Good morning. I am here today to talk to you about the importance of research for supporting the development of the official language minority communities.
As I represent a research institute, you will certainly not be surprised at that. However, we are not alone in seeing the importance of research. Actually, I asked myself if the research issue had been addressed by your committee. According to the minutes of the committee's public sessions that are available online, 20 community organizations, agencies and government departments mentioned research. I consulted the minutes of meetings 1 to 32. An update should be done.
Many organizations expressed the need for research and evidence to carry out their activities. The need is being felt at two important levels in the projects undertaken by government agencies: during the project design and planning and during the outcome assessment. The danger of a lack of research is developing public policies or community projects that do not maximize the resources invested. The risk of error is enhanced.
I quote two excerpts from testimony heard here:
As we don't have conclusive data, we're forced to go into the field to try to identify needs in a hit or miss manner.
That was a comment by Aurel Schofield, of the Société Santé en français.
Another excerpt reads as follows:
Without research, there's quite a bit of, I would say, playing around before you hit on a model that's going to make a difference.
That passage comes from the testimony of a representative of the Black Community Resource Centre.
The question I have for the government is this: does the government want to invest effectively in the communities or does it prefer to take a chance on investing in risky projects? In fact, the answer can be found in the mid-term report on the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality 2008-2013: Acting for the Future.
As the Government is confronted with challenging economic times, in the final year of the Roadmap, efforts will be made to maximize the use of public investments in the pursuit of the best possible results for Canadians.
The government and organizations are responsible for the amounts they invest in the communities. In order to ensure maximum impact within the communities, the government must anticipate dedicating a proportion of the investments to research, studies and the gathering of evidence.
We agree with the FANE that pleaded here for strengthening the capacity of its organizations and institutions, mainly with regard to research and evaluation. I quote its representative:
The language clauses in the transfer agreements currently do not enable the government to ensure that funding has been well spent in the planned manner, with benefits for francophone minority citizens. And yet this is taxpayers' money…. We currently have trouble determining certain aspects such as vitality indicators, and that makes work on the ground difficult.
If I were in the government's shoes, I would be concerned about these types of statements. It is getting ready to invest a significant amount of money in the communities. Every organization should anticipate dedicating a portion of its budget to research and evaluation in order to maximize its action.
We agree with the Alliance des femmes de la francophonie canadienne which recommended that each spokesgroup for minority communities receive funding in order to be able to work with minority life researchers so that an ongoing study is conducted on the impacts of investments.
At the Sommet des communautés francophones et acadiennes held in 2007, the organizations and the roughly 700 participants also recognized the importance of research for the development of francophone communities.
I acknowledge the efforts and resources dedicated by the government in the area of health research, but we will need to allocate equal resources in other sectors such as economic and social development, the development of human resources, core competencies and literacy, arts and culture and immigration. Many stakeholders see a connection between research and the vitality and development of OLMCs. In a study sponsored by the Commissioner of Official Languages, the authors reveal the following link. I am citing a passage from it:
Knowledge, research and evaluation pertaining to vitality seem to be essential to enhancing it.
However, it also depends on basic research and, with this in mind, the SSHRC and the CIHR must play an important role. In 2008, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages released a report on The Role of Canadian Federal Research Funding Agencies in the Promotion of Official Languages. After addressing the numerous barriers and challenges facing the OLMCs in the area of research, many recommendations were made, two of which I will mention here:
Establish a specific funding mechanism targeted at small bilingual and official language minority universities to help sustain research capacity at the professor and student levels, and provide adequate administrative support; ... Set aside stable funding for research on official languages issues and disseminate the results.
The CIHR, however, recently abandoned its research program for the OLMCs. The SSHRC also had a similar program in place that they also abandoned a few years ago. I think we should bring back these programs and that these federal agencies should be included as roadmap partners. In part, these programs were a way of addressing the barriers facing researchers in minority communities.
Moreover, I believe we should also recognize Statistics Canada as a roadmap partner. As pointed out by its representative sitting on your committee, Statistics Canada plays a role in the implementation of the roadmap by providing analyses and data that are essential to the work of departments and community organizations.
In conclusion, I would say that the federal government must recognize research as an important component of the vitality and the development of the OLMCs. We live in a knowledge-driven society. Knowledge plays an important and strategic role in the development of Canadian society. It plays a role that is equally important for the OLMCs.
The roadmap's research goals were timid. Research was mentioned, very briefly, for early childhood, immigration and language technologies. With regard to better research coordination, particularly between community, government and academic sectors, it was not a roadmap goal. Yet this issue was discussed at the symposiums organized by the federal government on official languages research that were held in 2008 and 2011. Furthermore, the previous roadmap has no mention of research carried out in other areas of activity and research that are just as important.
I believe more must be done with regard to research as part of an initiative aimed at developing the OLMCs. Bear in mind that research needs exist in every area of community activity. I expect that in the next roadmap, the government will recognize the importance of research and the importance of better harmonizing the three research hubs: the academic, community and government sectors.