Interventions in Committee
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Roger Gauthier
View Roger Gauthier Profile
Roger Gauthier
2018-09-27 12:01
Part of it is political. Services were streamlined. Some offices were closed. Bilingual staff was not necessarily hired, even though Saskatchewan has a fairly large number of bilingual people, on both the francophone and anglophone side. At least 4% of Saskatchewan's population is bilingual. Of that, 1.4% are francophone and the rest participated in an immersion program. After taking an immersion program, people do not necessarily stay in Saskatchewan. Many of our francophones, who are qualified people, move away because they cannot advance in their career.
There are many factors that play a role, but the fact remains that the services are not there.
View Paul Lefebvre Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Paul Lefebvre Profile
2017-11-30 16:06
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 Jean-Yves Duclos Profile
Lib. (QC)
That is another very good question.
There are two things.
First, the community and the associations that represent the community groups are consulted before we agree, and before we sign the action plans. We conduct a broad consultation exercise in each of the provinces and territories to ensure that the organizations that represent minority francophone or anglophone communities are involved in the preparation of these action plans.
Second, in every case I can remember, a large part of the work is done through these community organizations, which are sometimes national in scale. That is the case in Ontario, since it is a vast province. Things are somewhat more concentrated, however, in Nova Scotia. So, we we work with the associations that represent francophone educational day care services in Ontario. Afterwards, most of the time francophone school boards do the work to ensure that early childhood services are well integrated into the educational services that follow early childhood. It depends on the circumstances, but that is often where the best work is done, that is to say when early childhood education services are integrated into the educational services that oversee them, and when this goes through existing structures. As we were saying earlier, this allows us to avoid situations where children in minority communities are sent to bilingual or immersion day cares. These services do not offer the quality we are seeking. It is preferable that things be done another way.
François Boileau
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François Boileau
2016-10-20 9:14
Yes, of course. Thank you for reminding me.
The centres offer services at all levels—federal, provincial, municipal, and even community—under the same roof.
More importantly, it creates places where the language at work is French and where francophone clients can, without a doubt, receive services in their own language.
That kind of formula could certainly facilitate active offer of French-language services in areas where the French-speaking population is concentrated, but it could also, and most importantly, improve relations between the various levels of government.
Speaking of collaboration, I would like to draw your attention to the many agreements we have worked on during my term in office, with people like my federal counterpart, Commissioner Graham Fraser. We have collaborated on several occasions, through numerous reports on a number of subjects, and in particular on immigration, the Pan Am games, and access to justice in French.
In June we released a special report on active offer. Mr. Fraser, who very recently addressed the same issue at the federal level, did the same.
These two reports showed that regardless of the level of government, the rules governing official languages are still flawed today. It has therefore become essential that we improve our tools and our practices to enable the various government departments, organizations, and third parties to put in place active, high-quality offers of French-language services.
I would like to remind you that if there is no active offer, this can, in the long term, not only have adverse effects on the quality of the services offered but also have serious consequences for vulnerable individuals, especially in the health care and justice systems. That is why it is important that the federal government make provisions in its action plan to implement a strategy to promote the active offer of French language services.
Another sensitive area is access to justice in both official languages, which is central to many issues relating to federal, provincial, and territorial legislation.
In 2013, we collaborated with the Commissioner of Official Languages and the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick on the publication of a report.
Following one of my recommendations, the Attorney General of Ontario mandated a French Language Services Bench and Bar Advisory Committee, which, in turn, released two other reports, in 2012 and 2015. Essentially, the reports show that it costs more money and taxes and takes more time to proceed in French in Ontario courts.
Those reports also highlighted the many instances of progress made: for example, the formation of regional legal committees. The mandate of the committees is not only to highlight problems, but also to identify and implement concrete and durable solutions. Those committees represent a very remarkable achievement for French-language services.
However, those studies also indicated that the existing process does not guarantee an adequate number of judges with language skills in both official languages.
The addition of the new process for selecting Supreme Court judges is a significant advance. However, it leads to doubt as to the level of bilingualism of the judges who will be appointed to the court.
It is time to act and to set an example by calling for a genuinely bilingual Supreme Court. By that, I mean that the judges should be capable of understanding and conversing in both French and English without the help of an interpreter.
I would add, however, that this week's announcement would seem to confirm that the current process works because the new judge, if appointed by the House of Commons, Senate, and the Office of the Prime Minister, appears to be perfectly bilingual. That would be excellent news.
I would like to conclude my presentation by talking about education and, more specifically, about the Agreement on Minority-Language Education and Second Official-Language Instruction. That agreement is essential for components intended for education in French.
As you know, that agreement expires in 2018. It seems to me that this is the right time to explore new avenues to facilitate the continuum of learning in French and, more specifically, for early childhood development programs and post-secondary education.
Early childhood programs that are funded by the provincial government play a crucial role in maintaining young children's identity and French language, particularly among children of exogamous couples.
