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Evidence of meeting #37 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 research.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Josianne Beaumont  Second Vice-President, Board of Directors, Fédération franco-ténoise
Claire Beaubien  Executive Director, Fédération franco-ténoise
Mylène Chartrand  Vice Chair, Board of Directors, Association des francophones du Nunavut
Mathieu René  Director, Board of Directors, Association des francophones du Nunavut
Jules Custodio  President, Fédération des francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador
Éric Forgues  Researcher, Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities
Léo-Paul Provencher  Past Executive Director, Fédération franco-ténoise
Gaël Corbineau  Director General, Fédération des francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

When talking about the roadmap, people always tell me that they don't know where the money is going, how it is being spent, the province—

9:25 a.m.

Director General, Fédération des francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador

Gaël Corbineau

In support of what Mr. Custodio, my president, said during his presentation, I would say that our major concern today is to ensure the renewal of the roadmap, which we believe is really a very promising and praiseworthy concept. However, we would like there to be some transparency to offset the current lack of clarity about the destination of that funding. Of the total amount of funding, we do not know exactly what is being spent in our province for our communities or for the advancement of official languages in Newfoundland and Labrador. This remains a major black mark, and I believe we are not the only ones who have said so.

There is one other point: what about the funding flowing through the provincial government? That goes into the provincial government's general fund and then we have no certainty that it is allocated to official languages development.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

All right, thank you.

Mr. Gourde, you have the floor.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thanks to the witnesses for being here this morning. You have all testified to the effect that it is important to extend the roadmap. Can you give me any specific examples of initiatives in your provinces or territories that the roadmap has made it possible to establish? Could the future roadmap improve or take your initiatives to a new stage? How could that be done? It's always easier to get an idea when we are given specific examples.

You may begin, Ms. Beaubien, or someone else.

9:25 a.m.

Past Executive Director, Fédération franco-ténoise

Léo-Paul Provencher

With your permission, I will comment on the question. I have lived in the Northwest Territories for a few years. Mr. Gourde, there has been one specific initiative since 2008, the establishment of a francophone college in the Northwest Territories, where there previously was none. A college has gradually been established through federal funding. That college is still in existence, but it has changed names. It has had some difficulty progressing as a result of a lack of support, but it is there; it has started up. That's very specific. It is a college that will very significantly benefit all the communities in the Northwest Territories, and the roadmap will guarantee its development.

There are some very promising partnerships being discussed, particularly regarding language training and a northern studies program. Knowledge of the north benefits all newcomers, all new citizens of the Northwest Territories. That represents a lot of people, since people do not stay in the Northwest Territories for a very long time.

That is a specific example, and I can offer several others, such as the development of our radio station and maintenance of our aquadome. More information on federal and territorial services is provided through our media. Policies on the dissemination of information and services to the community also result in greater participation by francophones in communities and services.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Thank you.

9:30 a.m.

Vice Chair, Board of Directors, Association des francophones du Nunavut

Mylène Chartrand

I am thinking of some projects in particular. There was the language forum in Nunavut in 2009, and activities related to the forum. That led to Nunavut's legislation on official languages, that is to say Inuktitut, English and French. That represents very good progress for us because it has resulted in the obligation to provide services in French. We have reached the implementation stage, which should begin soon. The legislation is not yet in place, but that is coming.

The language forum also made it possible to launch a very exciting event for the community, anglophone, Inuit and francophone. These kinds of events are very important for the vitality of the communities and the advancement and awareness of linguistic duality. People in the north are in transition, and the community has to be very vital so that it can make people aware of linguistic duality in the north and for French-language services to be offered. These kinds of events increase people's awareness and promote French. Nunavut's Official Languages Act is a factor that has been very beneficial.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

What do you think of that, Mr. Corbineau?

9:30 a.m.

Director General, Fédération des francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador

Gaël Corbineau

I have a specific example illustrating how the roadmap can be a very significant lever for our communities. Many of us have mentioned early childhood services. As a result of the time allocated for the presentation, we were unable to go into a great deal of detail. When our child care centres are full, we are able to keep our children in a French-language environment. That makes it possible to expand the range of French-language services prior to kindergarten and thus covers the school and preschool stages.

When the school in St. John's opened in 2005, there were 35 students. In September, there will be 150. In 2015, we already know that we will have more than 250 students. Our school enrolment is undergoing explosive growth of 15% to 20% a year, partly because early childhood services are rounding out the continuum from child care to pre-kindergarten. As a result, we are taking care of children in French until they start school.

