Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Official Languages

Issue 14 - Evidence - Meeting of December 7, 2009


OTTAWA, Monday, December 7, 2009

The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages met this day at 4:36 p.m. to study the application of the Official Languages Act and regulations and directives made under it, within those institutions subject to the act. Topic: Study on Part VII of the Official Languages Act and other issues.

Senator Andrée Champagne (Deputy Chair) in the chair.

[Translation]

The Deputy Chair: Honourable senators, I see quorum and call the meeting to order. I would like to welcome you to the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages.

I am Senator Andrée Champagne from Quebec, and I am the deputy chair of the committee. First of all, I would like to introduce the witnesses to the members of the committee who are present today:

To my right, from British Columbia, Senator Jaffer; to my left, from Quebec, Senator Seidman and, finally, Senator Mockler from New Brunswick.

The committee is now studying the current state of affairs regarding Part VII of the Official Languages Act, and more specifically the measures taken by federal institutions in that regard.

Today we will hear from, for the first part of the meeting, the Honourable Christian Paradis, P.C., M.P. Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada. During the second part of the meeting, we will hear from the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada.

We therefore welcome the Honourable Christian Paradis, P.C., M.P., Minister of Public Works and Government Services, who will be speaking to us about the implementation of Part VII of the Official Languages Act in his department. Mr. Paradis is accompanied by Ms. Diane Lorenzato, Assistant Deputy Minister, Human Resources, and Ms. Francine Kennedy, Chief Executive Officer, Translation Bureau, and Mr. Marc Olivier, Manager, Professional Development Division, Translation Bureau.

Mr. Paradis, the members of the committee would like to thank you for having accepted our invitation. I now give you the floor and senators will then have questions for you.

Hon. Christian Paradis, P.C., M.P., Minister of Public Works and Government Services: I am very pleased to be here today to discuss the progress made by Public Works and Government Services Canada in meeting its obligations under Part VII of the Official Languages Act and with respect to the Roadmap on Linguistic Duality.

I believe that we have made significant progress in the past few years and I am very pleased to be able to report on this matter to the committee. As you were saying, Madam Deputy Chair, I am accompanied by Ms. Francine Kennedy, Chief Executive Officer of the Translation Bureau and Ms. Diane Lorenzato, Assistant Deputy Minister of Human Resources.

First of all, I would like to say that at Public Works and Government Services Canada we take all of our official languages obligations very seriously. Since our government took office in January 2006, my department has implemented a vast array of initiatives to strengthen our official languages program.

One statistic speaks for itself — and I think it is the most important one — the Commissioner of Official Languages has increased my department's overall grade from a "D'' in 2005-06 to a "B'' in 2007-08.

In a follow-up audit conducted in August 2008, the commissioner pointed out the following: first of all, Public Works and Government Services Canada has made progress; secondly, we take all of our official languages obligations very seriously; and, thirdly, we have demonstrated solid leadership. I will come back to this issue later.

[English]

Concerning Part VII of the Official Languages Act, I would like to outline some of the positive measures we have taken. First, we set up a secretariat with a mandate focusing exclusively on support for official languages communities and promotion of the use of French and English by our employees and in Canadian society.

In addition, the department's policy on official languages was reviewed in order to incorporate guidelines for implementing Part VII of the Official Languages Act.

Among other things, the guidelines set out the procedures to be followed to ensure that initiatives submitted for Treasury Board approval undergo a systematic analysis of the impact on official languages. Our obligation to take positive measures to implement Part VII of the Official Languages Act is clearly stated in the guidelines.

[Translation]

Additionally, my department set up the translation support program, which provides support for national organizations representing official language minority communities. I would also like to mention that my department has representatives sitting on the government table of national committees for the economic development and employability of the anglophone community in Quebec and of francophone and Acadian minority communities across Canada.

Through its diligent participation in the activities of the table, my department is attuned to community issues and looking for innovative ways to fulfil the needs and priorities of official language minority communities. I would now like to talk about the promotion of linguistic duality at Public Works and Government Services Canada.

My department is demonstrating leadership because since 2007, it has celebrated Linguistic Duality Week on a yearly basis. This is the example I was alluding to at the beginning of my presentation.

We were even the first federal department to celebrate this event, which is intended to make all employees more aware of the use of French and English and of the needs of official language minority communities. Our efforts were recognized and the commissioner's most recent report, the 2007-08 report, which assesses to the performance of Public Works and Government Services Canada, gave the department an "A'' for both sections of Part VII.

