First of all, thank you for inviting me again to appear before your committee.
I had anticipated that my presentation would be short. As we only have half an hour, I would like to leave more time for members of the committee to ask questions. I will try to shorten my presentation a little, which was intended to be short in any event.
A lot of water has gone under the bridge, in fact, since I last appeared in December. I would like to answer two questions today.
The first is: what is the situation with the Université de l’Ontario français, the UOF? Thanks to the support of the federal government and to funding granted last January for project development for the Carrefour francophone du savoir et de l’innovation, we have successfully done a number of things. I would like to point out some of them.
First, we have been able to maintain and enhance our team, continue our activities and start work on one of our major sites, specifically the Carrefour project, which is essentially the university’s permanent campus. We are re-examining our business model in the light of the current government priorities of the province of Ontario. We have started an ongoing conversation with the key players in all orders of government.
Following a request for qualifications, we have found a private-sector partner that is able and willing to participate in the real estate activities of the Carrefour. We have identified locations, properties of interest to the UOF in Toronto, that various orders of government have available. I will come back to that later.
Starting this summer, we are going to launch a summer school with the help of fifteen or so partners in the Carrefour. This will lay the groundwork for a common understanding and an implementation model for the knowledge that the Carrefour will prioritize. Remember that the Carrefour is not strictly a coming-together of francophone groups and institutions or of community groups. In the Carrefour, we are creating and implementing a unique, focused and cutting-edge model for pooling knowledge, practices, services and infrastructures so that we can make French-speaking Toronto and the surrounding region into a connected, unified, efficient and prosperous community.
Last week, we obtained the Canada Revenue Agency’s designation as a registered charitable organization. As a result, we are working to seek out to diversified funding; more specifically, we will be launching a fund-raising campaign in the coming months. Of course, we will be continuing our work with our many partners in bilingual and French-language education, in Ontario and elsewhere in the country, looking for their help as expert advisers or in research, training and learning. In addition, some universities are contributing directly to the Université’s training mission by lending us university staff, at no cost, for one year. This gives us time, as we work to get out of our current impasse. That is a sample of the advances we have made in recent months as we continue to get the UOF up and running.
The other question that I would like to discuss with you is about the positive measures that the federal government could take in the current situation to support the UOF and its many partners, in the light of Part VII of the Official Languages Act. Of course, Part VII takes its strength from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, especially section 16, which seeks to advance French and English in Canadian society by granting them equality of status and equal rights and privileges in their use.
The first aspect is the Carrefour’s infrastructure. The federal government could find a property, or cooperate with other levels of government to find a property that would be suitable for housing the Carrefour. There are precedents for this. I could point out, for example, that the federal government contributed to the establishment of Royal Roads University in British Columbia, a public university supported by the province.
The federal government gave the university a long-term lease on converted military land for the price of one dollar per year. The federal government currently owns comparable properties in Toronto in which the UOF would be interested.
The federal government, of course, has other programs supporting research and innovation facilities in post-secondary institutions. There is the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund, run by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. There is also the infrastructure projects component of the Development of Official Language Communities Program, run by Canadian Heritage. Also run by Canadian Heritage is the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund, because the Carrefour has a strongly cultural dimension, including a theatre, the Groupe Média TFO, the university and Le LABO, all of which are organizations devoted to culture. Infrastructure Canada also has a social infrastructure component in its Investing in Canada Plan. That is one of the major levers that the federal government has through which to provide concrete support to the university and its many partners.
The second aspect is the fundraising campaign we are about to launch, as I mentioned. The government could provide matching funds up to a certain maximum. The federal government has often provided matching funds for various causes, including for refugees and for assistance after disasters. In the post-secondary field, there are also precedents such as the millennium scholarships, a federal program providing matching funds that was of great benefit to all post-secondary institutions at the time.
Funding and support for students could take the form of scholarships, or loans and scholarships. A number of them exist, targeting specific populations or those with specific needs. The same thing could be done for francophone students attending our institution. Our university is just getting underway; we therefore do not have the scholarship funds that a number of universities have been able to accumulate over decades. It is always a struggle for minority institutions that come on the scene much later; they have not had the advantage of the many government investments over decades and, in some cases, over centuries.
The third aspect is immigration. As a committee, you are well aware of this. It is a key factor by which official language minority communities develop and flourish. Ontario has set itself an objective of 5%. Since the end of August, the province has scarcely reached half of that target. It remains a challenge. For a minority community, immigration is essential. We need a highly qualified workforce to enrich us, to meet the needs for services, and, of course, to participate fully in the Canadian economy.
To reach our immigration targets, communities and governments must explore new ways of recruiting and retaining francophone immigrants in minority situations. We are discovering that foreign students are a major source of immigration. Statistics show that Ontario has about 60,000 foreign students and that 60% of them intend to apply for permanent resident status once their studies are complete. We can say with confidence that about 50% of foreign post-secondary students intend to settle permanently in Canada after their studies.
Given that Toronto is the country’s destination of choice for newcomers and for a number of foreign students of all languages, the UOF, a university located right in downtown Toronto, and its partners in the Carrefour could become a major driver for the recruitment of foreign students and, of course, for francophone immigration to Ontario and to the country.
We are becoming almost a living laboratory, experimenting with new ways of welcoming newcomers. The multi-service Centre francophone de Toronto already takes care of welcoming and integrating immigrants. They provide a whole host of services, including legal aid. By including the students that the university trains, they will help us to create a rich environment, a synergy, which, in our opinion, could make for a very interesting laboratory in which to experiment with matters of the recruitment and retention of francophone immigrants in Ontario.
I will stop there. I am ready to answer your questions.