Good morning, everybody. Welcome to the Standing Committee on Official Languages, meeting number 42. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3), this is a study of the development of linguistic duality in northern Canada.
We have the pleasure of having a very important panel of witnesses this morning.
Allow me to welcome you to this extraordinary meeting of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, the first to be held in the Canadian high north since the committee was established more than 30 years ago. My colleagues from the main federal political parties and I are pleased to be here to witness the advancement and promotion of linguistic duality in the high north.
First, I would like to remind you that you have access to simultaneous interpretation equipment.
I would also like to mention to you that, as a result of the winter conditions, two committee members, Yvon Godin and Bernard Généreux, will be joining us later in the day. They will of course be able to follow the proceedings of our committee since all our conversations and exchanges will be entered in our records.
Without further ado, I would invite the representatives of the Government of Yukon to take the floor. I believe we will be hearing from Ms. Blais. I would like to thank you for helping to find the witnesses. We also have Ms. Moodie, deputy minister and Cabinet secretary, with us today. Thank you.
Thank you for being with us, Ms. Moodie.
We also have Ms. Pamela Hine, who is deputy minister of education, and Mr. Harvey Brooks, deputy minister of economic development.
Welcome to our committee.
We also have the manager of arts and cultural services from the Department of Tourism and Culture, Ms. Laurel Parry, and, lastly, the director of communications and social marketing at the Department of Health and Social Services, Ms. Patricia Living.
Without further ado, I invite you to make your opening statements. Then we will continue with a discussion with committee members.
Ms. Blais, go ahead please.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to welcome all the members and the vice-chair to Yukon, to paradise.
In my presentation, I will outline the history of the francophone presence in Yukon and will then talk about the progress made and measures put in place.
A Francophone trader, François Xavier Mercier and his partner built the Fort Reliance trading post near the mouth of the Klondike in 1874. His efforts also resulted in the arrival of the first Oblate missionaries in the region. Francophone priests worked to develop education and health care services.
By the time of the 1898 Klondike gold rush, at the end of the 19th century, francophones were already well established in the area and newly arrived francophone professionals to Dawson and Mayo played an active role in the social and political life of these communities. However, outward migration at the end of the gold rush seriously reduced their numbers and the francophone presence in Yukon was greatly diminished until its gradual resurgence as young francophones from the rest of Canada strongly motivated to want to maintain their language worked tirelessly to win support from governments to develop services in French in Yukon.
Yukon's francophone community includes 1,245 persons who count French as their first official language. Although francophones can be found all over Yukon, by far the greatest percentage, 82%, live in Whitehorse. While francophones account for four percent of the population, over 11% of Yukoners can speak French, evidence of the growing linguistic duality in Yukon.
A strong and concerted effort on the part of the francophone community and the federal and territorial governments first led to the development, passage and gradual implementation of the Languages Act. Among other things, this act gave Yukon francophones the right to communicate with and receive services from the government in French at head or central offices. Our act in fact seems to presage the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality when it notes that the measures in this act are steps toward equality of status of English and French.
The Yukon accepts that English and French are the official languages of Canada and also accepts that measures set out in the act constitute important steps towards implementation of the equality of status of English and French in Yukon.
Now let’s talk about the development of services in French. Implementation involved extensive consultations with the francophone community and funding agreements with the federal government for the development of French language services. In 1988, the agreement between the federal and territorial governments included an agreement by the federal government to bear all costs incurred in the development, enhancement and implementation of French languages services. However, the first funding agreement did not include health services funding because certain health services were still a responsibility of the federal government and were devolved in 1993 well after the signing of the first funding agreement. Since that time, successive Yukon governments have contributed to the gradual development of health services in French despite the lack of federal funding.
However, it goes without saying that additional funding from the federal government to further develop these services would be welcomed by both the territorial government and the francophone community.
Relations between francophones and other Yukoners have been excellent. Governments, both federal and territorial, have worked with the community in various ways. To emphasize the importance of direct consultation with the francophone community, the Yukon government established the Advisory Committee on French Language Services to advise the Minister of the Executive Council Office on any matter related to the Languages Act and the implementation of government services in French.
