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Evidence of meeting #35 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

Charles Childs  President, English Language Arts Network Quebec
Guy Rodgers  Executive Director, English Language Arts Network Quebec
David D'Aoust  President, Quebec English School Boards Association
Michael Chiasson  Executive Committee Member, Quebec English School Boards Association
Gerald Cutting  President, Townshippers' Association
David Birnbaum  Executive Director, Quebec English School Boards Association
Ingrid Marini  Executive Director, Townshippers' Association

10:10 a.m.

President, Quebec English School Boards Association

David D'Aoust

Oh, it's 10%, $115 million.

That's a big whack of money to a service that serves both languages across this country. I wish it were different; I wish the government would change that. I know that in the final passing of the budget they may let up on some of those things.

That's just my message to you, Mr. Chair. I'm sorry.

When you listen to Radio-Canada's French programming, you realize that they provide high-quality, good programs. I have seen that our young artists are being showcased more and more. We have discovered that there is a whole pool of culture amongst francophones in Quebec that we were totally unaware of when I was young. It is wonderful to see that, it is exciting.

It shows that we have two solitudes coming together, because often you hear French and English in productions. I know the program is not on the air on CBC, but Belle et Bum is a fine example of bringing francophones and anglophones together. They're artists and they need to be discovered and enjoyed.

Don't let Radio-Canada go down.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Thank you very much.

Mr. Boughen.

April 3rd, 2012 / 10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Conservative Palliser, SK

Thank you, Chair, and let me take a minute to thank the panel for visiting with us today and sharing its expertise.

I look at our agenda. We have three groups this morning, and other mornings we've had other groups. I forget the total number of groups we've had, but we have had a lot. I'm wondering whether it's time to redesign the structures. Certainly in education there has been a redesign that has happened because of issues outside of the classroom, having to do with issues of disobedience in young people and behavioural problems—as the chair said, bringing in people with a background in psychology and working with special needs students.

When you look at the whole spectrum of the language question, English and French, it seems to me we have a whole lot of different compartments. These compartments build on one another, and sometimes there's some interface, but most times they seem to go their own ways. I'm wondering whether it's not time to redesign these.

For example, in a school there's nothing wrong with having the municipal government in that school; just design the building so that it happens. There's nothing wrong with a school offering adult education programs. You can do it; just design a room for adult education.

I guess I'm wondering, as we are examining the road map, whether it's not time for agencies to examine their own operations and either confirm that what they're doing is very good or is okay or ask whether it needs to be changed.

May I have your comments on that, Madame, and gentlemen?

10:15 a.m.

Executive Director, Townshippers' Association

Ingrid Marini

I believe many of the big victories we've had and the measurable positive results over the past few years go almost against that perception, because of the building of the networks, because of the application of the CLCs, which bring together multiple players from many different groups and give us the opportunity to exchange and interchange and discuss and view things from different points of view.

Those structures that are being developed are just starting to gain momentum with the past road map, and there's so much potential going forward. The more opportunities we have to consult and to cooperate, the more chance we will have to verify and bring forward the best practices so that we can evaluate which ways are the best ways to move forward. We don't always have to reinvent the wheel. We can build and learn from each other's experiences, and we'll only be able to do that if we work within these networks and discuss together, absolutely.

10:15 a.m.

Executive Committee Member, Quebec English School Boards Association

Michael Chiasson

Our CLCs are perfect examples of that. We have CLCs that have the health services in there and adult education and elementary education. We have engineers coming in to help our children with science and technology; we have musicians and artists coming in with our art students, competing in some of the competitions, whether provincial or regional. We have all these people who are coming together at these CLCs. They are so precious.

With the video conferencing equipment we have there, we can communicate with other regions. We often have resources that are absolutely precious to us that come in over video conferencing. When you see a student or someone saying “I finally got it, I finally understand”, and you go to that student's graduation at the end of the year, you feel like a million bucks. Those CLCs are bringing results that I never would have estimated back then, and I see it regularly now.

10:15 a.m.

President, English Language Arts Network Quebec

Charles Childs

I would also agree. I think what we've seen in our field is that without the community groups, without the people in the communities to share their experience and knowledge and share best practices among them.... For us to build on that is absolutely necessary.

It's about the partnership. You're absolutely right: we can't do it alone. We shouldn't be trying to do it alone, and I don't think we are. That's what we have learned, and I think the road map has definitely helped us move forward in that way.

10:15 a.m.

Executive Director, Quebec English School Boards Association

David Birnbaum

I understand the question to be going at economies of scale and efficiencies and so on. On that ground we would stand by everything we've told you so far.

Quebec school boards offer one example. They have a ratio of administrative costs to direct student services of about 6%. There's not a municipality in Quebec—and certainly not l'ensemble—that's anywhere near that rate of efficiency. There's not a government department that's near that rate of efficiency.

