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

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you.

Mr. Benskin, you have the floor.

April 24th, 2012 / 10:10 a.m.

NDP

Tyrone Benskin Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Thank you and welcome.

I am a new member to the committee and I'm going to make a brief comment in English because it's less elegant when I speak French.

There is something I'm picking up on and something I want to throw out there.

I am talking about what Mr. Forgues said.

It's on his request to do a study, and being asked why he needed to do a study, because French people are bilingual.

In general, we are not just talking about language.

There were certain comments made by a couple of groups about raising their children in a French milieu.

That's culture, whether it be in Quebec or outside Quebec.

It's a question of retaining that culture and all the things that surround the culture—the language being the central aspect.

I'm going to put it out there and say that we need to think about this less as simply a language issue but more as a cultural issue.

Today, 97% of people under 35 in Quebec's anglophone communities are perfectly bilingual.

There is still a desire to hang on to the Quebec anglophone culture within that community. I'm picking up the same sorts of desires from the north in particular—and I'm sure in Newfoundland as well—to not only develop and hold on to the language but to develop the culture, which I'm sure is unique to the north itself.

As this committee continues, this is something we need to hang on to. This is not simply a question of language; it is a question of culture.

A few of you talked about the community radio station and communications in the north. I come from the cultural world. If possible, I just want to extend the discussion to include the role of community radio.

I would also like to know whether the cuts to CBC/Radio-Canada are having an effect on your northern communities.

10:15 a.m.

Past Executive Director, Fédération franco-ténoise

Léo-Paul Provencher

Your question is very broad, sir. I agree with you on the correlation between language and culture. When you talk about one, you are talking about the other. The organization of a community and sharing the land are part of the same phenomenon.

When you associate the roadmap with the development of a culture in a given community where numbers are small, such as the north, that means that a community has the means to establish a development plan. For example, the roadmap made it possible to produce an overall development plan in the Northwest Territories from 2008 to 2010. That plan gave us tools to establish partnerships with the other communities living in the same territory as us. They of course gave us the means to develop as organizations, but also to develop francophone and bilingual businesses. We also developed ties with the other aspects of the community.

As for radio and the media, we could talk about that for a long time. For example, if we never hear a francophone voice when we turn the radio on in the morning, we don't feel at home. People who want to live in the Northwest Territories for a long time need to see themselves reflected on Radio-Canada, for example. They need to see their reality from time to time.

It has already been mentioned that the election in the Northwest Territories was overlooked three or four years ago. There was nothing about it on Radio-Canada. And yet a territorial government was elected in the Northwest Territories.

So the role of the media is essential for us to feel connected to the rest of our country.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

All right, thank you.

I'm sorry, Mr. Benskin, but you are out of time.

Mr. Williamson now has the floor.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

John Williamson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Before I begin, I have a kind of side point that follows on Mr. Bélanger's comments, I suppose.

I recognize there is a lot of pressure. I hope you won't break this up so that we have two sessions of an hour each. I find when you do that it doesn't give members of this side—and I expect with the official opposition it's the same—time to properly ask questions of an individual we might want to focus on.

I hope you will keep that in mind as you move forward.

Welcome and thank you for being here today.

I have a quite simple question: why are child care services and early childhood services important for you as representatives of minority francophone groups? I would really like to know why these programs are important for you.

I ask the question because there was an election six years ago and there were two ideas on the subject at that time. This may be a simple matter for you, but our government had a program. The former government had promised a program of 15 to 20 years, but it never implemented it because it was defeated. So I would like to know why it's important for you.

10:20 a.m.

Past Executive Director, Fédération franco-ténoise

Léo-Paul Provencher

I will make a brief comment, sir. The day care centres make it possible to fill the school and to attract families to the francophone school. Filling the school means retaining families for a longer period of time and guaranteeing greater stability in the community. That's the first factor, but I want to leave my colleagues time to respond because time is limited.

10:20 a.m.

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

Mylène Chartrand

I agree with Mr. Provencher. How long would people with children who have settled in our communities stay if it was impossible for their children to grow up and develop in French? They would not stay very long. So this gives families who settle in our territory access to health services for children, to day care and French-language school. This gives the community some stability, which is important. It creates a stronger community.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

John Williamson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

That's definitely the case for the day care centres, but why is it necessary for early childhood? That's the real question. In my opinion, language is something you learn at home. Why are early childhood programs important?

10:20 a.m.

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

Mylène Chartrand

They're important because there are a lot of exogamous unions in the north. When one partner speaks English, it is important for the child to have the tools to grow up and have an education in French.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

John Williamson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Thank you.

10:20 a.m.

Director General, Fédération des francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador

Gaël Corbineau

Personally, I believe that early childhood is really the foundation of our francophone communities. All of us here live in regions where the vast majority is anglophone. In spite of all our efforts, our children do not necessarily have a lot of opportunities to develop in French outside the school system. This is an important factor in giving them this foundation of their francophone culture and identity, which they will be able to retain later on. These young people start out in English from a very early age, English is not a problem for them, but it will be much more difficult for them to rise to the same level in French later on.

This is readily apparent in the French-language primary schools. It is very easy to determine which students have grown up in a francophone system. They already speak perfect French and, in many cases, English as well. Children who have not spent a lot of time in that kind of system have enormous problems. They are years behind from an educational standpoint, since they have a very poor, even non-existent base in French.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

John Williamson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

That's very good.

At what age do early childhood programs start?

10:20 a.m.

Director General, Fédération des francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador

Gaël Corbineau

Today, our services start at the age of two. Ideally they should start at birth. As a result of the way society is evolving, mothers want to resume their professional careers as soon as possible.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

John Williamson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

What is the role of the parents?

10:20 a.m.

Director General, Fédération des francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador

Gaël Corbineau

You're right; parents have a major role to play in education. They have to speak the language as much as possible, particularly when they live in a majority anglophone environment. They must not forget to speak the language. Our organizations are working on this kind of awareness.

In addition, as my neighbour mentioned earlier, there are a lot of exogamous couples. So English is always very much present, in the family, with the parents and the grandparents. English is really very much present.