Welcome to the 37th
meeting of the Standing Committee on Official Languages on this Tuesday, April 24, 2012. Pursuant to Standing Order 108, we are conducting the study on the evaluation of the roadmap: improving programs and service delivery.
Today we have two substitute members joining us: Mr. Sopuck and Madam Ambler. Welcome.
There are two new committee members: Mr. Benskin and Mr. Dionne Labelle. Welcome.
Today we have four groups: Ms. Beaubien, Ms. Beaumont and Mr. Provencher from the Fédération franco-ténoise, Ms. Chartrand and Mr. René from the Association des francophones du Nunavut, Mr. Custodio and Mr. Corbineau from the Fédération des francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador, and, lastly, Mr. Forgues from the Canadian Institute of Research on Linguistic Minorities. Welcome to you all.
We will begin with the Fédération franco-ténoise.
Mr. Chair, members, good morning.
On behalf of the Fédération franco-ténoise and the Northwest Territories' francophone community, we are pleased to accept the invitation from the Standing Committee on Official Languages. My name is Josianne Beaumont, and I am the Second Vice-President of the board of directors. I am joined by Claire Beaubien, our Executive Director, and by Léo Paul Provencher, who was the FFT director for over seven years.
The FFT's mission is to promote, encourage and advocate for the NWT's French-Canadian cultural, political, economic, social and community life in order to enhance the vitality of the NWT's francophone communities. The FFT does this through representing, coordinating, promoting and supporting the development of these communities, together with its members and partners.
Our organization has been active in the NWT for 33 years, delivering a range of community services to a variety of client groups: French-language health services, youth, immigrant settlement, literacy and seniors' services. Our members are concentrated mostly in four local communities: Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River and Fort Smith. Apart from the weekly newspaper L'Aquilon and the community radio station, there are also four socio-cultural organizations.
According to the 2006 Census, over 3,720 residents, 9.1% of the population, across the NWT have the ability to speak French, and French was first official language of 2.6% of the NWT population. As for education, 230 students attend two French-language schools in Yellowknife and Hay River. There are also four French immersion programs with a combined enrolment of 350 students.
Since 2008, the FFT has had some major achievements, including creation of a post-secondary institution in Yellowknife, establishment of an immigrant settlement service, involvement in Destination Canada on two occasions and the release by the Réseau TNO Santé en français of a directory of human resources and institutions able to deliver French-language services. Our Jeunesse TNO service received an honourable mention from Canadian Heritage in recognition of the Multimedia Forum in 2009. These initiatives would not have been possible without the investments set out in the roadmap, and the outcomes provide ample evidence that the roadmap should be renewed.
In terms of community cooperation and consultation, we wish to underscore the efforts of certain federal agencies that take their obligations under part VII of the Official Languages Act seriously. Some members of your committee had the opportunity to visit our community last winter and learn about the difficulties we are facing in terms of community space. These problems remain unresolved, although we are pleased with what came out of our dealings with the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.
Looking at the investments under the current roadmap, we can see that a number of regional initiatives are included. We are disappointed to see that none of these initiatives pertain to the territories, despite the fact that our needs in terms of school and community infrastructure are just as pressing.
A recurring problem with living in the north is our highly mobile workforce. People who move here stay for less than five years; businesses and governments are barely able to fill all the positions available, and they spend a fortune on recruitment. This can be explained by a number of reasons, particularly early childhood services. In Yellowknife, child care costs $700 a month; in Inuvik, $850. This situation makes it difficult for young mothers to return to the workforce, thereby hampering economic development.
The previous example clearly illustrates the challenges caused by the high cost of living in the north. They are also reflected in the analysis of our results. In calculating the quantity of services delivered per dollar invested, we see that the territories are clearly far behind the provinces with large urban centres. Not only do we have low numbers in absolute terms, but also our costs in terms of salaries, housing, transportation and energy are vastly higher.
As a result, we believe that the principle of fairness and equal access needs to apply to the way northerners are treated when setting parameters for government programs and evaluating the results achieved. In recent weeks, the Government of the Northwest Territories and francophone community representatives finalized an implementation plan for French-language communications and services. This is an important and significant development in the history of the NWT's francophone community.
Good morning, bonjour, ullaakkut.
