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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

10:05 a.m.

A voice

Dashboard.

10:05 a.m.

President, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada

Marie-France Kenny

Thank you—a dashboard.

We know where the investments are coming from. Right now in the road map there are investments that are recurring. For example, the centre for leadership excellence, or something like it, involves Treasury Board salaries, which will be paid whether we have a road map or not. So these are recurring funds.

In my last conversation with Minister Moore, he said there were quite a bit of those in there. Those should not be part of the road map. These are investments the government will be making whether or not we have a road map. They will be paying the salaries of the Treasury Board Secretariat.

The other thing is that we don't know which programs are being funded. Health Canada, for example, might have had program Y. It no longer exists now as part of the road map, so is it a new investment? Is it something that we just took and put in the road map? We don't know.

Having this dashboard would tell us by departments, by year, what programs we are funding under the road map, because right now it's hard to make out where the money is coming from.

The other thing we think it should include is accountability on the part of the government and the community on where the money is going, what the progress indicators are on establishing goals and seeing how we meet those goals.

Mind you, with that comes the fact that we don't have at the base the capacity right now to do this work, so we need to build on the capacity of the associations that are already providing the services of the road map. So there are three—lots of recommendations for you.

It doesn't mean it wasn't successful. We just need to build on that success.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Conservative Palliser, SK

Thank you.

10:10 a.m.

Interim President, Quebec Community Groups Network

Noel Burke

Part of our ambition in establishing the six priorities that we mentioned earlier.... While first they seem vague, in fact they're intended to be door openers to allow for the notion of interdepartmental funding of communities, and to allow communities to express themselves in a holistic way. Rather than refining, or should I say confining, ourselves to sectoral compartments like health, education, and other areas, it's to see us in a larger perspective. That seems to have had a good response from administrators of government departments—that interest in functioning more interdepartmentally and looking at the support of communities in a more holistic way than targeted specific projects, although they still would continue to exist.

I think an acknowledgement of a framework that's more open-ended is beneficial. It provides a win-win scenario for both the communities and the funding agencies.

I don't know if Sylvia has anything to add.

10:10 a.m.

Director General, Quebec Community Groups Network

Sylvia Martin-Laforge

One last thing. While we're scoping out for the large priorities, there is still a need to scope back in to see if there are initiatives in one or two or other of the departments that the departments could take on, on behalf of the English-speaking community for a five-year stretch.

We feel that both on the Plan d'action that preceded the road map and in the road map, we haven't been able to come with certain departments to have incubator projects that could give us some inclination and some evidence around five years—what could be done in the next five years. We need incubator projects in the next road map, should there be one, to give us some specific information.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Thank you very much.

Mr. Benskin.

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Tyrone Benskin NDP Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to welcome all the representatives of these organizations.

I have to say—again, being the newbie—that I'm a bit concerned, a bit disturbed, at what I'm hearing. Canada is an English/French, French/English country. When I hear words like “equality” and “minority” within the French and the English communities here, I'm bothered. For me, a minority language in this country is Jamaican patois or Creole. Those are minority languages.

So for me, when we use terminology like that...and I think it's evidenced by the fact that we have to have something like the road map to support so-called minority languages across this country. For me, French is French is French.

I think one of the mistakes we're making is that we are looking at it in a linguistic context. Our visitors from the University of Ottawa are talking about how students are coming to learn a language, which is wonderful; it's great. I spent a year in South Africa, which has 11 official languages. Watching a newscast in Cape Town is a really exciting experience. But that's learning a language.

I think what we're talking about here—and I'm repeating myself from my previous meeting—is culture, with language being an extension of those cultures. That's what I believe the English community is fighting for—for lack of a better way of putting it—within Quebec. The French communities outside of Quebec are doing the same thing.

Mr. Trottier mentioned how we can get people to love the other language. I think the issue is taking the fear factor out. We have two groups here that are representing two supposedly minority languages, and what I'm reading is fear—fear about survival. The Acadians, who have always been members of Canada, are fighting for survival. The anglophone community in Quebec is fighting for survival.

I think we need to take it out of the context of simple language and really start dealing with the culture and the messages that are sent. When, for example—and I hate to put the partisan hat on, but I'm going to for 30 seconds—a unilingual Supreme Court judge or Auditor General is hired, it sends a message to that community that they're not important enough.

I'm going to stop, get off my soap box a bit, and ask each of you to respond to that, if you will, starting with our colleagues from Ottawa.

10:15 a.m.

Prof. Richard Clément

Thank you.

It's an important question indeed. As I said earlier, you can't learn a language without the cultural content. It's simply impossible. Down in the classroom, the language teacher has to use the cultural content to convey the language and also to maintain the students' motivation. I fundamentally agree with you that the cultural aspect is important.