[English]

As for the work of the Translation Bureau, I am pleased to report that the bureau is celebrating its seventy-fifth anniversary this year, as well as the fiftieth anniversary of its interpretation component. I am also pleased to report that my department has made real progress in exercising its responsibilities set out in the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality 2008-13.

We have allocated $34 million over a five-year period to implement two initiatives. The first is the Canadian Language Sector Enhancement Program at $18 million, and the second is the Language Portal of Canada at $16 million.

I will take a few moments to explain what these initiatives are because, in today's global market, Canada must be able to count on a dynamic language industry to remain competitive. We must take action because the industry is at risk of not being able to meet the needs of the Government of Canada or of the country as a whole, in the short- and medium-terms. The workforce is aging and there is a shortage of qualified professionals, so we have to act.

[Translation]

Our first initiative is the Canadian Language Sector Enhancement Program which has been in effect since last summer. The goal of this program is to support the development of a skilled labour force and to strengthen the capacity of the language industry. The program has two main components. First of all, we have the university scholarships in translation program, which is intended to help post-secondary institutions increase the number of graduates from translation and interpretation programs. And, secondly, we have the language industry initiative which seeks to step up promotion of the language industry and development of the industry's capacity. The Translation Bureau is currently drawing up funding agreements with key partners for both of these components.

Our second initiative is the Language portal of Canada, launched in early October. The Portal provides free Internet access to the first national collection of Canadian linguistic resources. Canadian Internet users can go to the Portal site and find everything they need to study, work and communicate more effectively in both official languages.

If any of you are familiar with Termium, the Government of Canada's terminology and linguistic databank, Termium is now a service included in the Language Portal. So now everyone has access to this highly reliable tool produced by the Translation Bureau as well as to the entire bureau's writing tools.

I would like to take a couple of minutes to demonstrate the benefits of our new language Portal. Marc Olivier, a manager in the Translation Bureau's Professional Development Division, is here to provide a quick overview of the Portal.

Marc Olivier, Manager, Translation Bureau, Professional Development Division, Public Works and Government Services Canada: Madam Vice-Chair, I would like to take a few minutes to discuss the Language Portal of Canada, which was launched on October 8.

In the section entitled "About the Portal'', you are given a brief overview of the goals of the language Portal: to disseminate and promote language resources developed in Canada; to share and highlight Canadian expertise in the area of language; to help Canadians communicate in both official languages.

I will go back to the home page. You could say that the Portal is divided into two parts. On the left side of the screen, you will see the "Collections'' component. This section contains substantial articles on difficulties of the French language. The "Discover'' component contains links to sites outside the federal government and the Department of Public Works and Governments Services Canada.

Everything found in the middle pertains to current topics. We have the "Headlines'' section in the middle which is updated on a weekly basis. My team finds out what is going on in the language field and follows up with articles.

For example, with "Babies cry in their mother tongue'', we have a summary of an article and we are referred to a site. This is research. These are the findings of research. So this is a very interesting perspective.

The headlines are updated on a weekly basis. We have the component "Our contributors'' which is quite unique. We try to find contributors from coast to coast, in provincial or territorial governments or even in universities. We contact these people in order to obtain contributions. For the launch, we had four articles from contributors.

And we continue seeking other contributions. Here we have the Franco-Saskatchewanian community from Saskatchewan. This is an example of an article and it was signed by Mr. Boudreau, from the Office of the Provincial Secretary in Saskatchewan. This was a contribution for the launch.

[English]

I will come back to the English site to show it. The Archived Headlines can sometimes differ in English.

I will show you Termium Plus.

[Translation]

Termium is a Translation Bureau terminology bank that contains more than four million entries in French and English as well as entries in Spanish. Let us take the example of a search to find the equivalent of "Standing Committee on Official Languages.''

[English]

You can go from English to French, and you see the French equivalent of a "Standing Committee on Official Languages.''

[Translation]

We also have a record in Spanish. We want to develop this Spanish component as well, but that is not one of our priorities for the time being.

I will also show you an example going from French to English, to show you the difference. For example, if somebody wanted to know the equivalent of the expression "Olympic Games'' from French to English; here we have the equivalent: "Olympic Games.'' This is topical as the games will be held shortly.

Let us go back to the "Home page''. We also have writing tools to help us do research on difficulties in French or English. The application ConjugArt is somewhat like the equivalent of the Bescherelle for verb conjugation. If we enter the verb "découvrir,'' we will obtain the conjugation of all of the verb tenses of "découvrir.'' This may be a very useful tool for students at all levels.