Mr. Chair, committee members, thank you for your invitation to appear before the Standing Committee on Official Languages. We are pleased to come and share our experience with you and to contribute to the evaluation of the roadmap in order to improve programs and service delivery.
We will briefly present the Association des francophones du Nunavut, its accomplishments and its challenges. Then we will explain the positive impact the roadmap has had on the vitality of the francophone community of Nunavut and why it is essential to renew it.
As the organization representing the Franco-Nunavummiut community for the past 30 years, the AFN has a mission to work toward affirming and achieving the full potential of the francophone community in Nunavut in harmony with the other cultures there. The community governance of the francophone minority in Nunavut is an essential factor in the community's vitality.
As the community's representative organization, the AFN ensures the coordination and mobilization of the associative network. We take part in efforts to implement the territory's Official Languages Act
Few federal government departments are present in the territory and few services are provided in French. On the territorial side, Nunavut's Official Languages Act was passed in 2008 and should be implemented starting in 2012. Few French-language services have been offered to date, but the Government of Nunavut has an Official Languages Branch, a Minister of Languages and a Commissioner of Languages.
The Department of Canadian Heritage has provided financial support for the vitality of the francophone community since 1999. Under agreements on the transfer of funds from the Government of Canada to the provinces and territories, we also receive financial support from the Nunavut government's Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth. We have also received funding from HRSDC and CanNor.
These contributions enable us to work toward consolidating our gains because there is no guarantee that the vitality of an official language minority community will be preserved. We face many challenges, and maintaining linguistic and community vitality comes at a very significant real cost, particularly in the north.
In arts and culture, our community and cultural centre has a multidisciplinary purpose. The performing arts and music are in particular demand. As there is no auditorium in Iqaluit, the Franco-Centre is the preferred venue for local artists of all languages and for organizations seeking a room where they can present their cultural activities.
The financial support we receive contributes to the creation, improvement and delivery of activities and services to francophones and to the community as a whole. It is by continuing to invest in our activities that we will be able to diversify what we offer, enhance our programming and increase the number of activities and participants, while supporting community stakeholders in their efforts to promote culture in all its forms.
In communications, the station CFRT—which we call "C-FRET"—is not only a community radio station, but especially the only francophone radio station in Nunavut. It is the only available media outlet for francophones who want to be informed in French, to listen to a local radio station in their language and to broadcast advertising and government public announcements in French. The same is true of Nunavoix, our local newspaper. With the implementation of Nunavut's Official Languages Act, the French-language media will become essential because public communications will also have to be conducted in French. Without funding, there will be no more communications in French.
In education, the Commission scolaire francophone du Nunavut, or CSFN, offers educational services to preschool, primary and secondary students. In 2013, it will have its first grade 12 graduating class. Francophone students in grades 9 to 12 currently have a French-language program in collaboration with the Inukshuk English-language school.
In the wake of the economic development of Iqaluit and Nunavut, CSFN's enrolment has doubled from 47 students in 2006 to 93 in 2011. It also offers home schooling support services to francophone students from Coral Harbour and Pangnirtung.
In cooperation with Nunavut's Department of Education and Canadian Heritage, CSFN would like soon to offer a full-time francization class for four-year-old children and gradually return grade 9 students to the École des Trois-Soleils, along with high school students. Returning to French-language schools would enable them to consolidate their francophone identity and sense of belonging to a community, which very much needs all its members to ensure its survival and growth.
In early childhood, Les Petits Nanooks early childhood centre offers a high-quality educational service based on the educational francization program. Les Petits Nanooks also offers exogamous families tools for using French in the home. However, given the geographic realities, costs are high, student numbers limited, staff retention difficult and educational resources lacking or inaccessible. In addition, low capacity is undermining the day care centre's development. Demand is increasing, but the number of available spaces has remained the same. The challenges are great and it is therefore essential that we obtain financial support to ensure continuity of French-language services for families and children.
In health, Résefan is working for the greater well-being of the francophone community, the health of its members and on issues of access to health and social services. Résefan offers activities for people's everyday lives, including badminton, family swims, Saturday youth days and health awareness. Much remains to be done in the area of health promotion and implementing services in cooperation with the territorial government.
As for economic development, Nunavut's cooperation council was established in 2009. The council promotes sustainable development and social entrepreneurship in harmony with the cultures and populations of the north, while promoting the interests of Nunavut's francophone community.
