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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

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Thank you.

Mr. Dionne Labelle, you have the floor.

April 24th, 2012 / 10:20 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Dionne Labelle NDP Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Good morning, and thank you for being here.

This is the first time I have spoken in this committee. So I apologize to the other participants if my questions concern certain issues that have already been raised in the previous 36 meetings. Unlike Mr. Forgues, I haven't had the opportunity to read all the minutes.

I'm going back to two recommendations that were made to us. One comes from Mr. René and the other from Mr. Custodio. Mr. René talked about the consultation process in the evaluation of the roadmap, and Mr. Custodio about the opaque manner in which funding is monitored and the slowness of the process.

Do you believe the local communities had a sufficient role to play in implementing the roadmap and determining objectives? Is there something that could be improved in that area?

10:20 a.m.

Director, Board of Directors, Association des francophones du Nunavut

Mathieu René

I saw that we were consulted when two documents were produced: the report on northern francophone communities and another on the portrait of official language minorities in Canada, which provides a picture of our situation in remote regions. Now I am not familiar enough with the issue to know whether we were consulted on the definitions of the roadmap. As was said earlier, that requires a little more transparency and better communication. That 's all I can say on the subject.

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Dionne Labelle NDP Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Custodio, did you play a sufficient role in setting priorities for the allocation of funding and monitoring of that allocation?

10:25 a.m.

Director, Board of Directors, Association des francophones du Nunavut

Mathieu René

I have not been involved for a long time, but I do not believe so.

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Dionne Labelle NDP Rivière-du-Nord, QC

I'm going to hand over the floor to Mr. Custodio, who also addressed the topic.

10:25 a.m.

Jules Custadio

Under our collaboration agreements with Canadian Heritage, we have to submit a very specific accounting to say where the money goes. It's quite rigorous. When we receive money under the roadmap, we do not really know how much we are receiving. We do not know how much money is invested in the schools or school boards. We cannot determine how much money is invested or whether it really goes to the minority communities.

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Dionne Labelle NDP Rivière-du-Nord, QC

What do you suggest to improve that monitoring?

10:25 a.m.

Jules Custadio

We would like it to be done, but we cannot go and knock on that provincial government's door and tell it that's what we want. The federal government should put pressure on the provincial government and tell it that it is receiving money from transfers and that it must move in that direction. Is it doing that? That's what we would like to know. Since this is public money, we should have access to the information so that we can know where that money is being spent and whether it is being spent in the right place.

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Dionne Labelle NDP Rivière-du-Nord, QC

All right, thank you.

Now I'm speaking to the representatives of the Fédération franco-ténoise. The federal government wanted to transfer buildings. I believe that you were involved in that issue and that matters could be improved. Can you tell us about your experience in that issue?

10:25 a.m.

Past Executive Director, Fédération franco-ténoise

Léo-Paul Provencher

I'll try to take just three or four minutes.

This committee saw what you called the minuscule house in which our offices are located in Yellowknife. I believe it was Mr. Blaney, your predecessor, Mr. Chair, who called it a minuscule house.

We have said for years that we need community infrastructure, and that is acknowledged by Canadian Heritage, in particular. A recent experience made it possible for us to help improve one of the aspects of the system. One item of government infrastructure, the post office, was for sale. We offered to purchase it for $1.2 million and it was sold for $1.1 million. Our offer was conditional on the sale of our house. It was quite normal for us to set that condition as well as another condition, that funding be more or less guaranteed by Canadian Heritage. As we had added conditions and the other purchaser had made an unconditional offer, probably of $1.1 million, we did not get it.

I want to thank the Commissioner of Official Languages before this committee for analyzing what happened in that matter. His office recommended that the Treasury Board Secretariat examine the policy on the sale of surplus federal government buildings. Certain groups are given priority under a policy on the sale of surplus buildings. The Commissioner of Official Languages suggested that the Treasury Board introduce an element, not in a consultation mechanism such as that contained in the mid-term roadmap evaluation, but in a policy establishing that, when there is a priority need for the community, the Treasury Board could recognize that fact and instruct all departments to consider the community first.

That would be invaluable because other buildings will become vacant in Yellowknife and our problem has not yet been solved. We are still in a minuscule house.

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Thank you.

Mr. Gourde, you have the floor.

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

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

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My question is for the federations and associations. Earlier you said that francophones stayed in the territories for two and a half to five years. That's fine.

Have you put in place any initiatives to welcome new francophones arriving in the territories, in Newfoundland and Labrador or Nunavut? We know that these are often young workers who have specialized jobs in certain fields.

When francophones arrive, they are somewhat lost. We know that the francophone community isn't very big. It is also widely dispersed.

Do you welcome them through initiatives? What happens in the first six months? Can the measures included in the roadmap help in that respect?

10:30 a.m.