But at the same time, what we have is a situation, particularly among minority language communities, where that cultural content may become eroded as a result of contact with the other group, and that requires measures—cultural measures, if you will—that will counterbalance that situation.

That has been the reality that all minority language communities have been facing for years and years, not in an antagonistic manner, but really in a protective manner. One would hope that as a result of protecting that culture in a minority situation, those people will be able to go towards the other culture in a more assured manner and have links—positive links, harmonious links—with the majority groups.

10:15 a.m.

Interim President, Quebec Community Groups Network

Noel Burke

I guess we always have to be aware. I'll speak from my experience in the education sector, particularly with immersion programming in Quebec. We always have to be aware of the unintended consequences. For example, heavy immersion programs in English schools in Quebec have rendered the English population functionally bilingual by the time they finish high school. That's something we're very proud of, and it's also a necessity if we want our children to live and work in Quebec. This is a reality.

The unintended consequences are that in heavy immersion programs, as my colleague mentioned, you can't divorce language from culture. Even though we cannot clearly define what English-speaking culture is, whatever it was is eroded because what comes with immersion teaching is the culture and the literary context. We have to be cautious about those unintended consequences.

I want to celebrate, though, your comments about culture being important. When we actually share and promote culture in both communities, we find that those perceived barriers don't really exist at all. For example, we had an anglophone group performing at the Jean Baptiste festivities in Montreal a couple of years ago. Some of the old frictions just didn't exist anymore.

I think what you are saying is that it is important to support culture, of which language is a part, even though it is not the principal element.

10:15 a.m.

President, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada

Marie-France Kenny

I agree with both of my colleagues.

What I would like to talk about is the question of fear. On the one hand, there is the fear of losing one's identity. That's why I talked a bit earlier about this dialogue we need to establish between all components of this society. Of course, I want to speak French and raise my kids in French, and I want everybody in this country to be bilingual. But I don't want to take away from my English neighbour. On the other hand, just because somebody in Quebec wants to speak English, some fear that we want to anglicize all of Quebec. I don't believe this is the case, but this fear is there. That's why we need to establish this dialogue.

I read blogs and letters to the editors complaining about francophones outside Quebec requesting to get their fine in French—and I don't because I don't get fines—or anglophones in Quebec getting something and people criticizing. This is not what linguistic duality is about. Linguistic duality is about me and my right. My English neighbour who doesn't speak a word of French, doesn't care about French, and doesn't want to learn French understands that I have this need to raise my kids in French, and he is a champion of linguistic duality, even though he will never learn the language. That's what we need to work on as a society.

With regard to culture, there's an interesting study that was done by Rodrigue Landry's institute. It's called “Petite enfance et autonomie culturelle”, and it talks about the three pillars of community.

She is talking about the institutional completeness and social proximity. This is a study on early childhood that addresses the importance of love for the language over just learning the language for educational purposes.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Okay, thank you.

Mr. Trottier, you have the floor.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Conservative Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My questions are for Ms. Kenny and Ms. Bossé.

In fact we have already met outside of this committee and you know that I am from a minority linguistic community. My family and I still live in a minority situation in the beautiful city of Toronto. I think that you could share your experiences with us.

My question concerns the priorities. Surely there will be another Roadmap. It is still possible that there might not be one, but I think that our minister has made a commitment in that regard and that based on all the witnesses who have appeared before this committee, it is working well. In other words, this long-term funding approach along with departmental coordination is generating positive results.

With regard to the next Roadmap, I know that it is always a difficult decision for the francophone communities outside Quebec, but if we had to pick between early childhood, education, arts and culture, economic development, health care services and seniors' services, should we, in your opinion, focus on one of these areas over the others?

10:20 a.m.

President, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada

Marie-France Kenny

I think that Mr. Burke said it earlier. We can certainly have priorities but we must not forget the rest. In my mind, true equality stems from all of these areas. Some priorities that are missing, namely young people, are extremely important.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Conservative Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Tell us about that, please.

10:20 a.m.

President, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada

Marie-France Kenny

Economic development—you talked about this—is extremely important. As is early childhood, obviously. There is also the whole issue of immigrant intake and settlement.

I live in Saskatchewan, but the same phenomenon is happening in Alberta. Many people are leaving one province and coming to mine because we are in the midst of an economic boom. Our job market is doing better than it is in some other provinces. There is the whole issue of immigrant intake and settlement. It is like having a plant and saying you are only going to feed one of the leaves. Obviously if you feed just one leaf the entire plant will die. We need to really look at the continuum of services from the start, or better yet, from before birth until death.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Conservative Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Ms. Bossé, do you have anything to add?

10:20 a.m.