In short, with financial support, AFN and Nunavut's community organizations have managed to achieve tangible results for the Franco-Nunavummiut community, and those results are consistent with the Canadian government's commitment to assist in the development of the official language minority communities. That is why we recommend renewing and improving the roadmap to ensure the continued existence and vitality of our community.
For the next roadmap, we recommend building on the expertise of the francophone community's organizations and conducting consultations. We are firmly rooted in the community and we understand the reality of the Franco-Nunavummiut. It is important for the vitality and development of our community that the roadmap correspond to the situation, needs, expectations and priorities of the Franco-Nunavummiut community.
We also recommend reinforcing the capacity of the community organizations and increasing investments to enable us to continue offering products and services that meet citizens' expectations and to which they are entitled. As a result of our knowledge of our milieu, we are able to make a significant contribution to the vitality of the community we serve.
There is one factor that should not be disregarded: in Nunavut, it is difficult to recruit the necessary human resources and the turnover rate is high. If our financial capacity also declines, the services offered will quickly be eroded. This state of affairs undermines the ability of individuals and families to obtain French-language services, the health, education and early childhood services and the cultural, artistic and recreation products they need and to which they are entitled.
We also recommend promoting cooperation and collaboration among all the components of society. Networking, partnership and cooperation among francophone organizations are essential because we have the same challenges, the same problems and the same desire to improve access to services. In addition, in Nunavut, we need support for the implementation of the territory's Official Languages Act in order to achieve tangible results.
Mr. Chair, members, my name is Jules Custodio, and I am President of the Fédération des francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador. With me is Gaël Corbineau, Director General. First we would like to thank you for your invitation to appear and thus for giving our community the chance to speak about the roadmap.
Since 1973, the Fédération des francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador has worked for the advancement, vitality and recognition of the francophone and Acadian communities of our province. The federation now has six members; three represent the main francophone regions of the province and the other three are provincial organizations operating in early childhood development, youth and the economy.
Our communities, which have been in existence for more than 500 years, are now mainly scattered across three regions, separated from one another by distances of 800 kilometres to 2,100 kilometres. As you will guess, geographic isolation is a major obstacle for us.
According to the 2006 census, our community represents 0.4% of the provincial population. Another 25,000 people or so are able to speak French. In 2009, with the support of Canadian Heritage, we established an overall development plan for 2009-2014, which sets out the priority areas for action and objectives for our community corresponding to the areas outlined in the roadmap 2008-2013.
Now let's consider the impact of the 2008-2013 roadmap on our communities. The interdepartmental approach of the current roadmap has facilitated our development in all priority areas by emphasizing the responsibility of all federal departments in the development of our communities. Since 2008, the roadmap has had numerous positive effects on the everyday lives of our communities.
First, there are early childhood services. By supporting continuity of offer, the roadmap has promoted sharp growth in this area, to the point where the challenge for us is now to respond to the demand and thus to limit the assimilation of our youngest children. For example, the francophone child care centre in St. John's has space for 14 children, but has an average of 30 on its waiting list. All these children are at great risk of being assimilated because they cannot be accommodated in a francophone environment.
Second, we have community infrastructure. In recent years, our community has benefited from extensive new infrastructure that is important for our development, including a new building for the Boréale French-language school in Goose Bay, the creation of community websites to facilitate communication about activities and services in the community, and the establishment of our provincial community radio station. These investments are essential to maintaining and developing our communities and make it possible to offer citizens even more activities.
We have also created a francophone immigration network. As we carry little demographic weight, and the community wishes to maintain and even increase it, we have established a francophone immigration network. Our results are improving from year to year. We assist newcomers, the community and employers whose demands are growing in proportion to our province's positive economic situation.
There is also funding for a French-language services office. Through the roadmap, our provincial government is funding the Bureau des services en français, which provides invaluable assistance to our organizations by guiding them through the processes of the provincial government. We regret that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has yet to implement a policy on French-language services. We nevertheless see that the awareness work done by the Bureau des services en français with provincial officials has been productive, given the regular increase in the offer of services and the supply of information in French.
Now I'm going to present our findings and recommendations by addressing the lack of transparency regarding funding allocated under the roadmap. We have unfortunately observed that it is very difficult to determine with any accuracy the amount of funding that is being spent in our province under the roadmap and how it is being used. Furthermore, uncertainty prevails with regard to the way in which funding that goes through the provincial government is used.
