Official Languages Committee on May 1st, 2012
A recording is available from Parliament.
On the agenda
- 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
The Chair Michael Chong
Welcome to the Standing Committee on Official Languages. Today is Tuesday, May 1, 2012, and this our 39th meeting. We are here today pursuant to Standing Order 108 for a study on the evaluation of the Roadmap: Improving Programs and Service Delivery.
Appearing before us today we have Ms. Bossé and Ms. Kenny, from the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, Mr. Burke, Ms. Martin-Laforge and Mr. Thompson from Quebec Community Groups Network, and finally, Mr. Clément and Mr. Lemoine from the University of Ottawa.
We will begin with the representatives from the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada.
Marie-France Kenny President, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada
Good morning. Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. First of all, I would like to thank you for inviting the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne to appear once again before you as part of your study on the Roadmap for Linguistic Duality.
My name is Marie-France Kenny and I am the president of the federation. Today, I am accompanied by our director general, Suzanne Bossé. We are privileged to be the last to appear of the francophone and Acadian community organizations that have appeared before you. This provides us with a wonderful opportunity to draw from everything that has been said to look towards the future and set the foundations for the next initiative, an initiative which, as Senator Comeau put it, is not a new roadmap but rather a GPS to update everything that will follow the roadmap as of 2013.
The participation of all Canadians in our linguistic duality and community support for official language minority communities are the two main pillars of the Roadmap for Linguistic Duality. Initiatives and projects that resulted from the roadmap were aimed at meeting these objectives. The community organizations that appeared before you described, in quite eloquent terms, the results that have been achieved. They have mentioned the challenges, but also the successes, the obstacles met along the way, and also the opportunities that have been found.
The mid-term report published by Canadian Heritage a few weeks ago also makes mention of certain successes and progress, but was somewhat laconic when it came to challenges. The testimony provided to this committee regarding the mid-term report shows us that, in looking towards the future, the two objectives of the roadmap remain quite relevant. We are therefore recommending that the government initiative, which will follow the roadmap starting in 2013, should also strive to ensure the participation of all Canadians in linguistic duality and support official language minority communities.
Let us now take a look at the substance of this next government initiative. Francophone and Acadian communities set development priorities in the Strategic Community Plan that resulted from the broad consultative process which took place during the Sommet des communautés francophones et acadienne in 2007. The community representatives who appeared before you are all members of the Leaders' Forum, a group of some 43 organizations and institutions involved in the implementation of this plan. Several of them have, moreover, talked to you about this issue.
Given the objectives that we have just recommended, it would be quite logical and natural that the initiative following the roadmap be aligned closely with this Strategic Community Plan. After all, the government and the communities are both seeking the same result: communities or individuals that have everything they need to be successful and to contribute to the development of our country. The Strategic Community Plan includes five major themes, three of which show the way with respect to the priorities that the post-roadmap initiative will be focusing on; mainly, our population, our space and our development. They too align closely with the priorities of the government.
When we talk about our population, we are talking about strengthening the demographic weight of our communities. We are talking about supporting youths and families so that they will be able to pass on the French language and strengthen their sense of identity through greater access to cultural and heritage activities and child development support programs. We are also talking about strategies to welcome, integrate and retain migrants and immigrants who settle in our regions so that they can be successful and contribute to the development of our communities and regions. Mention, moreover, should be made of roadmap investments that enabled the Department of Citizenship and Immigration to provide better support to our communities in reaching the Strategic Community Plan objectives to promote immigration within the francophone minority communities.
Such support should also be renewed and expanded so as to strengthen, as well, community capacity in this area. The initiative that follows the roadmap should also include the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade so that it can equip communities and embassies to engage in promotion activities abroad. The theme Our Space is about access of francophone citizens to a wide range of activities and services in French delivered effectively, enabling them to participate actively in the growth of their community. It is also about providing a continuum of services that deal with every aspect of daily life, from education to health, from justice to culture, from youths to seniors.
This theme also deals with empowerment, ensuring that citizens themselves become involved in the growth and economic and social well-being of their communities. This leads me to the important consideration of priorities that should be in the initiative following the roadmap.
The implementation of the roadmap was undertaken by a well-coordinated and committed network working on behalf of francophones. The roadmap emphasized services to citizens, but it was the organizations and institutions in the communities that delivered the services.
