Good morning, Madam Chair, and members of the committee.
I would like to thank you for inviting us to appear today as part of your study on the media and local communities.
My name is Walter Duszara. I am the secretary of the board of directors of the Quebec Community Groups Network. With me today is Hugh Maynard, a past chairman of the QCGN and president of Qu’anglo Communications. Hugh has fulfilled many roles in English-speaking rural communities as a newspaper editor, CBC Radio freelancer, and consultant in community development for everything from community radio to multimedia community websites.
The QCGN is a not-for-profit representative organization that serves as a centre of evidence-based expertise and collective action. QCGN is focused on strategic issues affecting the development and vitality of Canada's English linguistic minority communities, which we collectively refer to as the English-speaking community of Quebec.
Our 48 members are also not-for-profit community groups. Most provide direct services to community members. Some work regionally, providing broad-based services. Others work across Quebec in specific sectors, such as health and arts and culture. Our members include the Quebec Community Newspapers Association, QCNA.
English-speaking Quebec is Canada's largest official language minority. A little more than one million Quebeckers specify English as their first official language spoken. Although 84% of our community lives within the Montreal census metropolitan area, more than 210,000 community members live in other regions of Quebec.
We have here a copy of our detailed brief and an annual report of QCGN. Unfortunately, we did not have time to have it translated, but copies are available to you, should you wish to have one. Our written submission goes into greater detail on the current media landscape and how dwindling media resources have impacted our community. This morning we will concentrate mainly on proposing possible remedies, or at least ways to limit the damage.
A vibrant, healthy, and diverse media serves to inform, encourage, embody, and advance public debate. It also provides a core indicator of the civic health of its community. Free-flowing, wide-ranging information and opinion enables and nourishes democracy. Local media that accurately reflect the community they serve is essential to help sustain democratic values and provide a framework for our communities to evolve.
These values are of even greater importance in situations characterized by minority linguistic and cultural status.
One of the roles of Canadian Heritage is embodied in its explicit commitment to enhance the vitality of official language minority communities. We would contend that an important and fundamental element of a commitment is to support and assist our development and would include ensuring access to information and news in the community's own language.
It is in this context that we are addressing you. Our challenge as English-speaking Quebeckers is to find ways to foster, support, and encourage quality media content that is local and relevant, even as news consumers now turn to digital sources in ever-greater numbers.
Coverage of issues with a unique impact on Quebec's English-speaking population, the kind of in-depth, day-to-day coverage that can realistically come from no other source than local or regional media, has been thinned out and is endangered.