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Results: 1 - 13 of 13
View Paul Lefebvre Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Paul Lefebvre Profile
2017-11-30 16:06
Excellent.
I have one last question.
There is something we have heard from several witnesses over the passed two years, since I have been on this committee. That is the notion of services that are managed for and by the main parties concerned. I know you're asking the province to play a role in the management of day cares, but we wonder whether the community could also play a role. Often in small villages, these services are managed for and by the official language minority. In Ontario, for instance, there are services managed by francophones for francophones.
What role should the community play to ensure services are managed by and for the communities concerned?
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Okay.
My second question is related to the first one.
With only 2% of francophone immigrants settling in minority communities and with more assimilation, if the same criteria are kept, Bill S-209 becomes problematic. Improvements have to be made to it.
Mr. Brison, President of the Treasury Board, came to testify before the committee a few weeks ago. He was open to the idea of changing the regulations to respond, in principle, to all the objectives of Bill S-209.
What do you think about that idea?
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Thank you. I appreciate your answer. It's important to know whether an objective can be achieved through regulations.
My last question is about the active offer of service, which you mention in your report. Which shortcomings would you say could be remedied most easily?
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Chair, it's a pleasure for me to be joining you today. Thank you for the invitation.
I'm happy to be here to speak about our government's commitment to official languages and, in particular, my role as President of the Treasury Board.
As the members of this committee know, our Prime Minister holds both official languages very close to his heart. He has lived across Canada and across our linguistic duality.
I grew up in Nova Scotia in an anglophone community. I did not have to think too much about bilingualism back then. I did not listen to Robert Charlebois much or watch La Soirée du hockey. Like many others, I learned my French in Ottawa.
However, today I have two lovely bilingual daughters, and I often spend holidays with my in-laws who live in the countryside outside Drummondville.
My daughters are named Rose and Claire. We chose names that are easily pronounced in both official languages. We actually speak to them in both languages, but I fear they might inherit my accent in French.
Being married to a Quebecker has made me part of a francophone family and given me the gift of their language and culture.
Nowadays, I like the music of Trois Accords and I like to watch movies such as C.R.A.Z.Y. or La grande séduction.
It's with this mindset in part that I take on my responsibilities as President of the Treasury Board with regard to the Official Languages Act. These responsibilities were made clear to me and also to the Minister of Heritage in our mandate letters, which you've all seen.
Of course, my mandate letter, which is public—as are all the mandate letters—designates official languages as one of my priorities. More specifically, I've been mandated to “Ensure that all federal services are delivered in full compliance with the Official Languages Act, supported by the Minister of Canadian Heritage”.
My responsibilities fall principally within the scope of three parts of the act. Part IV concerns communications with and services to the public. Part V is about the language of work. Within reason federal public servants should be able to work in the official language of their choice. Part VI concerns the employment of both French-speaking and English-speaking Canadians in federal institutions to ensure their full participation.
As President of the Treasury Board, I also report annually to Parliament, outlining the progress made by federal institutions with regards to the application of the Official Languages Act.
I would like to share with you some of the highlights from the latest annual report.
The Government of Canada offers services to the public through more than 11,000 offices and points of service in nearly 200 federal institutions across the country and abroad, and 35% of these offices offer services in both French and English.
The latest report for 2014-15 demonstrates that over 95% of employees who provide front-line services to Canadians, and supervisors across the public service, meet the language requirements of their positions. When it comes to the participation rates of anglophones and francophones, they've remained relatively stable over the past 10 years.
As of March 31, 2015, the participation of anglophones in all federal institutions was approximately 73%, and 25% for francophones.
That closely resembles the 2011 census data where over 75% of Canadians reported English as their first spoken language and 23% reported French.
It tells us that the official language groups continue to have reasonable representation within the public service, and that there are fair and equitable opportunities for both anglophones and francophones to obtain employment within the public service.
The annual report also highlights measures being undertaken by federal institutions to create and maintain a bilingual work environment in addition to ensuring that all services and communications to the public are done in compliance with the act.
Institutions have also established clear performance objectives related to parts IV, V and VI of the act and included these in public servants' performance agreements where appropriate.
Another important step is the establishment of official languages champions, and persons responsible for official languages in their organizations. These people meet regularly to share best practices as they are responsible for the promotion and respect of official languages in their institutions. They discuss performance and develop strategies to maintain and monitor progress.
These are all important steps, but we have to do more. We know that federal departments and agencies face challenges when it comes to implementing the act. For example, best practices and shared knowledge can be lost in the turnover among official languages champions and those responsible for official languages. There is a need to ensure that effective social networks are in place to share and build on good practices and advice.
We are fortunate to have a bilingual public service. It is essential that language skills remain valued at work and that new employees take measures to acquire the necessary language skills early in their careers. Institutions must continue to promote a workplace that encourages the use of both official languages and the maintenance of acquired language skills.
Adapting to the evolution of technology and social media presents a challenge for federal institutions, but also an opportunity. Social media is one of the most effective and popular communication methods, as we all know, to reach the public, and it's important that communications be done in compliance with the act.
Golden opportunities are also available to us. I think about that often when my in-laws use Skype to talk to my daughters. If my francophone in-laws can talk to my daughters across the country, why are we not deriving more benefits from those technologies to build bridges among all Canadians in minority settings? The tools available to us should help us make unprecedented bilingual services accessible.