We believe it would be beneficial for the federal government and the minority language communities for a policy of complete transparency to be adopted with regard to the monitoring of funding under the roadmap. This would make federal government action much clearer for citizens by providing information on amounts actually spent in their communities rather than on significant national amounts that very often are unclear in people's minds.
With regard to the cultural sector and program funding, of all the fields on which the communities are working, the cultural sector is suffering terribly from a lack of funding, whereas it is a priority under our overall development plan. Since culture is essential to the preservation of our cultural identity, the need in such a small community as ours is proportionately more glaring. Although we have done everything to increase and diversify our network's revenues in recent years, we unfortunately see that it will be impossible for it to be financially self-sufficient if it has to rely solely on project funding. Consequently, we would like future roadmaps to provide for operating budgets for the cultural networks so that they can meet these challenges and provide our citizens with the service they are entitled to expect.
With regard to the multi-year nature of contribution agreements, we are delighted that multi-year contribution agreements are increasingly being signed, but that is not always the case. This is a factor in the instability and vulnerability of our organizations, particularly because it is difficult to retain our staff in these kinds of situations. We therefore hope that a three-year term becomes the general rule for all contribution agreements signed between the community organizations and the federal departments and that a commitment is made to ensure that the process for renewing those agreements is completed no later than three months before they expire.
As for early childhood development, Mr. Chair, we believe that it is fundamentally important that it remain an urgent priority of the future roadmap and that efforts be increased to reduce assimilation by promoting the retention of children in the French-language system.
In conclusion, in these times of budgetary restrictions, we note the disastrous effects that cutbacks to the already tight budgets of the community organizations would have, and we unreservedly recommend that the roadmap be renewed and improved, as that is essential to the vitality and dynamism of our communities and to Canada's bilingualism.
Mr. Chair, members, on behalf of all the francophones of Newfoundland and Labrador, we thank you for your attention.
I feel as though this is a race against the clock.
Good morning. I am here today to talk to you about the importance of research for supporting the development of the official language minority communities.
As I represent a research institute, you will certainly not be surprised at that. However, we are not alone in seeing the importance of research. Actually, I asked myself if the research issue had been addressed by your committee. According to the minutes of the committee's public sessions that are available online, 20 community organizations, agencies and government departments mentioned research. I consulted the minutes of meetings 1 to 32. An update should be done.
Many organizations expressed the need for research and evidence to carry out their activities. The need is being felt at two important levels in the projects undertaken by government agencies: during the project design and planning and during the outcome assessment. The danger of a lack of research is developing public policies or community projects that do not maximize the resources invested. The risk of error is enhanced.
I quote two excerpts from testimony heard here:
||As we don't have conclusive data, we're forced to go into the field to try to identify needs in a hit or miss manner.
That was a comment by Aurel Schofield, of the Société Santé en français.
Another excerpt reads as follows:
||Without research, there's quite a bit of, I would say, playing around before you hit on a model that's going to make a difference.
That passage comes from the testimony of a representative of the Black Community Resource Centre.
The question I have for the government is this: does the government want to invest effectively in the communities or does it prefer to take a chance on investing in risky projects? In fact, the answer can be found in the mid-term report on the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality 2008-2013: Acting for the Future.
|| As the Government is confronted with challenging economic times, in the final year of the Roadmap, efforts will be made to maximize the use of public investments in the pursuit of the best possible results for Canadians.
The government and organizations are responsible for the amounts they invest in the communities. In order to ensure maximum impact within the communities, the government must anticipate dedicating a proportion of the investments to research, studies and the gathering of evidence.
We agree with the FANE that pleaded here for strengthening the capacity of its organizations and institutions, mainly with regard to research and evaluation. I quote its representative:
||The language clauses in the transfer agreements currently do not enable the government to ensure that funding has been well spent in the planned manner, with benefits for francophone minority citizens. And yet this is taxpayers' money….
||We currently have trouble determining certain aspects such as vitality indicators, and that makes work on the ground difficult.
If I were in the government's shoes, I would be concerned about these types of statements. It is getting ready to invest a significant amount of money in the communities. Every organization should anticipate dedicating a portion of its budget to research and evaluation in order to maximize its action.
