Our response to the reform document that was introduced this winter was very positive. As I said, it addresses many of our concerns.
That said, there are a few things that we're following closely. Obviously, part VII of the Official Languages Act, which affects the development of English and French minority communities, needs to be strengthened and clarified. Currently, when we work with the federal government and the various departments, we do not have a clear definition of what constitutes a positive measure to support our development.
We need to define the concept of “positive measure” and we also need to define what it means to “consult with communities” when developing programs. In the past, some governments have been less likely to consult with communities, and unfortunately this has resulted in programs being created that are parachuted in and do not meet the needs of those communities.
Then I would say that it is very important for the federal government to support the “by” and “for” that I was mentioning, which is the ability of communities to do their own development. Sometimes this is done through transfers to the provinces and territories, but often it can also be done through direct investments in institutions that will manage funds on behalf of the federal government. This is in keeping with the idea that communities are development partners of the federal government, not just groups to be funded. From this perspective, federal assistance to communities should be used to strengthen community ownership.
I have talked about transfers to the provinces and territories. The federal government transfers a great deal of money for health, education and infrastructure to the provinces and territories. However, we often can't follow that money and we can't demonstrate that it has any impact on our communities. We could transfer billions of dollars in infrastructure to the provinces by including a language clause that would require the provinces to consult the minority to find out their infrastructure needs. This would ensure that the provinces and territories take our needs into account when setting their priorities, which directly impact our communities.
One final element of part VII is very important to us, and that is the issue of francophone immigration. In 2003, the federal government set a target of 4% for francophone immigration and this target has never been reached. The demographic weight of francophones continues to fall year after year, and the target of 4.4% for 2023 is therefore no longer sufficient. A new catch-up and repair target must be established to ensure that the demographic weight of our communities will increase in the future, rather than stay the same or decline.
I will stop here. These ideas for supporting community development stand out to us.