Evidence of meeting #141 for Official Languages in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was university.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Dyane Adam  Chair, Board of Governors, Université de l'Ontario français
Jérémie Séror  Director and Associate Dean, University of Ottawa, Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute
Lynn Brouillette  General Director, Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne
Ronald Bisson  Director, Justice, Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne
Roger Farley  Executive in Residence, University of Ottawa, Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute

11:25 a.m.

Chair, Board of Governors, Université de l'Ontario français

Dyane Adam

I am sorry.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Denis Paradis

Thank you, Ms. Adam.

Ms. Lambropoulos has the floor for three minutes.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Thank you for being with us today to answer our questions.

You talked about immigration. I am from Quebec, but I am anglophone. A lot of Quebec anglophones in minority language situations find it very difficult to stay in Quebec because they do not speak French. That language barrier prevents them from finding a job.

Is it the same in Ontario? Is that why francophone immigrants leave? Why do they not stay in Ontario?

11:25 a.m.

Chair, Board of Governors, Université de l'Ontario français

Dyane Adam

Francophone immigrants do stay in Ontario. I would even say that a number of francophone immigrants from Quebec come over to Ontario. Ontario attracts immigrants, whatever their language. Our difficult is in recruiting francophones in sufficient numbers and I am not sure what kind of problem we have: is it a retention problem or a recruitment problem? I confess that I am not an expert so I cannot give you any statistics on it. I believe that the situation in Quebec is different from the one in Ontario. Quebec is losing not just immigrants who speak English, but also those who speak French. It seems to me that the statistics indicated that, the last times I consulted them.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Okay.

Do you have any recommendations for attracting more francophone immigrants to Ontario?

11:25 a.m.

Chair, Board of Governors, Université de l'Ontario français

Dyane Adam

The Carrefour and the Université de l'Ontario français have access to a pool of foreign students who are francophone. In Toronto, recruitment is going very well, even in English-language universities. We have to get all our services working, to bring all our efforts together, not only in order to recruit and train them, but also in order to integrate them into our community. Our programs are designed to provide experiential learning. All the programs provide the students with that kind of learning and with co-op placements. Work experience gained in that way is essential for people who want to stay in the country. We will provide that on-site; that is how we will also be able to become one of the key drivers and players that will enable the province to reach its target of 5% in francophone immigration.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Denis Paradis

Thank you, Ms. Lambropoulos.

René Arseneault has the floor for three minutes.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

René Arseneault Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Welcome, Ms. Adam.

My comments are still on the subject of immigration. About a year ago, I was heading to Ottawa on Autoroute 40 when, on the radio, I heard someone speaking on behalf of the Université du Québec à Montréal. What they said astonished me. They said that francophone post-secondary universities—those in the province of Quebec—were recruiting foreign students. The practice has previously been adopted in Acadia, at the Université de Moncton and at the Université Sainte-Anne in Nova Scotia. I believe that it is also the case in Manitoba.

I would like to know your thoughts on the subject. Has recruiting foreign students now become something that must be done in order to ensure that francophone post-secondary institutions in Canada survive? Are we also seeing a similarity with what is done in anglophone post-secondary institutions in Canada?

11:30 a.m.

Chair, Board of Governors, Université de l'Ontario français

Dyane Adam

Yes.

Let me talk about the current reality in Ontario.

In this province, foreign students make up a good part of the student pool. For example, at the University of Toronto, foreign students represent almost 40% of the student population. Even small universities, like the University of Hearst, are recruiting foreign students. In addition, university funding is very diversified. People generally believe that universities are entirely funded by governments. However, they should know that government funding per student in Ontario is very low, particularly because of the economies of scale at large universities. Recruiting foreign students, therefore, is a major source of funding for universities both in Ontario and elsewhere in the country.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

René Arseneault Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Do you see the same thing in other universities, such as the University of Toronto or a francophone university?

11:30 a.m.

