Evidence of meeting #36 for Official Languages in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was laurentian.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Julie Boyer  Assistant Deputy Minister, Official Languages, Heritage and Regions, Department of Canadian Heritage
Denis Racine  Director General, Official Languages Branch, Department of Canadian Heritage

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mélanie Joly Liberal Ahuntsic-Cartierville, QC

That's fine.

Go ahead, Mr. Beaulieu, I will answer later.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

We also have to protect our interpreters.

The floor is yours, Mr. Beaulieu.

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

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

Madam Minister, I asked you a question about the official languages program. You strayed a long way from that subject and you told me about culture, and so on. When I asked you other questions, you didn't want to answer, because your department is not responsible.

Within the official languages program, what are you going to do to stand up for French?

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

You have 10 seconds, Madam Minister.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mélanie Joly Liberal Ahuntsic-Cartierville, QC

As part of the modernization of the Official Languages Act, we recognize francophone immigration. We allocate $600 million per year to Quebec for francizing immigrants. First, the money that the federal government gives to Quebec allows immigrants to be francized.

Second, we have many other cultural levers: Telefilm Canada, Radio-Canada, and so on. In a word, all the great institutions that ensure the strength of French in Quebec.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Thank you very much, Madam Minister.

Thank you very much, Mr. Beaulieu.

Just before Mr. Boulerice takes the floor, I want to remind you that Ms. Boyer and Mr. Racine will stay with us after 5 p.m.

Mr. Boulerice, you have the floor for two and a half minutes.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Madam Minister, I am speaking to you as a graduate of the Université de Montréal and of McGill University. Perhaps you can use that in your future comments.

Does the bankruptcy of Laurentian University not reveal that our whole post-secondary education system in Canada is underfunded? It's not just about programs for francophones in northern Ontario and Franco-Ontarians in general, is it?

I ask that question because I was asked the same one by the Canadian Association of University Teachers. They are afraid that this bankruptcy is the canary in the coal mine, as people used to say, meaning that it is the first example of the privatization of our post-secondary education.

What are your thoughts on that?

5 p.m.

Liberal

Mélanie Joly Liberal Ahuntsic-Cartierville, QC

I feel that there are two aspects to your question.

First, universities, especially those that serve official language minority communities, have certainly been weakened by the pandemic. Those universities live on various sources of funding, especially foreign students, whether we like it or not. So when those students are no longer there in person, that income disappears. The only thing left is income from food outlets, parking, and so on. Their situation is weakened as a result.

That is why we are looking at an investment of $121.3 million. We knew that the problem was going to spread and that we were going to have to solve it. So we set aside some new money.

As for the other aspect of your question, we have to create ways to protect those institutions. That is why we want to do it in a future bill that will modernize the Official Languages Act. I think that that's more or less the question you wanted to ask me earlier. It's very important to recognize that post-secondary education is essential to a community's vitality

5 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Mr. Boulerice, you have 30 seconds left.

5 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Okay.

As you said earlier, you don't start a university by snapping your fingers.

Some programs may well be abolished, such as the training program for midwives at Laurentian University. I agree with you. Do you commit to ensuring the survival of francophone programs in general, and that one in particular, because it is unique in Ontario?

5 p.m.

Liberal

Mélanie Joly Liberal Ahuntsic-Cartierville, QC

Yes. I actually talked to Ms. Adam about it this morning. We are trying to find solutions.

I am ready to put money on the table to support that specific program.

5 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Thank you very much, Madam Minister.

I know that you have to leave us, so let me thank you for appearing before the Standing Committee on Official Languages.

We will be continuing with Julie Boyer, Assistant Deputy Minister, Official Languages, Heritage and Regions, and with Denis Racine, Director General, Official Languages Branch.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Mélanie Joly Liberal Ahuntsic-Cartierville, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

5 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Goodbye, Madam Minister.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Mélanie Joly Liberal Ahuntsic-Cartierville, QC

Goodbye.

5 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Mr. Godin, the floor is yours for the next five minutes.

June 1st, 2021 / 5 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My thanks to the Minister for coming to the committee. I feel that is important. If there is one quality I appreciate in this Minister, it is that she makes herself available. That is to her great credit. The same cannot be said about her actions or the measures the government puts in place, but I do want to thank Ms. Joly as a person. I hope that you will pass that message on to her.

Now I would like to take this opportunity to ask Mr. Racine and Ms. Boyer some questions.

Earlier, Ms. Joly mentioned that the government intends to provide $5 million in financial assistance to Laurentian University. We heard the same thing in the media today. However, since this catastrophic situation began, she has been telling anyone who will listen that it's not the federal government's responsibility. It is always the provincial government's responsibility. However, when I talk about the situation, I think of my colleague Mr. Lefebvre, the member of Parliament for Sudbury, who is suffering the consequences because it is happening in his backyard and he knows many of the people involved.

Is the Minister skating on thin ice, so to speak, by coming out and promising $5 million in assistance?

To what extent do second-language post-secondary education institutions come under federal jurisdiction?

Isn't the federal government somewhat out of line by promising $5 million in assistance?

5 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

The floor is yours, Ms. Boyer.

5:05 p.m.

Julie Boyer Assistant Deputy Minister, Official Languages, Heritage and Regions, Department of Canadian Heritage

I will speak first and then I will hand over to Mr. Racine.

It is important to say that education is a provincial responsibility. When we negotiated the protocol for agreements for minority-language education and second-language instruction, which will come to an end in 2023, we agreed on the parameters for cooperation. We reiterated that education is in the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces. We therefore have to work with them in order to come to an agreement and to determine how we can support them.

Perhaps Mr. Racine would like to add to my answer.

5:05 p.m.

Denis Racine Director General, Official Languages Branch, Department of Canadian Heritage

I think that we must bear one thing in mind. As the Minister and Ms. Boyer have said, since education is in provincial and territorial jurisdiction, it's important that requests come to us from the provinces.

In their current form, support programs for official languages do not allow us to fund post-secondary institutions directly and we have to do so through the provinces. It is therefore up to the provinces to propose activities, projects or programs for the post-secondary institutions. That is how the partnership can take shape.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Thank you, Mr. Racine. I completely understand.

However, there were signs. Last February, it was clear that Laurentian University was heading straight into a wall.

I fully understand that education is in provincial jurisdiction. However, I also fully understand that championing the official languages is in federal jurisdiction. Today, the Minister decides to give out $5 million. She is also very often critical of provincial and territorial governments.

As administrators, could you not have shown some leadership by making the first move? Your first mission is to protect and promote the official languages. So I am wondering why no specific action was taken and why no pressure was exerted before today.

I understand that provincial governments have other concerns and their own business to attend to. But the federal government has just one responsibility, that of promoting the official languages. So why did the federal government show no leadership?

5:05 p.m.

Director General, Official Languages Branch, Department of Canadian Heritage

Denis Racine

At the Department of Canadian Heritage, we are always in contact with our provincial counterparts.

When we were made aware of the situation, we began a dialogue with the province, which still continues today. We encouraged them to find a solution and to tell us how much the federal government should contribute to put the solution into action.

We are in constant dialogue with our counterparts in the province of Ontario, as we are with those in other provinces, in connection with the bilateral agreements that we have with each one of them.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Thank you, Ms. Boyer and Mr. Racine.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Thank you, Mr. Godin.

The next five minutes go to Mr. Lefebvre.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Lefebvre Liberal Sudbury, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Racine, before February 1, did the province's department of education communicate with you with a view to obtaining financial assistance to support the official languages at Laurentian University?