While federal funding for early childhood programs in minority communities is laudable, it should be included in the official languages in education agreement to be consistent with provincial programs. In fact, that would allow for greater weight to be placed on the early childhood component in negotiating the next agreement.
I therefore join with the Commissioner of Official Languages, who asked the federal government in his recent report at the beginning of October to make provision in its next five-year plan on official languages for sufficient funds for early childhood initiatives in minority communities.
At the post-secondary level, education in French protects, transmits, and most importantly preserves the French language and culture. This makes a major contribution to ensuring the continued growth of the Franco-Ontarian community.
Colleges and universities are an integral part of the education continuum and play an essential role in training future bilingual and francophone professionals. In doing so, they contribute in the longer term to the welfare of the province, and on a broader scale to the competitiveness of the Canadian economy.
In Ontario, and particularly in southwestern Ontario, we have observed inadequate access to quality post-secondary French programs.
On that point, I am pleased to report the recent announcement by the Ontario Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs, Marie-France Lalonde, of the appointment of Dr. Dyane Adam, to chair the planning board of a French-language university in Ontario.
This is a great step forward, but we must not stop there. We must continue to increase the number of early childhood and post-secondary French-language programs, in areas where the francophone population is growing rapidly and where the programs available are sometimes limited.
In conclusion, I believe our governments have made considerable progress in recent years. The fact remains that this progress has been achieved at a glacial pace when it comes to French-language services. It is time for our governments to mobilize their efforts and collaborate at all levels—federal, provincial, municipal, and, why not, community—to remedy this imbalance.
Thank you all for your attention.
I will now be pleased, Mr. Chair, to answer questions from yourself and your colleagues.
François Boileau
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François Boileau
2016-10-20 9:39
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Yesterday, the committee asked me to do a 10-minute presentation. I will do my best. Once again, I would like to thank you for having me here today.
In recent years, Ontario has demonstrated leadership by setting a target of 5% for francophone immigration. As I noted in my previous presentation, I collaborated with the Commissioner of Official Languages on the publication of a report written to show how to remedy the imbalance in relation to francophone immigration.
That report led to the creation of a group of experts, that includes a representative of the federal government, to develop a government-wide strategic plan for achieving the 5% target for francophone immigration in Ontario. We are very much looking forward to the report of this group of experts. We still note the lack of good evidence concerning the impact of the changes made to the federal government's immigration system since 2012.
This situation in Ontario is critical as we are far from the expected 5%.
This is why we wanted to lead by example. In November 2014 my federal colleague Mr. Graham Fraser and I published a joint report to present an overview and analysis of the issues surrounding immigration to francophone communities.
We formulated eight recommendations, primarily to the federal government, but also to the Government of Ontario. These recommendations deal with support for French-speaking immigrants through francophone institutions and organizations, information and resources for French-speaking newcomers, co-operation with the provinces, incentives for employers to recruit and select francophone and bilingual workers, and accountability.
We believe that the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario must join forces and show leadership so that immigration truly contributes to the development and vitality of francophone minority communities.
As proof, in 2014, 2.2% of the immigrant population had French as its spoken official language, according to the Office of Francophone Affairs. However, the situation is more alarming because the percentage has been decreasing since 2012, and in 2015 we only have 2%.
Consequently, as is the case for the Canadian population as a whole, we need immigration to offset the sharp decline in the birth rate and higher rates of population aging.
Immigration has a direct impact on the community's vitality. It is clear that over the years, Canada and Ontario francophone communities have benefited less from immigration than have anglophone majority communities.
On another note, the very recent announcement of an agreement signed by all provincial and territorial premiers, apart from Quebec, represents a step forward on this issue. This means that unless a strategic plan is put in place for attracting, recruiting, welcoming, integrating and retaining francophone immigrants at both the provincial and the national levels, it will be very difficult for us to achieve that target.
As you know, this is a subject that is under shared federal and provincial jurisdiction, which means that the different levels of government must collaborate to facilitate progress.
Another major challenge presented by immigration is labour market integration. Newcomers continue to face many obstacles when it comes to integration that prevent them from entering the labour market and practising regulated professions.
In fact, the introduction of the mobility francophone program by the federal government is very good news since the capacity to attract new francophone immigrants to Ontario is still a major challenge today.
I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the innovative initiative taken by Collège Boréal, which recently signed its first two student mobility agreements outside Canada, with Belgium and France.
This international recruiting strategy is a good fit with the program to facilitate the process for francophones who want to come and work in Ontario. Other initiatives have been put in place by other post-secondary institutions in order to improve labour market training.
Nonetheless, we must still note that we are also admitting qualified professionals like doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers and others.
Unfortunately, however, they face many challenges are are unable to practise in the fields to which their skills apply. Most often they have to go back to school, something that can be very expensive, particularly for recent immigrants.
