LANG Committee Report
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The Honourable Denis Paradis, P.C., M.P.
Chair, Standing Committee on Official Languages
House of Commons
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6
The Government of Canada (the Government) is pleased to present you with this official response to the Standing Committee on Official Languages (the Committee) report entitled Toward a Real Commitment to the Vitality of Official Language Minority Communities . The Government would like to thank the Committee for its work and express its gratitude to all those who appeared before the Committee to share their points of view with it.
It should be noted that we have just lived through a decade of conservative indifference regarding official languages. A decade that saw no new investments, but cuts.
In March 2018, the Prime Minister and I released a new Action Plan on official languages on behalf of the Government. This plan includes an historic investment of $2.7 billion over five years, of which $500 million is new money largely earmarked to support our official language minority communities.
The Action Plan that we released represents the largest investment in official languages in our history.
The majority of the new investments in this plan are dedicated to support communities. Our plan provides them with the tools to adapt to new realities, notably an aging population and the integration of newcomers. It supports the promotion of francophone immigration and facilitates the welcoming and integration of newcomers. It supports French-language daycares to integrate children within this linguistic community from a young age. It supports the recruitment of French teachers to counter the shortage and invests in educational and community infrastructure. We are also equipping Anglophone communities in Quebec outside of Montréal to allow them to meet their own challenges. Our Plan is a vote of confidence for community organizations and the recognition that their vitality is assured only if new services are offered "for and by" the communities.
The Action Plan meets the primary request from community organizations; namely, to enhance their core funding, which had not increased for over 10 years. We have increased the funding for all official language minority community associations by 20% this year. The Action Plan therefore sets out an increase of $70 million over five years for some 350 official language minority community organizations, which will bring their total core funding to over $320 million for this period.
This new core funding could respond to concerning or emerging situations: communities rendered fragile by the outflow of people, isolated or dispersed; young Francophones outside Quebec switching to English; the absence of representation of Anglophone youth and seniors in Quebec, etc. Furthermore, some emerging communities have voiced the need to implement a community organization program that could represent them, encourage networking, strengthen their sense of belonging and provide tangible services to the population.
These funds could also go to organizations working alone in certain regions; because, despite the increased diversification of government support, some communities are characterized by the fact that, aside from the school system, community organizations provide the vast majority of services offered there.
In addition, new funds of $5.3 million over five years will be made
available for English‑speaking communities in Quebec, particularly in
rural areas. The situation experienced by the 200,000 Anglophones in the
rest of Quebec is of concern.
English-speaking Quebecers can experience to various degrees demographic losses, may lack institutional resources or may experience challenges in terms of access to public services, thereby rendering them more vulnerable and isolated. The additional funding could help vulnerable populations and rural communities to improve access to youth employment, home care, mental health services and end-of-life care.
We would also like to note that most of the other initiatives announced in the Action Plan will directly benefit official language minority communities, be it through targeted investment in the cultural sector, community media and radio, support for school and community infrastructure, civic community schools and teacher recruiting, and support for French-language services in the territories.
Beyond the Action Plan
These new investments are in addition to a large number of measures that are already having a positive impact on official languages and minority communities across the country: the reinstatement of the long-form census; increased funding intended for CBC/Radio-Canada; the reinvestment in the Canada Council for the Arts, Telefilm and the National Film Board; the modernization of the Court Challenges Program; the appointment of bilingual judges to the Supreme Court; the launch of the review of the Regulations that govern the allocation of bilingual service points; and the re-opening of the Francophone component of the Royal Military College St-Jean are excellent examples.
All of these investments are important initiatives to support official languages, but they do not reflect the entirety of federal actions on the subject. Each of the federal institutions is responsible for taking the necessary measures to respect the obligations set out in the Official Languages Act. The President of the Treasury Board and I have legislative responsibilities, and we have tools, policies and directives that contribute to the implementation of these obligations.
The Treasury Board Secretariat has established a certain number of policies and directives intended to strengthen implementation of parts IV, V, VI and VII of the OLA by federal institutions (e.g. in the Policy on Transfer Payments).
For my part, the Prime Minister has reiterated the importance of official
languages in my new mandate letter. As the new Minister of Tourism,
Official Languages and La Francophonie, I am responsible for
the implementation of the Action Plan and encouraging and promoting the
implementation, by federal institutions, of the commitment pertaining to
enhancing the vitality of official language minority communities and
fostering the full recognition of French and English. The
Prime Minister has also asked me to begin an examination towards modernizing the Official Languages Act.
That being said, I would like to assure the Committee of my commitment to continuously improving government-wide coordination of official languages-related issues by working closely with all of my colleagues, especially with the Privy Council Office and the Treasury Board Secretariat. Just like the Committee, I have high hopes in the ongoing discussions on the Official Languages Regulations review (Communications with and Services to the Public) and on the modernization of the Act: I would be happy to continue these discussions with you.
On behalf of the Government, we thank the Committee for its work and would like to express our gratitude to everyone who appeared before the Committee to share their point of view.
Please accept my best wishes.
The Honourable Mélanie Joly, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie