Evidence of meeting #3 for Official Languages in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was students.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Marie-Pierre Lavoie  President, Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique
Denis Chartrand  Vice-President, Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones
Geoffrey Chambers  President, Quebec Community Groups Network
Sylvia Martin-Laforge  Director General, Quebec Community Groups Network
Valérie Morand  Director General, Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Beaulieu Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Thank you.

Statistics Canada currently assesses only one criterion, mother tongue. According to data from a few years ago—I do not have the most recent data—about 11.5% of schoolchildren in Quebec attend English-language schools, while there are about 8% whose mother tongue is English.

In your provinces, do you have similar data indicating whether more or fewer students attend French-language schools than those with French as their mother tongue?

March 10th, 2020 / 4:55 p.m.

Vice-President, Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones

Denis Chartrand

We do not have that data, but you are right: the only question currently asked is not about rights holders, but about the mother tongue. We also know that many newcomers choose to attend our schools because they speak French, but their mother tongue may not be French. I am thinking of North Africans, for example.

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Beaulieu Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

What happens then?

4:55 p.m.

Vice-President, Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones

Denis Chartrand

They have to go through an admissions committee. When we hear them speak, we know that they speak perfect French, so we accept them.

4:55 p.m.

President, Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique

Marie-Pierre Lavoie

I am thinking specifically of my children, who went to French school. Today, when they are asked what their mother tongue is, they say they have two. My children speak English just as well as French.

So how are they supposed to answer that when they fill out the form?

4:55 p.m.

Vice-President, Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones

Denis Chartrand

Sorry to interrupt, but you are absolutely right.

My wife is Japanese, and my children's mother tongue is Japanese. They spoke Japanese before they spoke French. Today, they speak French like me, even better, I hope. They also speak English and Spanish. However, their mother tongue is Japanese.

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Beaulieu Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

In your opinion, do rights holders ever find no French school in their area?

4:55 p.m.

President, Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique

Marie-Pierre Lavoie

Oh, goodness, yes! It happens everywhere, Mr. Beaulieu. There are 700 French-language schools in the Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones network. I received a request from my school board this past December to open a school in Duncan. There is enormous potential in Duncan, which is exactly halfway between Victoria and Nanaimo. Children there do not have that service. They don't have a school because we cannot prove that there is enough demand to have a school there.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Thank you, Ms. Lavoie.

Mr. Angus, you have two and a half minutes.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm interested in the question of retention rates, particularly in the transition into high school. We know that many parents want their children to be educated to learn French, but then, in looking at university, there's that transition to the English system. I'd be interested to hear across the board if it's a standard percentage or if it's more in areas where there are fewer francophone services.

This is one of the questions that came up with the fight to get that university in Toronto. People asked why Toronto. Mr. Chartrand, you're so correct. There's such a large francophone population that people don't even realize is there, and that university would have helped the retention rates at the high school level. I would like to hear your perspective on retention.

4:55 p.m.

Vice-President, Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones

Denis Chartrand

My perspective is yes, you're correct. If there are fewer francophone services—university, colleges, etc.—you'll have a lower percentage of retention going through high school. Where there's the whole range of services, the retention is fairly high. We have very few—less than 3%—youngsters who will go to English high schools. Most of the cases are because they're in smaller communities, as you've just mentioned.

I'm talking about French-language public schools in Ontario.

5 p.m.

President, Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique

Marie-Pierre Lavoie

I echo what Mr. Chartrand said, but the number of students starting primary school is increasing and more and more students are finishing high school as well. Of course, students leave for different reasons. At home in British Columbia—and it is happening everywhere—students in the French-language system who finish high school do better on the English exam than English-speaking students, and they have no problem making the transition to English-language college or university.

Of course, we will still advocate for French-language colleges and universities because we need them, but students have no trouble making the transition. So that is not what makes students choose to leave. It's not because they only have access to an English-language university. They don't have any trouble, and when they go to university in English, they do very well.

In British Columbia, we have a 100% graduation rate. Our students who start Grade 12 all finish their studies. We have no dropouts, which is quite remarkable.

5 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Thank you very much, Ms. Lavoie.

I would like to take one minute to ask the following of the Quebec Community Groups Network, or QCGN.

On page 2 of your brief, you state:

“The term 'anglophone' has specific meaning in Quebec.” As a result, you avoid using the term “anglophone” because it excludes 46% of your community.

Can you tell us where the 46% comes from and whether allophones are included in that percentage?

5 p.m.

President, Quebec Community Groups Network

Geoffrey Chambers

Yes. They are Canadians who have a better knowledge of English or some affiliation with the language, but who may be from Asia or even the United States.

Their first language could be Spanish, could be Swahili. In regard to their language package for Canada, they would identify in English. In Quebec they would go to an English doctor. They would go to an English movie, but they will be told that they couldn't, if they're recent immigrants, go to an English school.

On the other hand, in some cases a period of time would have passed. They might have come from Italy in the 1960s and been sent, possibly in some cases against their will, to an English school, because the francophone schools were not accueillant. Those children had the right to come to English schools, but just two years later, following the same piece, wouldn't. It's a bit irrational. In estimating the size of our community, and the needs of our community and the character of our community, it would be very useful for us to have this data, not limited to its argument based on school access.

5 p.m.

Director General, Quebec Community Groups Network

Sylvia Martin-Laforge

Could I give another example?

5 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Yes, quickly, please.

5 p.m.

Director General, Quebec Community Groups Network

Sylvia Martin-Laforge

The Filipino community is sending their kids to French school. We have now many programs to help the Filipino mothers and fathers, to help them help their kids in French school.

You might go to a French school, you might go to an English school, or maybe one day you will be able to go to an English school.

The term “English-speaking Quebeckers” is so much more unifying for our community.

5 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Okay. Thank you.

Given that the witnesses are here, can we benefit from their expertise?

We have a motion to discuss, but some committee members were not able to ask any questions. I propose that we take an extra 10 minutes, which we could share, if I have your consent.

What do you think?

Mr. Chong, you have the floor.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

On that question the chair of our committee has posed, in your view “anglophone” means “first official language spoken is English and maternal language is also English”, whereas “allophone”, or the rest of the community, is “first official language spoken is English, but maternal language is a language other than English or French”. Is that correct?

5:05 p.m.

President, Quebec Community Groups Network

Geoffrey Chambers

I don't think etymologically that's exactly how those words ought to be defined, but that's definitely the sense in which they're used in the political climate in Quebec. Consequently, people will be asked sometimes if they are anglophone, allophone or francophone, with the idea that if you say you're an allophone that you default to all services in the French language, which is not what many of those people will choose if they're allowed to make their own choice. In most service categories, they do get to make their own choice, with the exception of education.

The day somebody from the Indian subcontinent arrives in Montreal, he or she or that family might decide they are part of the English-speaking community; they might move to an English-speaking neighbourhood; they might choose a doctor, but they're going to be called allophone and be allophone, by public policy measures.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Those folks are currently being captured by the census—

5:05 p.m.

President, Quebec Community Groups Network

Geoffrey Chambers

Yes, but without the distinction.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

—it's just that this particular data doesn't apply in respect of Quebec because section 59 has never been approved—

5:05 p.m.

President, Quebec Community Groups Network

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

—by l'Assemblée nationale or the Government of Quebec.

Do you have a position on section 59?