To help guide employees in government in the implementation of French language services, several instruments have been developed: the French Language Policy, the Guidelines for Advertising, Publishing and Other Forms of Communications in French and the Guidelines for Staffing Bilingual Positions.
What is the touchstone that has been developed to measure French language services? A good service is one that is useful, that is one that meets the needs expressed by the community; is useable, that is to say is practical, accessible, consistently maintained and comparable in quality to English language services; and used by francophones free of charge. Where are the services? Well, they exist across government: court services, legislation and regulations, francophone school boards, driver's licences and counter service, bilingual social workers, advertising, forms, news releases, signs, websites, in fact everything involving communication with the public. That’s just a brief overview. I have made our activity report for 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 available to you. As you’ll see, we've done a lot in those two years.
Since 2006, the French Language Services Branch was raised to the status of a stand-alone department-like directorate reporting directly to a minister, another indication of the importance the government attaches to the delivery of French language services. Yukon has come a long way in the last 30 years in offering French-language services for the francophone community. That has meant focusing on several important areas that Canada's Roadmap identified and for which we have jurisdictional responsibility: investing in youth, improving access to services, capitalizing on economic benefits.
In terms of the support for youth, our government has supported the youth group, Espoir Jeunesse, and continues to support the Yukon francophone school board's delivery of education to francophone students. Yukon has also contributed to the economic development of the community, by investing in the francophone community centre, which opened in 1989, and in providing opportunities for francophone service deliverers to compete on services procurement.
Yukon today is more than just a land of awesome beauty and opportunity for all. It is also a place where francophones live and contribute to society by sharing their language and culture. It is also a place where they can live their life in French. We have journeyed together a great distance in the delivery of services in French. Allow me to quote from the report on Yukon francophones by the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada:
||In Yukon, there are seven times more people who know French (alone or with English) than in 1951. Today, more than 3,545 people in the territory can speak French, representing an impressive 11.7 percent of the population. This is also an increase of 500 people over 2001. In 2006, 820 inhabitants of Yukon worked in French most often or at least regularly, representing 32.5 percent of the labour force with knowledge of French. In total, 4.3 percent of the labour force in Yukon uses French at least regularly at work.
While there is a distance to go, doing it with our federal and Franco-Yukonnais partners will make the voyage that much better.
Thank you for your attention.
Good morning, and thank you for the opportunity to appear in front of the committee.
On the matter of the public schools, as you're aware, the Commission scolaire francophone du Yukon filed a suit against the Yukon government on February 18, 2009. The parties had invested significant efforts in an attempt to resolve the claim but were unsuccessful in bringing about an agreement. Following the filing of the lawsuit, the parties tried again, in good faith, to resolve the matters and avoid a trial, but the parties were unable to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. The court proceedings ended on February 3, 2011. It's unknown when the formal decision will be issued by the court.
The statement of claim is wide-reaching, but essentially I can give you a few of the items that are being considered by the judge.
They are looking for the transfer to the Commission scolaire francophone du Yukon of École Émilie-Tremblay and the parcel of land upon which the school is situated. These are currently public buildings. It's a public school system and publicly owned buildings and land.
They are asking for the authority to build a new secondary school on the EET land, the school land, which could accommodate up to 200 students. I should mention that the school currently on the site is a pre-K to 12 school.
They're looking for the capital budget to build the school, estimated at the trial to be in the range between some $15 million to $45 million, again, depending on what the outcome is going to be, and the right to manage the EET land, the schools that would be situated upon it, and the operation and maintenance budget required to manage them.
They're also looking for added human and financial resources and the transfer of the authority to the school board so that the school board becomes the employer of the director general, the school principal, the teachers, assistants, and technical support staff of the school.
I assure you that the Yukon Department of Education understands its legal obligations to support French first language education to right holders' children and to remain committed to continuing its strong support to our francophone students. Francophone students enjoy an excellent level of education and a well-equipped school that currently operates at 60% to 62% of its recommended capacity. They are enjoying strong levels of funding and student-teacher ratios that are among the lowest not only in the Yukon but in Canada.
