Thank you, Mr. Godin.
I would like to start by expressing our moral and spiritual support to your colleague Daniel Petit, who is absent today, in light of the trying times he is currently going through. His daughter-in-law works with us and his son used to be a student at the campus. We share a certain emotional bond with him.
Yesterday, I received a call from my friend Jean Watters, who you met in Vancouver. He told me that you had asked many questions about the participation of francophones in the Olympic Games to be held in Vancouver. I am the President of the Canadian Foundation for Cross-Cultural Dialogue, which is responsible for ensuring francophone content at the Games. I would be pleased, together with our Director General, Guy Matte, to come meet with you in Ottawa and talk more specifically about the Olympic Games, if you wish. I would also like to indicate that the Governor General, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, is the honorary president of this foundation, which few people have heard about, but which is very active. This is sort of an invisible organization.
I will now talk to you as a Franco-Manitoban living in Alberta. I am very pleased to welcome you to one of the most dynamic francophone areas in Canada. You have heard from witnesses about the vitality of communities. In my view, vitality depends on a number of factors. Interesting and promising studies are currently being done in Acadia, particularly by Rodrigue Landry and his research centre. They deal with such issues as institutional completeness and its impact on vitality. Some of our researchers are taking part in those studies.
Furthermore, I think that service delivery models need to be re-examined. Who has not had the experience of going up to a counter at federal office where a sign indicates that services are in both English and French and being told by the person behind the sign that he or she did not speak French? That should warrant a jail term. That completely undermines all the efforts made by the Government of Canada. And yet, we see that happening every day. That is unacceptable.
With regard to the legal and regulatory framework, I think that there has been constant progress since 1969, with the latest provisions enacted under Bill S-3, I think. There has also been an evolution in thinking. I will get back to that later.
The thought patterning in society at large and in minority communities is the last but not the least factor. We become what we perceive ourselves to be, and that is especially true in the case of our minority groups. At the St-Jean Campus, to come back to the issue of institutional completeness, 650 students are receiving their education in French. You are perhaps not aware that the University of Alberta is one of the five largest universities in Canada. I believe it was ranked 37th in the world by Newsweek. It is a renowned institution. Our students, some 70% of whom are immersion program graduates, are native English speakers. Our challenge is to turn these students, who are linguistic bilinguals, into complete bilinguals within two or four years, depending on their programs of study. In other words, they are asked to acquire French and English as both individual and common languages.
The process is a long and difficult one, but we will achieve our ends in large part thanks to the support we receive from the Government of Canada through bilateral agreements.
Some people, including the husband of the former Governor General, advocated the idea of “sowing” French-language courses in all Canadian post-secondary institutions. That is very noble and advisable, but it should not be done at the expense of institutions that are equipped to lead students who are theoretically bilingual to become functional bilinguals. I am not sure that this has been thought out in the Department of Canadian Heritage, and elsewhere. I would like to point out that a community college is being established in Alberta. We are expecting to receive the authorization from the university and the province very shortly.
Finally, I would like to say a few words about Bill S-3. This is a wonderful bill, and I commend Parliament for having passed it. My wife, who is a public servant, told me however
that they get lectured at all the time about what it means, but nothing changes.
According to her, departments do not have strong enough accountability mechanisms to ensure that the bill's provisions can be turned into concrete measures, whether in the public service or society at large. Over 50 % of Albertans support official languages. Imagine: we are talking about approximately 59 % of Albertans.
So what are we waiting for to implement a vision and proclaim the importance of our linguistic duality, which I continue to call Canada's common languages? We have to promote linguistic duality as something that unites our country, one of the cornerstones on which today's Canadian citizenship and civic spirit have been established.
I could talk to you for days, but I will stop here.