It is also a waste of money for the host society when it fails to benefit from the contribution these professionals can make. Yes, this falls under provincial jurisdiction, but the federal government has to play a leadership role so that an immigrant who has had their credentials recognized and has been admitted to a professional body, can also do so easily in Ontario once they move here.
Similarly, people who move from one province to another also face this obstacle, since in most cases provincial and territorial professional bodies do not recognize diplomas granted by the other provinces and territories.
It is therefore our duty to put in place a strategic plan with the aim not only of facilitating their transition into the work world, but also of equipping them so they are able to have the work experience and education they acquired in their country, province or territory of origin recognized.
In recent decades the Government of Ontario has taken important steps toward protecting and improving the availability and quality of services in French and, most importantly, enhancing the feeling of belonging.
One of the most ambitious measures is the adoption of a new inclusive definition that has applied to the francophone population of Ontario since June 2009. This new inclusive definition of francophone reflects the new diversity of Franco-Ontarians regardless of their place of birth, their ethnic origin, or their religion.
I will take this opportunity to note that Ontario is the very first province in Canada to implement this initiative. In fact, Manitoba very recently enacted new legislation, the Francophone Community Enhancement and Support Act, which also contains a more inclusive definition and presents a more accurate picture of the Franco-Manitoban community.
The recent announcement of Ontario's application for membership in the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie is very timely, since it will certainly have an impact on the recruiting strategy. Research done by the OIF has shown that there will be over 700 million francophones in the world by 2050.
In addition, 85% of that population will come from Africa and that will happen within less than 35 years. Ontario must therefore look to Sub-Saharan Africa, which offers vast economic opportunities for the province's businesses, but which is also experiencing major population growth, primarily in the francophone countries there.
It is against this backdrop that I encourage the province of Ontario and Canada to launch a recruiting campaign. It is important that we look to this new demographic wave and benefit from it by recruiting and attracting skilled francophone immigrants.
As the celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017 approach, it has become a matter of the highest priority that the two levels of government collaborate and more specifically that they demonstrate leadership in the area of francophone immigration to ensure that the Canadian population thrives. First and foremost, we must find concrete ways of remedying the current imbalance that the francophone communities are experiencing when it comes to immigration.
Thank you for your attention, and I will be pleased to answer questions from yourself and your colleagues.
Isabelle Salesse
View Isabelle Salesse Profile
Isabelle Salesse
2016-10-20 10:04
Thank you very much, Mr. Paradis.
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, first, we thank you for inviting the Association franco-yukonnaise today to talk to you about the roadmap and about francophone immigration.
I will start by talking about our organization. The Association franco-yukonnaise, or AFY, is the official voice of francophones in the Yukon and a pillar in the development of the Franco-Yukon community. Our mandate is to improve the quality of life in French for French-speaking Yukoners. We provide services in a number of areas, including arts and culture, health, education, economic development and, of course, immigration. Our association has been in existence since 1982. During the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Confederation, we will be celebrating our 35th birthday.
In order for you to get to know us better, one other point may interest you. Given the size of our community and the fact that it is geographically concentrated in Whitehorse, we preferred to bring most of the services under the same roof instead of creating a number of organizations. So we have adopted a one-stop model that allows for better integration and greater efficiency in our services as well as giving us the benefit of the economies of scale.
All the AFY’s services use the same resources in accounting, information technology, communications and reception. We have therefore made best use of the money that we invest in projects that are useful for our community.
Clearly, this approach also works to the advantage of the clients who come to our offices. For example, most immigrants take advantage of our job search services. With this model, those immigrants also receive settlement services and employment assistance services from the same person under the same roof. They can therefore use all our services without having to leave the building.
Let me now turn to another point. I do not know if you are aware, but the French-speaking Yukon is expanding, both in numbers and in size. The francophone school and daycare are short on space. The French immersion schools cannot meet the demand. Furthermore, the Yukon is ranked third among provinces and territories in terms of bilingualism. With a bilingualism rate of 13%, we are third after Quebec and New Brunswick, which is no small achievement.
The AFY is also a member of a number of national organizations, such as the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, whose representatives you met yesterday, I believe, and the Réseau de développement économique et d’employabilité, or RDÉE Canada. Through those national networks, we can provide our community with access to a number of programs and initiatives.
Let me now move directly to the roadmap. I call it “the roadmap” but I am actually going to be talking about an official languages action plan. It is clear that the roadmap that will end in 2018 responds but poorly to the needs of francophone minority communities like the franco-Yukon community. That is why we are insisting on the importance of the future official languages plan.
It must give priority to supporting the development and the vitality of francophone minority communities. This is essential. Our communities’ needs in terms of health and education must be recognized. For us, when we talk about education, we mean lifelong education. It starts in early childhood and goes through adulthood to the old age. For us, it means literacy, skills, community economic development, culture and identity, and the media. It must include services to French-speaking seniors, young people and immigrants.