Past Executive Director, Fédération franco-ténoise

Léo-Paul Provencher

In fact, we have put reception mechanisms in place. Eight out of 10 people who live in the Northwest Territories come from somewhere else. There are a lot of migrants. There are immigrants and also migrants. So new people are constantly arriving.

The reception mechanisms are often associated with the fact that we are established. We advertise ourselves. We are on our radio stations, in our newspaper and in the community at large. We are at the chamber of commerce and at city hall for important meetings. We raise the flag in town during the Semaine de la francophonie. We have a certain vitality. That is one of the first signs of hospitality.

The other sign is arts and culture. Francophone artists come from time to time when the roadmap makes it possible, for example, to invite a singer, a theatre company, musicians and people who go into the schools to give talks on how to write books and so on. A number of fields in arts and culture can be involved in building a community where one senses that there are development resources.

10:30 a.m.

Executive Director, Fédération franco-ténoise

Claire Beaubien

More specifically, there is also housing assistance, assistance in obtaining documents, even if it's only social insurance cards or health insurance cards. I believe that was the gist of your question.

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

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

As you are also very much part of the economic vitality of the territories, we know that a lot of jobs will be available in future. Are you recruiting from the francophone communities in order to attract francophones to your regions?

10:30 a.m.

Executive Director, Fédération franco-ténoise

Claire Beaubien

I didn't hear the question.

10:30 a.m.

Past Executive Director, Fédération franco-ténoise

Léo-Paul Provencher

The question concerns recruitment.

In health, for example, we were at the University of Montreal a few months ago, together with representatives of the territorial government, to recruit francophone health professionals. We took part in recruitment campaigns with Destination Canada. I believe that was in Paris and Brussels. So we have something of an international presence and we go through the media to advertise the tourist attractions of the north, for example. That's one way of bringing in people. I'm not just talking about the community, but I'm really talking about the attractions of the north, for both anglophones and francophones. So we really play a role in attracting people to jobs in the north, so that people will live there for a while and experience the north.

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

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

From a business standpoint, is it possible for francophone entrepreneurs to break through in the Northwest Territories, or is it really more difficult as a result of the language barrier?

10:30 a.m.

Past Executive Director, Fédération franco-ténoise

Léo-Paul Provencher

The Northwest Territories are a world of incredible wealth. You no doubt know about the situation regarding the diamond mines. You are aware that there are oil and natural gas in the north. So there's an enormous amount of information circulating. The mines attract a lot of people. They are very highly paid employees. They are currently more concentrated in Alberta because mining is very active there, but there is also mining in the Northwest Territories and the economy has strengthened. It dipped in 2008-2009, but now it has recovered and there is a real economic attraction. Entrepreneurs have been visiting, as Ms. Beaubien could tell you.

10:30 a.m.

Executive Director, Fédération franco-ténoise

Claire Beaubien

That's precisely what I wanted to say. Very recently, 14 entrepreneurs came from Quebec.

10:30 a.m.

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

Gaël Corbineau

Sir, I will try to be brief because I know your time is limited. Earlier you talked about how to attract newcomers. I'm going to focus solely on newcomers from outside Canada.

There is currently something very paradoxical about the roadmap. Citizenship and Immigration Canada provides our organization with funding for a settlement program. That program does not enable us to help temporary residents. That's paradoxical because people are in greatest need when they get off an airplane. It's not when they have obtained permanent resident status after one year—if they have done that quickly— that they are in greatest need of our services, but when they get off the airplane.

Right off the bat, we are unable to provide that service when they most need it, but, in addition, that same federal department gives us funding to recruit outside the country. We talked about Destination Canada. For years now, this has been a job fair in Europe that operates very well and that is of enormous assistance to us in recruiting francophones for our communities who come with a job. We receive funding to recruit them, we recruit them, and once they have set foot on Canadian soil, we can no longer do anything for them; we are allowed to do that. We have to wait until they have a permanent visa, one year, a year and a half or two years later, before we can help them again, but they no longer need us at that point. If it's someone who is living with a family, we risk losing them. That person may turn to anglophone institutions or schools because it's easier to do so. That's someone who will not as readily become a part of our communities.

The roadmap has a role to play in helping us help francophone newcomers from the moment they get off the plane.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Thank you.

Mr. Godin, you have the floor.

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

I would like to talk about consultations. We're talking about the roadmap. After December, the government announced to us that this committee would be conducting consultations. We are going to try to clarify the consultations issue. This isn't our mandate, and we reject this.

Have your communities been consulted regarding the next roadmap? Did the government meet with you to determine what you would like to see in the roadmap, what is good and what is not? I would like to get answer from each of you. Were you consulted?

10:35 a.m.

Past Executive Director, Fédération franco-ténoise

Léo-Paul Provencher

Over the years, we have taken part in surveys of results achieved obviously with the help of the funding organizations.