I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to the 31st meeting of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages.
Pursuant to the Standing Order of Monday, May 30, 2022, the committee is resuming its study of Bill .
Today's meeting is in hybrid format, pursuant to the motion adopted by the House on June 23, 2022. Members may take part in person or through Zoom.
To ensure an orderly meeting, I would like to outline a few rules for the witnesses and members.
Before speaking, please wait until I recognize you by name. If you are on the videoconference, please click on the microphone icon to unmute yourself. Please mute your mic when you are not speaking.
For interpretation, those participating through Zoom have the choice, at the bottom of their screen, between three channels: floor, English or French. Members attending in person in the room can use their headset after selecting the channel desired.
A reminder that all comments by members and witnesses should be addressed through the chair.
Members in the room who wish to speak need only raise their hands. Members participating via the Zoom application must use the “Raise Hand” function. The clerk of the committee and I will do our best to follow the order. Thank you for your patience and understanding in this regard.
Pursuant to our routine motion, I wish to inform the committee that all witnesses have completed the required login tests prior to the meeting.
I would also like to welcome Mr. Brassard, who is replacing Mr. Gourde on the best committee on Parliament Hill.
I would now like to welcome the witnesses.
For our first panel, we have with us today Vanessa Herrick, executive director of the English Language Arts Network Quebec, and Donald Barabé, president of the Ordre des traducteurs, terminologues et interprètes agréés du Québec.
Ms. Herrick and Mr. Barabé, we usually give the witnesses five minutes for their opening remarks. Once the opening remarks are finished, we move on to the rounds of questions. If you don't have time to finish your presentation, you could do so indirectly through your answers to the various questions you'll be asked.
To begin, I'll give the floor to Vanessa Herrick for five minutes.
Thank you for inviting me. I'm going to be addressing the room in English today.
However, I will be able to answer your questions in French or English.
My name is Vanessa Herrick, and I'm the executive director of the English Language Arts Network.
We're a not-for-profit organization that connects, supports and creates opportunities for English-speaking artists and cultural workers of all disciplines in every region of Quebec. We share expertise and resources for career advancement, funding opportunities, employment opportunities and calls for participation in the arts. We advocate for our members' interests and make common cause with the francophone community.
I want to start today by thanking the committee for inviting us to present.
We're joining today to share the experience of our community as English speakers in Quebec and to stand as allies with our French-speaking partners and colleagues across the country. The attention being paid to the issue of protecting French in our country is paramount, and we're ready to support and add our efforts to this work in any way that we can. We believe that one community can be raised and celebrated without there being any negative impact on the other. We greatly commend the work being done by the committee and by so many others in the government to ensure that Canada is a country of at least two official languages.
I'm here to speak about the experience of English-speaking artists in Quebec. I have five minutes. I'm going to do my best. I am going to read a fair amount so that I don't miss things that are important. I hate reading when I'm talking to people, so forgive me as I stare at the desk, but I want to make sure that I get through things.
First, I'll speak a bit about artists in Quebec. Quebec is, of course, a province that celebrates its culture and its art. I will give credit. Despite whatever language tensions may exist and may be increasing under Bill 96, we are living under a government that supports the arts, and I want to make that clear. We feel that support.
What is a unique experience for artists in Quebec is that the linguistic divide impacts artists. In 2016, English-speaking artists in the province earned less than their francophone counterparts, making on average a median income of 85 cents for every dollar made by a francophone artist. To make that clear, an artist in Canada—this includes Quebec—makes on average $24,000 a year, while the average median income is closer to $45,000. Already, we're talking about people who are living very precariously.
On the national level, statistics from the 2016 Canadian census show that anglophone artists from Quebec have a lower median income than the rest of the Canadian artists. These findings are especially surprising when considering that nationally, English speakers in Quebec represent a significant portion of Canadian artists. Anglophones in Quebec account for 4.6% of all Canadian artists, despite representing 2.8% of the Canadian labour force. The data indicates that two factors, occupation and language, are related to the discrepancies of income levels of these people.
I want to begin with a bit of a story. This summer, when consultations were being done across the country, I had the great honour to meet and speak with a lot of people who work on this issue. Somebody from the federal government said something to me in conversations around Bill . They said there is no difference between official language minority communities across the country. They face exactly the same thing.
