Mr. Chair, members of the committee, first of all, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to discuss my team's role in addressing the challenges of the Francophonie across the country.
As you said, Mr. Chair, I am here with Charles Slowey, Assistant Deputy Minister, Citizenship, Heritage and Regions, at Canadian Heritage, and by Dennis Racine, who heads the Official Languages Branch in the same department.
To begin, I would like to emphasize the importance of your work as a parliamentary committee. Your committee contributes to the dialogue between the various federal and provincial institutions, as well as with community organizations, allowing us to better understand the issues related to the Canadian francophonie. Please be assured that my officials and I are following your work on these issues closely.
The Prime Minister assigned Minister Joly a strong official languages mandate, particularly as it concerns the Francophonie.
On a personal note, it is a pleasure for me to again have the opportunity to work in official languages. My first job in the federal public service—almost 33 years ago, in the mid-1980s—was actually at the Department of Justice, which, at the time, had been mandated to update the Official Languages Act. So it is a happy coincidence for me to find myself here before you as deputy minister of official languages in 2019, the year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the act.
My term began shortly after the announcement of the most recent action plan for official languages, which saw the Government of Canada increase its cooperation with all of its partners to strengthen official language minority communities, improve access to services, and promote a more bilingual Canada.
Since that announcement, the Prime Minister of Canada has entrusted Minister Joly with the mandate to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Official Languages Act and to conduct a review that will lead to the modernization of the act.
I am speaking as the deputy minister for official languages and the Francophonie at a special time in the history of official languages and of the Canadian Francophonie. I am very happy to be doing so.
With this in mind, allow me to quickly remind you that the main vehicle for the federal government's official languages initiatives is the action plan for official languages 2018-23, which was launched on March 28, 2018, at the Mauril Bélanger school in Ottawa.
The government's commitments in this new action plan are based on three pillars: strengthening official-language minority communities, improving access to services in the minority language and promoting bilingualism across the country.
Supported by Budget 2018, the action plan adds an investment of almost $500 million over five years to support official languages, while maintaining pre-existing funding. It adds financial resources to existing official languages programming as well as to new initiatives. The total investment in official languages will reach approximately $2.7 billion over five years.
The action plan also proposes a new vision to foster the vitality of official language minority communities and to promote French and English across the country. Indeed, the Government of Canada believes that a strong Francophonie means francophones thriving in prosperous communities that allow them to live and work in French. Thus, it is a matter of investing in the organizations and institutions that ensure the vitality of these communities. The official languages support programs are the preferred tool to achieve this, and they work through both direct support to communities and bilateral federal-provincial and territorial agreements in education and services.
Following the public announcements of the action plan, therefore, the official languages branch quickly initiated dialogue sessions with organizations representing minority communities to ensure that the plan would be implemented with a “by the community, for the community” approach in mind.
For example, we have provided funding increases to all community development organizations and entered dialogues with each community to determine how to make best use of the available funds. We announced partnerships with community organizations, like la Fédération de la jeunesse canadienne-française and the English Language Arts Network, to manage a program to support cultural activities in schools. We worked closely with the community media consortium to determine how to invest new funding for community media development. Discussions with our community partners are ongoing for the implementation of the civic community school support fund, teacher recruitment strategies for francophone schools, and for bilingualism in the city of Ottawa.
With the new action plan initiatives, as well as our regular activities, the official-languages support programs are continuing their efforts to support the development of official-language communities across the country. This direct work with communities is being done in parallel with our continued collaboration with provincial and territorial governments.
For nearly 50 years, the Government of Canada has allocated financial support to provide members of official-language minority communities the opportunity to receive instruction in their mother tongue, and to offer the residents of each province or territory the opportunity to learn French or English as a second language. These agreements with the provinces and territories are governed by what we call a protocol for agreements concluded with the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, or what we call CMEC.
An overall envelope of $235.5 million is provided annually for the funding of provincial and territorial official-languages initiatives, which includes $148.7 million for minority-language education and $86.8 million for second-language learning. This funding envelope supports preschool to post-secondary initiatives across the country.
In addition, thanks to the funding announced in Budget 2017 and the new action plan, the Government of Canada is investing $95 million over five years in educational and community infrastructure. The action plan is also providing nearly $63 million for the recruitment and retention of teachers for francophone minority schools and for French as a second language programs.
We have observed that negotiations on the memorandum of understanding with the CMEC have taken longer than expected. Given that situation, and in order to ensure the stability of funding during the negotiations, the Government of Canada has renewed its financial contribution of $235.5 million per year to the provinces and territories until March 2020. This gives the negotiations more time.
We also have a series of service agreements with the provinces and territories. They aim to encourage and assist governments to offer services in French and English in official language minority communities. These agreements are negotiated bilaterally and federal funding is intended to be an incentive to increase the range of services offered to Canadians by provincial and territorial governments. The funding provided to provincial and territorial governments takes into consideration multiple factors, such as the constraints and characteristics of each province and every territory. It was never designed on a per capita basis or on a basis proportional to demographics.
In this regard, I could not conclude my presentation without addressing the issue of Ontario's Francophonie, particularly the issues at the Université de l'Ontario français. I would like to remind this committee that, as soon as the provincial government announced the suspension of the Université de l'Ontario français project, expressed her concern in a letter to her Ontario counterpart, Caroline Mulroney.
In addition, in a letter dated January 13, she took the initiative to officially reiterate that the Government of Canada has programs that support the project of the Université de l'Ontario français, based on the submission of a request for funding and a commitment from the province to cover at least 50% of the total costs. The minister added that, to the extent that such a contribution agreement would be concluded, federal programs have the flexibility to cover the startup costs of the Université de l'Ontario français in the early years of the project.
In the past, the Government of Canada has funded one-off projects in Ontario, such as the creation of the network of community colleges in the 1990s or, more recently, the Cité collégiale in Orleans and the campus of the Collège Boréal.
Finally, as you know, announced $1.9 million to support the work to establish Carrefour francophone du savoir et de l'innovation in Toronto. This project could help develop closer ties between the agencies and organizations that serve the francophone community in Ontario, with 15 partners.
In addition to Minister Joly's interactions, federal officials working in the official languages support programs have been in touch with Ontario government officials to express our clear willingness to work collaboratively with them on the issue of the Université de l'Ontario français. In total, building on its official languages support programs, the Government of Canada has, over the years, put in place the conditions necessary for the vitality of the Canadian Francophonie and for the vitality of the official languages communities, in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada.
Thank you for your attention. I am ready to answer your questions.