They did this without any significant strengthening of their capacity. However, it seems to us that the more you invest in the capacity of the service delivery agency, the greater yield you get from the investment in terms of effectiveness, results and client satisfaction. Hence it is important that the initiative following the roadmap focus on service delivery and on strengthening this network of associations and organizations which, from one end of the country to the next, focus on the citizen and are best able to provide services at the least cost.
Let us now examine the theme of development. Francophone and Acadian communities have given themselves the objective of dealing with the aging population and rural exodus, stimulating jobs and economic growth. They want to achieve this by relying on the vitality of their network, on both private and community entrepreneurship, on innovative local development strategies, on the strengthening of human capital, on the acquisition of those skills required to ensure that everyone is successful and on the recognition of foreign credentials.
It is essential, to do this, that the initiative following the roadmap include, in particular, investments in manpower training, either through the development of essential skills such as literacy or through post-secondary education. Supporting entrepreneurship and cultural and heritage tourism initiatives is also important.
I have provided you with a few brushstrokes to give you a general overview of the objectives of the Strategic Community Plan and what will become the next Roadmap for Linguistic Duality. Moreover, I would really like to emphasize the importance of making sure that the primary initiatives of the current roadmap not come to an end on March 31, 2013. These initiatives will create momentum that must not be halted at a time when the benefits are starting to be felt.
I would also like to say a few words about the participation of Canadians in this linguistic duality. In this respect, the current roadmap rolled out certain initiatives which included the implementation of Canada's language portal and universal access to the Termium software.
Although these initiatives are commendable, it is important that we make a distinction between the strengthening of linguistic duality in the public service and in Canadian society. Since the initiative that follows the roadmap will bring us to 2017 and the 150th anniversary of Canada, we would look favourably on any initiatives that would create opportunities for dialogue and exchange amongst Canadians, leading to a better understanding and interest in this linguistic duality.
To conclude, I would like to provide you with a few key concepts regarding the governance of the next Roadmap for Linguistic Duality. We feel that the success of this initiative will depend on the extent to which we define the roles and responsibilities of those called upon to implement it. I am referring here not only to federal institutions but also to provincial, territorial and community governments.
We need to create a management and accountability framework, and our communities need to participate in defining objectives, indicators and timelines. Moreover, community organizations and institutions will no doubt be called upon to play a lead role in implementing this new roadmap, as they were in the case of the current roadmap.
In planning services and in ensuring a positive outcome for such an initiative, it is essential that we all have a good idea of how it is to be implemented along the way. We are recommending that the next roadmap include a monitoring tool that will enable us to follow investments as they are made, by department, by year and by program.
To conclude, I would like to leave you with some more general thoughts. The Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, the Hon. James Moore, asked us, last fall, which story francophone and Acadian communities would like to tell in the next roadmap in 2017-2018, as part Canada's 150th anniversary celebrations. We would like to be able to say that the support of the federal government has enabled francophone and Acadian communities to make giant strides in achieving substantive equality, that we have stopped being looked at solely as minorities, but rather as fully-fledged citizens who, shored up by this substantive equality, contribute fully to development and economic prosperity, and that we are more confident than ever that our children and grandchildren will, after us, be able to continue building this country in both official languages.
And finally, we hope that more than ever before, Canadians will have had the opportunity to talk to each other, to understand each other, and to appreciate all of the richness of our linguistic duality.
I am ready to answer your questions.
The Chair Michael Chong
Thank you, Ms. Kenny.
We will now hear from the Quebec Community Groups Network.
Noel Burke Interim President, Quebec Community Groups Network
Good morning, Mr. Chong, Monsieur Godin, Monsieur Bélanger, and all members of the committee.
My name is Noel Burke. Currently, I'm the interim president of the Quebec Community Groups Network, QCGN. With me today is Sylvia Martin-Laforge, who will share some of our remarks, and Stephen Thompson, our policy point man, if I can put it that way.
You are aware that the QCGN is a member-driven organization whose 38 members work to directly benefit the nearly one million Canadians who live in our English-speaking linguistic minority communities, collectively referred to as the English-speaking community of Quebec. The QCGN in its capacity as the community's strategic representative with government has coordinated closely with the organizations and institutions serving our community that have provided this committee with evidence in support of your study on evaluating the road map for Canada's linguistic duality. We have followed their appearances with great interest and believe that as a community we have demonstrated the benefits of Government of Canada investments in our minority community.