The Deputy Chair: For students and secretaries.

Mr. Olivier: Yes, this is useful to all people who have to write in both official languages.

[English]

The Flash Quiz is very popular. There is a different one each day. For example, if you are astute, are you polite, creative or clever? The correct answer is, clever. There is a different question each day in French and in English. We will try one in French.

[Translation]

The following question is asked, for example: "Which of these French expressions is correct?: C'est ça dont je parle; c'est de ça dont je parle; c'est ça que je parle.'' I will click on the last answer. I tried and that is not the right answer; the right answer is given and it is: "C'est ça dont je parle.'' I knew what the answer was, but I just wanted to try the two parts of the quiz.

There is also a link for the Roadmap on Linguistic Duality. The portal is a result of this initiative.

[English]

You are able to click on Our Contributor. For example, if you are in Alberta and you want to read about language concerns, there are links to different universities, et cetera. You can do this for every province and territory. It is a work in progress. We add links every day and people can send us links to be added.

[Translation]

It is truly a collective project. So that was an overview of the Portal.

Mr. Paradis: A picture is worth a thousand words! In order to do a complete presentation, we would need about 15 minutes, but already in two or three minutes we can see that the Portal serves many purposes.

In closing, I would like to once again emphasize that my department is making every effort to achieve the objectives of all parts of the Official Languages Act, while complying with the wording and spirit of the act. While there is always room for improvement, and we acknowledge that this is so, I do think that the statistics I alluded to earlier show that we are clearly on the right path and our services are improving. Moreover, the fact that we have gone from an overall grade of "D'' to "B'' speaks volumes.

Thank you very much and I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

The Deputy Chair: Thank you, Mr. Minister. I must tell you that as someone who uses the Termium tool on a regular basis, I am delighted to see that it is now truly functional.

When the Roadmap on Linguistic Duality was announced by Minister Moore, we were in fact told that the Termium application would be made available as a free tool to all Canadians; but at one point I was asked to renew my subscription and I thought to myself that I would wait until the application became free. I am very pleased today to see, via the language portal, that this is now something that is easily accessible. And it is so useful.

We will begin the question period; Senator Jaffer, the floor is yours.

[English]

Senator Jaffer: I sense your enthusiasm and I congratulate you on receiving such a positive note from the Official Languages Commissioner. I am excited about the portal that will be available. How do you define "Francophonie'' and "Francophone community''?

[Translation]

Mr. Paradis: With respect to Part VII, we must always bear our obligations in mind; and when francophones are in a minority situation, the department must take the requisite action — "positive measures'' as indicated in the act — to ensure that these people are involved in all processes.

We often talk about service delivery and the fact that the government is accountable to the people, but there is also an aspect of my department that is important.

[English]

I told my deputy minister that SMEs are a top priority for me because they act as the monitor of our economy. We must engage them as much as possible. In Manitoba, some Francophonie groups are in the minority. When they decide to start a business, they can access a bilingual bidding process on MERX but they also need support. We made sure that these people have services in their own language.

In terms of the law, I always consider our obligations to provide services and to facilitate communication. People ask me where in Canada they do business with the Government of Canada. This is the same in Quebec for some SMEs that communicate more in English. If they want to address some concerns and communicate with the government or with our department, they can do it in both languages. This is the way I see it as the minister.

Senator Jaffer: Minister, you spoke about the promotion of the use of French and English by employees. As a member of this committee, I am frustrated by hearing everyone say that there is promotion of both languages for employees but, in my province, there is discrimination against civil servants. They do not receive the same language training that employees here receive.

I know that the issue does not fall under your mandate but you are promoting the learning of both official languages. I sense that you are serious about this. As Canada grows, many people who do not speak French or English will arrive. I am anxious to see how French is being taught to employees who speak only English in my province. There is discrimination against public servants in my province. They do not get the same kind of French language training that an employee in Ottawa would receive. I leave that issue with you.

In your presentation, you spoke about the promotion of the use of French and English by employees in Canadian society. I am anxious to know what you mean by "promoting French and English in Canadian society?'' Do you go to the ethnic newspapers? Do you include the ethnic communities? Many ethnic newspapers are English. How are you including all of Canadian society?

Mr. Paradis: The example you have is the Internet site we just saw. We want to go further, of course. I am here today to speak about the official languages. There are still many areas in which we can improve and where we want to improve.

This is something we have to take care of. This is why, in 2007, I referred to the Official Language Minority Communities Secretariat. This is very important. That was launched in 2007. We want to reach people that way.

