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LANG Committee Report

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The Honourable Denis Paradis
Chair of the Standing Committee on Official Languages
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Dear Mr. Paradis:

On behalf of the Government of Canada, we are pleased to respond to the Report of the Standing Committee on Official Languages on the Enumeration of Rights-Holders under section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, pursuant to the House of Commons Standing Order 109. We would like to thank the Committee for its work and express appreciation to all who appeared before the Committee to share their views.

In responding to the Committee’s report, we have grouped the recommendations into three categories: awareness and outreach; enumeration of rights-holders pursuant to section 23 of the Charter (rights-holders); and assessing the vitality of Canada’s official language minority communities.

Awareness and outreach (Recommendation 1)

The Government shares the view of the Committee on the importance of promoting a good understanding of what a rights-holder is and the options available to them for the language of education for their children. It is clear that if a larger number of rights-holders choose minority-language schools for their children, it would have a positive impact on the vitality of the official language minority communities and their educational institutions.

Canadian Heritage has, over many years, supported the efforts to promote and improve awareness of minority language rights to education in the minority language through Federal-Provincial-Territorial agreements and directly through supporting various organizations such as the Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones (FNCSF).  Canadian Heritage will continue to work with its community partners and governments to put in place new local initiatives and enhance existing ones that enable rights-holders to better understand their rights and make better-informed decisions that will have an impact on their children and their minority language education institutions.

Further, the Government recognizes that it could be beneficial and effective to better coordinate the efforts of the various provincial, territorial and national stakeholders in the context of a national awareness and outreach strategy.  Thus, the Department of Canadian Heritage will examine how best to implement this recommendation in partnership with provincial and territorial governments and other stakeholders in the context of the renewal of the Protocol for agreements on official languages in education and the Government’s new Action Plan on Official Languages.

Enumerating rights-holders (Recommendations 2, 3 and 4)

The Government recognizes the importance of ensuring that official language minority education rights granted under section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are respected. Respecting these rights is essential to the vitality of official language minority communities in Canada.

The Government also recognizes that, to carry out their obligations under section 23, provincial and territorial governments need to have relevant and accurate information on rights-holders to ensure they are offered the education they are entitled to under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Government of Canada, in its leadership role in official languages, is committed to support provincial and territorial governments in that regard.

To this end, the Government will ask Statistics Canada to determine the best means of collecting quality data on rights-holders as identified by paragraphs 23 (1) (a) and (b) and subsection 23 (2) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to ensure an accurate enumeration of all rights-holders.

The Government recognizes the importance of engaging with key stakeholders and subject matter and technical experts in collecting information on rights-holders to support the vitality of official language minority communities. Statistics Canada is recognized as a world-leading statistical office, with deep professional expertise and knowledge in statistical methods, procedures and operations. As well, Statistics Canada has a long-standing history of putting in place extensive consultation processes to inform its statistical programs and has an extensive network of advisory committees to support its work.

The enumeration of rights-holders and of their children requires a careful and precise assessment of the available means and tools by which the best data on this subject can be collected. Statistics Canada is committed to finding the most appropriate way to collect this data based on scientific and professional considerations, including a thorough assessment of the potential and the limitations of various collection methods. In support of this work, Statistics Canada will establish a working group to examine and provide external expert advice on the enumeration of rights-holders.

As part of this assessment, Statistics Canada will examine the use of the Census of Population to collect this information. In fall 2017, Statistics Canada will launch a formal public consultation process on the content of the 2021 Census questionnaire. As part of these consultations, Statistics Canada will actively reach out to official language minority communities, provincial and territorial government and other stakeholders to discuss the data needs related to rights-holders. Statistics Canada will examine and test potential questions for inclusion in the Census to identify rights-holders as part of the process to develop the content for the 2021 Census.

Statistics Canada will complete its work to determine the most effective means to collect data on rights-holders in time to inform decisions about the 2021 Census. To ensure that Canadians are informed of the Government’s progress on meeting the need to have accurate and high-quality data on rights-holders, Statistics Canada will issue a public report on its work.

We are confident that this approach will allow us to collect this important data.

Assessing the vitality of Canada’s official language minority communities (Recommendations 5 and 6)

The Committee’s recommendation to update in 2021 the information obtained through the 2006 post-censal Survey of the Vitality of Official Language Minorities reflects the views of a number of official language minority community stakeholders.

The Government firmly believes that good data and research are essential for evidence-based decision-making in policy development and program delivery.  A post-censal survey is one method, among others, to collect data and support research needs.

In this context, the Government will work with Statistics Canada to examine options for collecting additional data on the vitality of official language minorities, including a new post-censal survey, during the preparations for the 2021 Census.  

On behalf of the Government, we would like to assure the Committee that we are committed to support the vitality of Canada’s official language communities and are fully committed towards respecting and promoting constitutional linguistic rights.

Sincerely,

 

The Honourable Navdeep Bains, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development

The Honourable Mélanie Joly, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Canadian Heritage