While I recognize that this is a result of the effort for the battle for equity that many official language minority communities have been searching for for years, I don't think that's true. I think the challenges that we face are unique. We both face challenges. However, and I want this to be clear—
Unfortunately, English speakers in Quebec are the only official language minority community in the country with a provincial government legislating against them using their language. This is a very clear difference. This is a recent difference, but one that I think needs to be considered.
We don't know for sure how Bill 96 will impact the arts directly. We know, of course, that it will, as it impacts all English speakers in Quebec. We are hearing of discrepancies in the way that the bill will be applied. We don't know any of this for sure yet, but we are hearing that large productions coming from other places to Quebec—mostly American, to be honest—will not be subject to Bill 96.
I'm going to give you a number of facts this morning.
The first is that translation plays a vital role in applying the Official Languages Act. It's what allows Canadians to exercise their constitutional right not to speak the other official language. It's at the heart of the social contract, the social fabric of Canada.
The second fact is that a user‑pay concept for translation was put in place in the federal public service in 1995. In effect, departments, which were entitled to free translation from 1841 to 1995, now have to pay for it.
The third fact is that the user‑pay concept has led to major and unforeseen shifts. Departments have stopped translating certain texts, are only doing so on request or are using machine translation or unqualified resources to do so. At the same time, this prevents the Translation Bureau from properly serving Canadians and the federal government.
The fourth fact is that the lack of free funding has resulted in the dispersion of translation budgets across departments. The Government of Canada and Canada are the largest purchasers of translation in the world, proportionately. The dispersion of translation budgets has led to the weakening and fragmentation of the Canadian translation industry, which plays a key role in the application of Canada's official languages policy.
The fifth fact is that the Treasury Board recognizes that the Translation Bureau is no longer able to play its essential stewardship role with respect to the security of the provision of linguistic services to Parliament, courts and the federal government.
The sixth fact is that the Translation Bureau's services are optional and not free of charge, contrary to the Translation Bureau Act, passed in 1934. I will quote the English text of the act because it is clearer.
It says, “The Bureau shall” act for all government departments, agencies, boards and commissions in both Houses of Parliament “in all matters relating to the making and revising of translations”. As well, all the departments, agencies, boards and commissions “shall collaborate with the Bureau”.
The seventh fact is that the Translation Bureau was created in 1934 to put an end to the anarchy that existed within the federal government regarding the management of translation. Unfortunately, this anarchy has returned, and the situation must absolutely be corrected.
The eighth fact is an anomaly, because the private sector does not often speak in favour of government institutions. In this case, the private sector, both in translation and interpretation, is very much in favour of strengthening the Translation Bureau and making better use of the federal government's purchasing power in translation.
The ninth and final fact concerns the former minister of Public Service and Procurement Canada, Judy Foote, who, in February 2017, made a commitment on behalf of the Government of Canada: “It's a new day for the Translation Bureau. We are restoring this institution's reputation. We are turning things around. We have a plan for new management, for succession and ... for making the Translation Bureau mandatory again.”
I'd now like to make four recommendations to the committee.
My first recommendation is to apply what is in the White Paper released by Canadian Heritage in 2021, namely, “to strengthen the role of the translation and interpretation functions within the federal administrative apparatus, notably the Translation Bureau”. That would mean truly enforcing the Translation Bureau Act by making the use of the bureau mandatory again, rather than optional, and by making its services free to departments.
My second recommendation is to give the bureau the same mandate as NASA, which has two mandates: to send Americans to space—a mandate that everyone knows—and to use its purchasing power to help develop the American aerospace industry.
The federal government's purchasing power in translation is the greatest in the world, proportionally speaking, and—
I think there is a straightforward and simple answer to your question about how this committee can help. Well, we can ensure that the English-speaking minority community of Quebec is not left out of consideration when there is, of course, a needed focus put on the French-speaking minority communities. I think there needs to be a balance there that will help send the signal across the country that despite the fact that our language is not under threat, our community is under threat.