We agree with the Alliance des femmes de la francophonie canadienne which recommended that each spokesgroup for minority communities receive funding in order to be able to work with minority life researchers so that an ongoing study is conducted on the impacts of investments.
At the Sommet des communautés francophones et acadiennes held in 2007, the organizations and the roughly 700 participants also recognized the importance of research for the development of francophone communities.
I acknowledge the efforts and resources dedicated by the government in the area of health research, but we will need to allocate equal resources in other sectors such as economic and social development, the development of human resources, core competencies and literacy, arts and culture and immigration. Many stakeholders see a connection between research and the vitality and development of OLMCs. In a study sponsored by the Commissioner of Official Languages, the authors reveal the following link. I am citing a passage from it:
||Knowledge, research and evaluation pertaining to vitality seem to be essential to enhancing it.
However, it also depends on basic research and, with this in mind, the SSHRC and the CIHR must play an important role. In 2008, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages released a report on The Role of Canadian Federal Research Funding Agencies in the Promotion of Official Languages. After addressing the numerous barriers and challenges facing the OLMCs in the area of research, many recommendations were made, two of which I will mention here:
||Establish a specific funding mechanism targeted at small bilingual and official language minority universities to help sustain research capacity at the professor and student levels, and provide adequate administrative support;
||Set aside stable funding for research on official languages issues and disseminate the results.
The CIHR, however, recently abandoned its research program for the OLMCs. The SSHRC also had a similar program in place that they also abandoned a few years ago. I think we should bring back these programs and that these federal agencies should be included as roadmap partners. In part, these programs were a way of addressing the barriers facing researchers in minority communities.
Moreover, I believe we should also recognize Statistics Canada as a roadmap partner. As pointed out by its representative sitting on your committee, Statistics Canada plays a role in the implementation of the roadmap by providing analyses and data that are essential to the work of departments and community organizations.
In conclusion, I would say that the federal government must recognize research as an important component of the vitality and the development of the OLMCs. We live in a knowledge-driven society. Knowledge plays an important and strategic role in the development of Canadian society. It plays a role that is equally important for the OLMCs.
The roadmap's research goals were timid. Research was mentioned, very briefly, for early childhood, immigration and language technologies. With regard to better research coordination, particularly between community, government and academic sectors, it was not a roadmap goal. Yet this issue was discussed at the symposiums organized by the federal government on official languages research that were held in 2008 and 2011. Furthermore, the previous roadmap has no mention of research carried out in other areas of activity and research that are just as important.
I believe more must be done with regard to research as part of an initiative aimed at developing the OLMCs. Bear in mind that research needs exist in every area of community activity. I expect that in the next roadmap, the government will recognize the importance of research and the importance of better harmonizing the three research hubs: the academic, community and government sectors.
I would like to join you in welcoming Mr. Benskin and Mr. Dionne Labelle, who are new members of this committee. I believe that they will bring in new ideas and may be able to help us change the way the government is behaving with regard to official languages and to advance the agenda in this area.
I would also like to welcome the witnesses who have come to meet with us this morning.
My first question will concern the roadmap. In 25 years, the Standing Committee on Official Languages had never had an opportunity to conduct a national tour. We finally made the request and managed to do that tour. However, the territories were the only ones not involved. We toured the territories before the 2011 election. We met the people. We took the time to talk to them for a few days so that we could start preparing a report to submit to Parliament. However, as you saw, the government decided it did not want it presented in Parliament.
Could you tell me how you feel about that? You are the only ones who have not been heard in Parliament. We also wanted to travel to Nunavut. Do you feel like second-class citizens? I would like to hear what you have to say on that subject. We are talking about the roadmap and about improving the conditions of the minorities in Canada. The government spent more than $100,000 to go and meet with the communities, but it's as though someone lit a cigarette with that money.
I'll be pleased to answer your question.
We have seen many times that a number of federal organizations are unaware of the northern reality. I'm talking about recent years. We've made elaborate presentations on the three territories together with my colleagues on more than one occasion. We've done that every two or three years or so, and every time we saw how pleased people were to discover the north.
Your committee's initiative to tour the territories was extremely praiseworthy. You had the opportunity to set foot on the ground, and I believe that it's by smelling the earth that you can understand the nordic reality, the distances, the weather, the small populations and the cost of living. You have set foot there, and I am sure you spent a lot of money to eat in the Northwest Territories, in Yellowknife, since I was there. This initiative should benefit from what you learned about the reality of the territories.