For several years, we have been advocating for a new service for seniors. This population is growing. So it is important not to neglect this aspect of our francophone minority communities.
The government can find support in the recent consultations that were held right across Canada, but also in some reports from the Commissioner of Official Languages, specifically one of the most recent about early childhood. This report insists on how crucially important it is for our communities in order to ensure linguistic continuity; it adds that we must have access to daycare and preschool services in French in our communities. First, we are talking about services of a quality equal to those available to the majority. Early childhood is where our survival begins.
One single approach is not possible if we wish to reach genuine equality. We cannot look at a wall-to-wall approach and say that the situation is the same in Prince Edward Island as it is in the Yukon. It is very different. As you know, Ontario has the largest critical mass of francophones but that does not mean that Ontario solutions can be applied to the Yukon. Even with francophones representing 4.8% of the community, the figures are very small. Sometimes criteria are imposed that are extremely difficult for us to meet.
There is one other thing that we feel is extremely important. All federal departments must be included in the plan and all must fulfill their obligations in terms of official languages. We must keep in mind that Canadian Heritage is not the only department responsible for implementing official languages measures. Who is to ensure that the money identified for OLMCs is spent for and by OLMCs? How do we avoid the roadmap’s errors in that respect?
Should we identify a federal body to coordinate a new plan with genuine, effective accountability mechanisms, not only for the communities but also for all of the departments involved? The action plan must be one of the mechanisms that support the full implementation of the Official Languages Act, not a little Band-Aid to put on little boo-boos. We must avoid having to start again in two years, only to find that we are at the same level.
It goes without saying that a substantial increase in budgets is required. If we really want to work towards a strong and bilingual Canada, we must make corresponding investments in our communities. Project financing has its interest, but it is insufficient for developing OLMCs. Multi-year funding is required and it must include a basic core amount in order to allow organizations like the AFY to hire qualified and committed people so that we are able to aim for long-term results.
We would also like to stress the importance of not confusing bilingualism with the constitutional right to live in the official language of one’s choice. We must distinguish between the importance of preserving all the languages in Canada—the importance of one’s personal choice to speak one, two or three languages—and the federal responsibility for linguistic duality, which implies that Canadians have the right to be unilingual anglophone or unilingual francophone all across Canada and to have access to services in the language of their choice.
To bring this matter to a close, I also invite you to consult a bilingual position statement developed by the AFY in September 2016, entitled Taking action for a vibrant and dynamic Yukon Francophone Community. Can you see it on the screen? The document describes the concrete actions that each level of government must take to support our community. In the document that we sent you, we put the address of our website so that you can access and download this document.
That is what I had to say about the roadmap. I believe that I kept to the time I was given.
Thank you.
Isabelle Salesse
View Isabelle Salesse Profile
Isabelle Salesse
2016-10-20 10:04
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Let’s talk about francophone immigration. For five years, from 2005 to 2010, the AFY provided settlement services in French and English to the people of the Yukon.
In 2010, we lost the contract to an anglophone organization that had no obligation to provide services in French and still does not. Since 2010, the AFY has encountered much reluctance from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, whose acronym used to be CIC.
As for the legitimacy of the need for services in French for francophone immigrants in the Yukon, we have had to fight for two years to obtain some minimal funding to provide support to francophone immigrants. That funding did not allow us to hire a full-time person.
Between 2012 and 2015, we calculated that, for the same work as the AFY was doing, two francophone organizations in the Northwest Territories received four times more funding. That is legitimate and enables francophone organizations in the Northwest Territories to provide quality services. We clearly don’t think it’s a bad thing that they had so much money. However, we don’t understand why there is such a discrepancy between the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
Let us stress that, for welcoming francophone immigrants in minority communities, it is essential that the service be provided by the francophone community. The “by” and “for” are especially important in francophone immigration if our goal is to integrate immigrants into our community. It's sort of the same thing as early childhood. If we do not reach out to them right upon arrival, we will definitely lose them. An anglophone organization will not direct francophones to the francophone community.
We have tried to do as much as possible with the resources available, but staff retention is very difficult when you just have a part-time position to offer. It is worrisome to see that we are still forced to convince the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada officials in our region of the need to support francophone immigration in the Yukon.
Actually, it's always the same question of the chicken or the egg. The officials say that the funding depends on the number of eligible immigrants using our services. However, we believe that it's impossible to reach those numbers without adequate funding and services—particularly promotion and recruitment.
We have been going around in circles for a number of years, especially because few potential immigrants have heard of the Yukon. If they have heard of it, they sometimes think that we live in igloos and that our streets are haunted by polar bears.
However, our model makes it possible to have the entire continuum of services for immigrants, including promotion, recruitment and reception or social, cultural and economic integration.