The QCGN and its community partners understand that the purpose of today's appearance is to provide our community's summation on the input we have provided to the road map study. The committee has undertaken this study for the purpose of making recommendations toward Canada's official languages strategy when the road map expires next year. You are looking forward, and we are here to assist you in your deliberations.
Our intention is to provide the committee with our summative perspective on how the Government of Canada can effectively and efficiently enhance the vitality of Canada's English linguistic minority communities. To support this presentation, we will use two key events: the study undertaken by your colleagues on the Senate Standing Committee on Official Languages; and the Strategic Priorities Forum, an exhaustive community consultation undertaken over the past year.
By the end of this morning's presentation, we hope we will have succeeded in bringing greater understanding to the honourable members of this committee on the following: our community's observations on how Canada could more effectively support the vitality of its English linguistic minority communities; and the criteria the Government of Canada might use when prioritizing public support of our community.
The language discussion in Quebec is fascinating, vibrant, and never-ending. We have noted your interest and would welcome the opportunity to talk to you on this subject at a later date. Today, however, the community we represent has agreed that the QCGN's focus, like that of the study you are undertaking, should be forward looking, towards the Government of Canada's next official languages strategy.
The English-speaking community of Quebec acknowledges our indispensable partnership with the Government of Canada, whose commitment to the vitality of both of our nation's official language minority communities is very much in evidence. Some have asked if there will come a day when this partnership is not necessary; our answer is no.
The Prime Minister's message, which prefaces the road map, speaks of the vital Canadian value of linguistic duality, “a cornerstone of our national identity, and it is a source of immeasurable economic, social, and political benefits for all Canadians.”
The Prime Minister made a direct link between our national commitment to linguistic duality—and, by extension, our official language minority communities—and our future as a unified Canada. The Government of Canada's partnership with this nation's official language minority communities is rooted in our Constitution and manifested in the Official Languages Act. We are in this together for the long haul.
We know a rebalancing of the partnership between the community, public, and private sectors is coming, and we look forward to participating in this evolutionary change. But the Government of Canada's commitment to the vitality of our community and the duty of federal institutions to ensure that positive measures are taken for the implementation of these commitments are a matter of law. We can think of no other communities with this special partnership with the Government of Canada.
May 1st, 2012 / 9 a.m.
Sylvia Martin-Laforge Director General, Quebec Community Groups Network
The QCGN appeared before your colleagues at the Senate Standing Committee on Official Languages last week, providing our community's comments on the Government of Canada's response to the committee's substantive report, “The Vitality of Quebec's English-Speaking Communities: From Myth to Reality”. You have heard this report referenced many times by community sector organizations serving our community who have provided evidence to this committee. This historic report and its recommendations are a must read for those shaping Canada's official languages strategy.
There are three decisive messages we draw from the Senate report. First, Canada's French and English linguistic minority communities, as with all the citizens of this great country, must be afforded equal voice in the development of policies and programs aimed at enhancing the vitality of our communities.
Second, Canadians living in English linguistic minority communities should have equal access to government programs and services that originate or receive funding from the Government of Canada. It is not acceptable that, in the words of the Honourable Dennis Dawson, speaking as a member of the Senate committee on September, 13, 2010, our language rights become “collateral damage” or an afterthought in program delivery.
This both necessitates and translates into the third broad message. We deserve an equitable share of federal resources devoted to the government's support of our nation's official language minority communities.
Our testimony to the Senate committee on official languages welcomed the government's response to the Senate's report and generally supported its content. We urge this committee to review our Senate testimony of April 23. It highlights best practices in developing and maintaining effective partnerships with the community sector in our community. Our Senate testimony provides full credit and recognition to leading departments like the Treasury Board, Industry Canada, HRSDC, and especially Health Canada and Canadian Heritage, whose increased investment in understanding the needs of our community has led to direct benefits experienced by members of our community.
Interim President, Quebec Community Groups Network
Beginning in 2005 and continuing over the life of the road map for Canada's linguistic duality, 2008 to 2013, real progress has been made by many federal institutions to improve their ability to enhance our community's development. This accomplishment is being achieved in three ways.
First, the Government of Canada has made investments in helping the community understand its needs and priorities and plan for its future. Most recently, for example, Canadian Heritage provided funding for a community priority-setting conference in March, following nearly nine months of consultations throughout the community.