In overall terms, the roadmap has enabled the 12 or 13 community organizations to create a more dynamic and more active living environment that is benefiting from certain services.
I can give you one performance measure. In 2003, when I was appointed executive director, francophones stayed in the Northwest Territories an average of two-and-a-half years. For 2011, when I left my position, the report states that they are now staying there for nearly five years.
I am convinced that this difference is attributable to our community. It is more active and has received greater support, in particular through the roadmap.
We can put a number on that difference. There are 1,200 francophones, even though, as we said earlier, more than that number speak French. Since the selection process in the Northwest Territories can cost $15,000, if we retain 100 or 200 francophones more per year, you can easily calculate the savings achieved. I have summarized that and calculated savings of $1 million a year. That is the result of a longer francophone retention period. We are retaining them for longer because we have a structure in which to develop a community life and a community partner life with our community and our government.
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen.
First, I would like to go back to the comment I made a few weeks ago. When four groups come and testify at a single meeting, that does them an injustice. We don't really have the time to explore the issues or to get a clearer understanding of them.
That is particularly true since the groups here this morning come from three separate language systems. Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Newfoundland and Labrador each have a different language system and specific legislation. The Official Languages Act applies in Newfoundland and Labrador. That legislation does not apply in the territories in the same way. So we really will not have the time to explore the subject this morning.
This is also the first time I have met people from Nunavut. Thank you for being here. I understand you are facing some constraints. We could meet with fewer people or stretch the time out more. In any case, if we extend our study, that will satisfy the government's desire for our committee to spin its wheels.
In short, this does not do justice to people, particularly since our research topic is—
What is more, there is something else you don't know. In September, when we began this study on the roadmap, we heard from a lot of people. In February, officials from Canadian Heritage came and told us that it was our committee that had to conduct the evaluation of the roadmap. We didn't even know that at the time. So we have seven minutes to hear from you, and that's the evaluation of the roadmap. I can hardly wait to see the result.
Mr. Forgues, thank you for what you said. I would like to have a copy of your testimony because it contains some very important points that have not yet been raised. I hope we will find them in the report. They should not be forgotten.
Following the 2006 Census, we conducted an in-depth study on the vitality of the communities. It must be said that we were able to obtain a certain amount of money. I believe that study cost $7 million. Based on what we've heard to date, the Statistics Canada people will no longer have that amount available to them following the census we've just had. So we will lose continuity.
As a result of the actions of the FCFA, a number questions have been included in the short questionnaire. The information that we could get might therefore be comparable, for what that's worth.
I would like to address the topic of early childhood. You say you have 14 spaces for Newfoundland and Labrador. Since when have you had 14 spaces?
What we've just discovered is surprising. Pardon me for discovering these things.
In 2006, the government decided to cancel the early childhood agreements. You are no doubt aware of that. Those agreements contained a clause respecting official language minority agreements, but it was deleted. I also want you to know that I asked the government a question, which was placed on the Order Paper. That is a mechanism that members can use to obtain information from the government. I asked how many spaces had been created for the official language minority communities since 2006. I was told that no one knew. The government is unable to give an answer, and I have just discovered why. Thank you for your answers this morning.
Ms. Beaumont, thank you very much for recommending that the committee complete its study and submit a report. Unfortunately, that was moved and was the topic of an in camera session, as a result of which we can no longer talk about it. I unfortunately can't talk to you about it any further.
I'm going to change the subject and talk about immigration. I understood that this is an important factor for the communities. Can you tell me whether French courses are offered for immigrants in your communities? I am talking about French courses.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thanks to our witnesses today.
I don't know whether you know, but our was with President Obama in the Rose Garden, in the Bahamas, a few weeks ago. Mr. Obama said at the time that Mr. Harper was more intelligent than he because he had to speak two languages. That was a little joke, but it's something that makes me proud to be Canadian. We have two official languages, and everyone knows that you can speak two languages if you want to visit Canada or live in Canada.
Ms. Chartrand, you said there were major challenges in the north, where the population density is low. Other witnesses told the committee that there was hope for early childhood. I believe that's normal. Children have more years ahead of them so that they can better learn languages. My three children have had the opportunity to train in French immersion in west Vancouver, and their future will be better as a result of that.