Not only is our government committed to making all federal services available in strict compliance with the law, but there are also opportunities to go beyond our obligations.
I'm happy to be here with you today to discuss this because I have great respect for, and value, the work of parliamentary committees. I'm hoping that we can collaborate and continue to work together on these important issues. I want to congratulate the committee on its work so far.
I'm very happy to engage in discussion with you and to be able to count on your ongoing commitment.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
Thank you for the question.
In the mandate letter of the Minister of the Canadian Heritage and in my own mandate letter, it is very clear that compliance with the Official Languages Act is a priority for our government. It is of the utmost importance for our Prime Minister, and no one thinks otherwise. We will implement policies to ensure the promotion of our two official languages in Ottawa and across Canada. We will take every opportunity to develop services across Canada in both official languages. That is of the utmost importance to us.
Our cabinet is smaller than that of the previous government, but believe me, the respect and the development of services in both official languages are priorities for our government.
View Paul Lefebvre Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Paul Lefebvre Profile
2016-05-30 15:47
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Welcome, Minister. I am very happy to have you with us. I am also very happy about the money the government has invested in CBC/Radio-Canada. Last weekend, people came to see us in Winnipeg to thank us for that development. I was very humbled by those people's support.
Your appearance before us is very timely. We are currently preparing a report on the translation bureau. Before we address that issue, I would like to point out that the previous government made cuts to the budgets of a number of programs. I am also a member of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. It is clear, according to all the reports, that all programs have undergone cuts.
Since I am worried by this situation, I would like to know how the Treasury Board could ensure the equality of the two official languages, given the cuts made over the past few years that have complicated matters.
What does the Treasury Board intend to do to remedy the situation? Will the cuts affect the services provided under various programs?
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Minister, I thank you and your colleagues for being here with the committee today.
Like you, I am a Nova Scotia MP. I am extremely pleased that you are here and that you occupy a very important position in our government.
Before asking my questions, I would like to say a few things.
First, as opposed to you, I lived in a bilingual environment and was exposed to both official languages. You are in a similar situation today, and I congratulate you. Your two children Claire and Rose can go to French schools in Nova Scotia or here in Ottawa. As you know, students obtain excellent results in French schools, and we are very happy about that. Over the past 10 years in the province, there has been a 22% increase in the student population of the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial, and a 15% decrease in English-language school boards. You are certainly welcome, and we welcome you with open arms.
Secondly, I find it a bit ironic that my colleagues across the way, the Conservatives, are troubled by the fact that there will be fewer positions over the next two years in the translation bureau, when they eliminated 400 over the past three or four years. That is what caused the problem that exists today, in large measure. To be honest with you, that saddens me.
To conclude, may I say that there is no doubt at all that the translation tool is only a comprehension tool. It is not an official tool, as you just mentioned. It is simply a work tool.
My question is very important, Minister. As you know, Senator Maria Chaput introduced Bill S-209, which is now being sponsored by Senator Claudette Tardif. What is your opinion on that? Could some measures in the bill be implemented by Treasury Board, even though the bill will not be studied by both Houses? It would be very important to know whether Treasury Board could implement certain elements of the bill through regulations or other measures.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
Thank you very much for your question.
It should be said that the current regulations were put in place in 1991. There have been significant changes since that time. As I said recently to Senator Tardif, I am open to changes that would lead to modernizing the regulations and to reaching some of the objectives of Bill S-209. We can make a lot of progress by changing the regulations. This afternoon, I am going to meet with the Senate committee to discuss this same topic.
A lot of things have changed since 1991, such as technology, for instance. In my opinion it is clear that we must update the regulations. I would very much appreciate the committee's contributions to this.
View Paul Lefebvre Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Paul Lefebvre Profile
2016-05-30 16:49
Has demand for the translation bureau's services increased or fallen over the last few years?
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
My next question concerns your roles, duties and responsibilities.
Part IV is entitled “Communications with and Services to the Public” and part V is entitled “Language of Work”. According to several reports, it is clear that we are far from having attained our objectives. We often hear it said that the number of complaints about the language of services is continually increasing. It is also said that French remains underutilized and that this is also the case for English in Quebec.
You said that follow-ups were done. However, what I see in the reports leads me to wonder whether these follow-ups are effective.
What measures are you considering in order to bring about changes, or to review things so as to ensure that there will be real changes on the ground?
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
I appreciate that process. But as someone who comes from the education sector, I can tell you that efforts are made to improve the situation when something isn't working.
What I'd like to know is whether the situation has improved over the last three years in the regions where problems had been identified.
I have another question for you.
What can we do to make sure that language minorities feel comfortable speaking their first language in the workplace?
View John Nater Profile
CPC (ON)
I need one of those buttons that says, “I'm learning, don't switch languages, please“. I'll have to follow up.
I want to follow up on the Commissioner of Official Languages report and the number of complaints that were received in relation to language of service. Could you provide me with an understanding of the geographic breakdown, or even a departmental breakdown of where those complaints may have originated and what types of departments or geographic areas those came from?
View John Nater Profile
CPC (ON)
Do we know which institutions seem to have received the most complaints? I'm sure it's in the commissioner's report, which I don't have handy.
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