Mr. Chair, members, good morning.
On behalf of the Fédération franco-ténoise and the Northwest Territories' francophone community, we are pleased to accept the invitation from the Standing Committee on Official Languages. My name is Josianne Beaumont, and I am the Second Vice-President of the board of directors. I am joined by Claire Beaubien, our Executive Director, and by Léo Paul Provencher, who was the FFT director for over seven years.
The FFT's mission is to promote, encourage and advocate for the NWT's French-Canadian cultural, political, economic, social and community life in order to enhance the vitality of the NWT's francophone communities. The FFT does this through representing, coordinating, promoting and supporting the development of these communities, together with its members and partners.
Our organization has been active in the NWT for 33 years, delivering a range of community services to a variety of client groups: French-language health services, youth, immigrant settlement, literacy and seniors' services. Our members are concentrated mostly in four local communities: Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River and Fort Smith. Apart from the weekly newspaper L'Aquilon and the community radio station, there are also four socio-cultural organizations.
According to the 2006 Census, over 3,720 residents, 9.1% of the population, across the NWT have the ability to speak French, and French was first official language of 2.6% of the NWT population. As for education, 230 students attend two French-language schools in Yellowknife and Hay River. There are also four French immersion programs with a combined enrolment of 350 students.
Since 2008, the FFT has had some major achievements, including creation of a post-secondary institution in Yellowknife, establishment of an immigrant settlement service, involvement in Destination Canada on two occasions and the release by the Réseau TNO Santé en français of a directory of human resources and institutions able to deliver French-language services. Our Jeunesse TNO service received an honourable mention from Canadian Heritage in recognition of the Multimedia Forum in 2009. These initiatives would not have been possible without the investments set out in the roadmap, and the outcomes provide ample evidence that the roadmap should be renewed.
In terms of community cooperation and consultation, we wish to underscore the efforts of certain federal agencies that take their obligations under part VII of the Official Languages Act seriously. Some members of your committee had the opportunity to visit our community last winter and learn about the difficulties we are facing in terms of community space. These problems remain unresolved, although we are pleased with what came out of our dealings with the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.
Looking at the investments under the current roadmap, we can see that a number of regional initiatives are included. We are disappointed to see that none of these initiatives pertain to the territories, despite the fact that our needs in terms of school and community infrastructure are just as pressing.
A recurring problem with living in the north is our highly mobile workforce. People who move here stay for less than five years; businesses and governments are barely able to fill all the positions available, and they spend a fortune on recruitment. This can be explained by a number of reasons, particularly early childhood services. In Yellowknife, child care costs $700 a month; in Inuvik, $850. This situation makes it difficult for young mothers to return to the workforce, thereby hampering economic development.
The previous example clearly illustrates the challenges caused by the high cost of living in the north. They are also reflected in the analysis of our results. In calculating the quantity of services delivered per dollar invested, we see that the territories are clearly far behind the provinces with large urban centres. Not only do we have low numbers in absolute terms, but also our costs in terms of salaries, housing, transportation and energy are vastly higher.
As a result, we believe that the principle of fairness and equal access needs to apply to the way northerners are treated when setting parameters for government programs and evaluating the results achieved. In recent weeks, the Government of the Northwest Territories and francophone community representatives finalized an implementation plan for French-language communications and services. This is an important and significant development in the history of the NWT's francophone community.