This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

Evidence of meeting #11 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 alberta.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Dolorèse Nolette  President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta
Paul Heppelle  President, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise
Denis Simard  Director General, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise
Denis Perreaux  Director General, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

in Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the 11th meeting of the Standing Committee on Official Languages on this Thursday, November 3, 2011. Pursuant to Standing Order 108, today we are conducting our study on the evaluation of the Roadmap, improving programs and service delivery.

We have with us Mr. Perreaux and Ms. Nolette, from the Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta, and Mr. Heppelle and Mr. Simard, from the Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise. Welcome, everyone.

We will begin with the Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta.

8:45 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

I have a point of order, Mr. Chairman.

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

A point of order from Monsieur Godin.

8:45 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

I don't want to monopolize time, but I believe this is an important point. At no time has the committee met to look at the witness list. We said we would choose witnesses on which everyone agreed, but things have to be planned. We don't know in advance who we are going to meet. I don't think that's acceptable either for the witnesses, who are notified at the last minute when they will appear. We should set aside a meeting to prepare this, to look at the witness list, to see what the government has presented, what we have presented, how we can put it all together and what the agenda will be.

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

I suggest we discuss that issue at 10:30 a.m., after our guests have testified.

8:45 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

No, we have to vote.

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Okay, but we have witnesses in front of us. I don't think--

8:45 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

No, no, I don't want to do it now. That's not my point. I said we have to look at doing that.

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

I agree. I'm suggesting we have a discussion about it at 10:30, or, alternatively, at another time.

8:45 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Maybe it should be at the next meeting.

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Without further ado, we'll begin with an opening statement from

the Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta.

8:45 a.m.

Dolorèse Nolette President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Gourde, committee members, good morning to you all.

On behalf of the ACFA and the francophone community of Alberta, I am pleased to accept the invitation of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages to share the views of the Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta as part of the committee's study on improving programs and service delivery under the Roadmap for Canada's linguistic duality.

In our presentation, we will briefly describe the ACFA, how linguistic duality has manifested itself in Alberta, our community's priorities and our assessment of the investments made in Alberta under the Roadmap, as well as considerations for improving the Roadmap.

Before continuing, I request your permission to submit a fuller brief at a later date. In the time we were allotted, we were able to prepare this address to introduce ourselves for the purpose of answering your questions, but a brief would provide a much more comprehensive picture.

The ACFA, which was founded in 1926 and has been governed by a statute of the Alberta legislative assembly since 1964, represents the interests and coordinates the overall development of the francophone community of Alberta. That same statute conferred authority on the ACFA enabling it to incorporate 13 regional agencies and two affiliated agencies across the province. In addition, last year, the ACFA placed 12 school and community coordinators in the remote and emerging francophone communities of the province.

In addition to those roles, the ACFA offers services directly to Albertans. For example, we operate a bilingual information centre, accessible by the Internet and by telephone, on more than 1,000 private and non-governmental services available in French in Alberta.

We manage the ACCENT directory, which promotes the extracurricular services available in French at the 34 French-language schools and 204 French immersion schools in Alberta.

We distribute information through various channels of communication on topics related to employment, immigration, the francophone community, community activities, language rights, Franco-Albertan history and more, attracting thousands of visitors, clicks, comments, tweets and retweets every month.

We also offer a range of training, awareness and group benefits services for employees in the francophone association community, as well as promotional and other activities.

The minority French-language population of the province of Alberta is the third largest in Canada. Today, 68,000 Albertans define themselves as francophones, but we estimate the number of persons who can speak, live and work in French in Alberta at more than 225,000. This means that twice as many Albertans choose French as there are people whose mother tongue is French. The future vitality of the francophone community therefore depends on a symbiosis between those who are francophone by birth and those who are francophone by choice, for the development, offer and uptake of French-language services in Alberta.

However, the Albertan francophone community is facing other challenges. Among other things, it has a demographic deficit of nearly 9,000 children. As a result, even though 2.2% of Alberta's population speak French as their first language, only 0.7% of children up to 4 years of age have French as their first language. The predominant factor is the low rate of language transfer in households where parents do not speak French. Of those children who have at least one francophone parent, 82% live in inter-linguistic households, and only 15% of those children will learn French.

