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Evidence of meeting #15 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 communities.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Marie-France Kenny  President, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada
Ronald Robichaud  President, Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse
Jean Léger  Executive Director, Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse
Suzanne Bossé  Director General, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada

9:20 a.m.

President, Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Ronald Robichaud

I'd like to mention that community people, like me, in Nova Scotia, in Acadia, are prepared for the difficulties and are used to the challenges involved in working with our anglophone communities. However, we want better things for our children.

The Roadmap has made major success possible, in particular in the French-language schools of the CSAP, where there is a program, Grandir en français, for children four years of age. It's why our French-language schools have been a major success in the province. Children start school with a certain level of French. A lot of exogamous parents don't speak French at home. Their four-year-old children are entitled to one paid year in the program so they can start learning French before they begin school.

For example, my son's daughter is in the program, and her French is incredible. Every day, I realize just how much the children love the program. I'm convinced that success is possible in Acadia, in the francophone community, in our province, when we work together like that. It is the Roadmap that's really responsible for the success of that specific program. It's a major success for us.

9:20 a.m.

Executive Director, Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Jean Léger

Mr. Gourde, I would like to point out that research and innovation are fields where we need additional investment. Our communities often have community organizations whose funding makes it possible to do some awareness, collaboration and communication work, but I believe we have major challenges in the area of research and innovation.

We say we don't know how the departments should invest in the communities, but if we were better prepared and better equipped for research, we would be able to inform the departments of our results. We would be able to establish performance indicators in our communities and really monitor our progress. We currently have trouble determining certain aspects such as vitality indicators, and that makes work on the ground difficult.

The Roadmap could help fund not only the major researchers, but also action research in the field. That would enable us to do a better job and ensure that Canadian investment yields even more.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Léger, earlier you said that the francophone community was perhaps disadvantaged relative to the anglophone community in the area of education, in particular, and that that was causing problems. That part of your presentation troubled me. Could you give us more details on that matter?

9:20 a.m.

Executive Director, Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Jean Léger

All right. That mainly concerns illiteracy. As you know, the provincial Acadian school board, our homogenous school board, has only been in existence since 1996. Prior to that, people often attended mainly anglophone or bilingual institutions. We really didn't have the necessary infrastructure to teach them French. Consequently, a large percentage of people today are unable to function either in French or, in certain cases, in English.

It's extremely important for us to address that. Some of our Acadian and francophone communities are facing economic challenges. I believe that illiteracy is the root of that problem and that the next Roadmap could put the emphasis on remedial literacy in certain communities.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

In what specific age group are these people?

9:20 a.m.

Executive Director, Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Jean Léger

I would say this challenge essentially concerns the age group following the 25- to 30-year-olds. That's a very active group in our society. Younger people have studied in a slightly more appropriate school system and at university.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Would those people need a year or two of remedial work? How do you view the matter?

9:20 a.m.

Executive Director, Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Jean Léger

I'm not a literary or literacy specialist, but we're talking about family literacy here. We currently don't offer Acadians and francophones in our province an adequate program that would enable them to catch up. Training is often intended to enable people to finish high school, but as a result of various circumstances, literacy levels are too low even among people who have high school diplomas. Consequently, they have to be brought back up to an adequate level.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Thank you, Mr. Gourde.

Mr. Bélanger, go ahead, please.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Before asking questions, I would like to make a few points relating to statements you made this morning.

Since we returned to the House in September, there have been proceedings that sometimes trouble me. When motions are introduced in committee, we're asked to sit in camera. Consequently, the debates are held in camera, the decisions are made in camera, and only the decision is made public. So no one knows what goes on. The House Standing Orders prohibit us from speaking in public about debates held in camera.

However, the House Standing Orders do permit me to do what I'm doing right now. You've seen the agenda: the second part concerns motions. Some of my motions are outstanding. I'm going to bring two forward, when we come to that part. One of those motions dates back to September 22. I gave notice of that motion, I believe, in June. It concerns the report that the committee prepared at a prior session on immigration.

We did a very important job. Moreover, Mr. Léger, you contributed to some of the recommendations in that report. The committee tabled an almost unanimous report. I believe the Bloc Québécois dissented. I asked that the committee take up the report again without making any changes and table it again with a view to getting a response from the government.

That work was in fact only half done. We wanted to get answers from the government to enable us to continue. Since we've started the mid-term review of the Roadmap, the immigration question has constantly resurfaced.

So this morning, when we get to it, I am going to move that we adopt that motion, which read as follows: That the third report entitled Recruitment, Intake and Integration: What Future for Immigration to Official Language Minority Communities? of the Standing Committee on Official Languages in the third Session of the 40th Parliament be adopted again as a report of this Committee, that the Chair do present it to the House, and that, pursuant to Standing Order 109, the Committee request a comprehensive response from the government on the recommendations contained in that report.

