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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

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Do you think it would be necessary to meet with communities if there were another Roadmap? That is fundamental, we must work with communities.

How can the government work with communities, whether we are talking about francophones outside Quebec, Acadians or anglophones within Quebec, if they have not been consulted?

9:25 a.m.

President, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada

Marie-France Kenny

Without a doubt, we must be consulted. Such consultation is essential so we can work together in order to align both government priorities and those of the communities and ensure that the next Roadmap meets their needs. Frankly, we are in the best position to do so since we are on the ground. In both cases, we deliver the services. It follows that we are aware of needs on the ground. In our opinion, it is essential that we be consulted. I am not talking about the FCFA, but rather the network.

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Ms. Martin-Laforge, what do you have to say?

9:25 a.m.

Director General, Quebec Community Groups Network

Sylvia Martin-Laforge

Our president asked me to answer this one.

I think a blended approach in consultation is important so that everyone understands they have been consulted. In the English-speaking community over the past many years, the connection of consultation to the road map has not always been understood. As my president said a few minutes ago, in the last year or so—and certainly with the priority-setting conference in March—in the community at large, individuals and organizations have understood better the need to work together to give a common understanding of what we want as a community. So I think the QCGN over the past years has done what it was supposed to do in getting community input on the road map.

I think the democratization of consultation needs to be continued. We have to see how we can get to the individual so those people can give input on what they need. As a result of March 24-25, we're starting to get to the level of the individual, as far as feeling that the Government of Canada has an impact with a program like the road map.

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Ms. Kenny, in your brief, you discuss the importance of immigration. What do you think of the closing of immigration offices, such as the one in Moncton for example?

We know that Quebec is heavily involved in immigration. It has several representatives on site, in various countries, where the rest of Canada is not represented. With all due respect, I believe that when Quebec works on immigration, it does so in the interests of Quebec. Quebec was handed a responsibility with respect to immigration. However, when offices are being closed in Moncton or Prince Edward Island, do you believe that goes against the interests of minority francophones? I mention francophones because they are the most affected.

For example, in Prince Edward Island, there are immigration problems. The office will close and there will not even be one in Moncton. People will have to deal with the Halifax office.

9:25 a.m.

President, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada

Marie-France Kenny

In fact, it is our understanding that the Halifax office will also close and that everything will be centralized in Montreal. That would mean services for Atlantic Canada would be offered out of Montreal. This is of great concern to us. An Atlantic group is studying the repercussions of that decision. We will be able to provide you with further information.

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

It is all very well to have a roadmap, but on the ground, we seem to be going in the opposite direction.

9:25 a.m.

President, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada

Marie-France Kenny

Precisely, and I want to tell you that we are very concerned by the fact that when Quebec does promotion and recruits francophones, in so doing, you will agree, it is competing with us. In our case, when I arrive in Paris to promote our province and I talk about Saskatchewan, not many people raise their hand and say they know about Saskatchewan, and there are even fewer who know how to pronounce our province's name. As for Quebec, they have seven permanent staff members in the Paris office. Obviously they are strong competitors and we do not feel well represented.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Thank you.

Mr. Gourde, please go ahead.

May 1st, 2012 / 9:25 a.m.

Conservative

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

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I would like to thank the witnesses for being here this morning.

I will continue in the same vein, thanks to Mr. Godin who asked some of my questions already.

Amongst the various initiatives that were implemented under the Roadmap and that you would like to see maintained, it seems to me there are two types of initiatives. There are initiatives that respond to temporary needs and may last two, three or four years, whereas others are more permanent in nature, such as educational initiatives. In fact, we know this is important because of students who change over the years. Certain initiatives must therefore continue.

What type of initiatives would be a priority for you? Would both types be a priority? Do you have concrete examples of new initiatives that should be longer-term and initiatives that deal with other specific problems? In the latter case, once those problems have been resolved, we could then move on to other initiatives. What is your view of all of this?

9:30 a.m.

President, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada

Marie-France Kenny

Actually, I said so in my presentation. We would not like to see current initiatives suddenly stop on March 31, 2013. There are certain initiatives, and consultation is important for them, which have a certain momentum and that we must pursue.

However, there are other priorities too. You know, things change over five years, and this is why it is important for all sectors. As you stated, a great deal has been invested in early childhood. If all this suddenly ended in 2013, all will have been for naught. We will not have the capacity to continue to fund these initiatives. Communities can certainly not do it on their own. We will have to drop certain activities and launch others. This is why these consultations are so important.

9:30 a.m.

Interim President, Quebec Community Groups Network

Noel Burke

I'll answer the question generally and then ask Sylvia to add some specific examples.

I think what we've achieved in the establishment of these six priorities allows us to provide a framework for sustainable projects over time that we hope would actually become self-sustainable, that are not dependent on government forever.

An example like access to services in English is an issue for rural Quebeckers as much as it is for residents of the Montreal area. That access is in different ways, so by providing those priorities and inviting community organizations and members who promote and propose projects, if they're in the context of these six priorities, we feel that has sustainability over time.

We see local initiatives and local organizations that are member organizations proposing projects that could be funded privately, publicly, provincially, or federally, but they may have short-term advantages. We're suggesting, and the community has agreed with us at our conference, that they must be in the context of these six, so that art and entertainment or art and culture projects are not just for the sake of the promotion of art, but also must, in some way, promote access to services, community development, economic prosperity, etc.