We believe we have some momentum because, as Mr. Nolet mentioned, we are taking part in Destination Canada for the first time since 2011 with funding from the Yukon government. Let's also note once again that we had to work very hard to convince the authorities to support us as a result of the cuts at CIC from a few years ago; it is no longer helping the provinces and territories to fund Destination Canada.
The target of 4.4% is the department's target, but it is essential that it be reached. We feel that we can be a good partner to help achieve this target and to increase the number of francophone immigrants in the Yukon. As I said earlier, the AFY has recently published the document entitled Taking action for a vibrant and dynamic Yukon Francophone Community. This document includes requests from the Franco-Yukon community to the federal and territorial governments as well as to the City of Whitehorse.
With respect to immigration, the AFY made three specific requests. The first is to implement a strategy to achieve the 4.4% francophone immigration target set for the Yukon, and to include all immigration continuum components (recruitment, reception, integration and retention). That target is very important. Yet without a strategy and action plan, it will never be achieved. From January to September 2015, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada programs have admitted no francophone immigrants to the Yukon. That has to change.
Another request from our document is to fund the AFY so that it can offer full-time French-language services for francophone immigrants to the Yukon. As mentioned earlier, resources are still essential to accomplish the work. The only recruiting tools that we currently have are a web page and a Facebook page. We'll still be able to participate in Destination Canada this year thanks to funding from the Yukon government.
In addition, the IRCC criteria for eligible clients are very restrictive. Many people come to our offices without being eligible clients. We do our best to help them without violating the terms of our agreements, but they do not count in the results and in the calculation of the workload of our employees.
Furthermore, we request that the French test required to obtain permanent residency be available in the Yukon, at the same cost as the English test. We think the current situation makes no sense. Not only is the French test more expensive than the English one, but it is not even available in the Yukon. Someone who needs to take it must go to either Vancouver or Montreal. So you need to add the cost of the plane ticket and accommodation there.
Clearly, the Yukon is not for everyone, but even so, there are a number of francophone immigrants there. They come with temporary permits or working holiday permits. They want to stay, but finding ways to do so is very complicated for them. The IRCC funding should allow recruitment and immigrant service organizations to serve anyone potentially interested in becoming permanent residents, including international students.
Finally, in closing, let me reiterate that, in order to achieve the target identified by the government, it is essential that we give ourselves tangible tools to do so. This must not be another empty promise. The IRCC must consider the different realities of the provinces and territories. An important and significant consideration is that we should not view immigration in silos. We need to encourage co-operation among all those working toward the reception and integration of francophone immigrants.
Once again, thank you for inviting us. We are ready to answer any questions you may have.
Sylviane Lanthier
View Sylviane Lanthier Profile
Sylviane Lanthier
2016-10-18 8:51
Mr. Chair and committee members, I want to thank you for inviting the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada to make this double presentation to you today.
Founded in 1975, the FCFA is the key representative organization of the 2.6 million francophones living in nine provinces and three territories across the country. The FCFA has 20 members: 12 provincial and territorial francophone representative associations and 8 national organizations representing various sectors of activity and clients. It also coordinates the Forum des leaders, an assembly of 42 organizations that are engaged in the development of francophone and Acadian communities.
In this first part, my remarks will focus on the next action plan for official languages. In the second part, following your questions, I will address the issue of francophone immigration.
Late this past summer, Graham Fraser, Commissioner of Official Languages, announced some excellent news. The results of a Nielsen poll revealed that an unprecedented 84% of Canadian across the country support bilingualism. Nearly the same percentage, 82%, feel that the 150th anniversary of confederation in 2017 should be an opportunity to promote the official languages in Canada.
It appears from these results that the official languages issue is resolved in the minds of most Canadians; it is a fait accompli. A few months ago, the Hon. Mélanie Joly (Minister of Canadian Heritage) echoed that observation by declaring that the Official Languages Act was part of a social contract established many years ago.
However, we also know that, while there is a broad consensus in society on linguistic duality, in reality, that does not always translate into adequate services or full compliance with the Official Languages Act, particularly in the area of support for francophone minority communities.
Former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau once said, "A country, after all, is not something you build as the pharaohs built the pyramids, and then leave standing there to defy eternity. A country is something that is built every day out of certain basic shared values." Those eloquent words, quoted by President Barack Obama during his visit to Parliament last June, aptly apply to Canada's linguistic duality. Like our country, like our collective identity, we must cultivate linguistic duality as the living tree it is.
In the throne speech and in the federal budget last March, the government reiterated its commitment to protecting our two official languages. That is a positive sign. However, when you consider linguistic duality as a living tree, decisive action, specific acts, and a bold plan are needed to promote French and make it flourish in all regions of the country.
Support for our two official languages must mean more than the mere delivery of bilingual services and communications by federal institutions. The advancement of linguistic duality must go beyond simply learning a second language. We can say there is genuine linguistic duality in Canada because there are communities living in French in every province and territory, and it is on that vitality that we must build.