That is one example. I will speak about my province. Quebec did not receive a good note about the services provided to English people. Why? When you take into account the anglophones who work for the Quebec region, most of the time, they are here in the national capital. However, there are jobs available in regions of Quebec, but people do not necessarily know about them. They apply here because it is bilingual here, but they will not do it in Quebec, yet there are needs in Quebec.

We took it into account. We want to be proactive and we want to reach people and say, "Hey, there are jobs available in Quebec.'' This is what we have to do.

The second thing is a matter of communication. People might show up and say, "Look, I want to be served in English but no one is available.'' There could be someone available; they just have to call and make an appointment.

There are issues to manage. This is a communication issue. This is where that secretariat is moving to ensure we reach as many people as possible. Our people on the ground are willing to take suggestions and constructive criticism to make sure we improve according to our obligations.

Senator Jaffer: In your presentation, you talk about support and development of a skilled labour force. I am convinced we cannot just hire people from Ottawa to have a skilled labour force. You must come to my province, too. I bring this message to you: You will not build a skilled labour force if you neglect my province getting French training.

As I am bragging about my province, I want to go to the 2010 games and I want to talk to you about providing translation. All my colleagues are proud that the games are coming to Canada. Sometimes we British Columbians forget we are part of Canada, because we are so far away. However, one of the preoccupations we have, and I certainly have, is having proper French and English translation at the games.

I would like to hear from you as to whether the Translation Bureau and VANOC have signed the interpretation and translation services for the Olympic Games. I would like you to tell the committee what kind of help the Translation Bureau will give to VANOC. I come to you saying VANOC needs help for Canada's games.

Mr. Paradis: I will go into French on that point because I want to make sure I am clear.

[Translation]

The language industry is indeed unknown to the general public. I found out that the Translation Bureau was part of my department when I arrived at Public Works. I was made aware of all of the aspects and challenges that needed to be dealt with. Often, and without any desire to impart bad intentions to anyone, people improvise in this sector, a sector that requires expertise. I have a great of respect for the people who work in the language sector. This is an industry that is reinventing itself as a result of emerging technologies that did not exist a few short years ago. I agree with you that this sector must flourish across the country and not only in Ottawa.

This is the direction we want to be heading in, and that is why we announced our program that ties into the Roadmap on Linguistic Duality with respect to scholarships. The scholarships must be offered nationally. In order to ensure that we would be successful, the Translation Bureau carefully assessed the criteria. We have to give a helping hand to this vital sector in order to attract new recruits.

Going back to the issue of the Olympic Games, I agree with you. I am a fanatic when it comes to writing in French. If I read an official letter containing just two mistakes, I take offence because that demonstrates some negligence. Mastery of the language is important and to do this, we need experts.

The Translation Bureau is proud, and I am as well, as the minister, to support VANOC as best as it can because the games are a gateway to our country. Adequate translation shows foreigners and francophones in the country how much importance we attach to our language and our requirements regarding the competence of those working the sector.

I will now turn the floor over to Ms. Kennedy, who will talk to you about the agreement signed with VANOC.

Francine Kennedy, Chief Executive Officer, Translation Bureau, Public Works and Government Services Canada: We are delighted to support VANOC with the Olympic Games. This is important if we want to ensure that Canadian linguistic duality is reflected during the Olympic Games.

We are very close to signing an agreement with VANOC, however, that has not prevented us from already beginning to work with them. We have a manager who has just spent two or three weeks in Vancouver in order to do the ground work. We have identified our capacity and we are now prepared to begin the work.

The Deputy Chair: During the Olympic Games, it is important to have people who are not only good interpreters but who have expertise in sports terminology. I would imagine that that requires even more work and professionalism.

[English]

Senator Seidman: Good afternoon. Thank you for coming before us. You should be congratulated, minister, for the wonderful work you are doing and for your enthusiasm. I have noted that your performance, as evaluated by the Commissioner of Official Languages, increased significantly between 2006 and 2008.

One thing you mentioned and in which I am particularly interested, being a member of the English language minority group in Quebec, our home province, is that you are very proactive and working hard to improve things, because the evaluation was poor in this area. I understand that representation by the English language minority groups in your department is 3 per cent to 5 per cent, in that area — so you are trying to be proactive in the community.

Might you expand on this a bit? First, are you working with community groups in Montreal and in the regions who might help you understand how to reach the English minority groups, especially in the regions, which we might be more concerned about due to their isolation?

