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Evidence of meeting #39 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 language.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Marie-France Kenny  President, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada
Noel Burke  Interim President, Quebec Community Groups Network
Sylvia Martin-Laforge  Director General, Quebec Community Groups Network
Richard Clément  Director and Associate Dean, Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute, University of Ottawa
Suzanne Bossé  Director General, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada
Hilaire Lemoine  Executive in Residence, Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute, University of Ottawa

10:30 a.m.

Director and Associate Dean, Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute, University of Ottawa

Richard Clément

We already play that role a bit, but we do it less for the public service for historic reasons. Our goal is not necessarily to corner the market, but to coordinate it. It is a function the institute has been fulfilling under other aspects for a few years now. We would just like to extend the institute's scope by using our skills towards that end.

You are absolutely correct. Public servants need a type of language skills that are adapted to their duties. The curriculum must allow them to increase their skills. I think institutes that are part of universities have the necessary knowledge to do that type of work.

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Okay, thank you.

Mr. Gourde, you have the floor.

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

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

My question is for the University of Ottawa's representative, given his studies.

I think awareness of linguistic duality in our country will improve from generation to generation. I come from a unilingual francophone family and I have a basic knowledge of English. However, I asked my children to take the time to learn English because it was important. I brought them movies in English, which allowed them to learn the language. They are now teenagers and young adults and they almost always watch movies in English just to perfect their knowledge of the language. One of my daughters is studying languages.

In the federal public service, we have the beginning of the second generation of public servants. They are no doubt better than those of the first generation were at their age. Of the first public servants, some were bilingual, but others had to learn a second language, whether it was French or English. The young people who start in the public service now are practically all bilingual. They are better than their predecessors were and I am convinced that their children will be even better. The new generation of Canadians does not perceive a confrontation between English and French because it is naturally bilingual. Some even learn a third language, as you said earlier, such as Spanish, Portuguese, German or Mandarin, given economic development.

There are economic advantages to speaking two, three or four languages. That could encourage more young Canadians to take the time to learn another language for their career or to travel, depending on their goals and what they want to do in life. It is a clear advantage to speak two languages in Canada and to stand out in the global economic community. Canada is a gateway to francophone communities, and English, which is the language of the global economy, is also spoken here.

Is the next generation of young Canadians aware of the advantage it has in having this linguistic duality?

10:35 a.m.

Director and Associate Dean, Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute, University of Ottawa

Richard Clément

You are asking me a question that would require research.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

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

If you could do it, that would be great.

10:35 a.m.

Director and Associate Dean, Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute, University of Ottawa

Richard Clément

I notice that more and more young people, certainly in university, are interested not only in English and French, but also in other languages. We have a globalization and modern languages program, for example, which is extremely popular.

I completely agree with you. I think the new generation sees beyond English and French. Now, how do we promote that? It might be necessary to create a national campaign that would present Canada as a world player that has tentacles everywhere.

There isn't any promotion of that type currently, but that could be a way of doing it. The reasons we could present would certainly be very pragmatic. Young people understand that pretty quickly, but we also need to present other reasons that will sustain their motivation. As I was saying, this motivation is more about culture or integration than pragmatism.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

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

Other organizations of course still defend minority francophone or anglophone communities, but almost all of your members are bilingual and their children are more naturally bilingual. Given this advantage they naturally have, how do they see the future of our country?

I understand that it is important, within a community, to defend minority francophones and vice versa, but they have an advantage. Are they aware of the advantage they have in their community and the fact that they can provide other advantages to their community and to each province?

10:35 a.m.

President, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada

Marie-France Kenny

In our communities, there is the whole issue of passing on the language. There are many families with exogamous unions, where one parent is anglophone and the other is francophone. It is very difficult. There are some myths, but I have to tell you that in a number of our communities, there are awareness campaigns that promote education in French for rights-holders.

We say that we want our children to speak English, but they will learn it on the fly from their environment. They won't need to learn it because it is spoken everywhere, at the bank, on the street, at the corner store. So education in French is important. There are awareness campaigns done provincially or locally to promote francophone schools for rights-holders, but also for immersion schools for non-rights-holders, that is anglophones.

We have already told the committee that it would be important, as was said, to have a national strategy to promote linguistic duality and to tell rights-holders across the country, in Quebec and outside it, that they have a right to education in French or in English in Quebec, that they have a right to education in the other language, in immersion or through different programs. It is important both for our youth and for young anglophones who want to learn French.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Thank you.