Chair, Board of Governors, Université de l'Ontario français

Dyane Adam

We have not yet had any recruiting activities ourselves, but other universities, for example the Glendon campus of York University in Toronto, have a significant number of foreign students from all countries, more than 200 countries. I think we have about half a million foreign students in Canada, with approximately 60,000 of them in Ontario.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

René Arseneault Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Thank you for providing us with that information.

I have to stop there or Mr. Chair will be giving me a talking-to soon.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Denis Paradis

Thank you very much, Mr. Arseneault.

Mr. Clarke now has the floor for three minutes.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ms. Adam, I am going to go back to the table you gave us. As you have said, the locations at Moss Park Armouries and Queens Quay West interest you a great deal. I see that you have some concerns about the extent of soil contamination. For Canadians to fully understand the problem, let me say that contamination may not be major but it is still contamination. Do you have specific questions, apart from those about contamination and the accessibility of the properties, that you would like us to ask the officials from the Canada Lands Company, who will soon be appearing before our committee? I believe it's next Tuesday.

11:30 a.m.

Chair, Board of Governors, Université de l'Ontario français

Dyane Adam

Actually, we now have a private partner. That is one of the ways of reducing costs. Private partners, such as real estate developers with experience in building in Toronto, consider factors that we were, and are, less aware of. Our criteria are different.

For example, building next to water introduces more challenges for a developer. That does not mean that we cannot do it, but it means that there are factors that we must consider when we are making our choices.

All that I can tell you is that, if the federal level transferred or leased a property, as it did at Royal Roads University, the cost of the university’s activities would be considerably reduced. The model we have in mind at this stage is a public-private partnership. The private partner advances some of the construction and maintenance costs, but certainly, owning the land would really reduce the bill.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Denis Paradis

Ms. Adam, thank you very much for that excellent presentation.

Colleagues, we are going to suspend the meeting in order to go and vote. We will meet back here after the vote.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Denis Paradis

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3), we continue our study on the modernization of the Official Languages Act.

This morning, we are pleased to welcome Jérémie Séror, Director and Associate Dean, from the University of Ottawa's Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute, and Roger Farley, Executive in Residence at the University of Ottawa. We also welcome, from the Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne, Lynn Brouillette, General Director, and Ronald Bisson, Director.

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to our committee.

We will proceed in our usual way. Each group will have approximately 10 minutes in which to give their presentation. After that, we will move to questions and comments from members of the committee.

Mr. Séror, the floor is yours.

April 30th, 2019 / 12:15 p.m.

Dr. Jérémie Séror Director and Associate Dean, University of Ottawa, Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute

Good morning.

Mr. Chair, ladies and gentlemen, I am very pleased to be with you today and to address your committee on the topic of the modernization of the Official Languages Act.

With me today is Roger Farley, a former director at Health Canada, and now the executive in residence at the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute.

I should first congratulate the committee for undertaking these important tasks.

My time is limited so I will get right to the point. Today, I would like to address the need for more clarity in the act, the role of a more modern definition of bilingualism and linguistic duality, and the importance of universal access to French and English teaching, in order to promote that linguistic duality.

I would like to start by focusing specifically on Part VII of the act, sections 41 and 43. Section 41 stipulates that: “the Government of Canada is committed to…fostering the full recognition and use of both English and French in Canadian society”.

In section 43, the implementation of that commitment is described as follows: “The Minister of Canadian Heritage shall take such measures as that Minister considers appropriate to advance the equality of status and use of English and French…”

These two sections reveal all of Parliament’s good intentions. However, I share the opinion of a number of experts who have already testified before you in saying that one of the weaknesses of the act is a lack of precision on the specific measures and concrete expectations that must accompany the implementation.