In preparation for the conference, the community consulted internally and with its supporting public and private stakeholders for over six months. More than 180 leaders from our community, representing communities and sectors from across Quebec, gathered over the weekend of March 24 and 25, 2012, to determine our community's future vision and priorities.
The conference concluded with the signing of a declaration that identifies priorities to ensure a vital and sustainable future. We provided copies of the declaration to your staff immediately following the conference and brought copies with us today for distribution by the clerk. I will mention them subsequently in our remarks.
The priorities are not to be considered individually or incrementally, but together as a holistic and unified vision of the community. We rejected the notion of producing another laundry list of development priorities.
Communities function as complex interdependent systems. One cannot just work on one area and then move to another without having an effect on the other area. People do not sequentially choose between care for elderly parents, a child's education, and the economic security of their families. It is a weakness of both government and the community sectors that too often, areas of importance to community vitality and individuals are organizationally stovepiped. The remedy is effective coordination. We are very pleased to note that this committee is evaluating current coordination mechanisms and asking how the system could improve.
What we as a community have aimed to achieve through the consultation process we have just completed is an enunciation of the environmental conditions for community vitality. The six priorities we have announced will act together to create sustainable communities. Please refer to the declaration from the community priority-setting conference of the English-speaking community in Quebec. The six priority areas we have identified are: access to services in English; community building; economic prosperity; identity and renewal; leadership and representation; and strong institutions.
We are suggesting that the government use these priorities as criteria for providing public support for the vitality of the English-speaking community in Quebec. The declaration document provides detail around each of those priorities. Although they sound very general in nature, we see them as the core conditions for vitality.
Second, the Government of Canada has made specific investments in research capacity. For example, federal funding was a catalyst in establishing the Quebec English-Speaking Communities' Research Network, known as QUESCREN, a joint initiative of the Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities, CIRLM, in Moncton, and Concordia University's School of Extended Learning.
Health Canada has provided significant research support to our community through its relationship with the Community Health and Social Services Network, a network of community organizations, resources, and public institutions striving to ensure access to health and social services in English for Quebec's English-speaking communities.
We would like to pause here to acknowledge the leadership of the CIRLM in the establishment of a research capacity dedicated to our community. Good public policy requires an evidence base, which requires research. QUESCREN has been instrumental in creating a space in which researchers in the community sector can meet, to the benefit of individual members of our community. For example, QUESCREN has put us on the map and has launched conference sessions and a theme within ACFAS, and has developed and supported community-based research that has benefited a fledgling seniors' network.
Public investment in research is an excellent example of a positive measure that the Government of Canada's institutions can undertake to enhance the vitality of our community and the rationale for policy development. We are a unique linguistic community, and very little research has been done on us as a community, especially our evolution over time. The public, private, and community sectors will all benefit from a focused research agenda for our community.
Third, finally, thanks to the leadership of such key departments as Treasury Board and the Department of Canadian Heritage, and institutions that include the Parliament of Canada and the Commissioner of Official Languages, a welcome and recently emerging interest in Canada's English linguistic minority communities is developing amongst federal institutions...with which we have not benefited from prior relationships, and we are quite pleased with this.
There are opportunities and challenges associated with this, which we would be happy to discuss during the question period.
The Chair Michael Chong
Thank you very much.
Perhaps you could just quickly wrap up, Madame Martin-Laforge, because we're running out of time here.
Director General, Quebec Community Groups Network
I'll let my president do his wrap-up.
The Chair Michael Chong
Interim President, Quebec Community Groups Network
I'll take 30 seconds or less.
The English-speaking community of Quebec and its supporting public partners have invested significantly in establishing our community's priority areas. We have shared those with this committee, and we invite the Government of Canada to consider them as the criteria that our community expects to be used in establishing the measures and priorities of public support.
We would like to thank the Government of Canada for its ever-increasing efforts to understand our unique community and support our collective vitality. We as a community acknowledge and pledge to continue our reciprocal obligation to work collaboratively with our federal partner, providing clear, evidence-based development priorities that will directly benefit the nearly one million Canadians who are proud members of the English-speaking community of Quebec.
Finally, we would encourage this committee to follow the lead of your colleagues in the Senate and come to Quebec to visit our communities. Do not rely on assumptions or myths. Come to see us for yourselves. You are welcome.
Thank you for the extended time.
The Chair Michael Chong
Thank you very much, Mr. Burke.
We will now hear from the representative from the University of Ottawa.
