Thank you very much for the question, Mr. Boulerice.
A public policy is indeed based on those three components.
First, there is the vision. We have repeatedly asked the provincial governments to recognize that there are specific needs in terms of higher education in French in a minority setting. We expect this recognition from the provinces.
As I said earlier, the federal government should recognize that post‑secondary institutions do not just train people, but that they also play a key role in their communities and contribute to institutional completeness. That is why I am referring to part VII of the act.
If we accept this vision, which somewhat reframes the thinking on the support provided to higher education institutions, we will then have funding instruments. We could then consider creating a core funding program to stabilize the situation of institutions.
We could also develop a support program for research, because the federal government is very involved in this area. The Association francophone pour le savoir (Acfas) has just proposed a support program for researchers in the Canadian francophonie, the Service d'aide à la recherche en français (SARF). The Association will try to have Canadian Heritage fund this service.
Centres of excellence in research could also be created in all francophone institutions in minority settings in Canada. These centres of excellence would enable the small institutions to conduct research that would be beneficial for the institution. This is what the Université de l'Ontario français wants to do. Some researchers at the Université de Moncton are actually doing it. In my opinion, this is part of a vision for the future of francophone universities.
I also mentioned the funding of one‑time projects, such as our current ones. Such funding instruments will help make federal action in higher education more consistent, and embellish that action with the acknowledgement that higher education institutions play a key role in the development of their community.
The third component of the proposed policy support is the target audiences of universities, which are changing. Traditionally, the target audiences have been students and faculty. However, in terms of the new role of universities, all universities want to play a social role, but small universities do so in a particular way, because they have to deal with the vitality. The target audiences for small universities are employers, community groups, cultural groups, artists and creators. In a word, the target is the community as a whole.
The target audiences therefore become new stakeholders in the higher education community. Using the example of the Université de l'Ontario français, which represents a hub for all groups, we have seen that universities can play a unifying role in bringing a community together. Teaching and research will go hand in hand, and students will work with community groups to develop projects to serve those same groups.
Large universities dream of doing this, but have difficulty making the shift because of their size. The Université du Québec network is a really important case in point in this area, because each of its universities contributes to regional development. This has been recognized.
The federal government could also play a really worthwhile role through a policy that would attune its action, that would give it greater consistency and that would no longer pit it against the provinces. There's a whole area of federal‑provincial relations. The subject of higher education in French should be a permanent item on the agenda of the Ministerial Conference on the Canadian Francophonie. Earlier, we heard from Ms. Brouillette from the ACUFC, which will be holding a summit on higher education in French. Perhaps this will lead to an action plan.
The various types of actions must be coordinated to ensure that they are consistent. We must also ensure that, if English and French have meaning in Canada and if we recognize the role of universities for the majority, we must also do so for universities for the minority.