It is because of that vitality that Canadians who learn French as a second language have opportunities to speak that language in a variety of situations in everyday life. It is because of our communities that francophone military personnel posted to places like Comox and Kingston enjoy social and cultural activities in their language and their children have access to French-language schools. Creators in our communities, the Gabrielle Roys, Damien Robitailles, Lisa LeBlancs, and Joseph Edgars, are helping to shape this unique Canadian identity that we will be celebrating next year. The entrepreneurs, organizations, and institutions in our communities are creating jobs in French and contributing to the economic development of their region and the country as a whole.
The francophone and Acadian communities are an anchor point for linguistic duality from sea to sea to sea. In recent years, however, they have often been forgotten in government and social discourse and action on linguistic duality and official languages.
Promoting the development of prosperous, inclusive francophone communities that are able to fend for themselves and to contribute fully to the development of their region and country: that is the issue that should be central to the next government plan for official languages.
The Government of Canada can effect a considerable change for our communities by investing in three key priorities: first, francophone immigration, early childhood, and mobility; second, the offer of services and activities for francophones in all areas of their everyday lives; and, third, capacity-building for organizations and institutions involved in the economic, cultural, and social development of our communities. That is the most important message that we are sending you today.
Consider the first priority. As the report published by the Commissioner of Official Languages two weeks ago shows, every time parents feel they have to register their children at an English-language day care centre, not by choice but because of a lack of space elsewhere, that decision has a devastating impact on the family, the children, and the community. Conversely, the availability of those services in French helps guarantee that our children will be francophone and that our families will be able to live in French. It guarantees the vitality of our communities.
As regards the second priority, the francophonie is strong when it is expressed through activities, events, and services that reach francophones and the population as a whole in everyday life. However, there are deficiencies in many areas—education, culture, access to justice, the media, and health—and French-language services and activities are too often offered using makeshift resources in inadequate facilities. However, there is a direct relationship between the quality of life in French and the choice of francophone migrants or immigrants, or even old-stock francophones, to associate with and contribute to the francophone community.
The third priority is the development of prosperous communities that are good places to live. In the francophone minority communities, institutions and organizations created by and for the community ensure that development. Those organizations and institutions operate on financial resources that, in the vast majority of cases, have not increased in more than a decade. Over the years, they have found innovative solutions that have helped them manage at lower cost. However, with purchasing power declining every year as the cost of living increases, they now have no financial leeway.
It is essential that we increase the capacity of organizations in our communities if we want them to continue to champion the advancement of French as they currently do. We must be able to modernize or improve our infrastructure to meet the growing demand. Our media must be able to make the digital shift. Our organizations and institutions must be able to meet emerging needs.
None of what I have just said means that the next action plan for official languages must be the alpha and omega of the Canadian government's commitment to the development of our communities. In fact, full compliance with the Official Languages Act instead requires that the government use different support levers through various federal institutions, in addition to that plan. Consider, for example, the major investments in infrastructure, early childhood, and youth employment announced in the 2016 budget. The government would be taking tangible action in favour of the francophone community if it set aside a portion of those investments to respond directly and expressly to the needs of our communities for social, educational, and cultural infrastructure, day care centres, and jobs for youth in our communities. We hope your committee will adopt that recommendation as its own.
So there you have a ready-made plan to make francophone communities, as living expressions of Canada's linguistic duality, the central focus of government support measures for our two official languages. The action that should be taken is clear and obvious. The challenges were eloquently underscored during the consultations held across the country this past summer. The urgent need for action is now apparent.
Thank you. I am prepared to answer your questions.
View Dan Vandal Profile
Lib. (MB)
What can the federal government do to help you play your role as an immigration worker more effectively?
Salwa Meddri
View Salwa Meddri Profile
Salwa Meddri
2016-10-06 9:11
I would say the most urgent thing would be to be able to offer more services to meet integration needs so that we can promote retention, of course. Among this immigrant population, international students and temporary workers are seriously hurt by the lack of funding and services. That shortage is related to eligibility criteria for settlement service and services funded by IRCC. A very large number of those international students are unfortunately left to their own devices. The demand for work permits and the transition to the job market are a concern for them. However, no assistance is offered for that purpose.
Temporary workers wishing to renew their work permits, for example, face enormous administrative challenges, but there is no contact person they can speak to directly. They can only use the 1-800 number. There are agents, of course, but their answers may vary with the person who is on the other end of the line. For temporary residents, processing times for work permit renewals merely add to the other difficulties.
We need support in order to remove these barriers so we can facilitate permit renewals and assist temporary workers and international students, improve retention and integration, and facilitate occupational training in French, which does not exist in Manitoba.
Salwa Meddri
View Salwa Meddri Profile
Salwa Meddri
2016-10-06 9:30
We can never overemphasize the words “by” and “for”; they are very important, even essential. They are our rallying cry. When newcomers receive French-language services from a francophone organization, it makes a difference. The act of directing them to other francophone services will also strengthen their attachment to the francophone communities. And I mean “communities”, because there are many in Manitoba, and they are all equally important. We must retain these newcomers in our francophone communities and provide them with services in the language of their choice and in the commonly used language. This is extremely important, and we can never repeat it enough.