The mobility of the francophone population is another important factor in Alberta. Between 2001 and 2006, more than half of Alberta's francophones moved; 31% came from elsewhere, including 16% from another province or territory; and 5% came from another country. Only British Columbia experienced similar mobility. That figure among the population of Albertan anglophones is 22%.

We therefore need innovative models, adapted to our situation, in order to meet the needs of these dispersed masses of francophones.

To seize the opportunities that are strategically important for francophone vitality in Alberta and to minimize the threats facing the French fact, the Albertan francophone community has adopted a long-term development strategy entitled Stratégie 2030.

That strategy is based on three major axes to ensure the vitality of the Albertan francophone community.

The first axis is cultural autonomy and identity development among francophones. For 80% of the community, the rate of language transmission is 15%. Consequently, how can the language and culture be transmitted to future generations. Hence the importance, among other things, of acknowledgement and advocacy of francophones' language rights, homogenous French-language education, cultural development, early childhood, family literacy and preservation and influence of francophone heritage.

The second axis is the settlement with dignity of francophone newcomers. Approximately 69% of our francophone population was not born in Alberta. How then do we ensure that francophones who come and settle in Alberta can grow and develop? Hence the importance, among other things, of intake and settlement services, employment services, the economic sector, occupational and technical training and recognition of credentials from other provinces and countries.

The third axis is promotion of the French language to the Alberta majority, to those who speak the language and to anglophones. More than 50% of Albertans support Canada's linguistic duality, and twice as many Albertans choose French as those who were born with French as their mother tongue. Consequently, how do we increase the prestige of the French language? Hence the importance, among other things, of French immersion in public schools and postsecondary institutions, communications, the promotion and development of bilingualism and linguistic duality as citizen values in Canada.

Like those of the Roadmap, the ACFA's objectives are to involve the population in linguistic duality and to support the community's development in a diverse range of key sectors for the development of the francophone community.

Here we have chosen to note two successes of the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality.

In Alberta, the initiatives funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada through the Roadmap have made it possible to support a francophone immigration development network linking community players in order to meet the needs of francophone immigrants in the community; projects to promote tolerance and combat discrimination experienced by francophones who have immigrated to Alberta; cultural awareness activities organized by francophone welcome centres in Alberta in order to bring communities closer together; and the creation of tools to facilitate the integration of French-speaking immigrants, such as the website www.destinationalberta.ca and the directory of services for francophone newcomers to Alberta. These are thus investments that directly affect the French-speaking citizens of Alberta.

In addition, in November 2009, the francophone community of Alberta learned that, through the Société Santé en français, Health Canada was investing $1 million of Roadmap investment money over three years. From the start, we knew where the funding was coming from, what amount had been allocated and what the timetable was.

At the invitation of the Réseau santé albertain, the community attended a round table meeting to determine needs and priorities. Three major community projects were selected and are currently being implemented. The officers responsible for the projects are being assisted in the process and must report on a regular basis.

The community is therefore responsible to the government. In our minds, this is a concrete example of a winning model in which a community and the government can work together to achieve their respective objectives.

To conclude, we would like to offer four recommendations.

First, we recommend that the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality be renewed. This federal government initiative has been and still is of capital importance for the vitality and linguistic duality of Alberta.

Second, if we want all Canadians to take part in linguistic duality, we must invest in its visibility and promotion. That will have the effect of reaching target clienteles and of ensuring that all Canadians sense a positive presence of both official languages.

Third, there must also be investment in the federal-provincial agreements. The Official Languages Act provides that the provincial jurisdictions must be respected. However, the provinces and municipalities are at the forefront in ensuring delivery of a number of direct programs and services to citizens. It is therefore imperative that there be a federal-provincial dialogue to ensure that Canadian citizens are well served in the official language of their choice and that programs and services be developed in both official languages.

Currently, $22 million has been allocated to this envelope at the national level. Of that amount, $650,000 is going to the Government of Alberta, which represents barely 3% of the agreement. This is utterly inadequate for the purpose of providing good service to Alberta's francophone population in the fields that are to be developed.