I therefore recommended that Part VII of the act be revised so that the obligations and expectations of the government are more specifically defined. As to what those specifics may be, I am not a legal scholar, but, as a researcher in applied linguistics, my suggestions would focus on the concrete objectives that linguistic duality and bilingualism are intended to achieve. Other witnesses before me—I am thinking of Benoît Pelletier, for example—have told you that the act is quite silent on the concepts of linguistic duality and bilingualism.

In fact, although Canada’s bilingual character and identity are mentioned in the act, it often deals with French and English separately. It focuses specifically on minority francophone and anglophone communities. This approach reinforces a vision of bilingualism as parallel, but still separate, monolingualisms—the famous “two solitudes”—rooted in communities of native speakers that are often represented as homogeneous, uniform, and quite well defined. What I would like to highlight today is that this representation is quite a poor reflection of the modern version of bilingualism found in the research.

The problem is that in the absence of a precise definition or representation of what we expect with bilingualism, what often remain for the public are myths that hinder the promotion of language learning and development. People end up believing myths, such that languages should be learned and preserved in isolation from one another, or that one needs to show loyalty to a single-speech community. Worse, people feel that they cannot call themselves bilingual, like so many of my students.

When I ask who among them identifies themselves as bilingual, few hands go up because they have this idea that, to be bilingual, you have to have a perfect and equal knowledge of both languages.

However, in reality, we know that it is very rare to be able to attain that level because each language, or rather access to both languages, is never used in the same way.

In such cases, the problem is that it leaves people with an ideal that is unrealistic and, therefore, they often hesitate to identify as being bilingual or even to look for bilingualism.

We need a definition that values and appreciates the multilingual capacity of every Canadian, in whom a number of languages, dialects and identities actually exist together. We are all multilingual, hence the importance of the idea of linguistic duality rooted in the Canadian context that goes beyond school walls and that includes all the facets of interaction in which individuals evolve.

Even though the act seeks to “provide opportunities for everyone…to learn both English and French” and to foster the use of both languages, we must ensure that linguistic duality is seen as an attainable reality, not just for official language minority communities, but for all Canadians. The good news is that linguistic duality and bilingualism are already seen by a large majority of Canadians as fundamental values that are enriching, both collectively and individually.

As underscored by the Minister of Canadian Heritage in the official languages action plan 2018-23, linguistic duality enhances cross-cultural understanding and communication, broadens perspectives and allows Canadians to shine on the global stage through the ability they have—as I'm doing now—to move from one language and one culture to another, and back and forth.

That's still impressive. We are not the only ones who can do this, but we are often the only ones in North America.

However, to ensure that the added value materializes, this more modern vision of bilingualism and linguistic duality must be reflected in the act and be accompanied by specific targets. I therefore recommend that the new legislation include provisions whereby the Government of Canada undertakes to promote, support and facilitate—with provincial and territorial governments—the learning of both official languages and linguistic duality in the school system. To do so, there needs to be an inclusive definition of bilingualism and a notion of institutional completeness, from early childhood to post-secondary education, including the public sphere for all Canadians as well.

I also recommend that those intentions be accompanied by an audit system that would report to Parliament on the results, that is to say, the rate of bilingualism achieved and the specific mechanisms used to achieve those levels, particularly when it comes to transfers to the provinces and territories.

I would like to illustrate the importance of these comments with a specific example of linguistic duality for immigration.

I will read an excerpt from a webpage from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada:

English or French language skills are very important to help you settle in Canada. You may choose to focus on learning or improving one or the other. This will likely depend on which of the two languages most people speak in the area where you live.

Let me draw your attention to the words “or” and “one or the other” and to the dichotomous choice immigrants have to make. As a result, they are implicitly pointed toward a linguistic repertoire associated with one language and the majority. Once immigrants have made their choice, it is no longer possible for them to have access to programs to learn the other official language. They have to choose one or the other. We are falling back into a monolingual vision that limits, not encourages, linguistic duality and multilingualism.