I am not sure about what has been said today regarding early childhood. What facilities are there? What can the roadmap do for early childhood, Ms. Chartrand?
Madam, I have a few comments on your question. Do you mean the human geography or geography in the sense of territory? I can comment on both.
I would be inclined to view your question from the standpoint of human geography as a particular characteristic of the Northwest Territories, where approximately 50% of the population is aboriginal and 50% non-aboriginal, or white. There are 11 official languages, which do not all have the same status. As for distances, we are far from everything. Virtually all communities can only be reached by air.
It costs more than $1,000 for our president, who comes from Inuvik, to travel to Yellowknife. So distances are an extremely important factor. There is the isolation caused by the distances, but the travel costs for our representatives and volunteers are enormous. For example, it costs at least $15,000 for one weekend meeting. The situation is not the same in the major cities of other Canadian provinces.
First of all, I want to welcome all the witnesses. Thank you very much for being here.
I also want to join my colleagues in thanking the people from the Fédération franco-ténoise and the Association des francophones du Nunavut for talking about the study on the north.
In November, I had a chance to attend the general meeting of the Association franco-yukonnaise. So I already have some idea of northern realities. I think it would be very beneficial for all members of this committee to have more information on your situation before developing a next roadmap.
So thank you for making that comment, and I hope your voices will ultimately be heard by this government.
Mr. Forgues, I believe you also raised some very interesting points regarding research. We have not addressed that point enough in committee. I have a few questions for you.
We recently heard, from The Globe and Mail, for example, about budget cuts at Statistics Canada and the consequences that could have for subsequent studies.
Could you tell us more specifically about the effect that those cutbacks at Statistics Canada could have on official languages research?
I am a new member to the committee and I'm going to make a brief comment in English because it's less elegant when I speak French.
There is something I'm picking up on and something I want to throw out there.
I am talking about what Mr. Forgues said.
It's on his request to do a study, and being asked why he needed to do a study, because French people are bilingual.
In general, we are not just talking about language.
There were certain comments made by a couple of groups about raising their children in a French milieu.
That's culture, whether it be in Quebec or outside Quebec.
It's a question of retaining that culture and all the things that surround the culture—the language being the central aspect.
I'm going to put it out there and say that we need to think about this less as simply a language issue but more as a cultural issue.
Today, 97% of people under 35 in Quebec's anglophone communities are perfectly bilingual.
There is still a desire to hang on to the Quebec anglophone culture within that community. I'm picking up the same sorts of desires from the north in particular—and I'm sure in Newfoundland as well—to not only develop and hold on to the language but to develop the culture, which I'm sure is unique to the north itself.
As this committee continues, this is something we need to hang on to. This is not simply a question of language; it is a question of culture.
A few of you talked about the community radio station and communications in the north. I come from the cultural world. If possible, I just want to extend the discussion to include the role of community radio.
I would also like to know whether the cuts to CBC/Radio-Canada are having an effect on your northern communities.
Your question is very broad, sir. I agree with you on the correlation between language and culture. When you talk about one, you are talking about the other. The organization of a community and sharing the land are part of the same phenomenon.
When you associate the roadmap with the development of a culture in a given community where numbers are small, such as the north, that means that a community has the means to establish a development plan. For example, the roadmap made it possible to produce an overall development plan in the Northwest Territories from 2008 to 2010. That plan gave us tools to establish partnerships with the other communities living in the same territory as us. They of course gave us the means to develop as organizations, but also to develop francophone and bilingual businesses. We also developed ties with the other aspects of the community.
As for radio and the media, we could talk about that for a long time. For example, if we never hear a francophone voice when we turn the radio on in the morning, we don't feel at home. People who want to live in the Northwest Territories for a long time need to see themselves reflected on Radio-Canada, for example. They need to see their reality from time to time.
It has already been mentioned that the election in the Northwest Territories was overlooked three or four years ago. There was nothing about it on Radio-Canada. And yet a territorial government was elected in the Northwest Territories.
So the role of the media is essential for us to feel connected to the rest of our country.
Before I begin, I have a kind of side point that follows on Mr. Bélanger's comments, I suppose.
I recognize there is a lot of pressure. I hope you won't break this up so that we have two sessions of an hour each. I find when you do that it doesn't give members of this side—and I expect with the official opposition it's the same—time to properly ask questions of an individual we might want to focus on.