The Yukon government believes that the level of management and control exercised by right holders in the Yukon, through the Commission scolaire--the only school board in the Yukon--meets and exceeds the legal requirements. We will continue to work with the francophone board to provide excellent French education to right holders' children. As well, the Department of Education is committed to continuing its support to the other groups of students, including French immersion students, first nation citizens, Catholic students, and students with special needs.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'd like to thank the Yukon people for welcoming us to Whitehorse today.
I am grateful that the senior executive of the government has chosen to come and meet us and to educate us this morning, and I thank you.
We arrived in Whitehorse around 4:00 p.m. yesterday. I had occasion to visit two book stores before they closed, where I found shelves of books in French, and I bought some.
I didn't visit the public library, but I noticed that the signage is in both official languages, so I felt it was welcoming.
Following the report that Ms. Blais gave us earlier, I, like Ms. Guay, would like to finish up on the matter of health administration.
Unless I'm mistaken, bilingualism in the Northwest Territories stems from the Northwest Territories Act of 1892.
Is that correct?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.
This is my first visit to the Yukon. It's incredible. I'm delighted to be here. I come from the east. I come from Moncton, New Brunswick.
There is federal official languages legislation in New Brunswick, of course. We were the first officially bilingual province with the provincial act of 1982. We established an order on bilingualism at the city of Moncton.
When I arrived here, I saw that you had the Languages Act. If I understand correctly, that means that this act respects the fact that there are two official languages in Canada. However, nothing is said about the official language of Yukon.
If I understand correctly, there is no act respecting official languages—English, French or other—in Yukon. Is that correct?
As I mentioned before, in addition to the French first language school, we have French immersion schools as well that go all the way up to grade 12. So again it becomes a parental and student choice as to where they want to move forward. But we have a lot of opportunities for students to take French language.
Just as an example from funding, because of the Department of Education, we enter into a separate bilateral agreement with the federal government on French education. We just renewed our new agreement, which runs from 2009 to 2014. Again, we have the same issue where the money is limited. We just renewed the agreement in 2009, but the actual value was the same as it was in the previous agreement, although we have increased costs when you look at the cost of increases for your teachers, your cost of running your schools, and the number of students we have.
Just to give you a breakdown so you have an idea of the amount of funding, the bilateral agreement is approximately $2.2 million annually from Canada and approximately $6 million annually for the Yukon over the five-year period. So for French first language, Canada provides $1.2 million, while the Yukon contributes $2.3 million. For French second language, the federal contribution is just under $1 million, and the Yukon contributes $3.7 million annually over that five-year agreement. That's just to give you an indication of the level of funding that's coming into the Department of Education for French schools.
The other part of it that makes it a little unique is that the Department of Education performs many functions that most jurisdictions would delegate to school boards or school districts. As I mentioned, the francophone school board is the only school board in the Yukon. So the department has a dual role, the ministry and department. A lot of the services we provide are outside of what would normally be covered in other jurisdictions in the bilateral. We provide these services, again, at our own cost.
Just as an example, some of our translation costs that would not be covered under the bilateral would run between $40,000 to $50,000 a year, which is coming from the Department of Education budget because of our unique aspect. So we go forward with our numbers and bring our case forward. We show the number of students that are enrolled in French first language, almost 50% of our students who are enrolled in the second language, and yet the numbers remain the same.
Ms. Blais, earlier I asked you for a copy of the agreement on services. We have it here, but it's missing Annex B, the one concerning the strategic plan. That's probably very important. It comes from Yukon. Could you send it to us?
In addition, the agreement on education, which we also have, is missing Annex 3 as well. That's the action plan, the one from Yukon as well. The entire agreement is based on the action plan. Could you also send us the action plan?
Lastly, with regard to education, I would like to get a breakdown of certain figures. There are amounts for various components, but I imagine the breakdown must be quite easy to do. As for services, I agree with my colleague, Mr. Galipeau, that $1.75 million a year is not an extraordinary amount, particularly since, from what I can see, it's not indexed.
We'll continue our meeting.
I simply want to inform committee members that a francophone representative of the Franco-Yukonnais newspaper, L'Aurore boréale, is with us. She has requested permission to take a few pictures during our proceedings. If committee members agree, I will let her show us in our best light.