Second, specifically with small- and medium-enterprises, how might you help the English minority communities? I know that you play a role in that area.

Mr. Paradis: Thank you, senator. I spoke about the Quebec case because, when we check the marks of the department, most of them are good. There are a lot of As in leadership. I wondered why we had a B. Where are we weaker?

The one thing pointed out to me by Ms. Lorenzato was that Quebec mattered here. This is why I prefer to speak about it upfront, saying we have a poor mark there but we are working on it. She gave me concrete examples and said that most of the time anglophones automatically go to Ottawa for jobs. This is a matter of communication. I will let Ms. Lorenzato speak more specifically to that issue for practical examples.

On the second point, it is the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises, which was launched in 2005. We made an announcement a few months ago because we improved the process. We want to be more accessible. The OSME was somewhere on Portage and people had to go through security. They were exhausted once they got there. We now have a main office in Ottawa, which is a virtual site, too. People can sit down and work on the computer through MERX simulation and samples to work on. It is not only in Ottawa, but also in Montreal and the Maritimes. We want to be accessible in regions. When we receive requests, we send teams to the regions to work on the ground.

Obviously, we have to ensure that we work together. OSME is in close contact with the secretariat, which is an important point. If you put out all of the effort, time and money to have people on the ground, and if you have a gate of communication, then you have put out all of these efforts for nothing. We have to make sure that upfront we cover that as much as we can. I was proud to know from the people responsible from the secretariat that they were in close contact with OSME. As I said, this is one of my priorities so I want it to be as effective as possible.

Even if you are somewhere in Manitoba in a minority situation or somewhere in Quebec in a minority situation, we have to make sure that we respond to the needs.

Diane Lorenzato, Assistant Deputy Minister — Human Resources, Public Works and Government Services Canada: Once we received the rating from the commissioner and realize that there is not much movement on the anglophone recruitment in Quebec, we worked with the Quebec region to put in place a tangible plan that would help us move the bar. When we started our plan, we had about 2 per cent to 3 per cent representation of anglophones in Quebec. We decided to work with the community table and identify the barriers so that we could understand why we were not able to attract anglophones to PWGSC in the Quebec region. We realize that many of them would apply and come to the headquarters because there are more mobility and opportunity for promotion.

We have been trying to recruit at the entry level so that they can see a progression within their career stream. We go to university and college campuses to sensitize potential recruits. We go to McGill, Concordia and Bishops and we work with the community table to help us to target those groups and attract potential employees.

We also try to use employees to see if we can work within their network to attract people. When we are on campus, we try to bring representation so that we do not have a crew that is francophone only staffing the recruitment booth. We bring anglophones with us as well. They are all bilingual but they can demonstrate that they have room to grow in our organization.

[Translation]

The objective is really to increase presence. Since this measure has been implemented, we have seen a two per cent increase in our anglophone labour force in Quebec. We will continue with this approach. Obviously, we are hoping to have representation that is more closely aligned with the profile of the population.

The positions in Public Works are very specialized: engineers, architects, project managers. It is not always easy to attract people in this sector, but we do make an effort. We feel that if we continue, we should be able to remedy the situation over the next two years.

Senator Seidman: I have a supplementary question.

[English]

What do you mean by the term "community table?'' Is it a network of communities? Could you tell me more about that, please?

Ms. Lorenzato: It is a network of communities. We have contact with several community groups. The table is one that will bring representation from various groups.

Our objective is to try to tap into those existing networks to learn from their experiences. We have ongoing relationships with the RDEE, Réseau de développement économique et d'employabilité and La Fédération canadienne française et acadienne, so we will not reinvent the wheel. We will get the information where those groups exist.

Senator Seidman: I commend you for doing that because you do not need to reinvent the wheel with community groups that can help you a lot. Would you to send us the list of community groups that you consult?

Ms. Lorenzato: Yes.

Mr. Paradis: We will send the group that is active for anglophones, which is the Quebec Community Groups Network.

Senator Seidman: Do you have active contacts with that group?

Mr. Paradis: Yes.

[Translation]

Senator Pépin: I apologize for being late, Mr. Minister. Could you provide us with the details of this agreement that is about to be signed between the Translation Bureau and VANOC? And what type of assistance does the Translation Bureau intend to provide to VANOC so that it can meet its requirements? And as the Olympic Games are being held and you are providing translation services, will you be able to meet the requirements of the other services you must provide?

Mr. Paradis: Thank you for your question. I will not go on at great length, but I too am in favour of virtue. I will let Ms. Kennedy discuss the more technical aspects. She is the one who is working on this issue and she has done some very good work.