Specifically, under Bill 96, if anything you're doing requires more than 25 people—any kind of production or discipline or work that you're doing—you are potentially under Bill 96, so we're looking at theatre, we're looking at film and we're looking at large dance productions. All your communication will have to be in French. What we have heard is that if you are coming from outside of Quebec, you may be exempted, but English speakers within Quebec will not be allowed that exemption, so we are specifically being targeted.
I'm sorry, but could you repeat the last part of the question?
Yes. There are no regulations or laws that prevent this. However, like other minorities—
I'm sorry. I'll say it in English, to make sure I'm clear.
Is there inequity? They are allowed to apply, the same way anyone else is allowed to apply. Absolutely.
Is the funding distributed equally? I have heard from artists that they don't feel that's the case. It's a very difficult thing to answer, because a lot of it is subjective.
Yes, there are English-speaking artists in Quebec funded by the Quebec government, but I would say many feel they have greater success with the federal government.
Mr. Barabé, I'll now turn to you. You said that, since 1995, the Translation Bureau, which you represent, has been required to recover all of its direct and indirect costs. However, departments do not have the funding.
I quite agree with you that translation is critical to the linguistic currency of the federal government. However, these cuts certainly diminish the quality of translation. We see that every day here.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to thank our witnesses today.
Mr. Barabé, my questions are for you. First, I'd like to thank you for your testimony. You've given us a number of disturbing insights into the state of translation in Canada and the devastating impact of the privatization these services.
In the last five years, the Translation Bureau has reduced its services to federal departments to meet the needs of Parliament.
Since the Translation Bureau no longer provides these services outside Parliament, do you know if any agency is responsible for ensuring that the government actually meets its obligation to ensure the equality of official languages in the machinery of government?
The best example I can give is using the federal government's translation buying power. Proportionally speaking, the federal government is by far the largest purchaser of translation services in Canada. That purchasing power could be used to strengthen the private translation sector.
Right now, Canada is the biggest supplier of translation services in the world. Canada's translation firms should be buying foreign companies, but the opposite is happening. Foreign firms are the ones buying up Canadian firms. The reason for that is the decision that was made in 1995 to take the federal government's buying power and divvy it up among the departments, which, in turn, divvied it up internally.
Consequently, a director of a unit can tender a small translation contract. What happens is that large translation firms can't compete. What we've ended up with is a majority of freelancers, when we used to have translation companies with the ability to buy foreign firms and do business in foreign markets.
I will say that I understand that the official language of Quebec is French, and it should be that. We support that. We live there within the French community because that's what we want. But I don't think it should be only French. We have a multilingual province with people who have been there.... The English-speaking community has been there a long time, as have many other communities.
Again, as I said, I believe these should be efforts in building bridges, working together and finding common points instead of looking for divisive points. Can it be done only in French? I think the majority of services should be, but certainly, when you have a predominantly English-speaking community and you're talking about things like health care, that's non-negotiable, absolutely.
Mr. Barabé and Ms. Herrick, thank you for your remarks. They will really help the committee in its efforts to move this bill forward.
If you have any further information that you would like to provide us in writing, please provide the information to our clerk here.
She will forward that information to all the members of the committee, so feel free to share with the committee in writing any information you deem appropriate.
We will now suspend momentarily to bring in our next witnesses.
The meeting is resuming.
I'd like to say a few words for the benefit of the witnesses joining us for the second hour. Two of them are participating by video conference.
Before speaking, please wait until I recognize you by name. When you are ready to speak, you can click on the microphone icon to activate your mike. When you are not speaking, your mike should be on mute.
For interpretation services, those participating via Zoom have the choice, at the bottom of their screen, of either Floor, English or French. Members participating in person can use the earpiece and select the appropriate channel.
Lastly, a reminder that all member and witness comments should be addressed through the chair.
I want to let our witnesses know that they will have five minutes each for their opening remarks, after which, we will proceed to questions.
I would like to welcome the witnesses. From Acfas, formerly known as the Association francophone pour le savoir, we have the executive director, Sophie Montreuil. This is her very first appearance before the best committee on the Hill. We also have two representatives from the Société de la francophonie manitobaine: Daniel Boucher, executive director, and Jean‑Michel Beaudry, assistant director general.
Ms. Montreuil will start us off with her five-minute presentation.
Over to you.
