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

4:10 p.m.

Vice-President, Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones

Denis Chartrand

I'm going to answer the first question you asked Ms. Risbud, about still fighting the same fight after seven censuses.

Fighting and persevering is part of our DNA as French Canadians.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

I agree with you.

4:10 p.m.

Vice-President, Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones

Denis Chartrand

We never give up.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

All right.

Eventually, though, it has to lead somewhere.

4:10 p.m.

Vice-President, Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones

Denis Chartrand

We would like that.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Agreed.

4:15 p.m.

Vice-President, Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones

Denis Chartrand

I'm going to answer your question, and I'm not trying to be unkind.

On one hand, it's due to a lack of understanding by the majority population, which can include bureaucrats. French-language schools are almost an afterthought. Provincial programming is based on English-language schools and, then, consideration is given to francophones or it isn't. I don't want to suggest that it's out of malice, but apathy or a lack of understanding may be to blame.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Can you answer in 10 seconds, please?

4:15 p.m.

Vice-President, Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones

Denis Chartrand

Ten seconds left, Mr. Chair? All right.

Next, there is the political dimension. We make up 5% of the population.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Thank you.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Thank you, Mr. Chartrand and Mr. Godin.

It is now Mr. Arseneault's turn, for six minutes.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

René Arseneault Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It is true that we invited the cream of the crop to our first formal meeting. The bar has been set very high. You couldn't have been any clearer. I prepared some questions, but your presentations were so informative that I'm going to ask other questions.

First, when it comes to the enumeration of rights holders under section 23, you pointed out that, for 38 years, we've been neglecting the two-thirds of children who could have potentially attended French-language elementary, intermediate, secondary and post-secondary schools all over the country where services were available. We've ignored them, turned our backs on them. That's the message you conveyed to us.

Second, let's consider the short-form census versus the long-form census. We all understand quite well now the absolute importance of knocking on every single door and getting the form to every community member in Canada so we can ascertain where they are, geographically speaking. I believe that was your message. Not only is it important to know how many francophones there are in Canada—or anglophones in Quebec—but it is also important to know where they live, because that's what will show whether the numbers warrant services or not.

Can you speak in more detail about the shift in Canada's francophone community? There's been a lot of movement since I was young. The community isn't necessarily where you'd expect to find it today. When I was young, there were typical well-established French-speaking households, but now I'm seeing that some francophone households have moved. Figuring out francophones' geographic location is important.

In what way is that important to you? How does all that tie in to the short form census?

4:15 p.m.

Vice-President, Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones

Denis Chartrand

Toronto is a striking example. When I was young—a long time ago—Ontario's francophone community was concentrated in eastern and northern Ontario. It's estimated that, by 2025, the Toronto area will be home to more francophones than the Ottawa area. Bear in mind, however, that many of those people are immigrants, and so they aren't automatically counted through the long-form census. In theory, they don't count in our schools. That's why the questions need to be added to the short-form census: these people have to be enumerated as rights holders.

March 10th, 2020 / 4:15 p.m.

Valérie Morand Director General, Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones

I'd like to add something to what Mr. Chartrand said.

For example, École secondaire Gabriel-Dumont in Toronto has 293 spots, but 399 actual students—106 more than it should—not to mention 10 portables. Within five years, it's expected to have 526 students, another 126. That will put it at 180% capacity. Just imagine the headache that creates for administrators at the Conseil scolaire Viamonde.

Our system is burgeoning, which is not at all the case for the English-speaking majority, whose schools are losing numbers. For the past eight years, our schools have experienced an average growth of 13.5%, and even that is an underestimate because it's a national average. In regions like the one where Mr. Chartrand's board is located, the growth is substantially higher. If all rights holders were identified, the numbers would increase, as you can imagine.

These are very conservative estimates, and we can't continue to restrict the community's growth or the rights of its members to send their children to French-language schools. French is, after all, one of the country's two official languages.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

René Arseneault Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

As I understand it, and correct me if I'm wrong, the example you gave, or even Mr. Chartrand's case, speaks to the fact that some schools have 200% occupancy rates and as many as 24 portables—the exact numbers elude me right now. That is more or less your argument to demonstrate that the long-form census is inadequate. Your example shows that rights holders aren't being properly enumerated. It's a useful example. Do you agree?

4:15 p.m.

Vice-President, Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones

Denis Chartrand

It's a useful example, yes. While the long-form census may be statistically appropriate to establish a national average, it reveals nothing about the situation in Kanata, Timmins or elsewhere.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

René Arseneault Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

How important is it for the courts to hear the numbers—

4:20 p.m.

President, Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique

Marie-Pierre Lavoie

It's important, of course, Mr. Arseneault. The case is before the Supreme Court. Even if the Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique and the Fédération des parents francophones de Colombie-Britannique win their case before the Supreme Court, we still need to be able to show the ministry of education where the students are and how many there are in order to define attendance areas and obtain the funding to build the schools. We can't build schools or provide programming because we don't have the ability to determine where the children are.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

René Arseneault Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

I have another quick question.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

You have a minute left.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

René Arseneault Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Okay. The information has to come from the witnesses, even if we know it.

Didn't the British Columbia and Alberta governments send a letter to the minister in charge? Can you tell us about the letter?

4:20 p.m.

President, Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique

Marie-Pierre Lavoie

Yes, they did.

The education minister in our province is quite aware of the fact that we lack the ability to enumerate rights holders. In the brief submitted by the Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique, at tab 5 or 6, you'll find the letter sent by our minister, then deputy minister, in support of our calls to have all students counted. Keep in mind—and this bears repeating—that students are at the heart of this whole thing. Students are the ones we are supposed to be serving.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Thank you.

We will now go to Mr. Beaulieu for six minutes.

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

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

Good afternoon. Thank you for your highly informative presentations.

I have a fairly specific question.

You said that Alberta had 43 French-language schools. Does that include immersion schools?

4:20 p.m.

President, Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique

Marie-Pierre Lavoie

That's in the brief submitted by the Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique. It has 43 schools, but that number doesn't include immersion schools, which are managed by anglophone school boards.