Before introducing the following witnesses, Mr. St-Pierre reminded me during the break that my grandmother's father, Émel Decaut, came from Yukon. He apparently brought back a few gold nuggets since, when he returned to his village of Saint-Patrice, he was able to buy a sawmill and secure his children's prosperity. I am here to attest to that fact. So there was a gold rush, and today it's a rush to promote linguistic duality.
To do that, we have the president of the Association franco-yukonnaise, Angélique Bernard. Thank you for being with us, Ms. Bernard. She is accompanied by Ms. St-Pierre, the co-executive director, who reminded me that she had testified before our committee in Ottawa. This time, we have come to meet you. We also have Roch Nadon, director of culture and youth. Welcome, everyone.
Without further ado, I invite you to give your opening address.
Mr. Chairman, committee members, it is a pleasure to welcome you to Yukon. It's an honour and privilege to have you among us. On behalf of the AFY, thank you for your invitation. I am accompanied by Régis St-Pierre and Roch Nadon.
More than 100 years ago, in 1899, Paul Dumais surveyed the first site of Whitehorse on the east bank of the Yukon River. In 1900, Alexandre Prud'homme became the first Conservative member elected in Yukon.
In 1983, the AFY received an initial grant of $5,170 from the Department of Canadian Heritage, or the Secretary of State as it was called at the time, and created its first community development tools. Teachers and member parents of the AFY requested the support of the school committees of the eight Whitehorse schools to establish a French framework program in Whitehorse. Four committees responded positively. A survey revealed that 67 students were eligible to register in French. The AFY asked the department of education to establish the French framework program. Today, more than 180 students are registered at the École Émilie-Tremblay, the only French-language school in Yukon.
L'Aurore boréale, a bi-monthly paper intended for francophones and francophiles, focuses not only on francophone news, but also on government affairs and northern issues. The French section of the municipal library was officially opened by the minister of education in November 1983, long before Yukon's Languages Act. In 1992, after 12 years of demands, the community finally received Radio-Canada's French signal from Montreal at no cost. Since 1997, the community has been receiving CBUF-FM from Vancouver. Even today, the AFY is Radio-Canada's rebroadcaster.
Today, our population is growing and our community structures have proven themselves. With regard to adequately meeting our needs, the ball is now in the governments' court. For example, the federal government, through bilateral agreements on French-language services for the Franco-Yukonnais minority, funds the costs associated with implementation of the Yukon government's French-language services. The purpose of that agreement, it should not be forgotten, is to meet the needs of French-speaking Yukoners. We believe this funding creates a fiduciary obligation between the Yukon government and the Franco-Yukonnais community.
The federal government also has an obligation to ensure this agreement complies with the spirit and letter of Yukon's Languages Act. It is essential that the Canadian government perform a direct audit and consultation function with the francophone communities in our territory. It is also important to support francophone population growth to ensure our community's survival. It is fundamentally important that the federal system understand our situation. For example, why are the services provided in Yukon to immigrants by service providers who have signed contracts with the federal government in English only? Why does the RCMP, which is required to provide services in French, communicate in English only with the population of Yukon in its press releases?
Community development cannot be carried out without developing solid institutions, which requires a genuine partnership between the community and the government. The Supreme Court of Canada issued a clear decision in the Desrochers case. It held that government programs must be established based on the priorities and needs of the official language communities. A genuine partnership for genuine equality is what we consider a modern way to view the matter.
In closing, let us never forget that the Canadian north is above all, far beyond the mineral treasures in the ground and all the speeches on climate change, a place where part of Canada's population reflects Canada's reality. The greatest source of northern wealth will always be its people, its population, including the francophone population.
Once again, thank you. We are now prepared to answer your questions in order to continue our constructive dialogue with the federal government.
As Ms. Bernard said before me, thank you for having us.
My presentation will focus essentially on the theme of arts and culture, which is related to your second study question on how Canada's Roadmap for Linguistic Duality 2008-2013 is being implemented in the northern communities.
In the Roadmap, culture is identified as one of the priority sectors. We very much appreciate that. The fact that the arts and culture sector is recognized as one of the priority sectors is very significant for the some 200 arts and culture organizations and stakeholders across the country.