Mr. Chair, members of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, good afternoon.
I am really honoured to be with you today.
Thank you for this opportunity to discuss a very important issue: the vitality of French-language research in Canada.
My name is Sophie Montreuil, and I am the executive director of Acfas, an association that has been working in the sciences for nearly a century. We will be celebrating our 100th birthday in June, in fact.
Our association brings together French-speaking researchers across Canada, as well as research users. On average, we have 4,500 members annually and more than 25,000 supporters.
We have a very large network, with a regional presence spanning almost the entire country. Our six branches are located in Acadia, Toronto, Sudbury, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Those branches are overseen by volunteer committees made up of French-speaking students and teachers, and they organize French-language science activities in minority communities.
As a general rule, research contributes to the development of societies, states and their citizens. In a bilingual country like ours, research conducted in French opens the door to many more possibilities.
First, it helps build a French lexicon that can be used to disseminate knowledge throughout francophone minority communities, in the media and among government workers.
Research conducted in French produces data on issues and realities that affect francophone minority communities, and that data supports the development of public policies and services tailored to those communities.
Research conducted in French also helps to strengthen the ties between universities and the communities they belong to.
In addition, research conducted in French makes scientific life possible in French, fostering a sense of linguistic security among French-speaking youth and the French-speaking science community.
Lastly, research conducted in French provides an inclusive space for researchers of all backgrounds and origins, brought together by the desire to study and work in French.
Acfas carried out a significant study between 2019 and 2021. The report provides an overview of French-language research in minority communities across Canada and addresses the challenges. Basically, the study reveals a decline in research conducted in French in Canada and a significant lack of support for researchers working in French. Unfortunately, those are the clear and simple report findings, and they are corroborated by other studies.
That is why it is so important that the modernized Official Languages Act clearly mention support for the development and dissemination of knowledge in French in Canada.
We are delighted that Bill includes a commitment to replace sections 41 and 42 of the Official Languages Act, so that positive measures can be taken to “support the creation and dissemination of information in French that contributes to the advancement of scientific knowledge in any discipline”. We certainly welcome that provision, but some minor changes are needed in order for us to be completely satisfied.
As the Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne also noted, the provision is too broad and will have a limited impact. All it will do is support the flow of information, something that is already provided for in other parts of the act.
We would like to propose three amendments.
First, we recommend going back to the language in the official languages reform document. Specifically, we propose adding the term “research” and rewording the reference to positive measures in new subsection 41(6) proposed in the bill. Accordingly, the language that currently reads “may include measures, among others, to” would instead read “include measures, among others, to”.
Lastly, we also recommend that the positive measure I referred to a moment ago be reworked. In other words, the measure to “support the creation and dissemination of information in French” should be amended in two ways: the term “scientific” should be added before the word “information”; and it should be clearly laid out that, to achieve the measure, the government must “support scientific research and life in French, among other things”.
I will leave it there.
Greetings from the beautiful province of Manitoba and the centre of Canada. I would like to thank the Standing Committee on Official Languages for inviting us to appear today. My name is Daniel Boucher, and I am the executive director of the Société de la francophonie manitobaine, or SFM. I am joining you today from Treaty No. 1 territory, and the lands I am standing on are part of the traditional territory of the Anishinabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene peoples and the homeland of the Métis nation. On this eve of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, I want to acknowledge that the French language was unfortunately used as an instrument of colonization in the history of the indigenous peoples.
Today SFM expresses its wish that the indigenous peoples and communities in Canada may flourish, and we demand complete respect for their voices, particularly in their efforts to preserve and restore indigenous languages. As the representative organization of the francophone community of Manitoba, and with the help of its network of collaborators and partners, SFM strives for the advancement of all the community's areas of activity.
I would like to address two major themes today: the urgent need to modernize the Official Languages Act and the importance of language clauses respecting third parties. First, I would like to state that SFM fully supports the demands of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne, the FCFA, respecting the modernization of the Official Languages Act. I would also like to refer to the brief that the FCFA submitted in May entitled, Proposed amendments to Bill , An Act to amend the Official Languages Act, to enact the Use of French in Federally Regulated Private Businesses Act and to make related amendments to other Acts.
