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

4:35 p.m.

Vice-President, Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones

Denis Chartrand

Let me give you a preliminary answer. Ms. Morand will be able to give you details later.

Yes, we have spoken with the bureaucrats at Statistics Canada. As Ms. Lavoie mentioned, they even tested the questions and they said that it worked. So we don't understand why they insist that it will only be part of the long form.

4:35 p.m.

President, Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique

Marie-Pierre Lavoie

We have sent a number of letters on this issue.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Okay. Thank you. Mr. d'Entremont's time has run out.

The floor goes to Ms. Lattanzio for five minutes.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Patricia Lattanzio Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Thank you.

Thank you for being here today. We are here today with stakeholders from various organizations from across the country. We are very fortunate.

I was able to understand the distinction you made earlier between anglophones and Anglo-Quebeckers. I personally am an Anglo-Quebecker, since I was born to immigrant parents who, at the time, chose my language of instruction. So here I am. My parents chose an anglophone school for me. Afterwards, my children were given the opportunity to attend an anglophone school. In Quebec, in order for that to happen, you have to get a certificate of eligibility.

My questions will be for the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN).

In Quebec, the issue of rights holders is also fundamental for the anglophone minority community. Perhaps we should explain the purpose of this study and explain why we have not found a solution today. I agree with you, Ms. Lavoie, when you say that there has been an evolution. We are the children of immigrants, and our children are the ones who have taken over. We made that choice. The choice of language is widespread. How can these rights be preserved?

In the case of our anglophone community in Quebec, having this information is really essential. It is important for Statistics Canada to realize that, in the province of Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, there has been an evolution, that the population has grown and that it wants to maintain its rights.

My question is for Mr. Chambers from the QCGN.

As I understand it, you addressed this issue in your presentation here in February 2017. Having said that, I'm going to focus on the certificate of eligibility for English-language education.

Could you explain to my colleagues how that works in Quebec?

First, would access to probative data on rights holders have an impact on the process for obtaining this certificate?

4:40 p.m.

President, Quebec Community Groups Network

Geoffrey Chambers

In order for the English-speaking population to be aware of their rights, there must be figures to show that a certain proportion of the population is entitled to the certificate of eligibility. Especially in rural areas, sometimes people are not aware that they have the right to follow the same path as their parents. This is because their friends usually attend a French-language school.

The right to having access to schools is not always used and, as Monsieur Beaulieu pointed out, under normal circumstances it is grandfathered, but people are not necessarily aware of that. If there isn't a good statistical basis for them to be encouraged to understand that, very serious erosion is possible.

Also having the data collected would enumerate the number of potential candidates for an English school who are excluded by the current rules in Quebec, which, as we know, are a temporary provision that is not only in violation of the Canadian Constitution, but the Quebec charter of rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a transitional provision to protect the French language in Quebec while it's at risk. We would contend that is not a permanent condition and that at some point the conventional civil rights of the society that ought to exist everywhere be returned.

Enumerating the quantity of the population that would affect would be quite useful to that debate, particularly if that population isn't that large so it doesn't look like a great demographic shift that's going to wreck or put at risk the future of the French language in Quebec.

The data could be very useful to us in getting the population to understand its rights and in the constructive debate about what the rules should be going forward.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Patricia Lattanzio Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

May I continue, Mr. Chair?

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

You'll have a chance to come back to that. Five minutes go by very quickly.

Mr. Généreux, you have the floor.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to the witnesses for being here. I apologize for being late.

I would like to curse and swear, but I'm going to refrain. I have been a member of this committee for the last four years. We have met with you a few times, and we're still talking about the same thing today.

This Thursday, we are meeting with the chief statistician of Canada, so sharpen your pencils. Basically, the issue is political. It's not about math, and you don't have to convince anybody of the relevance of what you have been demanding for years.

One of the excuses we have been given in previous studies we have conducted is that there was no room on the form. Eventually, the choice to include one question rather than another becomes a political choice. That's it, plain and simple.

I am a printer and I know paper. I know that you can put a lot of information on a sheet of paper, as long as you want to.

Mr. Arseneault, you have a big job ahead of you.

We all agree on the enumeration. There is absolutely no reason to be partisan on this issue. It's crystal clear. This issue must be settled once and for all.

I hope we will have some insightful answers on Thursday. I say this because I know the chief statistician will be listening to what is being said today. I hope he's ready. I would not want him to tell us that he does not have room on his paper, because I will show him some paper. At some point, enough of this nonsense.

I hear you and, sincerely, I have tremendous admiration for all that you do and all that you have done over the last 50 years to have the rights of rights holders recognized. I believe that we must make your work easier.

Accountability is one of the things that has always struck a chord with me. Even today, money is still being sent to the provinces, and the provinces do whatever they want with it. We can't figure out what they do with that money. We talked about early childhood. Mr. Arseneault, how many studies have we done on that? Each time, we came up against the issue of accountability.

Do you have any comments on that? With regard to the chief statistician who will be appearing before us on Thursday, go for it.

4:45 p.m.