So we would reject any oblique suggestion, with respect, that there's a sort of tour de Babel of bureaucracies here that are getting in the way. We would tell you that the table you are setting to allow us to serve our official language minority communities is working. We're worried that some of the accountability measures that are there to make sure we're using the money efficiently might be compromised in the absence of a future road map, or, as we say, in contribution agreements rather than bilateral ententes, whereby you get the oversight you need and you protect our communities' involvement in how the money is spent.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Okay. Thank you very much.

I'm going to go to Madame Boutin-Sweet.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, to the witnesses.

First of all, I would like to make a comment. To quote Mr. Rodgers, I come from a strategic marriage.

10:15 a.m.

Executive Director, English Language Arts Network Quebec

Guy Rodgers

That is wonderful.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

My last name is Boutin-Sweet. Sweet is my husband's name.

10:15 a.m.

Executive Director, English Language Arts Network Quebec

Guy Rodgers

Vive la différence!

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

He is completely Sweet. I, however, am only half Sweet.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Ha, ha! Tell me about it!

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

My children attended several schools in your school board.

10:20 a.m.

Executive Committee Member, Quebec English School Boards Association

Michael Chiasson

That must have been a good choice.

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

It varied, sometimes yes, sometimes no. The alternative schools were good choices for my sons. The schools that did not necessarily enjoy the best reputations were some of the best schools. So we have to pay attention.

I am talking about approximately six different schools. Obviously, I am a francophone and my husband is an anglophone. I wanted my children to be as bilingual as possible. I fully agree with you, you need more funding for bilingualism. I do not feel that they were sufficiently bilingual after attending these schools. I am one of those parents who rattle the cage. I encourage the government to provide you with more funding so that you can make our children even more bilingual. That would have been useful, in the case of my two sons. I encourage you on that front.

My question is for Ms. Marini or Mr. Cutting. Mr. Cutting, you stated that you had helped 21 young adults acquire experience and become part of the labour force thanks to funding from Service Canada and a skills development program. That intrigues me. I would like to hear more information about that, please.

10:20 a.m.

President, Townshippers' Association

Gerald Cutting

Yes, go ahead.

10:20 a.m.

Executive Director, Townshippers' Association

Ingrid Marini

Luckily, in the Eastern Townships, we have a very good relationship with the officers responsible for applying part VII of the act, in order to ensure that minority language communities have access to these programs.

By working in collaboration with them over the last three years, we have gained access to two projects under Service Canada's Skills Link program. The program was set up to help anglophones get back into the job market by developing expertise and providing hands on job-related experience.

In our little region alone, the Sherbrooke region, we set up two theatre projects. We integrated the arts, which allowed us to help youth acquire artistic skills. In doing so, we provided them with an opportunity to learn new skills, which could help them do marketing, and to further develop their skills and allow them to explore their full potential.

Twenty-one youth came through our doors for this program, which comes from the roadmap. In fact it is a secondary program. Afterwards, the youth either returned to school or found a job. We stay in touch with them. This is just one example of the concrete way we use the funds, that is to say, directly to help the members of our community.

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Earlier, you mentioned that there was no more funding, but that there was greater need, since a large portion of the funding is used for administration, leaving less for services.

Is it through such programs that you manage to offer more services, or how do you go about offering services?

10:20 a.m.

Executive Director, Townshippers' Association

Ingrid Marini

It is funny that you would raise that point, since that program still exists, except it wasn't renewed last year. In fact, the administrative details for managing that program and the expectations of the department with respect to reporting are so atrocious that the bookkeeper who works in our office finds it difficult to follow and understand them. The requirements and responsibilities are so demanding that we have decided to take a break this year.

We are going to consult the community to find out whether this program is going to be the most useful for us, or whether we should think about other types of programs to help our young people. It has become so complicated to manage this program that we have decided to look elsewhere this year.

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Perhaps if the administration was funded separately, you would have more money left over for services.

10:20 a.m.

Executive Director, Townshippers' Association

Ingrid Marini

Absolutely.

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Apart from that, for the services in general, how do you manage, if it's not a particular program?

10:20 a.m.

Executive Director, Townshippers' Association

Ingrid Marini

Volunteers, volunteers! Without our volunteers, we would not be able to get anything done. We have some extraordinary people. Mr. Cutting is a good example. I think he must work between 20 and 25 hours a week on a volunteer basis to support the association, whether that means coming here this week, coming into the office, preparing reports, speaking with people at the municipal, provincial or federal levels.

Without these volunteers, we could not support any of our initiatives. We provide many services thanks to Information and Referral, the legal hotline, the Income Tax Clinic. Accountants come to our offices to provide training sessions on how to fill out tax statements.

Thanks to these volunteers, we can offer these services. It's not that we received increased funding; it's that our community has become increasingly mobilized. That is how people give back to the community.

We also have excellent relationships with schools in our region, and we benefit from the expertise of interns. In any given month of the year, there may be between one and four interns at the same time in our building. This is why we have been able to increase the services we offer.