I hope you will keep that in mind as you move forward.
Welcome and thank you for being here today.
I have a quite simple question: why are child care services and early childhood services important for you as representatives of minority francophone groups? I would really like to know why these programs are important for you.
I ask the question because there was an election six years ago and there were two ideas on the subject at that time. This may be a simple matter for you, but our government had a program. The former government had promised a program of 15 to 20 years, but it never implemented it because it was defeated. So I would like to know why it's important for you.
I'll try to take just three or four minutes.
This committee saw what you called the minuscule house in which our offices are located in Yellowknife. I believe it was Mr. Blaney, your predecessor, Mr. Chair, who called it a minuscule house.
We have said for years that we need community infrastructure, and that is acknowledged by Canadian Heritage, in particular. A recent experience made it possible for us to help improve one of the aspects of the system. One item of government infrastructure, the post office, was for sale. We offered to purchase it for $1.2 million and it was sold for $1.1 million. Our offer was conditional on the sale of our house. It was quite normal for us to set that condition as well as another condition, that funding be more or less guaranteed by Canadian Heritage. As we had added conditions and the other purchaser had made an unconditional offer, probably of $1.1 million, we did not get it.
I want to thank the Commissioner of Official Languages before this committee for analyzing what happened in that matter. His office recommended that the Treasury Board Secretariat examine the policy on the sale of surplus federal government buildings. Certain groups are given priority under a policy on the sale of surplus buildings. The Commissioner of Official Languages suggested that the Treasury Board introduce an element, not in a consultation mechanism such as that contained in the mid-term roadmap evaluation, but in a policy establishing that, when there is a priority need for the community, the Treasury Board could recognize that fact and instruct all departments to consider the community first.
That would be invaluable because other buildings will become vacant in Yellowknife and our problem has not yet been solved. We are still in a minuscule house.
Sir, I will try to be brief because I know your time is limited. Earlier you talked about how to attract newcomers. I'm going to focus solely on newcomers from outside Canada.
There is currently something very paradoxical about the roadmap. Citizenship and Immigration Canada provides our organization with funding for a settlement program. That program does not enable us to help temporary residents. That's paradoxical because people are in greatest need when they get off an airplane. It's not when they have obtained permanent resident status after one year—if they have done that quickly— that they are in greatest need of our services, but when they get off the airplane.
Right off the bat, we are unable to provide that service when they most need it, but, in addition, that same federal department gives us funding to recruit outside the country. We talked about Destination Canada. For years now, this has been a job fair in Europe that operates very well and that is of enormous assistance to us in recruiting francophones for our communities who come with a job. We receive funding to recruit them, we recruit them, and once they have set foot on Canadian soil, we can no longer do anything for them; we are allowed to do that. We have to wait until they have a permanent visa, one year, a year and a half or two years later, before we can help them again, but they no longer need us at that point. If it's someone who is living with a family, we risk losing them. That person may turn to anglophone institutions or schools because it's easier to do so. That's someone who will not as readily become a part of our communities.
The roadmap has a role to play in helping us help francophone newcomers from the moment they get off the plane.
To your knowledge, you were not consulted on the roadmap.
Let's go back to early childhood. Mr. Williamson believes that this is the responsibility of parents, if the child is less than one year old. I do not know from what age of the child he believes that others should take part in that. However, we are talking about day care centres, about parents who work and who are not at home. Even if the child is under one, one year old, or is two years old, his or her working parents need a day care centre.
He is saying that there are two ways of thinking: that of the Conservatives and that of the Liberals. The Conservatives have proposed $100 per child, but that amount is taxable, and therefore reduced by half. That's like saying that it costs $100,000 to construct a building, but that you subtract $50,000 after the fact. It's the same for the $100 per child, which is taxable. Would that money not be better invested in day care centres?
We conducted a study after travelling across the country and met with the communities. We were told, for example, that if there is a francophone day care centre in the region, parents are inclined to send their children to that centre as soon as they are old enough and it is possible for them to attend French school. If there are no francophone day care centres, they will send their children to an anglophone facility. Here we're talking about francophones outside Quebec. There is a great risk of losing those children since they will be spending more time with adult anglophones. The parents feel that, for the welfare of their children, they will send them to an English school rather than a French school.
Can you comment on my remarks?