Good morning. My name is Cyrilda Poirier. I am the Interim Director General, La Fédération des francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador.
First and foremost. I would like to welcome to St. John's. Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Lemieux when I was in Ottawa with the Francophonie Team. Mr. Lemieux, I would like to thank you once again for your hospitality and attention.
We have a little time to tell you who we are, although my presentation will be ten minutes long. Nevertheless, I hope that by the end of the morning you will know exactly who we are and you will also have a better appreciation of our victories and challenges.
Before I get into the heart of the matter, I would like to state that I have been working at the Fédération des francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador for 20 years and that I have only been in the position of Interim Director General since April 1st. Unfortunately, because of the scarcity of Human Resources in our office, files are often dealt with on a reactive rather than a proactive manner. I have a better handle on some files more than others, since I have spent more time on some issues, and there are some files that I am not as familiar with. I feel somewhat like a sponge, because over the past few months, with every opportunity that I am afforded, such as my participation in the Équipe francophonie last week, I have had a chance to learn more. So I wanted you to know at the outset that I will not necessarily be able to answer all the questions that you put to me. If I feel that one of the colleagues who are sitting around the table may be able to give a more accurate answer, I will turn the floor over to that individual.
To begin with, allow me to give an idea of the size of this province and the challenges that this may represent. In order to travel to the Port-au-Port Peninsula by car, it takes eight hours; by plane, a little more than an hour. It is a three hour plane ride to travel to Labrador City, if you do not have to go through Goose Bay. In order to travel to the nearest province by car, and that will be Nova Scotia, it takes you ten hours on the highway and six hours on the ferry. That gives you an idea of the size of our province and the challenges that travels represent. Moreover, that explains to some extent why our volunteers were enable to travel here today in order to meet with you.
Our federation speaks for the provincial organization, which is composed of five members: the Association communautaire francophone de Saint-Jean, the Association francophone du Labrador, the Association régionale de la côte ouest, the Fédération des parents francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador and Franco-Jeunes de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador. The three associations have a regional mandate whereas the two federations, the Fédération des parents francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador and Franco-Jeunes de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador have a provincial mandate.
The francophone and Acadian population in the province represent 0.5 per cent of the population. There are approximately 1,500 people in the Port-au-Port Peninsula region and some 750 in Labrador City and about 750 in St. John's in the surrounding towns. These are not exact figures; they are only very rough figures.
It is often said that the Port-au-Port community is the community of “real” Franco-Terre-Neuviens. They are entitled to this because, historically, this community, as well as some others, was founded in the Peninsula in 1504. Moreover, in 2004 we celebrated 500 years of francophone existence in Newfoundland. In Labrador City, ever since the mine opened, during the 1950's, we have had a francophone presence which came, for the most part, from the Gaspé and Acadie region. In St. John's, the population is a little bit more diversified, composed mainly of Québécois, Acadians, people from Saint-Pierrais as well as from France. We also have a few immigrants from francophone countries.
If my memory serves me correctly, since 1997, we have been responsible for the management of our schools. In addition, we have two schools and community centres, one located in Grand'Terre, which was the first one; and the other here in St. John's. Moreover, I think that I understood that you will be visiting it this afternoon. We also have a school in Labrador City and one is Goose Bay. I know that we are working on a fifth school project in the southern part of Labrador.
The Fédération des francophones de Terre-Neuve is currently piloting two projects that I would qualify as structured projects, mainly the Réseau du développement économique et d'employabilité—the coordinator for this project Josée Dalton, will be providing you with a more detailed presentation—, and the project called the Réseau Santé en français de Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador. I will be discussing this project a little bit later on in my presentation. In addition to these two projects, the federation is currently working on a few one-off projects, including a cultural position project which we are hoping will be part of our structured projects in April.
For your information, by “structured projects”, I mean projects that are managed autonomously by our coordinators. In the case of the Réseau du développement économique et d'employabilité, this project is supported by a team of employees.
The Réseau Santé en français is mandated to implement the recommendations found in the report Setting the stage, which was tabled with the Santé en français organization last April. By the way, I did bring you some copies of this report. I should point out that because of our limited logistic and financial resources, we had to prepare and table this report in English.
Out of the 13 recommendations found in this report, six are about improving the delivery of primary health care services; the other seven recommendations pertained to the principles for the model of primary health care delivery in our francophone communities. Phase II of this sweeping project, namely primary health care and action, is the beginning of the implementation phase for the health care models. By March 31st, the network will be tabling, with the Santé en français organization, a clinical model that could be adapted to meet specific needs, depending on the community where such a clinic would be set up.
One word of caution. When I say the word “clinic”, I am not necessarily referring to bricks and mortar. Today a clinic might mean an existing health care centre with access to a videoconference unit or an adapted motorized vehicle.
A third project which we are hoping will come into being here by April 1st is one pertaining to culture. Although culture has always been a priory in our development plans or in our annual programs, we have not always had full-time human and financial resources assigned to this file in particular. Culture, since this was my file before becoming the interim director general, was done through financial administration and this part of the infamous sentence “performs other duties at the request of management.”
Phase I of the cultural position project sponsored by the Fédération culturelle canadienne française made us realize that we have a relatively diverse and vibrant cultural and artistic life. We have musicians, story tellers, painters, writers, poets, gallery curators, as well as guardians of our history and heritage. We want to give them a voice, we want to give them tools and, in particular, we want to promote them.
You are not only, in my humble opinion, in the most beautiful province of Canada, but you are also in the province with the richest and most diversified cultural and artistic life. We are anxious for phase two of the project so that we continue making progress.
Immigration is the next file which is starting to become important. We have already submitted two initiatives. One, which is exploratory in nature, has already been accepted and should be carried out this winter. The other initiative, which pertains to welcoming services, has also been accepted and will be put into effect during the next fiscal year. The exodus of young people and the shortage of skilled labour — we could even add the aging population — are becoming more and more of a problem in our region.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, and this applies to the whole population, it is difficult to recruit and retain people. So you can just imagine the challenges facing the francophone and Acadian population. We are therefore counting a great deal on these two projects being successful.
I realize that I have gone beyond the three to five minutes that I was given for my presentation. I apologize both to you and to my colleagues. However, I do believe that it was important to give you this guided tour of our province, our organization, our reality and, finally, our projects. Thank you.