Year in, year out, Canada welcomes between 250,000 and 300,000 newcomers each year. In addition, a number of studies show that those newcomers are often already multilingual and that they welcome opportunities for themselves and their children to learn both official languages. This happens even if, sometimes, in schools, they are told that they should focus on English if they live in an English-speaking region because it is the language of the majority.

I propose that, in addition to encouraging francophone immigration—which is very good—a more inclusive and modern vision of bilingualism would ensure that all immigrants see the possibility of being bilingual as a reality through legislation that recognizes, ensures and asserts that linguistic duality is an option for everyone.

I therefore recommend that the modernized Official Languages Act include a provision requiring the government to encourage, facilitate and support second official language learning and linguistic duality for all newcomers, and to report to Parliament on the results achieved. With the significant contribution of newcomers each year, such a provision would undoubtedly have a long-term impact on Canada's linguistic duality.

In conclusion, the sustainability of Canada's linguistic duality and bilingual character and the increase in bilingualism among Canadians are not immutable assets. They require the Parliament of Canada to take bold and innovative measures to encourage this linguistic duality not only among minority populations, but among all Canadians by ensuring that the opportunity to learn both official languages and achieve a high level of bilingualism is unfailingly and verifiably available.

These measures should target all school-aged youth, college and university students, newcomers and adults in the workplace who provide services to the public, such as health professionals.

These provisions, along with strong accountability mechanisms, will be transformative for Canada and future generations and will make Canada a global model for bilingualism.

Thank you.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Denis Paradis

Thank you very much, Mr. Séror.

There are two other shorter presentations, those of Ms. Brouillette and Mr. Bisson, for about five minutes each.

Go ahead, Ms. Brouillette.

12:25 p.m.

Lynn Brouillette General Director, Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne

Mr. Chair, members of the committee, good afternoon.

I want to thank you for your invitation to participate in the ongoing study on the modernization of the Official Languages Act.

“Imagine being condemned in a language you don't understand or only slightly understand.” This is how the Senate Communications Branch launched its fourth interim report on the justice sector on April 10 of this year. Such examples can be multiplied. Imagine being cared for by a doctor or nurse who speaks a language you don't understand or only slightly understand. Imagine receiving tax advice in a language you only slightly understand.

I am the Executive Director of the Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne (ACUFC), composed of 21 francophone or bilingual colleges and universities in French-speaking minority communities across Canada.

The association's member institutions offer more than 1,200 French or bilingual programs of study in all disciplines. More than 42,000 students attend these institutions and nearly 10,000 graduate each year.

It is important to note that the association's mission goes well beyond the provision of French-language educational programs. We know that education is a provincial jurisdiction, but that is not what I want to talk about today. I want to talk to you about the importance of French-language education in the vitality of communities.

Vitality is a federal responsibility. How can we talk about progress towards equality of status and use without talking about a right to education in French? By training professionals in all spheres of life, including health, justice, education, psychology, administration, engineering and research, for example, member colleges and universities contribute to the vitality of francophone minority communities, to Canada's economic growth, to the transmission of knowledge and to the provision of services in both official languages across Canada.

As part of the modernization of the Official Languages Act, my goal today is to present a single message and a single recommendation.

The message is this: without a right of access to education in French as a first or a second language, from early childhood to post-secondary levels, we cannot talk about the equal status of Canada's two official languages.

It is time to recognize and clearly state that access to education in French, from early childhood to post-secondary levels, is an ideal way to ensure the equality of status of Canada's two official languages. People acquire the ability to provide services in a language because they have been trained in that language.

As parliamentarians, you exercise your right to communicate in the official language of your choice because you have been educated in that language. The same applies to federal public servants who must provide services in both official languages. The availability of services in both official languages can only be guaranteed if Canadians have equal access to education in French on an equal basis with English.

As former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli said: “Upon the education of the people of this country the fate of this country depends.” Members of the committee, it is time to recognize and to affirm the importance of education in French to truly guarantee the equal status of the two official languages of our country.

