Good morning, Mr. Chairman, committee members and partners here present.
First I will introduce myself. My name is Kenneth McRoberts, and I am principal of Glendon College in Toronto, but I am here today as chair of the board of the Association des universités de la francophonie canadienne.
It is a pleasure to be here with Jocelyne Lalonde, who has just taken up her duties as the association's director general. Some of you will recognize her as Ms. Lalonde has for a number of years directed brilliantly, and I believe I could also say very successfully, the Consortium national de formation en santé and will continue to do so while managing the secretariat of the Association des universités de la francophonie canadienne.
On behalf of the association's board of directors and myself, I want to thank you for the opportunity to talk to you today about the achievements of the Association des universités de la francophonie canadienne in the context of the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality 2008-2013. With your permission, I will take this opportunity to briefly introduce the association and its contribution to the influence of the Canadian francophonie. I will also share with you the association's programming and major projects that will give it momentum at the dawn of the next Roadmap.
Like Canada, the Association des universités de la francophonie canadienne is characterized by its diversity. It comprises 13 francophone or bilingual universities of all sizes, from east to west, although all are outside Quebec. Whether it be the University of Ottawa or the University of Hearst, all our members are the economic development, social and cultural drivers of their francophone minority communities. They make a major contribution to the influence of the French language in Canada and to the advancement of linguistic duality. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the unique character of our members. Established in regions where English predominates, they offer young talents from here and there a wonderful opportunity to pursue university studies in French, plus the chance to develop their English.
Although they are, first of all, key intellectual centres of postsecondary teaching in French outside Quebec, our universities also play a prominent role in the advancement of linguistic duality in Canada. It is this twofold role, this dichotomy, that distinguishes us from Quebec's francophone universities and makes us a unique brand. Moreover, your committee acknowledged this in its 2009 report on the role of postsecondary institutions in promoting Canada's linguistic duality. I will quote a passage from that report:[...] the vitality of French in Canada depends on the vitality of francophone communities, and francophone postsecondary institutions in a minority situation play a crucial supporting role in this regard. Their mission of serving minority francophone communities is strengthened by their ability to offer quality instruction in French to Anglophones, especially immersion program graduates.
Now I'll move on to today's topic, the evaluation of the Roadmap 2008-2013. I can only observe that the objectives of the current Roadmap and those of the Association des universités de la francophonie canadienne are similar, since they concern the participation of all Canadians in linguistic duality and support for official language minority communities. The current Roadmap's financial contribution to the influence of the association and its members has been modest, but I cannot say enough about the positive effect it has had.
The association received Roadmap funding for a project in 2009-2010 which enabled it to grant support bursaries for field research on minority francophones in Canada. Worth $7,500 each, the bursaries funded by Canadian Heritage have enabled eight students whose master's or doctoral theses concerned francophone minority communities to conduct research directly in those communities. The bursary recipients came from the Université de Moncton, the University of Ottawa and the Campus Saint-Jean of the University of Alberta, and their projects were in varied disciplines ranging from education to political science, sociology, history and literature. The association was pleased at the time with the high rate of participation in the competition and the diversity of applications received, which revealed a genuine interest by its member institutions not only in research on minority francophones, but also in research in general.
You will allow me to believe, as a good political scientist, that you are looking at the past in order to better prepare for the future. I would like to talk about the association's new momentum. The Roadmap has gone beyond the mid-term stage and the time has come to think about its future. Consequently, with your permission, I will speak to you briefly about the programming of the large projects that the Association des universités de la francophonie canadienne is considering at the dawn of the next Roadmap. Believe me, these new orientations have not been selected at random. The association and its members want to ensure they have every chance of achieving more success under the next Roadmap. Nothing will stop this new momentum. The association has contributed too much to the influence of the Canadian francophonie and to the promotion of linguistic duality to watch the game from the sidelines.
The association's programming is largely funded by Canadian Heritage outside the current Roadmap, that is to say under the Minority Language Education component of the Official Language Communities Development Program. Over the years, the association has also been able to rely on ad hoc funding by Canadian Heritage, for example for a research coordinator position from 2006 to 2009, the annual conferences of the Réseau de la recherche sur la francophonie canadienne, as part of the conferences of the Association francophone pour le savoir, the ACFAS, and the 2011 competition for young researchers on the Canadian francophonie.
In the coming months, the association's new management will attempt to step up its members' collaboration and commitment by revitalizing its programming. One of the central factors in this new programming will be promoting the association to raise its profile among Canadian and international students, francophone minority communities, government bodies and other outside stakeholders. The other major programming components will make it possible to establish partnerships conducive to increased distance training and synergies among researchers at the association's universities.
In view of your committee's mandate, I will now tell you about the association's three major projects, which concern respectively national student mobility, recruitment of the top secondary immersion school graduates and international education. These projects are still in their early design phase but have progressed in recent months to the point where they can be considered highly promising.
The first project, on national student mobility, will consist of student exchanges between association member universities and francophone universities in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick. Its main objective will be to promote Canadian identity and unity, but it will also promote second-language learning by Quebec students, the discovery of a new socio-cultural context and greater understanding of the francophone minority communities among all participants.
We have already submitted a funding application to the Quebec government's Canadian intergovernmental affairs secretariat to continue the conceptual phase of this project. It is therefore too early to discuss its parameters, but let's say that, at the outset, we are considering exchanges of one or two semesters for students in undergraduate, master's and doctoral programs.
The association's second innovative project involves offering awards for excellence to secondary immersion school graduates. It would be a Canada-wide program because there are immersion graduates all across Canada. It would be a modest, one-year project, granting only 50 $5,000 awards, but it would have a positive effect on linguistic duality in Canada.
In his 2009 report, Two Languages, a World of Opportunities: Second-Language Learning in Canada's Universities, the Commissioner of Official Languages clearly stated that the French-language or bilingual postsecondary institutions outside Quebec had great potential for offering young Canadians intensive second-language learning opportunities and that that potential should be exploited.
It goes without saying that the association's project would promote second-language learning and French immersion. Its purpose would be to promote secondary immersion schools, the anglophone communities where they are located and the francophone minority host communities. The result would be closer ties between those communities and greater recognition of linguistic duality by all Canadians. We have just submitted a funding application to Canadian Heritage to implement our immersion project starting in April 2012.
The third project is international in character and based on the essential role that the association and its members must play in the recruitment of international students and their intake and integration in the francophone minority communities. Given the demographic decline of the francophone community in Canada, it is Canada's francophone universities that will ensure the continued existence of those communities by welcoming students and researchers from around the world. In the wake of this project, the promotion of the Canadian francophonie and linguistic duality on the international stage will make Canada a preferred destination for studying, conducting research and taking up residence for educational purposes.
With regard to recruitment, we propose to add a "Canadian francophone universities" component to the current scholarship program of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in order to attract and support 100 international students and researchers for the duration of their studies. Annual funding of $15,000 per student would come in equal parts from the Government of Canada, the province concerned and the participating university.
While it is true that the activities of the Association des universités de la francophonie canadienne have been limited under the current Roadmap, they nevertheless suggest that there will be greater participation under the next Roadmap. The association is now gathering new momentum that will enable it to carry out major projects in the areas of national student mobility, immersion and international education. These projects are ambitious but essential to the impact of the Canadian francophone community, the vitality of the francophone minority communities and the strengthening of linguistic duality in Canada. They constitute the contribution of the association and its members to the promotion of a national identity that is the pride of Canadians and the object of admiration by the entire world.
Thank you for inviting us here today. We would be pleased to answer your questions.