an important component of the vitality and the development of the OLMCs. We live in a knowledge-driven society. Knowledge plays an important and strategic role in the development of Canadian society. It plays a role that is equally important for the OLMCs.

The roadmap's research goals were timid. Research was mentioned, very briefly, for early childhood, immigration and language technologies. With regard to better research coordination, particularly between community, government and academic sectors, it was not a roadmap goal. Yet this issue was discussed at the symposiums organized by the federal government on official languages research that were held in 2008 and 2011. Furthermore, the previous roadmap has no mention of research carried out in other areas of activity and research that are just as important.

I believe more must be done with regard to research as part of an initiative aimed at developing the OLMCs. Bear in mind that research needs exist in every area of community activity. I expect that in the next roadmap, the government will recognize the importance of research and the importance of better harmonizing the three research hubs: the academic, community and government sectors.

Thank you.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you.

We have about an hour and 30 minutes left for questions and comments.

Mr. Godin, you have the floor.

9:15 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would like to join you in welcoming Mr. Benskin and Mr. Dionne Labelle, who are new members of this committee. I believe that they will bring in new ideas and may be able to help us change the way the government is behaving with regard to official languages and to advance the agenda in this area.

I would also like to welcome the witnesses who have come to meet with us this morning.

My first question will concern the roadmap. In 25 years, the Standing Committee on Official Languages had never had an opportunity to conduct a national tour. We finally made the request and managed to do that tour. However, the territories were the only ones not involved. We toured the territories before the 2011 election. We met the people. We took the time to talk to them for a few days so that we could start preparing a report to submit to Parliament. However, as you saw, the government decided it did not want it presented in Parliament.

Could you tell me how you feel about that? You are the only ones who have not been heard in Parliament. We also wanted to travel to Nunavut. Do you feel like second-class citizens? I would like to hear what you have to say on that subject. We are talking about the roadmap and about improving the conditions of the minorities in Canada. The government spent more than $100,000 to go and meet with the communities, but it's as though someone lit a cigarette with that money.