Thank you, Mr. Chair, honourable senators.
First, I want to thank you for having invited the FCFA to testify before you today.
The federation has existed since 1975. It is the national voice for French-language minority communities in nine provinces and three territories. In total, this means 2.7 million people who have chosen French, whether it was their first language or not.
Francophone and Acadian communities are present in all regions of the country and are increasingly diversified. For instance, 29% of the francophone population of British Columbia and 26% of the Alberta francophone population is attributable to immigration. In the Toronto region, more than 50% of young francophones of less than 18 belong to visible minorities.
Immigration is closely linked to the future of francophone and Acadian communities. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, in fact, includes in its objectives the development of official language minority communities.
In addition, the federal government has specific targets for francophone immigration. Among others, in 2018, 4% of economic immigrant men and women had to be francophones who would settle in our communities. That target was not reached. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada advised the FCFA last week that the percentage of francophone immigrants recruited for 2018 barely reached 1.8%. Unfortunately, this shortfall reoccurs every year. And yet, for two decades, our communities have been developing recruitment, settlement, inclusion and the retention of francophone immigrants. However, the tools the government uses to support us in that effort are not adequate.
This is where the link with the study your committee is currently doing resides. The FCFA is not appearing today as a settlement service. We are here to talk about the importance of French-language settlement services for our communities and for the newcomers who choose to settle in them.
Providing settlement services in francophone minority environments is not always the same as providing them to majority anglophone environments. The approach is completely different. Francophone settlement services aim to direct the immigrant toward French-language resources in the community. Their purpose is to ensure we retain the immigrant through the creation of links with the francophone community. This approach reflects the reality of the francophone community and the way it is organized, from the school to the francophone health centres and employment services.
The English-language or bilingual organizations cannot provide settlement services that are closely aligned with the reality of the francophone community. Very often, they do not even direct francophone immigrants toward francophone resources.
That is what happened for a very long time at Pearson Airport. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, in fact, resolved that particular issue by designating the Centre francophone de Toronto as the organization tasked with providing orientation services to francophone immigrants who arrive through Pearson Airport.
That is the type of specific measure we need to develop and strengthen settlement services created by and for francophone communities for the benefit of francophone immigrants.
Because our communities are fully aware of the fact that when they welcome a newcomer, they are welcoming an individual or a family who have chosen to uproot themselves in this major way, the well-being of the newcomers who choose our communities is always central to our concerns.
We recommend that your committee include the following measures in its report to the government.
First, there have to be calls for tender that are designed for francophone settlement services. In this way, our service providers will not have to compete with service providers to the majority, who often have more resources, but often know almost nothing about the minority realities.
Next, as I've just explained, often the francophone organizations that can provide French-language settlement services are small and have few resources. Consequently we recommend that the government prioritize strengthening the capacity of those organizations.
Third, IRCC has identified six types of settlement services provided to immigrants. In the minority francophone environment, we would need a seventh, that is to say a service that would help immigrants create sustainable links with the host community, which would allow them to develop feelings of belonging to that community, live in it in French, and in this way contribute to the growth and vitality of the francophonie.
Fourth, temporary workers and foreign students must also be allowed to benefit from settlement services.
Fifth, with respect to settlement services, I recommend that your committee underscore in its report the importance of a French perspective that takes into account the realities of the linguistic minority.
And finally, although this is not part of your committee's study, I'd like to mention that the government has undertaken to modernize the Official Languages Act. Last month, the FCFA submitted a complete draft bill in this regard. That proposal includes a government obligation to adopt immigration policies that support linguistic duality, which they do not at this time.