Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Pierre Asselin, and I am the president of the Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta, or l'ACFA. I am accompanied here in Edmonton by our executive director, Isabelle Laurin.
Thank you sincerely for this invitation to appear before you today. The work your committee is doing is invaluable for the future of French in Alberta and elsewhere in the country. The modernization of the Official Languages Act is key to ensuring the act's success.
ACFA has defended the gains that Alberta's francophone community has made, promoted its rights and supported its vitality since 1926—our centenary is coming up. ACFA represents more than 260,000 French-speaking Albertans, a population that grew more than 50% from 1991 to 2021. Despite this major success in Alberta, due in large part to a thriving economy in recent years, we are concerned about the decline that data from the 2021 census clearly shows in the Canadian francophonie. This is why amendments must be made to the Official Languages Act without delay. There is a truly urgent need for action. I don't want the next generation to find itself sitting here having the same conversation.
As a member of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, the FCFA, ACFA supports the broad outlines of Bill C‑13 and reiterates its support for the improvement proposals our federation has made. In recent months, the FCFA and all its members have held numerous meetings with parliamentarians and have outlined the improvements they would like to see.
I would like to take advantage of my appearance here to review what we consider are two essential improvement proposals: first, the addition of language clauses and, second, the necessary clarification of francophone immigration policy.
First, with respect to language clauses, when the federal government proposes new funding for specific initiatives, there is no formal mechanism for ensuring that funding is also allocated to the francophone communities. Consider, for example, the recent November 2021 agreement on $10‑a‑day child care services. We need child care services for young francophones here as well, but we are subject to the goodwill of provincial governments, and we need to invest considerable human and financial resources to prepare the necessary submissions. We would therefore like to see an obligation added to the bill to include language clauses in federal transfers to the provinces and territories, along with the option that the federal government may consider dealing directly with francophone communities where a province or territory rejects such clauses. That's important for us in Alberta given our history. The option of dealing directly with francophone communities would take into account the fact that the federal statute may not be able to bind the provinces to these types of language clauses.
Second, we would like it clarified that the new francophone immigration policy shouldn't merely contribute to maintaining or increasing our demographic weight, but that it should also establish a specific objective of restoring francophones' demographic weight. By that, we mean restoring rather than maintaining. An ACFA study has revealed a need for restorative francophone immigration targets to address the demographic decline of the francophonie. The last attempts at doing so were made far too long ago.
Those two changes would make an enormous difference in the everyday lives of French-speaking Albertans by correcting the decline in the demographic weight of francophones and guaranteeing access to provincial services in French. These are essential factors in supporting the vitality of our communities and combating assimilation, which is the aim of everything we're doing today.
ACFA has been working on this issue for nearly six years. On December 8, 2016, during consultations for the Action Plan for Official Languages 2018‑2023, a plan that's about to expire, the Minister of Official Languages at the time, the Hon. Mélanie Joly, asked our president, Jean Johnson, what she could do to have a major impact. When he dared to propose modernizing the Official Languages Act, she personally invited him to share that idea with a full room of incredibly excited people. Since then, within ACFA alone, in addition to Jean Johnson, the message has been spread by the various presidents of our association: Albert Nolette, Marc Arnal, Sheila Risbud and now yours truly. I hope the task doesn't eventually fall to my children.
In the meantime, the House of Commons and the Senate have released many reports, all political parties have made commitments, a reform document has been published, and two bills have been introduced. And here we are once again discussing the modernization of the act and what francophone minority communities would like to see incorporated in new legislation. We've been discussing this issue and sharing our dreams, aspirations and needs for more than 2,000 days now. It's time to stop discussing the details. With all due respect, it's time for our elected representatives to act.