Ms. Michaud, you have the floor.

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I have questions for the representatives of the University of Ottawa. I found your presentation very interesting. It fits with some presentations we've heard over the past weeks that mentioned, of course, the importance of research.

One of those witnesses was Mr. Éric Forgues, of the Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities. He spoke among other things about the importance of creating a culture of research into official languages within the different levels of government.

Could you share with us your point of view on the ways the roadmap could contribute to creating that culture in a future edition?

10:35 a.m.

Director and Associate Dean, Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute, University of Ottawa

Richard Clément

My colleague will speak after me.

In general, we could certainly promote that type of research through activities like those we always do. There is the summer university for young researchers. Of course, it could include researchers who work for the federal government or provincial governments. A number of research companies would also be interested.

There are two reasons to do that. First of all, we have to bring them to the same place for a certain number of days or perhaps a few weeks to allow them to meet, exchange information and create a national network of language skills and research into languages in all aspects of linguistic duality, including learning and maintaining it. Then, we have to bring together the most competent people in the field, the top researchers, not only Canadians, but also people who would come from elsewhere in the world.

It's a start and that is how networks are created in other fields, like history or geography. People meet regularly by creating these types of links. Obviously, regular publication of academic journals that focus on these issues requires some financial support and infrastructure.

That is what comes to mind.

May 1st, 2012 / 10:40 a.m.

Hilaire Lemoine Executive in Residence, Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute, University of Ottawa

In the past, the federal government had much greater expertise in research and analysis within its offices. In the past five to eight years, the government has lost those skills. In my opinion, it should call on research institutes to acquire that expertise.

Furthermore, I will take this opportunity to come back to Mr. Gourde's question. It is true that there are more bilingual people than in the past. However, it does not make sense to me that after 40 years, Canada still has a rate of bilingualism of 18% or 19% among young people. It really does not make sense. I think we should have set a bilingualism target a long time ago. We cover that in our document. However, we should not just set a target, because there are consequences.

First, it must be done jointly with the people responsible for the education of the people concerned in the provinces. Then, there will also have to be a change of approach in our programs. Finally, we must make young people aware of the advantages of bilingualism. I haven't seen any such campaign for a number of years.

In my opinion, we shouldn't take for granted that there's more awareness of bilingualism or that the level of bilingualism is higher in Canada than it was 15 years ago. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

My next question is for the representatives of the FCFA.

During your presentation, you told us that the Roadmap had really focused on services to citizens, as we see in different levels of government, provincially as well as federally.

If I understood correctly, you haven't received additional funding to provide those services.

10:40 a.m.

President, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada

Marie-France Kenny

There was a very small amount of funding.

One thing must be remembered. When initiatives are added, whether it is the Roadmap or something else, we receive money for a specific project, for example hiring a person to lead the project, but in terms of the whole administrative aspect, there is very little strengthening of our capacities.

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Could you talk briefly about the additional constraints or obligations imposed on organizations by this focus on services to citizens?

10:40 a.m.

President, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada

Marie-France Kenny

We are called on more and more. Senator Comeau was discussing it with me this week. Organizations like the FANE, in Nova Scotia, are called on more and more by citizens who want services. We offer those services.

Organizations don't necessarily have more employees. They may have received a little funding so a person can coordinate a project. Nevertheless, we haven't had capacity strengthening for everything that is done in terms of services to citizens or administration.

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

We've just talked about research. Could you tell us what the importance of research would be in a future roadmap for your communities?

10:40 a.m.

Director General, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada

Suzanne Bossé

Research is essential and absolutely necessary. It is a major aspect. It is impossible for communities to define the progress, the advances or the challenges that remain if there is no research or evidence with which to work.

To give you an example, after the census Statistics Canada published the post-censal survey, which required funding. This document allowed us to emphasize certain aspects of development, whether it be in health, in early childhood or in other sectors.

I therefore think it would be very important for the next roadmap to include research. This was shown over the course of the research symposium organized last fall by the Official Languages Secretariat.

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Thank you, Ms. Bossé.

Thank you to all of our witnesses for appearing.

I would also like to thank Mr. Bélanger for his work on the committee. I wish him good luck.

Thank you very much for all the work you've done on this committee. I wish you well.

Without further ado, this meeting is adjourned.