Richard Clément Director and Associate Dean, Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute, University of Ottawa
Mr. Chair, members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity to appear before the Standing Committee on Official Languages during the consultations on the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality 2008-2013.
I am Richard Clément, Director of the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute and Associate Dean of the University of Ottawa Faculty of Arts. With me is Hilaire Lemoine, Executive in Residence at the University of Ottawa and former director general of official languages support programs at Canadian Heritage.
So as to provide you with some context for my remarks on the roadmap, I would like to begin by saying a few words about the University of Ottawa and its contribution to bilingualism in Canada. Since its beginning in 1848, the University of Ottawa has been a bilingual university; a committed leader in promoting bilingualism and fostering the development of French culture in Ontario, across Canada and throughout the world; and an institution open to cultural diversity.
The university's continually expanding array of French-language undergraduate, graduate and professional programs has been attracting a growing number of francophones. Their number rose above 12,000 in September 2011, putting the University of Ottawa in first place nation-wide for French-language studies outside Quebec.
In addition, more than 3,000 French immersion students from high schools across Canada come to the University of Ottawa. To ease their integration into a bilingual institution, the university has set up the French immersion studies program. The program has been available since September 2006 and is the only program of its kind in Canada giving students from French immersion and core French programs, as well as francophile students, the opportunity to study in their second language, today in over 74 undergraduate programs in five faculties. Students receive a French immersion designation on their diploma. Over 1,200 students were enrolled in French immersion studies in September 2012.
Lastly, in 2009 the Government of Canada chose the University of Ottawa to be the managing institution of the language rights support program, LRSP, through a joint partnership between the institute and the Faculty of Law. The LRSP was recently extended for five years, with the university continuing to be the managing institution—a vote of confidence for us.
I would like to say a few words about the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute and its contribution to the objectives of the roadmap. The University of Ottawa established the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute in July 2007. OLBI has as its mission to become a national and international centre of excellence in official language education, language skills assessment, research and language planning.
As such, OLBI set up the Canadian Centre for Studies and Research on Bilingualism and Language Planning. This centre is a national forum for research on language education, public policy and language planning. One of its many activities is to host an annual conference that brings together 125 to 150 language education researchers, instructors, practitioners and experts from Canada and abroad to discuss current issues. For example, this year's conference was held last week on the use of new technologies in language education.
In addition, close to 50 practising language teachers come to OLBI each year for professional development in second language teaching at OLBI's summer university, which is offered in partnership with the Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers.
Furthermore, OLBI's Development and Promotion Office coordinates the marketing of Canadian expertise across the country and around the world in the area of bilingualism and official languages. OLBI signed a memorandum of understanding with the Council of Europe's European Centre for Modern Languages, the ECML, in January 2008, which was renewed in March 2012. Under that agreement, OLBI acts as the ECML's Canadian point of contact, coordinates the participation of Canadian experts in ECML research and development projects, and promotes the sharing of best practices and new methodologies by language educators in Canada and Europe.
OLBI is also very active in the Inter-American Organization for Higher Education, which represents over 400 institutes of higher education in the Americas, including 28 in Canada. OLBI offered to develop and coordinate the inter-American network in language training, which was launched at the Conference of the Americas on International Education last week in Rio de Janeiro. The goals of the network are to encourage language learning in the Americas, promote mobility and internationalization, foster the sharing of pedagogical models, and promote research in language education and language planning.
OLBI is also the main partner in the Canadian International Development Agency's national language project in Sri Lanka. The purpose of this four-year project between the Government of Canada and Sri Lanka is to provide support for the implementation of Sri Lanka's official languages legislation in an effort to achieve peace and reconciliation after more than 30 years of conflict between the country's two main ethnic groups.
OLBI has also been invited to participate as a Canadian institution in the European Commission's project known as Languages in Urban Communities—Integration and Diversity for Europe. This three-year project is led by a consortium of 12 European post-secondary institutions, of which OLBI is a member. The purpose of the project is to describe the role of multilingualism in the development and evolution of major European cities. OLBI will be called upon to share the experiences of major Canadian cities, such as Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Ottawa.
The above initiatives are but a few examples of national and international coordination, outreach and promotion of Canadian official language expertise that showcases the skills Canada has acquired over the last 40 years in the area of official languages and multiculturalism.