Indeed, this is a matter that is close to my heart. I think that the Translation Bureau will provide us with all of the expertise required to assist VANOC. As I said earlier, translation is the gateway. It is about appearance. We know that poorly translated documents give you the impression that you are not dealing with a serious or competent entity.

The deputy chair pointed this out correctly as well. There are many small technical difficulties. Language can become sophisticated or specialized when referring to disciplines X, Y or Z. I believe that it is important to bring some expertise to this issue.

I am constantly asking my deputy ministers questions in order to determine how things are going with our friends from Canadian Heritage and VANOC in order to make sure that everything is falling into place. And I am very pleased. To date, I have been told that things are progressing the way we want. I will now turn the floor over to Ms. Kennedy.

Ms. Kennedy: We are working very closely with VANOC and our colleagues at Canadian Heritage. We are about to sign a contract, either today or tomorrow. All of the terms and conditions have been finalized. We have already begun the work. We have identified a manager who has already gone to Vancouver. About 100 people will be involved in the work. A large part of that work will be done here, in Ottawa. All of the work pertaining to the athletes' biographies will be done in the National Capital Region.

The other component involves sending some of our experienced translators to Vancouver in order to support VANOC. We have developed sports lexicons and we have just completed our Paralympic Games lexicon. This reference document will also be available. I can give you my assurances right now that we have the capacity required to provide our support so that the games will be a great success.

Senator Pépin: You also provide services to other departments. Will you be able to coordinate all of your operations with the Olympic Games?

Ms. Kennedy: Absolutely. Part of our operations are performed in partnership with the private sector. We are used to changes and we are constantly making the necessary adjustments to ensure that we have the capacity to serve our huge network across the country. We operate in this manner on a daily basis without any concerns.

Senator Pépin: So everything will continue to operate properly.

Ms. Kennedy: Yes.

Senator Mockler: Mr. Minister, I would also like to add my comments regarding your performance. You have gone from a "C'' to an "A.'' I think that this result once again shows your leadership in the department.

I have a question about the Portal. This question surfaced many times when I was Minister of the Francophonie and we were at the table, in Quebec City, in 2008, or in Romania, in 2006. Will the government make the Termium1 portal available to NGOs?

Mr. Paradis: This site is accessible to everyone free of charge. Anyone who has access to the Internet can have access to the Portal free of charge.

Senator Mockler: Is the Portal also available to the countries of the francophonie?

Mr. Paradis: Yes, because the portal is on the Internet. Anybody who can connect to the Internet will have no problems accessing the Portal.

Senator Mockler: Would it be accurate to conclude that Canada will be the only country in the francophonie that provides this type of Portal?

Mr. Paradis: I cannot confirm that to you. We would have to check.

Mr. Olivier: To my knowledge, there is no other country in the francophonie that has such a comprehensive Portal. But we would nevertheless have to check this.

Mr. Paradis: It would be interesting to have this statistic.

Senator Mockler: I would like you to send the statistic to the committee. Based on my experience, as the Minister of the Francophonie, and having participated in two francophonie summits, I believe that I can state that this language development work tool, both for the anglophone and francophone sides, will be the first of its kind. If that is the case, I think that we should share this jewel and ensure that everyone is aware of it.

Mr. Paradis: I agree with you and this will be done with pride.

Senator Mockler: This pride will bolster the conviction that we are one of the best countries in the world.

The Deputy Chair: Based on the data that you have presented, we will even be doing this into Spanish and we will perhaps be trilingual or even polyglot.

Senator Pépin: The Supreme Court of Canada made a ruling, in the Desrochers case, compelling the government to take the necessary steps to ensure that both francophones and anglophones contribute equally to the definition of services. Has your department taken any special measures in response to the Supreme Court decision?

Mr. Paradis: I raised two points earlier on this matter. The Official Language Minority Communities Secretariat (OLMCS) was established in 2007. The mission of this secretariat within our department is to collate information ensure that it is disseminated so that we are not working in silos.

We are the federal government's procurement agency. Public Works of course provides services, but we look after much of the procurement, and this involves the small- and medium-sized businesses. As I have always said since I became minister, SMEs are a priority for us. We have to make sure that they have access to the federal government's market. It would be unfortunate for talented people to be denied access to markets because a form is too complicated or the information is misunderstood.

We have minority-situation companies in Quebec, Manitoba, New Brunswick and just about everywhere. The secretariat can ensure that, when the Small Business Office travels or does business with SMEs in a minority situation, the services are provided in the appropriate language.