Through its cultural sector, the Association franco-yukonnaise is the main francophone cultural stakeholder in Yukon. As a result of the Roadmap, the arts and culture sector has received investments of $14 million under the Cultural Development Fund, $4.5 million under the Music Showcases for Artists from Official Language Minority Communities and $5 million under the National Translation Program for Book Publishing. In short, there has been a total investment of $23.5 million, which represents a slim 2.35% of the total value of investments under the Roadmap.
This clearly cannot provide adequate long-term support for structural cultural action that will promote the vitality and sustainable development of the francophone and Acadian communities in Canada.
As a result of our profile, the cultural sector of the Association franco-yukonnaise has only been able to apply for the first round of funding under the Cultural Development Fund because the fund provides more support for new, non-recurring projects that do not support long-term consolidation efforts.
Our project, the purpose of which was to develop the artistic component of our actions in the field, was accepted during the first round, as I mentioned. Action taken included assisting artists in their artistic and professional development and disseminating the cultural and artistic product.
Unfortunately, our project was rejected in the second round. Disillusioned by the process, we submitted no projects for the third round. We believe our project was intrinsically linked to the sustainable development of our community.
Artists and crafts people are culture purveyors for a community. They instill energy and vitality in sharing their passion for language and culture. They are the players who shape the cultural identity of a group, a community and a country.
Yukon's French-language community is young and growing. It needs to be fed in order to remain vibrant. Arts and culture are essential food to ensure its full development and that it achieves its full potential. In other words, the artistic and cultural development sectors need increased funding for the operation of established structures in order to anchor those structures so they can develop and fully serve the communities. However, new structural projects must not be overlooked; they should receive adequate operating grants to ensure their development.
I will take the liberty of making a few recommendations.
We recommend that the Department of Canadian Heritage ensure that the next version of the action plan for official languages or any subsequent initiative includes a strategy and funding to meet the needs and priorities of the arts and culture sector in the anglophone and francophone minority communities.
We recommend that the Department of Canadian Heritage, in cooperation with the federal institutions operating in the arts and culture sector, ensure that minority francophone communities have access to adequate human and financial resources to support the development and to promote the vitality of arts and culture in their region. In particular, they could support the development of infrastructure—a cultural centre, for example—cultural facilitation in the schools, artist training and professionalization, the use of new technologies and networking.
We recommend that the Department of Canadian Heritage review the funding process for the Cooperation with Community Sectors subcomponent of the Development of Official Language Communities Program and that it grant the communities multi-year funding over a period of five years. The department must support the development of structural projects that can mobilize the community, simplify the funding process for small-scale projects and reduce waiting times for the processing of grant applications.
Lastly, here is the last recommendation.
That the Department of Canadian Heritage, in cooperation with community organizations, in particular the Fédération culturelle canadienne-française and the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, of which the Association franco-yukonnaise is a member, the federal institutions operating in the arts and culture sector and the provincial, territorial and municipal orders of government, develop a long-term vision of support for arts and culture in the francophone minority communities that specifically reflects the situations of the francophone communities, the role that those communities can play in cultural promotion and diversity and in intercultural dialogue in the country, the needs of first- and second-generation francophone immigrants, the needs of every province and territory, the needs of the young generations and the use of new technologies.
I would like to finish my presentation by saying that a language is much more than a means of communication. It is a way to access a culture and, at the same time, the expression of a sensibility, of one way of being with others, an original vision of the world. This fundamental link between language and culture has been underscored by many major Canadian thinkers such as Will Kymlicka and Northrop Frye. The clearest statement is perhaps that of Yolande Grisé, former Chair of the Ontario Arts Council, who said: "There can be no language without culture, just as there can be no culture without artists. The words of a language are merely the abstraction of all that constitutes culture."
Taken as a whole, language is a container, the overall form and channel of culture. In its specific usages, speech is only one of the contents of culture. Arts and culture provide people with the tools to go beyond the utilitarian functions of language, which enables them to attach themselves to their cultural roots, which are the basis of language. Artists and cultural workers help build a dynamic, living and inspirational francophone cultural sector which is necessary to the survival and long-term vitality of Canada's francophone and Acadian communities.
