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LANG Committee Report

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Government Response to the seventh Report of the Standing Committee on official languages

Communities speak out : Hear our voice. The Vitality of Official Language Minority Communities

On May 9, 2007, the Seventh Report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages, Communities Speak Out: Hear Our Voice. The Vitality of Official Language Minority Communities was tabled in the House of Commons. This report underscores how important it is for the Government of Canada, and the provinces and territories to cooperate with Anglophone and Francophone minority communities to support their development.

The Standing Committee’s report incorporates two studies on health and immigration begun in the spring of 2006. Moreover, the Committee traveled across Canada to hear from the communities, and the report outlines the questions and comments raised by 121 witnesses from 85 different organizations. It also examines the effects of the Action Plan for Official Languages and the questions surrounding the post-Action Plan period.

Budget 2007 underscores the government's commitment to official languages by providing an additional $30M in 2007-2009 for cultural and extracurricular activities and for community centres. These activities will help enrich the benefits of linguistic duality among youth, particularly through exchanges and youth programming.

The response to the Committee’s report highlights the actions the Government of Canada has taken to support official language minority communities. The Government wishes to emphasize the tangible results and measurable objectives attained with respect to official languages.

The development of the future strategy for official languages will be informed by wide-scale consultations planned for the Fall of 2007, the parliamentary committee reports, the reports of the Commissioner of Official Languages and other studies led by various official languages stakeholders. In this context, the Sommet des communautés francophones et acadienne, held in Ottawa in June 2007, and the studies and forums of the Anglophone communities will also drive future considerations to support the communities.

The Government Response addresses the 39 recommendations of the Report under five major themes: access to health services in the language of the minority, immigration in official language minority communities, the socio-cultural vitality of official language minority communities, the socioeconomic vitality of official language minority communities and the management of federal initiatives related to official languages.

ACCESS TO MINORITY LANGUAGE HEALTH SERVICES

DATA GATHERING AND FEDERAL-PROVINCIAL-COMMUNITY COLLABORATION

The Government of Canada is working with official language minority communities and provincial and territorial governments to support equitable access to health services for these communities.

The primary care initiatives funded by Health Canada have played an important role in supporting capacity development among key stakeholders in communities. In addition to the original $30M dedicated to these initiatives between 2003 and 2006, the Government allocated a further $10M to continue this program through 2007.

The Committee emphasized the importance of health networks that gather together professionals, establishments, governmental authorities and community organizations. The Government of Canada also recognizes the key role that networks play in developing partnerships and supporting access to health services for official language minority communities. That is why the Government contributes annual funding of $3M to networking activities in Francophone and Anglophone minority communities coordinated by the Société Santé en français and the Quebec Community Groups Network respectively.

The Committee raised the point that there are knowledge gaps surrounding the state of health in official language minority communities. Health Canada has provided $129M to community organizations since 2003. Results obtained to date have demonstrated the importance of establishing a strong factual base from which to plan policies and programs. Most recently, a health module was developed for the 2006 post-censal Survey on the Vitality of Official Language Minorities, including questions on the perceptions about the state of health and access to health services in the minority language.

TRAINING AND RETENTION OF HEALTH PROFESSIONALS

Like the Committee, the Government recognizes the importance of language training and retention of health professionals to supporting access to health services in official language minority communities. The Government provides annual funding of $20M for language training activity and for training designed to retain professionals, which are coordinated by McGill University for Anglophone communities and the Consortium national de formation en santé (CNFS) for Francophone communities.

IMMIGRATION IN OFFICIAL LANGUAGE MINORITY COMMUNITIES

RESEARCH, BEST PRACTICES AND FOLLOW-UP MECANISMS FOR FRANCOPHONE IMMIGRATION

The Committee proposes various measures on how to gather demographic data on Francophone immigrants in minority communities. The Government recognizes the importance of such data. The Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada was a one-time survey conducted by the Government that is now completed. The survey took ten years to complete – from the initial planning stages to the final data collection. There are no plans to undertake another survey at this time. The Government has undertaken initiatives to better identify requirements for additional demographic research on French-speaking immigrants. Data from the 2006 census will be studied as soon as it is released.