We have gone to great deal of effort to ensure that the Small Business Office is more accessible. We have even taken steps to ensure that the office travels in the field. Nevertheless, if nobody can communicate with the stakeholders, all of this effort is pointless.

We are one of the largest purchasers since we act on behalf of the government. We must therefore ensure that those companies that have products for sale are able to do so.

[English]

Senator Seidman: You referred to the Canadian Language Sector Enhancement Program as your first initiative. It sounds like an interesting, exciting initiative. Could you tell us a little more about it, please?

[Translation]

Mr. Paradis: This data comes from the Roadmap for Linguistic Duality. We are focusing on two issues in particular. First of all, we have the university translation bursaries. This program, which represents $8 million, goes from 2008 to 2013. We want to encourage people to study in the language sector, as there is a shortage of skilled professionals.

There are a certain number of challenges that we are facing. This sector is in the process of reinventing itself with new technologies. The Translation Bureau informed me that some people, who are not qualified, improvise at times as translators. I am not saying that these people are acting in bad faith, but we must understand that this work must be done properly and it can be a matter of appearance. In the past, we have seen unfortunate examples of poor translations that have tarnished the image of the federal government. So we have to manage these issues seriously. We want to therefore staff the Translation Bureau with qualified staff. To do this, we have to deal with problem upstream by encouraging people to study in this sector.

Second, we have the initiative to enhance the language industry, for which we have earmarked $10 million over five years, until 2013. This initiative is designed to assist industries in the language sector.

When I became the Minister of Public Works, I had a rather general opinion about the Translation Bureau. I saw translators at the House of Commons without knowing exactly what they did. I come from a unilingual francophone rural region.

This sector generates a great deal of revenue, but there are a certain number of challenges. People have to make themselves known and a lot of reorganization is required. To do this successfully, government support is needed. We want to encourage the establishment of these industries on a long-term basis to ensure that we have people working in this sector but also the presence of stakeholders in the sector to continue working the right direction. This is a very specialized field of activity. I was given a briefing on the subject and was very surprised to discover all of the subtleties and nuances that are involved.

[English]

Senator Seidman: Could you tell us why this program is housed in Public Works and Government Services?

[Translation]

Mr. Paradis: The program used to be part of Industry Canada. However, for a number of reasons, it did not align with its criteria. However, the program did reflect the criteria of the Translation Bureau.

Moreover, the Translation Bureau has an obvious interest in it. So we are pleased to be involved in this program. We have the experts and therefore we are very pleased to be part of this program.

[English]

Senator Jaffer: I want to respond to Senator Seidman and then I have another question.

When we speak about translation, you are right; translation is not only language — it is culture, it is words, it is many different things. I am so glad that you are looking at it, because for years I have struggled working with interpreters who think they know the language in translation because we do not have standards set.

I encourage you to look at standards being set, especially with French and English; until then, we will not raise the level of translation in our country.

I have a real preoccupation, minister, which I am going to take the risk of sharing with you. I have shared it with some others as well, so my colleagues have heard this. That is that I believe Quebec has the most advanced immigration policy. It is really encouraging, and you have enthusiastically talked about encouraging people in small- and medium- sized enterprises.

I know so many people who have benefited from Quebec's immigration policy, but then my province or other provinces benefit when they leave Quebec because they have not had enough support. I think we have work to do. They have the language skills, but for some reason, there is not the support.

Therefore, I leave this thought with you: I believe that there needs to be work done to keep people because our growth will come from immigration and we do not keep people in Quebec. If you have thought about it, I would like your point of view and maybe you can add some suggestions.

Mr. Paradis: Of course, the immigration policies are more from the Minister of Immigration. Coming from me, from what I have to manage, the principle is we have to make the OSME as accessible as possible. This is why it was put in place. It was great news in 2005, and then we realized that too many people did not know about it, so we made it more accessible.

We have our main office here, which is more user-friendly. We go into the communities on request to provide services.

We have to continue to improve. As I said in my presentation, it is not perfect; it will never be perfect but we can improve and this is the challenge we have to face. When I talked about the bottom line, we started at a "D'' and now we are at a "B.'' I ask why we are at "B,'' because there are a lot of "As''; we point out where we are weak and we are working on that.

I have faith, but I want to make sure the committee knows what I have in mind. I want to make sure that our OSME is effective and accessible. This is so important. Public Works and Government Services Canada is the buyer of the government. Our people have the right and should have the chance to do business with the Government of Canada.