According to the Conference Board of Canada, the economic footprint of the cultural sector in 2007 was estimated at $84.6 billion, which represents approximately 7.4% of Canada's gross domestic product. This includes all direct and indirect impacts. Again, for 2007, the Conference Board estimated that the cultural sector generated more than 1.1 million jobs in Canada.
Lastly, according to the 24th report in the Arts Research Monitor series by Hill Strategies Research Inc., performing arts organizations in Canada generate $2.70 in income for every dollar received from governments. These are definitely factors that should not be neglected in the current economic context. The real beneficiaries of investment in culture are the communities. Culture has a direct economic multiplier effect of 8.5. Public sector funding is the incentive that stimulates the private sector. In the past five years, essential public sector support has stimulated growth in private financing, which is now twice the size of public funding.
Thank you for your attention.
Thank you for your question. I can give you a short or long answer. The short answer is yes. And the long answer is also yes.
Yes, because, in any case, the Yukon Supreme Court held in Kilrich Industries Ltd. v. Halotier in 2007 that, even though Yukon's Languages Act does not contain the word "official", it is an act that was passed by the Yukon legislative assembly. It is also a quasi-constitutional enactment and the Yukon government cannot change it on its own. I repeat. The Yukon government cannot change its own act because it is ultimately not its act; it's your act, that of the Parliament of Canada.
When that act was passed, it was said that only the Parliament of Canada could amend or repeal it. The act was introduced in response to pressure from Yukon francophones. It all started after a traffic ticket was issued to a Whitehorse taxi driver named Daniel Saint-Jean. That was called the Saint-Jean case. The judgment stated that, as Canada's Constitution Act, 1982 had been signed by the provinces—not by the provinces and territories, but by the provinces—and as the territories did not have provincial status, they could not sign the Constitution. That therefore means that the Canadian government signs it for them. I won't go into the legal details, but all kinds of pressure was brought to bear to recognize that Canada's Official Languages Act applied to the territories. It was not by chance that two territories at that time, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, signed their own act. The Northwest Territories decided to put the word "official" in their statute in 1984. In 1988, Yukon, for all kinds of reasons that we won't enumerate, did not do that. However, in 2007, the Court found that it was not necessary for the word "official" to appear in the act.
During the break, I told Ms. Zarac that her business card did not state "official member of the House of Commons", even though she was officially elected. We don't need to include the word "official". Once an act is passed, it becomes an official act. Now the real question is whether Yukon should do what the federal government has done and have a commissioner of official languages in order to proceed with a genuine implementation of the legislation and to invest the necessary money and resources in that effort in order to achieve that. The answer is yes.
Yes. We talked about it. We know you worked very hard to prepare and that there would definitely be questions on the subject. We also took notes this morning. We talked about it, perhaps indirectly, when we said it was time for the government to take action to meet its obligations. As regards health, there has been a case before the courts since 1999. It's in the process of discussion or mediation; call it what you will.
As regards health, you're quite familiar with the legislation, Mr. Galipeau. I took some notes. In our address, we refer to French-language services that were available long before Yukon's Languages Act was passed. In fact, the Yukon government sometimes thinks everything started in 1988. No, history started long before that. In 1970, with the Caron case, the territories, including Yukon, obtained legal protection for French-language services.
You also asked whether we could live in French in Yukon. Can we be born and die in French? That happens between those two stages. All health and prenatal services are currently provided in English. They're provided at a health centre managed by the Yukon government, where you can call, but the service is in English. There's no bilingual health centre in Yukon and no French-language health centre either.
As for extended care, I know some people who paid federal taxes for 50 or 55 years and who have never received any home-care service in French in Yukon because there is none.
We're talking about seniors, Alzheimer's, dementia, declining physical functions. We need services, and they are essential services.
I'm a community worker, I grew up here, I paid my taxes here. I don't want to have to speak English in my own home because I'm asking the government for home-care service to which I'm entitled.
Can we live in French?
To be honest, the government doesn't want to provide the services.
