Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you colleagues.
This morning I am accompanied by my Deputy Minister, Daniel Jean, and Hubert Lussier, Assistant Deputy Minister for Citizenship and Heritage, responsible for official languages files at Canadian Heritage.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for giving me the opportunity to appear before you this morning.
I would like to acknowledge the work this committee has accomplished since last fall in the course of your study on the Roadmap. It is in this context that I would like to talk about what we have achieved, and are achieving, with the Roadmap, and how we are taking steps to prepare for the future.
I know that there have been some questions raised at this committee in some of your consultations by some of the witnesses who have been before your committee about how I and our government plan to consult on the current road map to plan for the path ahead. At the outset, I'd like to address those questions.
This summer I plan to lead a comprehensive, pan-Canadian set of consultations on official languages. I and other members of our government and officials from my department will hear from Canadians in each and every province and territory on the next steps in the road map for linguistic duality. This summer my colleagues and I will hear from Canadians in communities across the country: Victoria, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Sudbury, Quebec, Montreal, Fredericton, Moncton, Halifax, Charlottetown, St. John's, Whitehorse, Yellowknife, and Iqaluit. We won't visit just Canada's largest cities, but suburban and rural communities as well.
We will also create an online forum for Canadians unable to attend our consultations to share their views online. This is an approach we took back in the previous Parliament, when we were doing consultations for our copyright legislation. We found that the number of Canadians who wished to have participation in these kinds of consultations on large-scope public policy issues was much larger than we often appreciate. So we're going to be doing that, as well, when it comes to consultation on official languages.
As a point of comparison, when former New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord was asked by our government to do consultations in 2007, prior to the current road map, he visited seven communities. This is much more comprehensive and much more broad based and pan-Canadian. It will involve me, as the minister, as well as my parliamentary secretary and other members of our government, as well as, as I said, an online presence.
In comparison to those previous consultations, this will be much broader and will be open to far more Canadians. We look forward to listening to new ideas on how we move forward on official languages policy. Of course, to supplement this, the great work this committee has done on consultation will feed into this process as well.
The question is why we are doing this. We're doing this because both of Canada's official languages define who we are as Canadians. They are the languages of our national dialogue and the languages that enable Canadians who come to our country to participate more fully in our society in every way. Our official languages allow us to build a united, prosperous Canada together. For these reasons, our government is proud to support our official languages.
The road map for Canada's linguistic duality has been the vehicle that allows us to do just that. Canada's investment in the road map is, to put it bluntly, a lot of taxpayers' money. There's a commitment of $1.1 billion over five years. In fact, it is the largest and most comprehensive investment in Canada's official languages Canada has ever seen. The road map includes 32 separate initiatives implemented by 15 agencies and departments of the Government of Canada. It allows us to act in priority areas: skills training, education, immigration, economic development, and the arts.
With the road map, our government is committed to promoting and protecting Canada's official languages, and today I can say that we have kept our word. We have kept our promises and have delivered on this commitment. As a matter of fact, in budget 2012, tabled not that long ago, of course, it says, and I will quote:
Canada’s two official languages are an integral part of Canada's history and identity....Economic Action Plan 2012 will continue support for official languages by maintaining funding to protect, celebrate and enhance Canada’s linguistic duality.
To put it another way, with budget 2012 we have kept our promise to support Canada's official languages.
On transfers to the provinces, our budget protects funding in the Roadmap for official language education and programs.
On support for culture, our budget protects funding in the Roadmap for official languages on cultural engagement and expression in the arts.
On support for second language education, our budget protects funding in the Roadmap for official languages for Canadians of all ages hoping to better understand English and French. On front-line training for health care workers, our budget protects funding for health services in English and French.
I will quote again from the budget. On all of these things, we maintained funding to protect, celebrate and enhance our linguistic duality. We kept our word, and because of this minority language communities are stronger than ever.
On April 5, shortly after Budget 2012 was tabled, I presented our mid-term report of the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality.
It outlines in detail how the government is delivering on those promises that I just outlined. The report confirms the implementation of the 32 initiatives contained in the road map and how they are proceeding, as we had hoped they would. They are being managed carefully, transparently, and effectively by all the departments and agencies involved. I invite those of you who have yet to see the mid-term report to take a look at it and to send me your comments and suggestions.
Broadly speaking, I am pleased by our progress and will share with you some of the concrete examples of our success.
In total, 2.4 million young Canadians are learning French or English as a second language. Close to 245,000 young Canadians from minority communities are studying their language of choice in more than 900 schools across the country.
Since 2008, support through the road map has made it possible to open five new school community centres and 14 new community learning centres in Quebec, as well as 33 new child care services in francophone communities.
Since 2008, more than 2,000 people from minority communities have enrolled in French-language health training programs.
Since 2008, more than 140 welcome centres and integration networks have been established to provide new services for immigrants in both official languages.
Since 2008, more than 100 new projects in the arts and culture originating in the minority communities have been supported.
We added, as I'll remind you, this fifth component to our road map because we recognize the importance of arts and culture and expression in the protection and celebration and health of minority languages in communities all across the country.
All these projects were launched and implemented under the leadership of our government.
As I said, I am preparing to lead a round of consultations in all regions of Canada this summer. These consultations will be more extensive than those held in 2007. They will also allow us to see if our funding is effective, and if our programs offer a good return for taxpayers, and an understanding of what changes might better serve Canadians going forward.
Finally, I'll close where I began, Mr. Chairman. I'd like to again thank this committee for your work, for inviting witnesses—inviting Canadians—to come to your committee to contribute to these consultations and the upcoming report on the road map. It too will help guide our deliberations on the way ahead.
Thank you very much for attention. If you have any questions, I'd be pleased to answer them.