Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Members of the committee, good afternoon.
My name is Ania Kolodziej and I am president of French for the Future. I am accompanied by Emeline Leurent, who is the executive director.
Thank you for inviting us to speak on a topic that is of great interest to us and also to the young people we work for.
I would like to share with you part of my story. I am the poster child for Canadian bilingualism and the daughter of first generation immigrants. My parents wanted me to participate in Canadian bilingualism, so they enrolled me in French immersion school. I studied in French immersion in North Delta, a suburb of Vancouver, for all of my elementary and high school years.
I continued my studies in French at Simon Fraser University, in a program of the Office of Francophone and Francophile Affairs that was new at the time and offered for the first time the opportunity to study social sciences in French, in British Columbia. I then studied common law and civil law at the University of Ottawa. I have now been a public law lawyer for 10 years and practice mostly in French, across Canada, including as a member of the bars of four provinces.
If my story reflects the success of Canadian bilingualism, it was only possible because of federal investments. Yet I am too often told that my story is exceptional when it should be normal. The opportunities I took advantage of to learn and perfect my French should be available to all youth.
French for the Future is a national non-profit organization that promotes bilingualism and the benefits of learning and communicating in French to high school students. Through its programs, French for the Future reaches more than 40,000 young people each year, who become increasingly confident in their French language skills.
In order to make it possible for more young people to become bilingual, certain amendments to Bill C‑13 are required. Today we want to talk to you about four improvements. In each case, these changes will have the effect of helping organizations like ours to further encourage the learning of French or, for francophones and francophiles, to maintain and increase opportunities to speak and live in French outside Quebec.
First, Bill C‑13 should codify the obligation to include mandatory language provisions in agreements between federal, provincial and territorial governments. The various levels of government must never forget language transmission and revitalization when negotiating agreements that have an impact on French-speaking communities.
Second, Bill C‑13 greatly improves part VII of the Official Languages Act with respect to positive measures, which promote, among other things, the learning of French. However, the wording of part VII must be further strengthened to ensure that federal institutions take the necessary positive measures, not just those they deem appropriate. The current wording gives federal institutions too much latitude and is not binding. The commitments and promises in Bill C‑13 to protect and promote French and to assist non-profit organizations in providing opportunities for all persons in Canada to learn French will only be achievable if part VII is further strengthened.
Third, we recognize the importance of francophone immigration in restoring francophone demographics and support initiatives that help newcomers and their youth live in French. Bill C‑13 should clarify that the objective of the francophone immigration policy is to restore and increase the demographic weight of francophone communities, not just maintain it.
Fourth, with respect to designating a central agency, the coordination of the act must be entrusted solely to the Treasury Board to ensure that only one federal institution is ultimately responsible for the implementation of the act. The Treasury Board should not be able to delegate this ultimate responsibility. This crucial change to the structure of Bill C‑13 will ensure strong accountability and effective implementation of the act.
For all intents and purposes, French for the Future believes that Bill C‑13 can and should go further to make the Official Languages Act a truly effective piece of legislation that has more teeth and protects the future of French across the country.