Lastly, if we sincerely want to support the official language minority communities and contribute to the development of direct programs and services for citizens, there must be a massive investment in the central point of the Roadmap, which is support for official-language minority communities. We have French-language schools, welcome and settlement centres, employment agencies and other services in French in Alberta because francophone community agencies detected the needs and subsequently mobilized the resources, raised awareness and marketed those services.

Consequently, we recommend that support for official-language minority communities, which currently represents only 2% of the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality, be increased.

Thank you.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Thank you, Ms. Nolette.

We'll now move on to the Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise.

8:55 a.m.

Paul Heppelle President, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise

Good morning, Mr. Chairman and committee members.

My name is Paul Heppelle, president of the Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise in Saskatchewan. I am here with our director general, Denis Simard. I will be sharing presentation duties with Mr. Simard as I am losing my voice.

The ACF is pleased to accept your invitation because it affords us the opportunity to express to you our community's views on the issue of the evaluation and potential extension of the Roadmap.

It must be said at the outset that the short advance notice for such an important presentation caught us a little off guard. However, we will do our best to provide you with a clear picture of the issues facing us with regard to linguistic duality.

It should also be noted that today's presentation was prepared in consultation with the member institutions and associations of our association network.

November 3rd, 2011 / 9 a.m.

Denis Simard Director General, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise

What then is the Roadmap's actual impact on Saskatchewan's francophone community? Our evaluation will be based on two major priorities: first, a plan for society the purpose of which is to build a strong, unified and innovative Saskatchewan francophone community that contributes to the fibre of Saskatchewan and Canadian society; and, second, a long-term strategic investment by the Government of Canada. That means funding that will ensure substantial multi-year support for a dynamic cultural-linguistic future for our community.

As regards the Canadian government's wish to balance its budget, how can we argue against virtue? It must be understood, however, that Saskatchewan's francophone community has been doing more than its share in this regard for over a decade.

9 a.m.

President, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise

Paul Heppelle

The current Roadmap targets five priority areas for action. In the area of emphasizing the value of linguistic duality among all Canadians, in 2003, Saskatchewan adopted a policy on French-language services. With Roadmap funding, the province is now funding the Direction des affaires francophones. That provincial unit is an essential link with the government and a privileged entryway into the provision of provincial services in French. This kind of initiative is central to the current Roadmap. These are investments that make it possible for French-speaking Saskatchewan citizens to live their everyday lives in French.

The area for action "Building the future by investing in youth" is also of capital importance for us. It is one of the major areas underpinning the continued existence and vitality of our community. These initiatives would require four actual investments.

The first is an additional investment in the Fransaskois school system for both the first and second language sectors.

9 a.m.

Director General, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise

Denis Simard

Second, funding must be provided for youth initiatives that will help equip young Fransaskois to become citizens who play leadership roles in our community.

Third, funding must be provided for access to French-language media, which includes Radio-Canada, and any other form of private or public broadcasting. Let's be clear on this: Radio-Canada's regional services enable the Fransaskois to see themselves, to see each other and to hear their own voice on the air, and to access programming that is of interest to them. Note as well that the community newspapers are the archives of our communities and an essential tool.

Fourth, we must invest in postsecondary education in French. The best way to build postsecondary education in French in a sustainable and effective manner in a minority setting is to encourage the province-wide creation of a highly francophone independent inter-institutional postsecondary sector that forms the continuation of French-language preschool and school education. The two levels of government must fund this kind of project on a joint basis, separate from the anglophone sector, in accordance with criteria adapted to the educational needs of the minority group.

9 a.m.

President, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise

Paul Heppelle

In the area for action "Improving access to services for official language minority communities", we note five areas.

In health, access to services in French goes beyond mere respect for the language of the individual. This is also a matter of personal safety, for both patient and health provider. The Fransaskois population is aging and renewing itself through immigration and inter-provincial migration, particularly by non-anglophones. In addition, our educational institutions are enabling young Fransaskois to be increasingly dominant in their mother tongue.

In justice, we must continue to increase the number and variety of legal services. Not only is the Fransaskois population getting used to justice in French, but the number of people employed in this sector in Saskatchewan has increased by nearly 40% since 2008.