You have that brief to hand, and it is divided into six themes: clarifying the Treasury Board's role; addressing the issue of language clauses with third parties, including the other orders of government; ensuring the effectiveness of the francophone immigration policy; strengthening part VII, particularly with respect to consultations; including part VII in the order-making powers of the Commissioner of Official Languages; and clarifying the definition of “francophone minorities”.
The work leading up to Bill , currently under consideration, was not done in haste and began more than five years ago. The bill itself is the result of many studies and consultations conducted, in particular, by this committee, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, the Department of Canadian Heritage, the FCFA, and many others.
As our president, Angela Cassie, told the committee on February 14 last, before Bill was introduced, “Any more delays would only further weaken the position of French in our communities. Parliament should therefore begin its work immediately.”
However, I agree, as do all francophone communities, that Bill still contains deficiencies that must be corrected. I refer you once again to the FCFA's recommendations. This bill is an important step toward ensuring the survival of the official language minority communities. Do not let this legislative work be in vain. The Official Languages Act must be renewed soon, failing which prejudices will worsen.
Moving on to the importance of language clauses, allow me first to clarify the reason why the issue of these clauses with third parties, including the other orders of government, should be addressed more expressly in Bill . In Manitoba, under certain agreements between the province and the federal government, support is provided for the development of the official language minority communities.
Thanks to the witnesses, Ms. Montreuil and Mr. Boucher.
I'm going to let you continue your presentation, Mr. Boucher. At the end of your statement, you discussed language clauses and the need for them to be explicit.
Could you be “more explicit” in your definition of “language clauses”? It must be understood that a language clause is a provision respecting languages. However, we're studying Bill , which concerns the modernization of the two official languages, English and French.
Wouldn't it be better to state more clearly that the purpose of those clauses is to maintain both official languages?
Regarding potential negotiations with the provinces and territories, it's really important to continue this discussion on the specific issue of consultations.
Obviously, the more rights we secure, the better it will be. Once again, however, it's important to include in the bill an obligation to consult, which could lead to language clauses that are more robust and better suited to the needs of the provinces.
Although we clearly understand the sharing of jurisdictions and the differences between those jurisdictions and the fact that we respect them, certain official language obligations take precedence over those considerations. We should always bear them in mind, put them on the table and consider what we can do together to achieve a good result.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I want to thank my colleagues here present, both in person and virtually.
My first question is for Ms. Montreuil.
You raised a very important point. It's true that research conducted in French is on the decline in Canada and around the world and isn't proportionally representative of the global francophone population. The vice-chair and I are also discussing that issue.
We're trying to determine how to stimulate scientific research and establish incentives so that it's published more extensively around the world. I know there are excellent researchers in Canada. The aim of these discussions is also to give them access to French-language infrastructure and vehicles and francophone universities, or at the very least enable them to dialogue in French.
How can that aspect be linked to Bill ?
Then I'll discuss positive measures with you.
It's closely linked to Bill C‑13; that's clear. I won't comment on the French-language research situation around the world. I'll be focusing on Canada because the data we have concerns this country. It comes from the study we conducted together with some leading researchers.
Here are a few figures. In 2020, there were 63,455 francophone researchers in Canada, 30,070 of whom worked in francophone minority communities. Broadly speaking, that number was almost evenly divided between Quebec and the other provinces.
Researchers who conduct research in French in Quebec don't experience the issues that the other 30,000 researchers in the other provinces encounter. These are two worlds, two completely different universes.
You mentioned dissemination. I'll begin by discussing the support provided for research production.
Researchers need research funding. There are three granting councils. First, at the federal level, there's the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. However, according to the figures in the report we published, the percentages of funding granted to francophone researchers are less than those of funding granted to anglophone researchers. You could say that's not unusual if it represented a proportional distribution among anglophone and francophone researchers, but that's not the case. Consider this example. Only 5% to 12% of funding applications submitted to the granting councils are prepared in French, whereas francophone researchers represent 21% of the research community.
Here's the reason for that discrepancy. In many cases, researchers conducting research in French at a bilingual or English-language university can't submit their funding applications in French because authorities at their institutions are unable to assess their French submissions. Bear in mind that applications may be several tens of pages long. Consequently, researchers either don't submit them or they prepare them in English, which isn't their first language. We can assume that the quality of those applications isn't as high as if they had been prepared in the researchers' native language. So there's a problem at the outset.
