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Evidence of meeting #34 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 education.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Yves Saint-Maurice  President, Association canadienne d'éducation de langue française
Paul Taillefer  President, Canadian Teachers' Federation
Richard Lacombe  Director General, Association canadienne d'éducation de langue française
Ronald Boudreau  Director, Services to Francophones, Canadian Teachers' Federation
Caroline Turnbull  Vice-President, Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers
Philippe LeDorze  President, Canadian Association of Immersion Teachers
Hilaire Lemoine  Treasurer, Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers
Chantal Bourbonnais  Director General, Canadian Association of Immersion Teachers

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Thank you, Mr. Boughen.

Go ahead, Mr. Menegakis.

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you to our witnesses for joining us today and for your presentations. I certainly found them very informative.

As you well know, we're studying the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality. It's an investment of more than $1 billion by our government and is of significant importance across the country from coast to coast to coast.

We're taking our time, meeting with groups such as yours. Certainly the study is taking a very long time because we want to hear from all stakeholders and gather all of the information so that we can present the best possible scenario in our report of what we think and of what you think should be in the next phase.

I heard earlier today from my good friend opposite, Mr. Bélanger, some comment about cutting the road map. Certainly, there's no such thing that the government has contemplated. We're waiting for the study to be completed and will be making our recommendations at the report stage as a team, if you will, in this committee.

I want to ask you a little about the road map.

We're studying it halfway—we're about 60% in. It started in 2008 and expires in 2013. As I said, we want to hear what you have to say, and I'd like to know what you would focus on in the next phase of the road map. A lot of good work has been done by your organizations so far. There's going to be a fair bit of funding in the road map, so I'd like to know from both of your organizations where you would phase in the next phase of the road map and what you would like to see.

Perhaps we can start with you, Madam Turnbull.

10:35 a.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers

Caroline Turnbull

Certainly. Thank you.

When we study and look at the road map possibilities, we would definitely hope to see that there is an accent on youth. The young people of Canada are citizens of Canada as well, and we would hope that all our young citizens and our young people in the provinces and territories would become competently bilingual citizens in the 21st century.

No longer is using languages held just within the borders and confines of our own country. Using two official languages worldwide is certainly a plus and a must in this day and age, so there should be focus on our youth—and not a youth that ends in grade 12: our youth actually stay quite young until they're probably in their late twenties.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

I fully agree with that.

10:35 a.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers

Caroline Turnbull

So we should be focusing on opportunities and conditions for our youth.

Again, there is education. Education doesn't stop on June 29 after you have received your grade 12 diploma, nor does it end on the day you graduate from university or community college or an institute for learning some kind of trade, so I would say that opportunities that go beyond K-12 or pre-kindergarten to grade 12 are essential.

The other essential thing is the promotion of the benefits of having two usable languages and the advantages that Canada has from already having two major linguistic groups whereby we can profit from one another, whether it's the English learning French or francophones learning English, and really capitalizing on the successes and the advantages we have compared with other countries worldwide.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you.

I was really encouraged to see in your presentation, and from what you said, that funding from the road map has allowed you to maintain and sometimes broaden second-language programs. That's what it's all about. It's a good-news story, and I'm happy to have heard that in your presentation, but I want to give Mr. LeDorze an opportunity.

10:35 a.m.

President, Canadian Association of Immersion Teachers

Philippe LeDorze

Thank you. I will speak to you in French, if that is okay with you.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

But of course. It's not a problem.

10:35 a.m.

President, Canadian Association of Immersion Teachers

Philippe LeDorze

I think it is really critical, as part of the roadmap, for us to promote languages and adopt relevant positions as often as possible. It is not only a matter of promoting languages philosophically, but also concretely, by providing the support required for advancement.

Having a sufficient number of skilled teachers is one of the major challenges in French as a second language and immersion studies. Students from French immersion programs are now being trained to eventually teach French immersion themselves. That meets the needs of small communities like Thompson. Young people who were enrolled in immersion programs end up returning to work in Thompson. At that stage, things are almost at the level required to maintain the status quo.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Okay.

10:35 a.m.

President, Canadian Association of Immersion Teachers

Philippe LeDorze

Investing in that is very important. Investing in culture is also important. That way, young people who learn a second language can know that doing so gives them access to all this beautiful culture.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Okay, thanks.

Mr. Godin, go ahead.

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Welcome, everyone. I apologize for being late. I had other commitments.

Ms. Turnbull, I understand you are from New Brunswick.

10:35 a.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

I think that we have met before.

Are you proud of what is happening in New Brunswick?

10:35 a.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers

Caroline Turnbull

Yes. There is always more to be done, but I find that our province and our school systems are putting more emphasis on teaching the second official language, given that our province is officially bilingual.

As examples, I could mention the intensive French program, which all young anglophones in the province now have access to starting in grade 5, and the pre-intensive program, which is offered in grade 4. We have been able to develop a program that produces results. The previous Core French program did not.

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

It didn't produce results?

10:40 a.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers

Caroline Turnbull

Core French…

March 29th, 2012 / 10:40 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Let me give you an example. My nieces have children. They are three years old and they can go from English to French. It is beautiful. They are young and they learn quickly. But New Brunswick, your province and mine, has decided to start immersion in grade 5 rather than in grade 1.

But all the experts, including the University of Ottawa professors who testified before this committee, have told us that it is not the right way to go. We are talking about the only officially bilingual province in Canada here. Maybe you will say that it is a political matter. But it isn't; it is a human matter and it is affecting New Brunswick. We know that learning is better at a young age and we are setting French aside until grade 5. Actually, I think they subsequently decided to start in grade 3.

Could you tell me your opinion?

10:40 a.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers

Caroline Turnbull

On the anglophone side, the immersion program is now available from grade 3. I am actually a teacher, but I have been working in the francophone section of the ministry of education for 12 years. My main responsibilities are for English as a second language for francophones.

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

I want to know if you think that the decision to start immersion in grade 5 was well thought out.

10:40 a.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers

Caroline Turnbull

It's not grade 5 any more.

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Grade 3, then.

10:40 a.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers

Caroline Turnbull

I think that the current government of New Brunswick is studying the matter and will make its views known in due course.

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

I know what the government of New Brunswick is doing; that is where I am from. I am asking you as a professional whether you feel it would be better to continue offering immersion from grade 1. That is what witnesses have told us. If we want to promote languages, the two official languages in Canada, if we want people to learn the other language, the present approach is perhaps not the best. Don't forget that, in New Brunswick, Canadian Parents for French demonstrated in front of the Legislative Building in Fredericton. Even parents were saying they did not want it.

Forget the government studies and, as a professional, tell me if starting immersion in grade 3 is a good thing.