Mr. Chair, members of the committee, good morning.
My name is Michel Robillard, Vice-President of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, CanNor, and the agency's official languages champion. Today I am accompanied by Yves Robineau, head of finance. Patrick Borbey, the President of CanNor, would have liked to attend this meeting, but he is unfortunately out of town.
I would like to thank you for this invitation to appear before the Standing Committee on Official Languages to discuss the work CanNor is doing with the minority language communities in the territories.
CanNor was created in August 2009. It is the only federal department with a mandate exclusively for the north and headquarters located in the territories where it offers its services and programs.
The work of our agency is shaped by northern realities, and we are prepared to represent the interests of the north. Our headquarters are located in Iqaluit, and we have regional offices in Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, as well as a liaison office in Ottawa. The agency has a team of 72 dedicated employees. These individuals are committed to working with our many partners to respond to the unique needs and aspirations of northern residents and aboriginal people.
CanNor reports to Parliament through Mrs. Aglukkaq, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister of Health, and is led by our president, Mr. Patrick Borbey.
Our mandate is to promote regional economic development in the three territories by offering programs, forging investment partnerships and promoting the interests of northern residents and aboriginal peoples.
CanNor gives a strategic orientation to all federal economic development activities in the territories. The agency administers funding programs for northern residents and aboriginal peoples, offers project management services and advice through its Northern Project Management Office, represents the interests of the north, and encourages economic diversification and prosperity in the territories.
It also mobilizes the stakeholders by developing partnerships, and promotes the programs and services it offers to the communities. CanNor conducts research to support the development of fact-based policies that contribute to the development and diversification of the economy in the territories.
The agency's work helps expand each territory's economic base and gives people the opportunity to benefit from development possibilities and develop productive partnerships with various economic stakeholders. The agency contributes to creating a prosperous economic future for people living, working and supporting families in the territories, for the benefit of all Canadians.
CanNor administers a number of major programs, including the aboriginal economic development program, the northern adult basic education program, the economic development initiative, EDI, in support of the road map for official languages, and the agency's flagship program, strategic investments in northern economic development, SINED, which has four components: targeted investment programs, innovation and knowledge fund, partnership and advisory forums, and a pan-territorial fund.
The SINED program focuses on the consolidation of growing sectors in the territorial economies and economic diversification, and it encourages northern residents and aboriginal people to participate in their economy. The projects are based mainly on five-year territorial investment plans developed in accordance with the stakeholders' proposal and are then approved by the Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.
In terms of support for minority language communities in the three territories, CanNor became a designated institution under section 41 of the Official Languages Act in May 2010. This duty compels CanNor to support the social and economic development of official language minority communities.
Since its designation, the agency has been diligent in implementing an appropriate structure for its work, in order to support the minority language communities in the three territories. It has appointed an official languages champion, created an internal official languages committee, published its first report on results, and continues to develop its implementation plan. Allow me to emphasize two fundamental aspects in its efforts to support the francophone communities in the north.
First, we are always working closely with francophone associations and francophone economic development organizations in the three territories. This collaboration allows us to understand their specific needs. It also allows us to help them with capacity building, business development, and consequently community development through economic diversification, allowing them to capitalize on economic benefits, thus ensuring their sustainability. These activities are directly related to the agency mandate and are aligned with CanNor's program architecture activities. Moreover, these partnerships enable us to review and analyze the factors that are essential to strong and autonomous communities, for example, entrepreneurship deeply rooted among francophone business owners, which is conducive to economic growth for everyone's benefit.
This particular matter is very important to us, because we are among those who believe that building strong and autonomous francophone communities is difficult, and even impossible, without constant economic growth. CanNor has a role to play in this respect. It must, to the extent of its means, help northern residents and aboriginal peoples acquire the tools and resources they need to ensure economic growth in their region.
CanNor now acts as a liaison centre for the federal government's efforts to give northern residents and aboriginal peoples the means to build diversified and performing territorial economies that will bring them prosperity.
Second, this essential support involves research and selection of projects that will be funded mainly through two specific programs. The first program, strategic investments in northern economic development, or SINED, I have mentioned earlier, equally distributes a total of $90 million among the three territories over a period of five fiscal years for various projects which can affect official languages.
The second program, the Economic Development Initiative, EDI, with a budget of $400,000 over four fiscal years, is earmarked for projects that affect the official language minority communities.
That said, CanNor will not single-handedly identify, select, and carry out projects. Quite the contrary. I would like to state that our raison d'être is to have more northern residents and aboriginal people accorded a means to take action. That is where our francophone partners come in. Over the past two years, francophone groups from across the north have collaborated eagerly and enthusiastically with each other and with us to ensure that program funding is used in a sound and prudent manner.
In 2010, representatives of francophone groups from across the territory played a key role in preparing comprehensive investment plans that identify the projects to be funded through the SINED program.
The cornerstone of their partnership is Table 867, named after the area code of the three territories. Table 867 brings together the three main francophone groups in the territories. It provides them with an effective and open way to determine how to distribute federal government funding to the territories through the economic development initiative (EDI) and to exercise leverage on SINED program funding. This leverage creates more opportunities for francophones to take action and contribute to their growth and the success of the businesses they own and operate.
A portion of the funding allotted has been put to use in number of projects already approved in the three territories. More specifically, there are nine projects, for a total of $1.85 million. To name a few: the Carrefour Nunavut, $175,000 for the planning and development of a business incubator; the Conseil de développement économique des Territoires du Nord-Ouest, $453,000 for the development of a territorial strategy for francophone tourism; the Association Franco-Yukonnaise, $122,550 for francophone tourism capacity-building in the Yukon.
CanNor and its francophone community partners bring their talent, experience, and knowledge to the table to make a difference in the lives of francophones in northern Canada, bringing them opportunities for prosperity and self-fulfilment and a promising economic future. These are noble aspirations. With concerted efforts, we can achieve these goals together with the francophones, northern residents, aboriginal people, and our partners.
Mr. Chair, ladies and gentlemen, members of the committee, thank you again for this invitation to appear before the official languages parliamentary committee. I am now available to answer your questions. Thank you.