There's no substantive equality with researchers who conduct research in English, even though francophone researchers are absolutely entitled to it. I'm not taking a confrontational stance here; I just want to promote substantive equality. In Canada, we're entitled to want to study in French, to conduct research in French and to teach in French. We simply should have the same conditions as researchers and students who choose to do so in English enjoy. All the figures show that this is unfortunately not the case.
Would you like to react, or would you prefer that I continue?
Thanks to the witnesses for their presentations.
I'll go to Ms. Montreuil first.
You say that French-language research is on the decline in Canada. We agree on that. Do you think that decline is linked to university funding?
For example, outside Quebec, there's the Université de l'Ontario français, which is new. Generally speaking, there are very few francophone universities relative to the demographic weight of francophones. Do you think that's linked to the decline of French-language research in Canada?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'd also like to welcome our witnesses. I am of course very pleased to see people from the Société de la francophonie manitobaine here today.
I'd like to begin on somewhat of a personal note. I have already spoken about this in committee.
I'm a francophile from Manitoba, and everyone of my generation had access to an education in French. For me, it was in immersion. We owe a great deal to the hard work and efforts of the Société de la francophonie manitobaine. The battle continues, and it's thanks to you.
I would also like to emphasize the importance of the Franco-Manitoban School Division, which has made it possible for us to send our children to the division's schools so that they can learn French.
On September 7, I had the great privilege of being able to send my twins—you saw one of them earlier—to the La Voie du Nord community school here in Thompson, a community that has no francophone heritage, but where quite a few francophones live. The school is a response to the clear desire of Manitobans of my generation to give their children the opportunity to speak French. It's not something that can be taken for granted. It's been possible because of your work.
The struggle has to continue, and in order to do so, several measures need to be introduced, including the modernization of the Official Languages Act. The existing shortcomings you discussed earlier today need to be addressed.
Once again, I'd like to give you my heartfelt thanks.
I would now like to ask you a few questions.
Mr. Boucher, we have frequently spoken with you and others from the Société de la francophonie manitobaine about the importance of francophone immigration in countering the demographic decline in minority language communities. We have been hoping to have some targets embedded in the act to make up for lost ground, but Bill does not get contain any.
How important is catch‑up demographic growth for a francophone community like Manitoba's?
Thank you very much, Ms. Ashton.
We are delighted to have a French school in Thompson and to know that your children can go there.
As for the importance of correcting the numbers and setting demographic targets to close the gap in Manitoba, there were worrisome trends in the last census, but on the other hand, the work that we've been doing on francophone immigration for several years now makes us optimistic for the future. That's a partial answer to Mr. Beaulieu's question.
However, it's essential for the Canadian government and the provincial government to work together to reach these targets, because we're not going to get there otherwise. It's absolutely essential to introduce all the programs and services needed to so.
Manitoba has received considerable support in this area. For several years, the federal government has been investing in francophone immigration. But there's still something missing. We're not meeting the francophone immigration targets, which means that Bill has to set very concrete targets, because that's one way of making up the demographic shortfall. Unless there are much more robust measures in Bill C‑13, even though I believe we have made quite a lot of headway, we won't move forward. We believe that we would be missing an opportunity if we were to fail to be as explicit as possible in Bill C‑13.
Thank you for your answer.
I would now like to move on to language provisions, a subject that you've already raised. It's one of the priorities of the FCFA, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne. We support this measure and believe, as many people have mentioned, that it would give the Official Languages Act more teeth.
Education is a key issue for francophone minority communities in places like Manitoba. The tools adopted by the various government departments are inadequate to fund the educational mission of teaching institutions. From preschool to post-secondary, the federal government has not been the reliable partner it ought to be.
For example, over the past few years, the francophone day care centre of the DSFM, the Franco-Manitoban School Division, has experienced serious labour shortages. We are well aware of it, because we have supported its efforts to remedy the situation. We are also aware of several other problems, including immigration. There is a lack of funding to encourage people to come and work here and teach our children. The government is only funding ad hoc projects, and educational institutions are having to raise half of their funding elsewhere.