I mentioned temporary workers and international students, but I would also like to emphasize that there is a kind of ambiguity, as it were, in the pre-arrival services that are provided, particularly in Manitoba, by an anglophone organization. In this particular case, that organization has established a French-language service for immigration applicants to provide them with information and orientation sessions concerning the province. That is very good. We have begun negotiations and discussions with that organization to have it refer francophone candidates who come to settle in Manitoba to local francophone organizations in the community. However, there is no guarantee the organization will do so, since it also offers a full range of settlement services and has the opportunity to serve all classes of newcomers, once again, in English.
This imbalance in the assistance and funding of solid, well-established organizations harms francophone organizations. It vastly undermines our ability to do our work. I can only reiterate and support the remarks Mr. Johnson made.
Bintou Sacko
View Bintou Sacko Profile
Bintou Sacko
2016-10-06 9:56
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
On behalf of the Société franco-manitobaine, I want to thank you for your invitation. It is truly a pleasure for me to appear before the committee this morning.
My name is Bintou Sacko, and I have been the francophone hospitality manager since 2005.
I will address the points that are outlined on immigration in the roadmap since I have been the person responsible for that file for the Société franco-manitobaine from the start. This is a very important file for us. From that perspective, I will explain to you why immigration is one of the five strategic focus areas for the growth of the francophone space in Manitoba. French-speaking Manitoba has made great advances in this direction in the past 15 years. The provision made for immigration in the roadmap would definitely make a major difference for francophone immigration, particularly among francophone refugees. This year we were fortunate to take part in the 2016 cross-Canada consultations on official languages. That had an impact on the francophone community and is important for linguistic duality in the communities.
In the past few years, francophones have chosen to come to Manitoba precisely because the French language is spoken there. That is what encourages them to come to Manitoba. The various bodies that took part in the consultations all agreed that French-language services should really be supported.
There is a major challenge for minority immigrants. What we see is that services are not often of the same standard in both official languages, and some services are not at all provided in French for francophone newcomers. It would therefore be quite appropriate to put a little more emphasis on the importance of the two official languages and to determine how they can be brought to the same level.
There have definitely been some successes. I will discuss Manitoba's bill 5 to enhance and support the francophone community and the estates general that were held by the Société franco-manitobaine a few months ago. That really enabled the francophone community to redefine itself and to review what it is lacking so that we can include certain aspects and enhance the francophone community here in Manitoba. In fact, other structures also need support, in areas such as early childhood, the Division scolaire franco-manitobaine and the Université de Saint-Boniface, so that more technical and occupational programs are offered in French in more specific fields since they are virtually non-existent in Manitoba.
With respect to minority francophone immigration, the establishment of the Accueil francophone structure, which I manage, has truly enabled the franco-Manitoban community to make immigration a priority. That structure has obviously helped us take in immigrants and support them in their integration process by providing all the services they need, whether it be administrative services for housing or social services, and the connection they can establish with the francophone community from the outset so they can access services in the language of their choice.
Unfortunately, the changes made by the last government had a considerable impact on recruitment, particularly the recruitment of newcomers, and on certain files such as immigration. Consultations were recently launched with IRCC, and we can really see all the support we are receiving in immigration. We can see that the files are beginning to grow in scope, to become important, and to advance.
There are definitely still some challenges.
With respect to recruitment, as I noted, it is important to target recruitment zones more effectively so many more francophones come to us here. Since we live in the minority, as we constantly say, people become anglicized much more quickly as a result of several factors, particularly access to English-language services there. Consequently, we should be strategic about recruitment and match recruitment strategies with those of Canada's embassies abroad.
As regards intake, we must really strengthen existing intake structures. Since the number of newcomers, especially refugees, is sharply increasing, we need far more resources and support in order to help them integrate.
There is also a major challenge in housing, especially social housing.
It takes an enormous amount of time to integrate these newcomers, three to five years, and even up to seven years in some cases for them to integrate fully into Canadian society.
As for socio-economic integration, we must increase upgrading efforts for both languages. We must of course offer language training in the areas of expertise of certain newcomers who arrive here with quite high education levels. They often simply need language training that really targets their areas of expertise so they can enter the labour market.
Support programs, in particular, should be developed with the professional associations so that they are slightly more amenable to recognizing newcomers' skills and experience.
With respect to socio-cultural integration, it is really important to create spaces so that minority francophone immigrants feel even more included and integrated.
This year, Manitoba made an effort to take in Syrians, a project that was really a priority for the federal government. Accueil francophone is the only francophone structure in Canada that has an agreement in place with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to take in refugees. We were fortunate to take in more than 160 Syrian refugees from December 2015 to March 2016.