The work of the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)-Francophone Community Steering Committee, which was cited as an exemplary model for cooperation with official language communities, will help identify best practices for the smooth integration of immigrants and set deadlines and monitoring mechanisms.

The Committee recommends that the Government re-evaluate the targets identified in the Strategic Plan. Citizenship and Immigration Canada and its partners underscore that the 4.4% target for French-speaking immigrants outside Quebec is based on the concept that Francophone minority communities should also benefit from immigration and that in order to maintain their long-term demographic weight, they should attract and retain at least the same proportion of French-speaking immigrants, that is, 4.4% of the Canadian population according to the 2001 Census. The Strategic Plan to Foster Immigration to Francophone Minority Communities, launched in September 2006, put forth a modified definition of French-speaking immigrants which renders the 4.4% target more ambitious and more significant.

SETTLEMENT AND INTEGRATION OF IMMIGRANTS INTO OFFICIAL LANGUAGE MINORITY COMMUNITIES

The Government recognizes the importance of working in close collaboration with communities and other federal, provincial and territorial partners to allow for the smooth integration of immigrants. The Government will take into consideration the recommendations in the Standing Committee on Official Languages’ report in the development of programs and policy on immigration.

The Committee recommends that Citizenship and Immigration Canada invite the provinces and territories other than Quebec to designate at least one community organization to take responsibility for coordinating the settlement and establishment of Francophone immigrants. The Government has signed a federal-provincial agreement covering immigrant settlement and integration with Manitoba and British Columbia. Manitoba is funding the Centre d’accueil francophone, which offers reception and integration services in French to French-speaking immigrants. British Columbia is working closely with the Citizenship and Immigration Canada regional office on a study of the demand for services in French in that province in order to be able to meet the requirements of the federal-provincial immigration agreement. In the other provinces and territories, settlement services are available in French in several cities, specifically in Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa, where these services are offered by Francophone organizations.

RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION OF FRANCOPHONE IMMIGRANTS

The Committee recommends that the Government intensifies its efforts to recruit French-speaking immigrants, negotiate agreements to this effect with the provinces and create an internship program. The Government is committed to intensifying its recruitment efforts so that French-speaking immigrants represent 4.4% of the total number of immigrants outside Quebec. The government’s approach is mapped out in two stages: foreign recruitment and the retention of Francophone immigrants in Francophone minority communities.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada funds promotional and recruitment activities abroad working out of Canadian embassies, and has encouraged the provinces and territories to make more effective use of their provincial nominee programs to increase the number of French-speaking immigrants. The Canadian embassy in Paris, in partnership with public employment and international mobility services, will present Destination Canada, which has, over the years, become invaluable to French and Belgian citizens interested in immigrating to Canada. In 2007, a new component is being added with participation from Canadian employers who will be coming to recruit potential new immigrants.

International students enrich Canada’s teaching institutions and economy, and make local communities more vibrant. In order to make Canada a destination of choice for international students, particularly for French-speaking students, the Government is working closely with the provincial and territorial governments to facilitate the entry of those students into Canada. The government’s policy is to authorize them to study at all levels of public and private institutions and at language and trade schools. To make Canada more appealing to international students, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has initiated numerous programs allowing international students to work at various stages of their studies, such as in the Off-Campus Work Permit Program, launched across Canada in April 2006.

SOCIO-CULTURAL VITALITY OF OFFICIAL LANGUAGE MINORITY COMMUNITIES

FEDERAL-PROVINCIAL/TERRITORIAL EDUCATION AGREEMENTS

The Government of Canada reiterates its commitment to respecting fully the objectives undertaken in the Action Plan for Official Languages. With respect to education, most education agreements addressing teaching in the minority language support early childhood initiatives such as school preparation measures, additions of pre-kindergarten or pre-school spaces, and partnerships with child care services. The Government is prepared to continue its support to the provinces and territories in these areas. Nevertheless, upgrading early childhood services cannot depend solely on federal-provincial/territorial cooperation in education.