That is why early childhood services are important. We have to keep them in our francophone system.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Are there any other comments on the second stage?

Was the initiative you just talked about put in place with assistance from the roadmap?

9:30 a.m.

Director General, Fédération des francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador

Gaël Corbineau

The roadmap provides partial funding for these early childhood services. Child care facilities such as the one in St. John's operate solely on revenue from parents. However, their introduction was supported by the Fédération des parents francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador, which is funded by the roadmap.

Today, junior kindergarten services make it possible for children to stay in contact with a francophone environment all week. They are still being assisted by the roadmap and that should continue.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Unless I'm mistaken, the roadmap has been a lever enabling these organizations and parent associations to put child care centres and early childhood services in place.

9:30 a.m.

Director General, Fédération des francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador

Gaël Corbineau

Exactly. There will be an enormous benefit later on, and it will be seen in future school enrolment.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Have you seen the same thing in the Territories?

9:30 a.m.

Past Executive Director, Fédération franco-ténoise

Léo-Paul Provencher

Absolutely.

In overall terms, the roadmap has enabled the 12 or 13 community organizations to create a more dynamic and more active living environment that is benefiting from certain services.

I can give you one performance measure. In 2003, when I was appointed executive director, francophones stayed in the Northwest Territories an average of two-and-a-half years. For 2011, when I left my position, the report states that they are now staying there for nearly five years.

I am convinced that this difference is attributable to our community. It is more active and has received greater support, in particular through the roadmap.

We can put a number on that difference. There are 1,200 francophones, even though, as we said earlier, more than that number speak French. Since the selection process in the Northwest Territories can cost $15,000, if we retain 100 or 200 francophones more per year, you can easily calculate the savings achieved. I have summarized that and calculated savings of $1 million a year. That is the result of a longer francophone retention period. We are retaining them for longer because we have a structure in which to develop a community life and a community partner life with our community and our government.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Thank you.

Mr. Bélanger now has the floor.

April 24th, 2012 / 9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen.

First, I would like to go back to the comment I made a few weeks ago. When four groups come and testify at a single meeting, that does them an injustice. We don't really have the time to explore the issues or to get a clearer understanding of them.

That is particularly true since the groups here this morning come from three separate language systems. Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Newfoundland and Labrador each have a different language system and specific legislation. The Official Languages Act applies in Newfoundland and Labrador. That legislation does not apply in the territories in the same way. So we really will not have the time to explore the subject this morning.

This is also the first time I have met people from Nunavut. Thank you for being here. I understand you are facing some constraints. We could meet with fewer people or stretch the time out more. In any case, if we extend our study, that will satisfy the government's desire for our committee to spin its wheels.

In short, this does not do justice to people, particularly since our research topic is—

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Mr. Bélanger—

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

I only have seven minutes, Mr. Chair.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

This won't encroach on your speaking time.

I want to say that committee members asked me to invite a lot of groups to testify before us. We only have a few meetings in which to hear all the witnesses.

There are going to be times when we're going to have four groups in front of us. If the committee wants to extend the meetings beyond the finish in early May, to the end of May, then I can invite two groups per meeting. But the reality is, you've asked me to invite a certain number of groups, I have a certain number of meetings, we've got to fit them in, and the clerk and I are doing our best—

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

But we had agreed to limit it to two.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

We did, if possible, but the problem is that we have to coordinate schedules. We have a certain number of meetings and I have to fit in all the witnesses. Some witnesses can't appear at certain times. I'm doing my best to try to limit it to three groups per panel, but in some cases we'll have four. The question becomes, do we have one hour with two witnesses and a second hour with two witnesses, or do we do one panel for two hours with four witnesses? The consensus of the committee is to do two hours with four witnesses, giving members of the committee plenty of time to ask questions, and all members of the committee will have a chance to ask questions.

The reason I'm elaborating on this is that this has been brought up a number of times, and my response has always been the same. If you want to reduce the number of groups on a particular panel from four down to three or two, you must give me direction as chair to add additional meetings to the study that would extend it well into May. If that's the wish of the committee, I will do so, but at this point I haven't been given that direction. At this point we have a limited number of meetings and a great number of witnesses we need to hear from. So I will do my best to restrict it to two or three witnesses per meeting, but in some cases we'll have four. I cannot help but do that because I'm restricted by what the committee has told me to do.

I hope that puts the issue to rest—

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

No.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

—and if it doesn't, then I suggest you move a motion to extend the study well into May. We'll put it to a vote in the committee, and if the committee adopts it, then we've addressed your problem.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

May I continue?