Do you think that language provisions will perform an important role in dealing with this crisis?
Thank you to the witnesses.
Good afternoon, Ms. Montreuil. My first question is for you.
What's a positive measure, in your opinion? Such measures are discussed at length in Bill and we've talked about them with several witnesses who told us that they're important. But what are they, concretely? People appear to be saying that they could be applied through regulations developed afterwards, or at least formulated. What does it mean for you?
That's a good question, isn't it?
Yes, it's an excellent question and I'll answer it from memory because I don't have my computer in front of me to check the exact wording of Bill .
I previously mentioned the changes we were proposing for those aspects of the bill pertaining to positive measures.
Positive measures can represent leverage to encourage the entire machinery of government to comply with and espouse the principles of the act. We are proposing changes in wording because the very words used in those passages about positive measures all provide leverage on behalf of organizations like mine, and can remind certain authorities, organizations, departments and other bodies of their obligations under the act.
For example, in the paragraph that begins with “to support the creation and dissemination of scientific information in French,” we propose adding, “namely by supporting scientific research and science in French”.
Concretely, this proposed addition would give us some leverage to tell the Department of Canadian Heritage that, to the best of our ability given our limited funds, we support all of our researchers, students, experienced professors, and volunteers across Canada. They do remarkable work to ensure that the French language and French-language activities exist within their institutions and communities, and our view is that it's up to the country to support the vitality of these communities.
One such positive measure would give us added leverage to do things like insist that the Department of Canadian Heritage fulfill its obligations.
You may perhaps think that the research granting councils are taking care of everything and that it's a done deal, but that's not the case. It's all linked together, because in order to support research, one must also support science and the communities, as well as student development, if we want them to be able to continue their research in French and remain in their communities rather than have to move to another province.
An organization like the Department of Canadian Heritage could have much more responsibility in this area
What we're asking for in terms of amendments to the Official Languages Act is relatively simple. The amendments consist of changing one word for another and adding a phrase somewhere else. However modest that may be, it would have a major impact on an organization like ours. It would be the first time that there is a mention of francophone knowledge and research in French. It would be a plus for us.
We are asking that a little more be done to ensure that researchers outside Quebec, particularly in francophone minority communities, acquire better conditions as the years go by, in order to slow down or even stop the decline in French-language research in Canada. No one would benefit from the disappearance of research on local francophone, anglophone or other language groups. Different of points of view, multilingualism and multiculturalism in Canada are important. We need to make sure that there are studies done on those areas.
In our case, what we are defending is research in French. It's important for the studies and data to have an impact on the public policies that serve the population, the institutions and the organizations. The changes we are proposing go some way towards ensuring a better grasp of things so that all sectors targeted by positive measures are affected by our additional phrase concerning knowledge and the importance of producing and disseminating knowledge.
Have I answered your question?
Acfas has indeed been promoting research in French in Quebec and Canada, and even internationally. The mission hasn't changed in 100 years. We are well served by the Quebec government in terms of funding. I'm pleased to be able to say so.
I'll take the liberty of adding something important. The Quebec government recently awarded us funding on two occasions with a view to establishing a service to provide research assistance in French. It's something completely new that our organization will be creating over the next few months, and which is not in any way for researchers from Quebec, but solely for francophone researchers in minority communities.
We are not currently receiving anything from the federal government for this service. Our funding comes strictly from the private sector and the Quebec government.
Thank you, Ms. Montreuil.
I would like to thank our witnesses today. For those attending for the first time, I would remind them that the speaking time allocated to each question was determined ahead of time by mutual agreement. So if I appeared to be someone with an iron fist in a velvet glove, I would remind you that I did no more than apply the established rules.
Thank you, witnesses, for your testimony. If you believe you have additional information that you did not have time to submit to us because of the short amount of time allowed for questions and answers, you can send them it writing to our clerk, who will forward it to us.
Before adjourning the meeting, I would like to remind members that there won't be a meeting on Thursday, and that next Tuesday, the last half-hour will be spent on committee work to establish a list of witnesses based on political party representation and to vote on a motion concerning the information that was requested from us.
The meeting is adjourned.