Under the education agreement with the Government of Quebec, the Government of Canada provides support for English-as-a-second-language instruction from the first year of elementary school to the last year of secondary school. For the Anglophone community in Quebec, the Government also funds measures designed to improve the French-as-a-second-language instruction in minority schools to prepare young Anglophones to live in Quebec society.

The government is prepared to award part of the $30M allocated over two years in the last federal budget to the provinces and territories as additional funding for establishing community living spaces.

As part of the Protocol and education agreements, the Government aims for responsible, results-oriented governance that respects provincial and territorial jurisdiction. To better inform the public of the results achieved, two reports of pan-Canadian scope on the implementation of the provincial and territorial action plans will be produced before 2009.

COMMUNITY MEDIA

The Committee recommends that the Government ensure that publications serving official language minority communities are not financially penalised by Canada Post’s decision to withdraw its contribution to the Publications Assistance Program. In December 2006, the Government of Canada asked Canada Post to maintain its contribution to the Publications Assistance Program at its current level until 2009. In the meantime, a review of the Program is underway to identify long-term solutions to support publications.

Conscious of the important role community media play in relation to community vitality, Canadian Heritage funds the activities of three umbrella organizations, namely the Alliance des radios communautaires du Canada, the Association de la presse francophone as well as the QuebecCommunity Newspaper Association. Moreover, Canadian Heritage funds one-time projects to introduce new community radio stations and to update radio equipment.

Furthermore, in November 2006, Public Works and Government Services Canada established a Consultative Committee on Advertising and Official Language Minority Media. The committee raises awareness among federal institutions and advertising agencies as to the importance of effectively reaching official language minority communities. It also meets the recommendations of this report and the Commissioner of Official Languages.

ARTS AND CULTURE

The Government firmly believes that arts and culture are essential elements of the vitality of the official language minority communities. In this context, as part of its departmental practice during the creation, implementation, and renewal of its programs, Canadian Heritage has been applying specific measures to ensure its programs benefit Francophone and Anglophone minority communities.

A number of Canadian Heritage programs and agencies support the development of the arts and cultural sector of Anglophone and Francophone minority communities (Canada Council for the Arts, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Canadian Arts and Heritage Sustainability Program, etc.) In addition, a large number of initiatives seeking to foster the development and promotion of the arts and culture in Canada are funded under the Community Life component of Canadian Heritage’s Official Languages Support Programs.

Through the Agreement for the Artistic and Cultural Development of the Canadian Francophonie, Canadian Heritage and its cultural agencies have been working very closely with the Francophone cultural sector, thus supporting the dissemination and promotion of cultural products and arts events stemming from the Canadian Francophonie. Canadian Heritage and its cultural agencies also support artists in Quebec’s Anglophone communities such as the English-Language Arts Network. Recently, the Government created a Francophone Secretariat at Canadian Heritage (in March 2007) to ensure that the Department’s arts and culture policies and programs reflect the characteristics and serve the needs of the Canadian Francophonie, in Quebec and in other regions of the country.

Investments in infrastructure projects for community spaces are made mainly under federal-provincial/territorial agreements on the basis of priorities identified by the provincial and territorial governments in consultation with school boards and community groups. Furthermore, since the provinces and territories lead the construction work and own the infrastructure, the decision to invest in an arts infrastructure project is entirely up to them. However, the Canadian Heritage Cultural Spaces Canada Program supports the improvement, renovation and construction of cultural and heritage facilities as well as the purchase of specialized equipment. Since its inception in 2001-02, the Program has funded 43 official language minority community projects, or 7.9% of the total projects funded.

SOCIO-ECONOMIC VITALITY OF OFFICIAL LANGUAGE MINORITY COMMUNITIES

SUPPORTING THE VITALITY OF THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGES

The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of supporting the development of a modern, sustainable and efficient public infrastructure that builds stronger and safer communities, including official language minority communities. To respond to the needs of Francophone communities, the Government has launched several initiatives designed to strengthen French language acquisition beginning in early childhood and to facilitate the use of the French language in adulthood.

Community infrastructure needs are taken into consideration amid infrastructure pressures faced by the provinces, territories and municipalities. This global approach has the necessary flexibility to fulfill the most urgent infrastructure priorities.

