Mr. Chair and members of the committee, my name is Justin Morrow. I come from Shedden, the rhubarb capital of Ontario.
In Shedden, we are taught to recognize those who help us in our lives. You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours, as the saying goes. I have always interpreted this expression in a broader sense. I have associated that way of life to both things and people. I could give you many concrete examples, but I wanted to say this because that is why I founded the Canadian Youth for French organization.
Five years ago, I could not speak a word of French. I was recruited to play football at Université Laval, in Quebec City. I was not a good student, I did not have a lot of self-confidence and I was constantly afraid of falling in depression. Learning French has completely changed my life.
In less than three years, I won two national football championships, I had the best marks I've ever had in school and my career took off. In addition, I had an incredible international experience and I developed so much self-confidence that I believe nothing is impossible. I owe all that to speaking French. I feel indebted to this language and I feel obliged to share my experience with other young people so that they can also benefit from learning French, just like I did.
You have called upon Canadian Youth for French to share our opinion with you regarding the road map for Canada’s linguistic duality, and it is my privilege and honour to be here representing both the organization and the demographic. Thank you very much for allowing me to be here.
A few points before I get started.
First, I want to apologize for not having any material for you. The week’s preparation that I had for this meeting, combined with the fact that we don’t have an executive staff right now, and I’m working full time toward my CA, didn't give me much time to concentrate on anything but this presentation to you now.
Second, I want to clarify that I don't have any expertise with regard to minority situations. I don't know the reality and don't feel comfortable speaking on their behalf. Ever since we began dealing with the official languages portfolio, we've strictly been involved with the promotion of linguistic duality. That being said, if there's one thing that I know about our official languages program, it's that a large majority of young Canadians want to be able to communicate in both of our official languages. This is a fact, and our experiences in the schools have proven that time and time again.
Keeping this fact in mind, I want to try to get you to dream a little, and think of a country in which the majority of all of those young people, who want to speak both the official languages, can speak the other official language. Would we even be here right now? How much better off would we be, if everyone spoke the other language? This ideal is unbelievable, and I dream about this every day before I go to bed, and I'm not kidding you.
Back to reality. The title of this meeting is “Evaluation of the Roadmap”. I can’t really fathom how you'd want to hear about our experience with the road map seeing that we've only received two small grants over the past three fiscal years.
So, if we were not invited here to talk about the past, we must be here to talk about introducing you to our present—where we're at, where we're going, and where we see this road map taking us. So I'll tell you a little about who we are now, and where we think we're going to go.
Canadian Youth for French is a youth-led, not-for-profit organization that exists to increase the number of bilingual Canadians, while inspiring a greater appreciation for French throughout English Canada.
We accomplish this mission through two main activities. The first is the CYF discover zone, which is an interactive, web-based tool that gives senior high school students a place to discover the post-secondary French as a second language learning opportunities that best suit their individual needs and interests. The second is our unique presentation model, which introduces students to some of the many benefits of speaking French via first-hand experiences told by our presentation staff.
The long-term vision of Canadian Youth for French is one of a country in which the majority that we speak of is no longer French or English, but rather officially bilingual. Again, I love thinking about that ideal; it's just too beautiful.
To realize this we've simplified it into a six-step process. The first four steps have been looked at for years, and they're tweaked as much as possible, almost to their full potential. Canadian Youth for French has come in to take care of the fifth step. We're looking toward our government for a little direction with the sixth step, and with your help we can achieve this.
It starts with informed parents who understand the competitive advantage their children will be able to have by speaking more than one language. Then we need to maximize the number of students who are enrolled in French immersion classes. Then we need to ensure that we have enough able-bodied and professional teachers to properly supply the demand for French in school, and then we need to maximize the number of students who take French all the way through to grade 12.
But even if we are successful in getting 100% of the students all the way through to grade 12, a little more work needs to be done. We still won't be able to achieve our goal if those students don't know where to go to use their French after high school. How are they going to incorporate French into their post-secondary lives? So CYF has arrived to fill this void. We communicate on the ground, we’re measurable, and we’re driven to realize our ideal.
Now take it a little further. Even if we are to be 100% successful in getting 100% of all young Canadians into post-secondary experiences in French, we still won’t be able to achieve our goal because of one fundamental problem. There is no recognized space for those of us who are bilingual to just be bilingual.
To give you a little more information about what I mean, I'm talking about English Canadians having their space in our society, French-Canadians having our space in society, but bilingual Canadians unfortunately have a quasi-space, and it's kind of here and there, but we would like it to be more prominent.
So to give you an example of what I'm talking about, if an English Canadian wants to watch TV he turns on his TV to CBC, or any other English TV station, with all the English content that they want. A French Canadian turns on the TV station Radio-Canada, or any other French TV station, with all the French content there that they want. A bilingual Canadian turns on the TV, and they must either suffer through dubbed voices or flip back and forth between CBC and Radio-Canada to get information and to hear something in the language of their choice.
Now if we go back to our ideal for a second, it would be pretty amazing to be able to watch TV for any of us who are bilingual and not have to deal with dubbed voices, and not have to flip back and forth between the two. It would also be pretty ideal for us to wake up and read the paper in the morning and be able to read an article in French, and an article in English. I know I'm speaking of an ideal, but if we're going to go towards something I think it should be an ideal.
The bottom line is this: if we are ever to come close to living in a country where two official languages live in harmonious bliss, we are going to need to create a space for somebody to be bilingual, a space that bridges the two solitudes and the first step to making this a reality will be through the next road map. So how should this road map be implemented? We have a few suggestions for you.
First, it was extremely difficult for me to get this organization off the ground. For me to be here today, there was a lot of sacrifice, blood, sweat, and tears that went into this. So I would suggest an innovative fund for young individuals to foster the growth of new ideas, to make it easier for us to come and bring forth our creative ways.
Second, we need to have a standard language proficiency test that is used throughout the country everywhere.
Third, successful project applications should have a strong communications marketing component. The general public should know that the money you'll be spending through this road map is an investment in their future and something we should take pride in.
Fourth, accountability and measurability should continue to be pillars of the road map, and we strongly believe there is a way to measure anything and we should be firm in setting that standard and not be afraid to set it high.
Fifth, there should be a preference towards projects that promote the collaboration between French Canadians and English Canadians who are trying to become more proficient in their second language.
Lastly, there is the creation of a bilingual space, one that doesn't take away from our two already existing English and French spaces—just a space where those who choose to communicate in both languages at the same time can do so.
Canadian Youth for French is the perfect example of a project to fund. Communication is at the core of our organization and of what we do. We spread the word directly to students. Our actions are measurable. Our client certification system enables us to see how many students have heard about our organization and to follow them until they become bilingual.
Furthermore, we are actively looking for opportunities for young people to learn French and to practice speaking in minority situations, without forcing them, of course.
When we launch our new website in the spring, you are also going to see the space we have created for people who want bilingual information. You are going to see the words “English”, “français” and what we call “Canadien” or “Canadian”, or “Canadiæn” with the “a” and “e” joined together. We can pronounce it like the word “Canadian”.
or Canadian. That's our way of doing that.
To conclude, let me remind you that our ideal is not unattainable.
Canadian youth wants to be bilingual. A Canada where the majority of people are bilingual by choice is possible; it is a beautiful ideal. All they need is their own space.
Thank you for your time and for inviting me.