They always find the money to provide services in English. The Yukon government's budget has increased from $400 million to $1.1 billion. So there have been increases in their budget. The services are provided to citizens.
Brian Murphy very clearly emphasized that Yukon's Languages Act doesn't make English any more or less official than French. They're equal. They find money to provide services in English, but it's funny they don't seem to find any for services in French. They always hide behind the fact that that service has been devolved upon Yukon and it doesn't have the money.
And yet we have official letters flatly telling the communities not to get involved in the matter, that they don't want them to be at the bargaining table or to hear their opinion. We're told that the government will manage the situation, that it will get the necessary money and that it will provide the services to its citizens. Once again, we're being held hostage.
We know that the information we're providing today will be made public. We've done our homework. The figures we're citing aren't our opinion; they're real. We have an opinion, but we're citing real facts.
The transfer has been made. We have official letters from the government telling us that it doesn't want us at the table. It guarantees us that, under Yukon's Languages Act and the Official Languages Act, we'll get all the services. We're guaranteed that.
We've asked the committee why it doesn't go to court. That's definitely always an option.
I invite you to take a look at our community's profile in the FCFA's figures that we submitted to you. You'll see that we've created institutions. We've created a dynamic and a strong Yukon francophone community. I had my children during those years. We established our institutions precisely so that we could control what we control and what we want to control.
I control the language spoken at home. More people speak French in the home than francophones. That means that people like my wife, who is anglophone, and people from exogamous families, that is to say couples of different mother tongues, have decided to speak French in the home. No one will take that away from us.
It's funny that the community institutions find staff. The school started up with 26 students and one teacher. Now the school is flourishing. It has rights and needs. They find qualified teaching staff. The same is true at the day care centre. That's the case for us as well, in our institutions.
The Association franco-yukonnaise is a bit like a two-headed organization. It's a political mouthpiece, as Régis clearly explained and as you have seen, and it also offers services in various fields: the economy, culture, youth, seniors, education and employability. The Centre de la francophonie in Whitehorse houses all those services.
You've visited its two storeys. We have a small community room. That's somewhat the cultural aspect of the centre. It's mainly a centre that has offices and a community room that's now too small. We use that small room to share and showcase our community's cultural and artistic vitality.
As regards membership, it's possible to have members. However, these aren't the members of a cultural centre; they're the members of the Association franco-yukonnaise.
You're right to ask yourself the question.
During the term of the last agreement—the agreement is usually for a term of four to five years—the 1998-2003 agreement, there were two applications between 1999 and 2001 under the Court Challenges Program. Twelve years earlier we had negotiated for a genuine implementation of certain programs and that was not done. So we filed an application, which was legitimate. The federal government, through its program, subsequently had to decide whether the application was valid or not. It told us that our application was very valid and that it accepted it 100%.
As regards the application concerning education, we had to meet with the school board, which was the representative starting in December 2007. And then, as you know, there was the legal proceeding.
We are currently the representative for French-language services and we are pursuing a mediation process. So was it for those reasons? I can tell you what happened. All our information is public. It is contained in our annual reports and appears on our website: afy.yk.ca. You can access it if you want to know about our activities, what's going on or if you want to place an advertisement in our paper. We are also in the social media. All that is public. We aren't hiding.
We met with the Yukon premier and asked him whether he was going to make a commitment. The premier gave us his work. He told us that he was making a commitment to rectify the situation, that we were right, that we were not receiving enough services. He told us that more had to be done in health, that we were right and that we had been poorly treated.
Now the government is telling us that it will be requesting money from the federal government and that, if it doesn't grant that money, we won't be getting any more. That's curious logic.
If you didn't have that, you wouldn't survive. With all your activities and a community centre, you need volunteers since you don't have any funding.
Our organizations are experiencing the same problems. You tell me that things are better. We even have organizations whose presidents were paying expenses with their personal credit cards because funding wasn't being sent to them. That's starting to improve, but it isn't over yet. The government is changing the rules; it's changing the applications.
As members, we have a big job to do with our organizations to help them complete the forms and ensure they get their money.