Director General, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada

Suzanne Bossé

I would like to talk mainly about the continuum. No preschoolers will learn French in places where there is a language transfer, if the parents are unemployed or do not have access to cultural events or if their health is poor. We cannot break up the continuum in saying that, this year or for five years, we will make health care and economic development the priorities, but we will not invest in education or young people, for example.

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Conservative Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

What is your view of the coordination between the federal and provincial governments? Education falls under provincial jurisdiction, as does health care. Can the federal government intervene by implementing projects outside of what the province is already doing? Should we invest more money with or through the province? What is your view as a minority linguistic community?

10:25 a.m.

President, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada

Marie-France Kenny

I must tell you that this is very troubling. There are transfers for health, immigration or many other areas, but without any knowledge of what is set out in the provisions on language. When the government transfers funding, it also transfers responsibilities but it keeps some responsibility. It transfers a portion of its responsibilities and it must make sure that the provincial government uses those funds to meet its obligations under the act, but it remains accountable all the same.

In reading the minutes of the committee meetings, I have learned that some provincial departments are getting a cheque for francophone education and that they are spending it on other priorities that do not necessarily fall under francophone education. This is extremely troubling. At present, not only is the federal government failing to meet its obligations under the act, but the province is too. When it comes to the transfer payments, we must first ensure that there is a very clear linguistic clause. If money is given to a province for francophone immigration, that is what it must go to.

The federal government says that the situation with the provinces is not always easy. It is not easy either for a francophone community that has to fight to get a portion of the funding it should have gotten to be told that there are more Ukrainians than francophones in the province. I think it is unacceptable for the money to go elsewhere. I have nothing against Ukrainian, but it is not an official language like French.

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Thank you.

Mr. Dionne Labelle, you have the floor.

May 1st, 2012 / 10:25 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Dionne Labelle NDP Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Thank you.

I find Mr. Trottier's concern interesting, but the question he asked you is whether you prefer to be educated in French or receive medical care in English, or receive care in French and be educated in English. You answered that the vitality of a francophone community is expressed as a whole and in many dimensions. One of the important dimensions is demographics. Given our demographic difficulties, we need foreigners to come and be part of this community. That is why immigration issues are extremely important. They are in Quebec, where there are not enough babies to ensure our survival, and they are surely important to you as well.

You talked about immigration and the integration of people in francophone communities as a national priority. I would like you to tell us more about this. How important is this issue in the Roadmap?

10:25 a.m.

President, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada

Marie-France Kenny

Destination Canada is the only way we have of recruiting and promoting francophone and Acadian communities. Many people think Destination Canada is limited to Paris and Brussels, but that is not the case. It also allows employers, provinces and communities to go to Tunisia, for example, to recruit workers such as welders. I myself participated in the last edition of Destination Canada. It is our only means of promotion and recruitment.

Earlier, I talked about the competition from Quebec. It is healthy competition, but they have more resources than we do. Six or seven people from Quebec live in Paris permanently to do recruitment. When I arrive in Paris, I'm not told that I am Fransaskoise. People talk to me about Quebec, poutine, woven sashes and Céline Dion. That is the truth. When I tell them that I am Fransaskoise, they don't know what a Fransaskois is. It is the same thing for Alberta and the Northwest Territories. I have to fight a predominant presence to recruit people who will come to live in our communities.

Destination Canada works. I told you I was at the last edition. Over 1,500 jobs were offered in francophone and Acadian communities and we were recruiting on site. They say there were 100 from 2006 to 2008. I admit I find the numbers startling. I don't know why we talked about them, but those numbers are not realistic.

In our province, there is a very strong Moroccan community and many people come from the Ivory Coast. The number of people who have arrived over the past five years is probably much higher than 100. I talked about a percentage of 13% coming from immigration. It is one of the only tools we have and it has just been taken away from us, even though the government says there is a target. I interviewed Minister Kenney and he told me that the target remains the same, except that we no longer have the means to reach that target. It is therefore very difficult for us to reach it and that is why we are asking questions and trying to meet the minister.

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Dionne Labelle NDP Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Without immigration, will francophone communities outside Quebec survive?

10:30 a.m.

President, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada

Marie-France Kenny

No.

Many schools, just in eastern Ontario, would be closed today if it weren't for immigration.

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Dionne Labelle NDP Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Thank you.

Your suggestions are interesting. You talked about learning both official languages at no cost. Quebec's students would be pleased to hear that. You also talked about subcontracting. You said that the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute would become the government's reference for training its public servants, now that it no longer wants to train them internally.

I think your suggestion has some merit, if the government is planning to privatize English or French courses. I hope it won't be done using just any linguistic institutes, where the language learned is what's commonly spoken, whereas our public service needs to learn a much more specialized French. I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.