Budget 2007 makes a historic investment of more than $16 billion in infrastructure – bringing federal support over the next seven years under a new Building Canada Plan to a total of $33 billion, including the funding provided in Budget 2006.

The Government of Canada will provide nearly $5.6 billion in 2007-08 in support of early learning and child care through transfers, direct spending and tax measures. The Government committed to annual funding of $250M as of 2007-08 to the provinces and territories to support the creation of child care spaces. Funding will flow through the Canada Social Transfer (CST), beginning in 2008-2009, upon completion of discussions with the provinces and territories to determine how best to make use of those investments and to ensure reporting and accountability to Canadians. Moreover, Budget 2007 announced the extension to 2013-2014 of existing funding of $850M, provided within the CST in support of federal/provincial/territorial agreements for early childhood development and early learning and child care, respectively. Under these arrangements, governments recognize that programs and services should be inclusive of children living in different economic, cultural, linguistic and regional circumstances. Funding will grow over time as a result of the annual three-per-cent escalator that is part of the renewed CST. Budget 2007 also proposes to provide a 25% investment tax credit to businesses to create new child care spaces for their employees, to a maximum of $10,000 per space created. Also, $2.4 billion annually flows through monthly payments to parents for every child under the age of six through the Universal Child Care Benefit, and families further benefit through the child care expense deduction and the new child tax credit.

The Committee recommends measures to make parents aware of the benefits of enrolling their children in French preschool and elementary school. Human Resources and Social Development is responsible for two initiatives related to early childhood development under existing programs that increase awareness among communities about the benefits of French-language child care programs:

    • A child care pilot project to obtain evidence of the benefits of enriched child care services in French for the linguistic, cultural and overall development of preschool Francophone children living in minority language communities.
    • An initiative to strengthen the capacity of non-governmental organizations to enhance culturally and linguistically relevant early childhood development for official language minority communities and to strengthen related policy dialogue with governments.

The Government of Canada is developing the Community Partnerships for Addressing Labour Market Challenges initiative for the year 2007-08. By directly targeting official language minority communities, the initiative aims to increase the literacy level and essential skills of low‑skilled Canadians who are looking for work or under-employed through support for national organizations with the aim of building integrated community partnerships encouraging the involvement of the business community encouraging the involvement of the business community and also the participation of these Canadians in the knowledge-based economy.

SUPPORT FOR COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS

The Government recognizes the importance strong community networks play in sustaining community vitality. These networks are well positioned to identify priorities and offer activities or services that meet the specific needs of the community. Additional funding of $30M over two years announced in the last federal budget will allow community organizations to increase the activities that they contribute and deliver in several areas as well as enrich community life in minority communities.

Several factors have led to the current distribution of the budget envelope for Quebec (the size of the minority population in each community, the degree of assimilation of the minority population, economic level, rural/urban distribution, scholastic networks and community infrastructure already in place.) The situation of Anglophone communities outside Montreal is in many respects similar to that of Francophone communities in various regions across Canada. A study funded by Canadian Heritage is also currently underway and should allow the Quebec Community Groups Network, which is heading this work, to accurately identify the needs to be met and successful strategies for the future.

Canadian Heritage funds community cooperation activities to allow communities to identify their development priorities, determine a priority sequence and propose these priorities to the government. The Community Life component of the Development of Official Language Communities Program provides, for instance, financial support to many community and cultural activities offered by community organizations as well as a number of provincial and territorial government services in various priority areas such as justice, health, culture, economic development and municipal services.

Lastly, the Government of Canada encourages provincial and territorial governments to consider community objectives. Through its close ties with provincial and territorial representatives, the Government ensures that it conveys the importance of community development priorities.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The government is committed to working with the provinces and territories, while respecting their jurisdiction, in order to implement the key elements of Canada’s long-term economic plan. The economic vitality of official language minority communities contributes to Canada’s economic advantage and the Government will continue to support the economic development of communities.