I hope your activities here will continue. I believe you have to bring pressure to bear. We're going to write a report on this meeting and on all the meetings we're going to have. We're also going to conduct some visits this afternoon. I'm disappointed because it's sad that there are so many francophones here, that everything is so lively and you don't have any fair support.
I think that, when we submit our report, we're going to make some noise and we'll see the federal government's reaction. We have to believe that there's a good agreement between the federal and Yukon governments. If the federal government sends money to the Yukon government and the latter doesn't hand it over to you, that's another problem.
Yes, that's a good point.
You mentioned the devolution of services. Responsibility for forest fires fell to the federal government. That was transferred to the Yukon government. This summer, there were two forest fires, as there are virtually every summer in Yukon. The evacuation notices were given in English on Friday, and in French on Tuesday.
Nothing like that would ever have happened at the federal level because your legislation and websites are published in French and English at the same time. You can't put up a unilingual website. And yet, after the transfer, the federal government washed its hands of the matter and is no longer monitoring what's going on. It seems to me that, after a service is transferred, it should monitor the situation for a certain period of time to see what's happening.
A number of employment assistance services were transferred through Service Canada last year. Citizens, employers, workers and businesses pay for those services. It's not services we're looking for; we're entitled to them by law. This has now been transferred to the Yukon government, and it's washing its hands of the matter.
Since the transfer, the Yukon government has provided a host of services. You've seen it; you've received the response: the budget envelope is not increasing. It seems to me that, when you transfer a service, you're responsible for ensuring that all the communities, including the official language communities in Yukon, are subsequently served in an equitable manner.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to mention that the francophones in Yukon are not working in isolation. By that I mean we're also working a lot with the anglophone community, that is the community organizations, the people in the performing arts, culture, youth, people related to the economy and so on. The message we want to send this morning is that the challenges we have to face are, to a large degree, at the level of the departments. We also have challenges at the community level. It's important for me to mention that there is good synergy between the anglophone and francophone communities. That's an asset.
In response to one question, Mr. Galipeau said that there were no doubt challenges involved in managing the cultural centre, but there are models. This could be a cultural centre for anglophones and aboriginals. I'm not just talking about a francophone cultural centre.
In short, we're very creative here. Geographic isolation has often caused us to be creative and dynamic.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Yes, I have three or four points to make.
First of all, Mr. Chairman, I would like to submit the Canada-Yukon agreement on services to the clerk. It is in English and French and includes Annex B, the strategic plan. It has been delivered to me. I also have a document to submit to the committee that is in English only. It is a summary of Yukon's requests to the Canadian government concerning health. It makes for quite interesting reading, but it is in English only. It's dated February 2011 and goes back to 1993. It's an interesting story.
I wouldn't want us just to brood over this. I want to offset what Mr. Galipeau previously said. Looking at the last issue of L'Aurore boréale, I noticed that it contained advertisements in which Canadian Heritage, Health Canada, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada were involved. It would be interesting to ask the managers of L'Aurore boréale, if we have the opportunity to meet them, if they feel they get a fair share of the Canadian government's advertising.
According to the evidence we heard from the deputy minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada last week, we are assured that the media of the minority language communities receive their fair share of advertising. He pays special attention to that. We'll see.
I'd like to hear briefly from Mr. St-Pierre on the refusal to allow him to take part in the bipartite negotiations in a tripartite committee.
Can you provide us with a bit of an explanation on that subject?
These are obviously issues which the committee will consider and on which it will intervene from time to time. It goes without saying that we will address them when we write our report and in the context of the measures that will follow.
We are coming to the end of the first stage. This afternoon, we will have the opportunity to visit the Centre de la francophonie in Whitehorse. For the moment, I would like to thank you for appearing before the committee this morning.
Mr. Nadon, you cited a passage that I very much appreciated, that there can be no language without culture. The cultural aspect is often what encourages people to learn a language. You explained it well through the quotations. You also talked about the importance of culture in maintaining vitality, not only language, but also the linguistic communities. Thank you very much.
Ms. Bernard, thank you for being here and I congratulate you on this happy revenge of the cradle.
Perhaps we can speak less officially this afternoon during our visit.
We'll resume our activities at 1:00 p.m.
The meeting is adjourned.