To this end, the association asks the committee to recommend that the following be added to the purpose of the Official Languages Act, which would read as follows:

The purpose of this Act is: [...] To recognize and guarantee the right to education in French as a first or second language, from early childhood to post-secondary levels, as a means of ensuring the substantive equality of status of Canada's two official languages.

Thank you.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Denis Paradis

We will now give the floor to Mr. Bisson.

12:30 p.m.

Ronald Bisson Director, Justice, Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I'll get right to the point. When the clerk contacted me about three weeks ago to appear once again before the committee, I consulted with the various members of the Réseau national de formation en justice and asked them what new information we could bring. You have already received thousands of pages of documents and heard hundreds of presentations.

So we focused on the following question that the committee might ask: what is your one priority in modernizing the act and what is the one single thing you would like to achieve? We have given this a lot of thought, and today, I will give you the answer.

As you know, the word “priority” defines where we spend our first dollar, not our last. For my part, based on my entire life experience, the top priority in modernizing the act has to do with demographics.

This is the only message I want to convey to you today: the modernized act must affirm in its objectives that the federal government wants to support—not promote, but support—a strong, stable and demographically resilient Canadian Francophonie.

Why? The answer is quite simple: demographics is the foundation for everything. Canada's public policies of the 1890s to World War I severely disadvantaged francophone immigration to Canada. These policies have had a devastating effect to this day. So we have an opportunity to turn the tide.

I want to talk to you a little bit about my personal history, which will help you better understand my message and the reason why I'm saying it's the priority today.

I am a Franco-Manitoban by birth and have lived in Ottawa since 1982. I am 68 years old. I was there on December 8, 1968, when the Honourable Gérard Pelletier came to Notre-Dame school in Saint-Boniface to tell us that his government would propose an official languages act the following year. I was 18 and I was one of the young people starting their adult lives.

I was there during the discussions about the patriation of the Constitution, during the time of the former Fédération des francophones hors Québec (FFHQ). I was there during the discussions about amending sections 41 and 42. For over 25 years, I have worked with at least about 10, if not 15, federal departments to implement sections 41 and 42 of the Official Languages Act. I was there when the first action plan was announced in 2003, and I am still here.

My professional life developed alongside the Official Languages Act. One of the topics you are studying deals with the impact of the act on daily life. If a journalist asked me what is the most important message to take away about the Official Languages Act, given my 50 years of experience as a member of the minority community, I would reply as follows. Without strong demographics, we have nothing: we have no services in French, we have no justice, we have no health care and we have no education.

I therefore ask the committee to recommend that a paragraph be added to the purpose of the act, which would read as follows:

The purpose of this Act [...] is to support a strong, stable and demographically resilient Canadian Francophonie in order to ensure the vitality of francophone minority communities, enrich and strengthen Canada's bilingual character and promote the use of both official languages.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Denis Paradis

Thank you very much, Mr. Bisson.

We'll start the round table right away.

Mrs. Boucher, you have the floor.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for being here.

My name is Sylvie Boucher and I am a member of Parliament. I was on the Standing Committee on Official Languages in 2006. You mentioned the Senate, and this reminds me that the committee drafted four reports from all parties at the time.

I think it is unfortunate that in 2019 we are in the same place as we were in 2006. We are preparing fine reports, but they are not read much, if at all. This makes me sad because we are talking about the language of the minority and about issues that we have been talking about for years. I am sorry to see how slowly we are progressing.

We are now in the process of modernizing the act. That's where we are now and we need to talk about it. We have met with a lot of people. You have delivered strong messages. We are dealing with schools, health and justice in French. A whole host of organizations come to meet us. But if we were to put everyone in the same boat, without naming the organizations, and we had a single, strong message to deliver in the context of modernization, what would it be?

12:35 p.m.

Director, Justice, Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne

Ronald Bisson

Who is your question for, Mrs. Boucher?