The federal strategy is being implemented primarily through the Enabling Fund. The government provides financial support for the activities of Community Economic Development and Employability Committees (CEDECs) and the Réseaux de développement économique et d’employabilité (RDÉEs), which offer the communities relevant expertise in community economic development and human resource development so as to both support the active population and ensure the capacity of individuals to fully participate in the development of their own communities. An evaluation of the program is underway which will allow the Government to assess the operation and efficiency of the program in order to develop the best strategy to support community economic development.

Furthermore, the Government of Canada offers many economic development programs and each department delivers its programs independently. For example, the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec ensures that most communities in Quebec have local access to information on federal government programs and services. Similarly, the Department of Western Economic Diversification Canada and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, among others, make their programs available to official language minority communities to improve community economic development in their regions.

MANAGEMENT OF FEDERAL INITIATIVES RELATED TO OFFICIAL LANGUAGES

TRANSFER OF FUNDS TO THE PROVINCES AND TERRITORIES

The Government of Canada has committed, in its Action Plan on Federal Accountability, to reduce administrative burdens in order to make its programs more effective. Based on the report by the Blue Ribbon Panel on Grants and Contributions, the government committed to drawing up an action plan to simplify the manner in which grants and contributions are administered, while strengthening accountability, in order to efficiently and effectively achieve clear results within a solid management framework. The Government of Canada works with the provinces and territories towards the improvement of services offered to official language minority communities in their language. In areas under provincial or shared jurisdiction, the Government will continue to work with its provincial and territorial partners, who are responsible for services in these areas, to foster the vitality of Anglophone and Francophone communities across the country.

ACCESS TO THE JUSTICE SYSTEM IN BOTH OFFICIAL LANGUAGES

The Department of Justice manages, among other things, the Access to Justice in Both Official Languages Support Fund, designed to ensure access to justice in both official languages. In cooperation with all its governmental and non-governmental partners, it works to ensure that the Canadian justice system is able to provide services in both official languages. It is continuing to work with its provincial and territorial partners to solve problems related to the recruitment of French-speaking and bilingual jurors across Canada.

The Government of Canada has tabled Bill C-23 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal procedure, language of the accused, sentencing and other amendments) before the House of Commons with the view to making a number of amendments to the Criminal Code, including amendments to the language of the accused. The Bill was adopted by the House of Commons on June 13, 2007, and is currently before the Senate. The proposed amendments intend to ensure a better implementation of the language provisions in the Criminal Code.

RELAUNCH OF INITIATIVES RELATED TO OFFICIAL LANGUAGES AND RESEARCH

The Government of Canada has begun the examination of programs and initiatives regarding the final evaluation of the Action Plan and will ensure that the best practices in research, programs and policy are taken into account when developing a strategy for the future of official languages initiatives.

The Government already offers direct support for official languages research through different departments. The Coordinating Committee on Official Languages Research, in cooperation with its partner institutions, carries out coordination activities, fosters information sharing and identifies gaps within joint initiatives. This coordination gave rise to the post-censal Survey on the Vitality of Official Language Minorities, the results of which will be available in December 2007.

Furthermore, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, in cooperation with Canadian Heritage, offers various grants programs to support researchers investigating official languages issues. In addition, the Official Languages Research and Dissemination Program offers funds to organize workshops and conferences, and for other dissemination activities such as publication projects.

The official languages file affects not only all federal institutions, but also the private sector, the voluntary sector, universities, the provinces and territories and civil society as a whole. Cooperation between provincial, territorial and regional governments and communities is of paramount importance. The Ministerial Conference on the Canadian Francophonie to be held on September 12 and 13, 2007 is a good example of a federal-provincial/territorial forum and will be an opportunity to discuss the key issues regarding this file.

The reflection on future strategies will be fed by the outcomes of the wide-scale consultations that will take place in fall 2007 with various official languages stakeholders, as well as by the parliamentary committee reports, the results of community gatherings (e.g. the Sommet des Communautés francophones et acadienne, and the Anglophone Community Forum scheduled for February 2008), the Commissioner of Official Languages’ reports, the census results and results from a major Statistics Canada study on the communities, as well as the outcomes of the evaluation of and thelessons learned from the Action Plan. After completing this research and consultation exercise, the Government will be able to propose future avenues.