The government will give any answers it wants, but that will enable us to take this up again.

The second concerns a motion for which I gave notice earlier this week, when people from Yukon testified before us. I want to thank the chairman for mentioning to me that I should perhaps delete a few words from it to make it acceptable. That motion reads as follows:That the Committee travel to Nunavut in winter 2012 to complete its tour of the territories begun in 2011 as part of the study undertaken in the 3rd Session of the 40th Parliament on the development of linguistic duality in the northern Canada, and table a follow-up report in the House of Commons before the summer recess in 2012.

These are motions that I intend to introduce later and that I naturally intend to support. If my NDP colleagues intend to support them, they may say so before we sit in camera because we may once again be asked to do so, something we cannot debate. It has happened in the past that members of the Conservative Party have voted in favour of proceeding in camera, while the members of the opposition parties disagreed. Since they are the majority, we have sat in camera and, as for the rest, we may not talk about it.

I'm taking advantage of the time allotted to me now to speak about this before we are asked to sit in camera if that is requested. With "ifs", you can put Paris in a bottle. I apologize to the interpreters because that's one more "if".

I also think it is important for our communities to know the intentions of their representatives here in committee. That is what I intend to do. If we had to sit in camera, I would not be able to talk about it, but since the Standing Orders of the House allow me to talk about that before the fact, I have done so this morning so that you know.

I had a third motion, but I will not be introducing it out of respect for one of my colleagues who is not here this morning. That was the motion requesting that the committee ask the headhunter, the individual who organized the competition for the Auditor General, to appear. On Tuesday, we heard the comments of one of our colleagues who said that he might perhaps support such a motion, but since he is not here, I will withhold it. I am going to wait until he is present.

How much time do I have left, Mr. Chairman?

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

You have two minutes left.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Thank you.

Ms. Bossé, earlier you said something that concerns me to a considerable degree: the Department of Human Resources told you that it was not responsible. That runs counter to the Official Languages Act. Section 25 of the act states that, where the government transfers responsibility to a third party, whether it be a province or other entity, it may not be released from its duty to do so.

Do you have any brief comments to make on that subject?

9:30 a.m.

Director General, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada

Suzanne Bossé

That's exactly what we were told. We put the question directly to the representative of the Department of Human Resources who was present, and we of course intend to contact the department on this matter.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Do you also intend to inform the Commissioner of Official Languages of it?

9:30 a.m.

Director General, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada

Suzanne Bossé

We will definitely send a certified copy of our letter to the Commissioner of Official Languages.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Thank you.

Ms. Kenny, in your address, which I will be carefully reading because it contains a lot of things, you said something that disturbs me. You said that, as a result of the Roadmap, certain departments were withdrawing their own programs intended for the communities. Do you have any evidence in support of that?

9:30 a.m.

President, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada

Marie-France Kenny

It's hard for us to prove it, as we said it, because there is a lack of clarity. In the random example of an employment assistance program for francophones offered by a department, we are unable to determine whether the money to maintain that program comes from the Roadmap or from investments already planned.

In addition, some funding provided for under the Roadmap is recurring and still reserved for the departments. For example, the Canada Public Service Agency, whose centre for excellence receives $17 million that is used to pay salaries and support activities that have been ongoing for some time now. I learned that fact from the department itself.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

I was going to suggest asking the new Auditor General to conduct a study on the matter. However, that might be a little difficult for him, and he would have to delegate it to someone else. That might nevertheless be something that could be done, to request an audit of accounts to separate expenses under the Roadmap from those under programs previously planned by the departments.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Thank you, Mr. Bélanger.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Mr. Lauzon.

November 24th, 2011 / 9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Thank you, and welcome to our guests. I would like to put my first questions to Mr. Robichaud.

Mr. Robichaud, you mentioned that there was a program in Nova Scotia enabling children to start learning French at a very early age. I believe you said at the age of four. Can you explain that program a little more? Is it a pilot program?

9:30 a.m.

President, Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Ronald Robichaud

I believe the project is managed by the francophone school board, the CSAP, and it's entitled Grandir en français. The project targets children four years of age, before they enter school, and it's like a—

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Are they anglophones?

9:30 a.m.

President, Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Ronald Robichaud

They are rights holders, individuals who have a right to start school in French. Francophone immigrants belong to those groups as well, like my granddaughter.

In our area, there are a lot of exogamous families whose members don't speak French at home. When their children start their first year at school, they don't have a certain level of French. So it's hard for them. This program, from what I understand, is funded by the Roadmap, and it is helping to improve the French, literacy and lives in French of the children, who then are much more successful when they start school. The CSAP people say the program is one of the things that has contributed to the success of our French-language schools in the province. The French-language schools in our province are enjoying greater success. Our numbers are up, more than those of the anglophones. It's a major success.