In immigration, since 2008, the ACF has helped 360 persons and their families with immigration services, and we have supported an average of 85 immigrants a year. In addition to being highly involved in immigrant recruitment internationally and in eastern Canada, we launched the Réseau provincial en immigration in 2004. It allows for better coordination of activities, which enhances the effect of the actions of each of its members.

In early childhood, the current network consists of six educational centres, 12 pre-kindergartens, 10 play groups and three family and childhood support centres. Access to this network is possible mainly as a result of investments in kind and financial investments by our own community network, as Roadmap investments have not managed to meet our needs in this regard. For example, in 2010, 108 children were on the waiting list for child care services. One year later, 227 children are still awaiting services. To meet the specific needs of parents' groups, we recommend that the decision as to who will be responsible for the early childhood file and how that funding is disbursed be reached in consultation with the Commission nationale des parents francophones.

Sufficient funding must also be maintained for the arts, culture and heritage. This year, for example, the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Saskatchewan Arts Board established the Portail culturel fransaskois, a fund that provides direct support for Fransaskois artists through an investment of $690,000 over two years. However, it will also be necessary for the Roadmap to encourage national cultural agencies such as the National Film Board, the Canada Council for the Arts and Telefilm Canada to invest in Saskatchewan because it's also their turn to support our cultural institutions in our province.

9:05 a.m.

Director General, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise

Denis Simard

In the area for action "Capitalizing on economic benefits", Roadmap investments enabled the Conseil de la coopération de la Saskatchewan to take part in the Place de la Francophonie during the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games. This kind of contribution should be part of a future Roadmap because this showcase made it possible to introduce Canada's francophone economic agencies to the national and international public.

As for the area for action "Ensuring efficient governance to better serve Canadians", let's specifically address the issue of the collaboration agreements of the Department of Canadian Heritage. These are still the cornerstone of our community's development. These funds constitute the majority of funding available for the operation of our network. However, the overall funding provided by the department to Fransaskois agencies has not increased in real terms since 2000. This means that our purchasing power has definitely been eroded. Let's not forget that the Fransaskois community is in effect a community development agency acting, as it were, on behalf of the Government of Canada in respect of its constitutional linguistic obligations.

9:05 a.m.

President, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise

Paul Heppelle

In conclusion, we unreservedly recommend that the Roadmap for Canada's linguistic duality be renewed and improved, particularly on a multi-year basis. This Canadian government initiative has been and still is of capital importance to us. The Roadmap will guarantee that the Fransaskois community receives services in French from our two levels of government, socio-cultural activities to ensure ongoing and increased contact with our language, and the preservation of our heritage and programs in key sectors that will guarantee our development and vitality.

The enhancement of future contribution agreements is an essential condition for the Fransaskois community. Far from being an unreasonable solution in these times of budget austerity, such enhancement should be perceived instead as a strategic realignment of resources. Further reduction in federal investments in our agencies and institutions would leave them incapable of delivering the services Fransaskois citizens expect, services to which they are entitled and which are the political and financial responsibility of the Government of Canada.

Those are the essential points of our message to the Standing Committee on Official Languages. Note that the complete version of our brief will be forwarded to you as soon as possible. Ladies and gentlemen, committee members, on behalf of all Fransaskois and our francophile partners in Saskatchewan, we sincerely thank you for your attention.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Thank you very much.

We have an hour and a quarter for questions and comments. We'll begin with Mr. Godin.

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would like to welcome all the witnesses.

It's always a pleasure to see you again. We have seen each other on various occasions, such as during the trip to Alberta with the French. We visited Edmonton and Calgary and tried to see Fort McMurray, but I believe people didn't want to show us that place. There were such big clouds that we were unable to land. We really would have liked to go there; that was part of our mission to Alberta. I hope we can do that one day.

With regard to the Roadmap, your testimony makes me think that Alberta has taken advantage of the program. Am I right?

9:10 a.m.

President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

As regards the investments that have been made—you talked about education and health—I'd like to know whether your associations were consulted. Was the francophone community consulted? I'm not just talking about the government, but about the community as well.

9:10 a.m.

President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

Dolorèse Nolette

With regard to health, yes. We took part in the consultation and talked about pushing projects and setting priorities. In education, the consultation model was different, I believe, but we were consulted.