Director General, Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones

Valérie Morand

At the moment, we are very concerned. When the new cabinet was sworn in, a mandate letter was given to Minister Joly, who is responsible for the francophonie and official languages. It was clearly indicated that she had to change the census. People had hope when they saw that it was in the minister's mandate letter.

However, there is no mention of the short form or the long form. If we change the long form, we are no further ahead and we are back to square one. You know the issue. As you are well aware after hearing us, the ultimate decision rests in the hands of Mr. Bains, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. Yes, it is in Ms. Joly's mandate letter, but it is in her colleague's hands. You can see the danger of this ending up in file 13, as they say.

In short, we are concerned about this.

4:45 p.m.

Vice-President, Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones

Denis Chartrand

I am an engineer by profession, so I like working with numbers. I am sure the chief statistician, who will appear before you, will tell you that with the long form, which is sent to 20% of Canadians, he can give you a close estimate. I am not questioning that, but it is a national average. That is not what we need. We need numbers in specific locations.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

All right. If I may, Mr. Chair, I am going to use the 35 seconds I have left to table a notice of motion. I am going to distribute it, if I may.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

This is the motion you already filed.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Right. I apologize. I have not been on the committee long enough.

So I will present it. Would you all allow me to present it in the last 10 minutes of the meeting?

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Yes, I think it is best to wait, because our guests are here. We can take advantage of the discussions and then we can debate it, if you like.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Thank you very much.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Thank you.

We now will go to Ms. Lambropoulos.

You have five minutes.

March 10th, 2020 / 4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My thanks to all the witnesses for being here today.

My questions are for the QCGN, as I'm an English-speaking Quebecker as well.

I think pretty much everybody on this committee is on the same page, in that the short-form survey is the one that would most benefit linguistic minority communities across the country. Obviously in Quebec we have a very different situation, and the current questions that are asked on this survey are not necessarily ones that benefit Quebec's anglophone or English-speaking communities.

Because we are going to be drawing on recommendations based on what witnesses have said, would you mind telling us specifically what questions would benefit English-speaking Quebeckers with regard to this survey?

4:50 p.m.

President, Quebec Community Groups Network

Geoffrey Chambers

Yes. Right now, really, the census gathers only information about people who aren't eligible for English-speaking education in Quebec. We would like to have a series.... I think there was a study or a test survey done by Statistics Canada last summer that reduced the package of inquiry down to five simple questions that not every person filling out the census would have to answer.

Essentially, the first question is an eliminating question, so 80% or 90% of the people would just be answering one more question than they're currently answering. If they were to fall into the 10% of the population, roughly speaking, who might have qualifications under this second or third method of qualifying, they would have a cascading set of questions. What we would get to is numbers for students who would qualify on all three bases, one of which would be eliminated in Quebec for the time being, but would still be good to know. The other two would actually define what our total potential population is, which is a matter that's very much in doubt.

As you know, our school population has declined from about a quarter of a million people in the 1970s to about 80,000 now, which creates a great deal of strain and stress on the system. In a situation where our best estimates suggest that the actual eligible population might be 20,000 or 30,000 more, not having to sit in front of you saying that it's our best estimate like we're counting on our fingers, but rather that Statistics Canada has proven this, would be a huge advantage.

The questions that should actually be added to the census are the ones that were tested last summer and have this descending effect, so the complaint that the addition of the questions would wreck the short-form census by making it much longer wouldn't really be valid. It would add only one question to most people's responses. That's what we're hoping the government will see its way clear to doing—and expecting, which is better than hoping.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Would you send our committee those questions, so that we have access to them when we're writing up the draft?

4:50 p.m.

President, Quebec Community Groups Network

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Thank you.

This question is similar to what my colleague asked earlier, but if you don't mind, could you go into a little more detail? How exactly would knowing the exact number of rights holders and the number of eligible students help our community?

4:50 p.m.

President, Quebec Community Groups Network

Geoffrey Chambers

If you have a community that has the right, literally the constitutional right, and it should be available to 100,000 students, but there are only 83,000 using it, that creates a situation in which you know you have objective data that will allow you to address that question. If you were just expressing that an opinion, in a climate of a lot of pressure from governmental policy-makers who would prefer us to reduce our scale of operation, one of the basic tools of argument isn't available to you.

We really need to have that data objectively available from a third party. I think our statistics are pretty good, but they are our statistics; they're not Statistics Canada's absolutely objective data. It would help in that way.

It would also help, as I mentioned earlier, in arguing for better electoral lists and a better process allowing the community to continue to be.... We already have an electoral participation in the school board process, and Ms. Lattanzio knows about that, that is seven or eight times what the majority population.... We're doing well relatively speaking, but it's still under 20%. We are sure that, with a better electoral process, which we've been arguing for, we'll get a better participation rate. We need to have the tools to argue for that and to argue for the municipal elections to be held in a format where there's some publicity and for elections to be held in a way in which the communities are allowed to get involved and promote them. Having data about the community helps with that.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Thank you, Mr. Chambers.

I'd like to give 15 or 20 seconds to Ms. Risbud, if you'd like to comment.

4:55 p.m.

Sheila Risbud

I just wanted to let you know that in our submission on tab 2, page 8, you'll find the questions that we're talking about.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Thank you very much.

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