It was an initial success, but I can tell you it involved many challenges. They were neither francophone nor anglophone, but rather allophone. Many interpretation services were necessary, and we are still working with those Syrian refugees.
That slightly alters the data. The francophone community does not just want to be a service supplier in that sense. It also wants to be able to integrate those Syrian refugees into the francophone community so they can really grow and develop and so this effort in a way works to the advantage of the francophone community.
Graham Fraser
View Graham Fraser Profile
Graham Fraser
2016-06-08 15:44
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
With me today are Mary Donaghy, assistant commissioner, policy and communications branch; Ghislaine Saikaley, assistant commissioner, compliance assurance branch; and Pascale Giguère, director and general counsel, legal affairs branch.
Honourable members of the committee, good afternoon.
I am pleased to be here today to provide an overview of my tenth and final annual report, which I tabled in Parliament on May 19.
This annual report covers a range of issues that have emerged or been dealt with over the past year. Some issues reveal the progress, or lack thereof, over the 10 years that I've been commissioner. These include immigration, equality of service, early childhood development, and the significance of bilingualism at major national events, to name a few, but two issues in particular stand out.
First, it is clear that there is an ongoing problem in the area of access to justice in both official languages. Canadians who seek to be heard in the official language of their choice in our courts face barriers that are sometimes impossible to overcome. Lawyers often feel they have to warn their clients that if they insist on exercising their right to be heard in their preferred official language, the legal proceedings will take longer and will cost more.
One reason for this is that the bilingual capacity of the superior court judiciary remains a challenge in a number of provinces and territories. Those who apply for judgeships and self-identify as bilingual do not have their language skills tested. Once they are on the bench, they often discover they are unable to preside over a trial in their second language.
The previous federal government resisted taking any action to implement the recommendations I made in the 2013 study on access to justice in both official languages that I produced jointly with my provincial counterparts in Ontario and New Brunswick. And so the first recommendation in my annual report calls on the current government and, in particular, the Minister of Justice, to address this matter.
The second issue is one that was raised by former senator Maria Chaput, as well as by numerous community leaders. It's now been taken up by Senator Claudette Tardif in the form of Bill S-209. For decades, federal services have been delivered in both official languages in different parts of the country where there is significant demand for services in the language of the minority.
A minority community can be thriving and growing, but if the majority grows faster, services are lost. This is simply unfair. A community's vitality should also be taken into account, not simply the rate at which the majority community is growing. Bill S-209 provides a way of addressing this injustice, as would a revision of the official languages regulations.
In three years we will mark the 50th anniversary of the act, and planning should start now to conduct a review of how part IV of the act, which deals with communications with and services to the public, is applied. The second recommendation of my annual report calls on the government to make this a priority.
Meanwhile, in the federal workplace in 2015-16, complaints under section 91 of the Official Languages Act about the language requirements for public service positions increased by 13% compared with the previous year. One of the reasons for this is a long-standing disagreement between the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages and the Treasury Board Secretariat.
The Secretariat advises institutions that a·BBB linguistic profile is appropriate for most supervisory positions, while I continue to insist that CBC is the minimum level to ensure clear and effective communications with employees in regions that are designated as bilingual for language-of-work purposes.
Along with the tabling of my annual report before Parliament on May 19, I issued new report cards that rate 33 federal institutions on their compliance with the Official Languages Act. I also released a report on my role before the courts over the past decade. Yesterday, June 7, I tabled a special report to Parliament that proposes options that should be examined by the federal government to ensure that Air Canada effectively meets its official languages obligations. I will present this report to you later on today, and will answer any questions you might have at that time.
During the course of my 10 years in office, I've delivered 528 speeches and intervened in 23 court cases, including nine before the Supreme Court of Canada. My office has processed 7,156 complaints.
As I look ahead, though, one thing worries me. Sometimes I get the impression that the attitude toward language policy is “it goes without saying”. And so we do not talk about it. But we have to talk about it. For if it goes without saying, it remains unsaid—and what is unsaid is often neglected or forgotten.
In that context, I would be remiss if I did not say how pleased I am that Royal Military College Saint-Jean is to regain its status as a university. For more than two decades, Canada's armed forces have suffered from the absence of a French-language military university, and this corrects a serious problem.
This year, I will present my eighth annual award of excellence to the organization Canadian Parents for French for its outstanding contribution to the promotion of linguistic duality. I congratulate the organization for its exceptional work and for respecting French as an integral part of Canada.
The Canada 2017 celebrations also offer a unique opportunity to showcase linguistic duality. Numerous groups throughout the country are hard at work organizing events to mark our sesquicentennial anniversary. Linguistic duality must be a key component in all these efforts.
I commend the honourable members of this esteemed committee for their continuing efforts to promote and protect our official languages.
I thank you for your attention and would be pleased to answer any questions that you have.
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?
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