From our understanding, one of the major impacts of the Roadmap 2008-2012 is the maintenance, over five years, of the federal government's funding level for official languages, based on the final year's budget, 2007-2008, of the Action Plan for Official Languages. This level of funding has enabled the provinces and territories to maintain, or in some cases, expand, their minority language and second-language education programs. The Roadmap has also made it possible for federal government departments and agencies to launch new initiatives that have benefited the University of Ottawa and OLBI, including the Public Works and Government Services Canada University Scholarships Program in Translation, and the Canada School of Public Service initiative to extend access of language learning tools to Canadian universities. The Roadmap's greatest benefit, however, is the Government of Canada's formal five-year commitment to official languages.
A roadmap or action plan approach over five years with a specified financial commitment would be a way for the Government of Canada to renew its commitment to promoting official languages in Canada. We would like to propose a number of initiatives which should be considered in a next five-year plan, and which would contribute to the advancement of the official languages in Canada.
1. The rate of bilingualism among young Canadians. The federal, provincial and territorial governments should agree on a target for the rate of bilingualism among young graduates of the educational system. This target should be realistic, and to be met, would require a review of second-language programs on the basis of a Canadian adaptation of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. It should also result in a national campaign to promote the advantages of bilingualism to young people, as well as the creation of incentives for universities to offer second-language programs similar to the French immersion studies program at the University of Ottawa.
2. Official languages, e-learning for all Canadians: official languages learning opportunities should be available free of charge, anytime and anywhere in Canada, to all Canadians wishing to learn the other official language. Self-learning programs could be developed, adapted to the Canadian context, and published on the Internet. The learner could also have access to language monitors by means of a help line provided by designated public or private educational institutions in each province or region. Language skills testing would also be available online.
3. Mobility scholarships and bursaries. The University of Ottawa offers more than 350 programs in French in 10 faculties. Mobility scholarships and bursaries would make it possible for francophone students in English-language universities in Canada to complete part of their program at the University of Ottawa and join the 12,000 francophone students currently registered there. The scholarships and bursaries would also provide French immersion students in English-language universities who wish to complete some or all of their remaining studies in French with access, for a given period during their program, to the University of Ottawa's French immersion studies program and linguistic support that cannot be found anywhere else in Canada.
4. Summer university for young researchers on the official languages. Canada needs to attract young researchers to the field of official languages. The University of Ottawa is considering a summer research training program led by a team of distinguished Canadian researchers. The program would be made a training and research priority of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
5. Public service language training. The Government of Canada has decided to stop offering in-house language training to government employees and turn to third-party providers instead. The preferred providers should be universities with language institutes, especially those that have been involved in the Canada School of Public Service initiative to extend access of language learning tools to Canadian universities under the current road map. Moreover, to ensure the quality of the language training provided, the Public Service Commission should designate OLBI, in its capacity as a centre of excellence and national forum for official languages, as the coordinating body of a consortium of language institutes to train and certify language educators, as well as develop second-language programs. In addition, the Public Service Commission should consider transferring its language assessment unit to OLBI, given the OLBI's language assessment expertise.
To conclude, the University of Ottawa and OLBI can be of significant assistance to the Government of Canada in its leadership role with respect to official languages in Canada. Moreover, the University of Ottawa is well positioned as Canada's university to support the bilingualism initiatives of the federal public service and provide skilled bilingual prospective employees.
We thank you for your attention and we would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
The Chair Michael Chong
Thank you, Mr. Clément.
We will now proceed with questions and comments.
Mr. Godin, the floor is yours.
Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I would like to welcome you to the committee.
To begin with, we received a letter dated April 26 from the Association de la presse francophone. I see that we have scheduled one hour for the minister on Thursday's agenda despite having asked that he be available for two hours. He will, therefore, be present for only one hour. So we have another hour available to us. In my opinion, I think it is important that representatives from the Association de la presse francophone appear. The members of this association want to meet with the committee with respect to the funding that has been eliminated.
I asked the minister this question yesterday and he told me that there had been no cutback. However, this is completely contradictory to the comments that we have been receiving with respect to this issue. I would recommend that representatives from this association meet with us so that we can discuss the situation. If we have some time, perhaps we could discuss this matter later on.
The Chair Michael Chong
We had planned to discuss Mr. Gourde's motion during the first hour, on Thursday.
We have one hour with the Minister of Canadian Heritage, but prior to that, we have 1 hour and 40 minutes to discuss Mr. Gourde's motion. He served notice of the motion.