Perhaps Sylvia might have a specific example or two of the experience over the last road map.

9:30 a.m.

Director General, Quebec Community Groups Network

Sylvia Martin-Laforge

I think if I just leave you with the example of health and social services, the work that has been done in the area of health is paramount to everyone in our community. Will it ever end? Will there ever be a need to disengage from that? Some of the consultations with the province would tell us that while they are supportive of access to English for our community, there needs to be leverage, so leverage is always important to the English-speaking community.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

I believe Ms. Bossé would like to add something.

9:30 a.m.

Suzanne Bossé Director General, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would like to add that Mr. Gourde's question must also refer to true equality. In certain areas, I don't think we can say that francophone and Acadian communities have achieved equality. We're not there yet. More specifically, Mr. Godin mentioned immigration. The fact is, in the last budget, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration eliminated the financial support that allowed communities to go out and promote and recruit, which is certainly a major setback for us. In some areas, we have achieved various levels of development. At this time, we have certainly not reached the level of equality that would meet the government's priorities. We will certainly need continued support to move to the next level and truly reinforce all the successes of the last 10 or 20 years that allowed us to achieve the current Roadmap.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

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

Would you like the broader consultation by the department to take place in your province and within your organizations, or in Ottawa? What is your vision of this consultation?

9:35 a.m.

President, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada

Marie-France Kenny

For us what counts the most is that there is a consultation. Whether it take place on Skype, through videoconferencing, in person in Ottawa, or through a tour of communities, does not matter to us. We are prepared to sit down with Heritage Canada and request that the consultation be done in an effective and efficient manner. We agree that there is no need to spend millions of dollars on this consultation. We would rather spend millions of dollars for the next Roadmap rather than on a consultation. There are several ways to consult and we are prepared to sit down with the department and discuss the least costly and the most effective ways of going about it.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

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

Thank you.

9:35 a.m.

Director General, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada

Suzanne Bossé

There are, among others, the 43 organizations of the Leaders Forum that Heritage Canada, who is responsible for coordinating the Roadmap, could meet with over one or two days. That is an inexpensive possibility. More and more departments are having online consultations, which allow people within communities to make presentations and send briefs.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Okay. Merci.

Mr. Burke?

9:35 a.m.

Interim President, Quebec Community Groups Network

Noel Burke

I'd like to make a brief response, if I may.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

You may, just briefly.

9:35 a.m.

Interim President, Quebec Community Groups Network

Noel Burke

I neglected to mention earlier, as one of the members mentioned their inability to attend, that your chair, Mr. Chong, attended our consultations in March and was very welcome.

The community is attended to by elected officials of governments of any stripe and level as the first and most important step to help clarify misperceptions about the community. The English-speaking community in Quebec is a vibrant and vital community. Montreal is not a place of privilege in which the English-speaking community has access to everything.

You are more than welcome at any time.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Okay. Thank you.

Mr. Bélanger.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

First of all, I would like to tell you that this is my last session at the Standing Committee on Official Languages. Someone will soon be taking my place.

You know, I have now spent 17 years in Parliament. I have always been associated one way or another with the Standing Committee on Official Languages. One thing I always liked about this committee, was that when we got here, we set aside our partisan hats and worked together quite closely in order to help our communities. Over the last year, the atmosphere has completely changed. I now feel forced to keep my partisan hat on when arriving at the committee. This is most unpleasant.

Over the last year, we have been conducting this useless study of the Roadmap. In fact, we are doing Heritage Canada's job. They did not even have the courage to tell us that when we were starting. They waited until February when we had already done two-thirds of the work.

All this is to say that I had hoped to leave on a positive note and show you a short video. Unfortunately, that will not happen, but I shall certainly share it with my colleagues. I wanted you to see this video because it shows positive things that were accomplished under the Action Plan and the Roadmap. That video was filmed in March by about 40 interns at the Montfort Hospital. They came from across the country and were studying health at Ottawa University and the Cité collégiale. We do hope they will go home and help their communities. This is the product, the fruit if you will, of a few programs managed by the Department of Health and the Consortium national de formation en santé under the Roadmap. I am happy to share it with those who wish to see it.

On that note, Mr. Clément, I noted your recommendations. Thank you.

Mr. Burke, I will visit. I won't wait for the committee to go, because it's not likely to travel, with this attitude, but I certainly have and will continue to visit communities in the English communities in Quebec,

and francophone communities.

I would like to come back from time to time to replace the person who is taking my chair.

I would like to continue by expressing another of my major concerns, if you will permit. For that matter, Mr. Godin partly raised it.

By the way, Mr. Godin, according to my information, 19 offices will close across the country and the number of regions will drop from 5 to 3. The Quebec office will merge with the Maritime provinces' offices. The Ontario office will stay open, whereas the Prairies provinces and British Columbia's offices will merge. I heard that the Vancouver office may be moved to Calgary. We wonder why, but time will tell.

On the issue of immigration, I know that we have gone from 1,500 people to about 1,600 or 1,700 people per year in our communities.

Out of 200,000 immigrants or more per year, do you believe this number is sufficient, Ms. Kenny?