I lived it myself. There was some frustration when I was president of a chamber of commerce in a Quebec rural area. We had to go to Quebec City to deal with some departments. It was like mazes all around; we were exhausted. When we returned to my town, I said one of these days when I get a chance I will do something about that. This is why I am so passionate; I lived it myself.

I want to make sure that for the good SMEs, we facilitate their lives to ensure they have the chance to deal with the Government of Canada if they have something to offer.

[Translation]

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Mr. Minister, my question will be very simple: How do you define the concept of "positive measures''?

Mr. Paradis: The concept of "positive measures'' often crops up. I understand that this is not a legal measure per se. As I said in my presentation, in my department we have implemented policies in order to respond to Part VII, both with respect to employees and guidelines.

If you would give me a few moments, I will find a document that contains good examples of "positive measures'' that I would like to share with you.

First of all, the department reviewed its existing programs and services in accordance with Part VII. The Crown Assets Distribution Directorate communicated with more than 420 official language organizations and communities in minority situation to inform them about its sales policies for priority not-for-profit clients. Hence not-for-profit organizations do business with us to purchase surplus Crown assets. Such a procurement source is very attractive for both the community and the government, which is able to dispose of surplus goods.

As regards the Small Business Office, we contacted approximately 420 minority situation organizations in order to ensure that the service was accessible to them. This is a good example.

Earlier, we mentioned organizations such as RDEE, Quebec Community Groups Network and Community Table; these are all grassroots organizations that focus on this issue, and they are in regular contact with the people in our department, particularly with the Official Language Minority Communities Secretariat.

Another example I really like is the departmental program which ensures that official language communities in a minority situation benefit from reduced rates offered at certain participating hotels through a hotel card system. I find this measure interesting. This is a source of pride and identification. Presenting cards in order to receive reduced rates means that the hotels are getting involved in the program. So in addition to the business aspect, there is a certain motivation that brings these hotels into the picture.

Without imposing a legal definition — because I understand that there is not one; I am not an expert when it comes to this legislation — however, internally — there are some examples of that — following the review of services and programs, we do nonetheless have political guidelines enabling us to take such "positive measures.'' This is the direction we want to be heading in.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: I would like to ask you another question. Are there any obstacles that make it more difficult for you to fulfil your obligations under Part VII?

Mr. Paradis: Yes, there are a few.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Could you tell us about them?

Mr. Paradis: Of course.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Have you already answered this question?

Mr. Paradis: No. Because of the nature and mandate of our department, we do not have any funding mechanism derived from grants and contributions. The Department of Public Works and Government Services Canada is a management department.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: All right.

Mr. Paradis: I talked to you earlier about the scholarships and the initiative to enhance the language sector, but this is an exceptional assistance measure for our department, because we are not involved in contributions. We are implementing this program as part of the Roadmap for Linguistic Duality, but otherwise, because of its very nature, the department has no role to play. We have to look at what we can do internally, how we can improve the way we do business, namely, through management. So, yes, we can work at the employee level, we can do something about the provision of services, but the most important point is that we are the department that looks after procurement for the Government of Canada.

That is where we need to focus more of our efforts, even though we do not necessarily have the corresponding funds, as we are a department that manages subsidies including the pertinent administrative costs. So this is a challenge for us.

Furthermore, we must comply with the Treasury Board Secretariat Contracting Policy and the Treasury Board Secretariat Guide to the Management of Real Property. This is a technical issue, but the fact remains that these are additional challenges that we face given the size of our personnel. These are issues we need to monitor.

Nevertheless, there is a will to focus on areas where we can exercise management and have an impact on the community.

The Deputy Chair: Our allotted time is over or just about. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, Mr. Minister, for accepting our invitation. I would also like to thank the individuals who accompanied you.

Congratulations on this good mark given to you by the Official Languages Commissioner; it looks as though there is still more work to be done to obtain an "A''. Next year, you can tell us how you managed to obtain an "A''!

Honourable senators, we will suspend the meeting for a few minutes in order to welcome our other witnesses.

(The committee suspended.)


(The committee resumed.)

The Deputy Chair: Welcome once again. We are now hearing from representatives of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada: Ms. Marie France Kenny, Federation President and Ms. Suzanne Bossé, Director General.

Last month the FCFA published a report on the implementation of the Official Languages Act in which it outlined its new vision regarding implementation.

The committee is interested in hearing the FCFA on this matter, as it is currently studying the implementation of Part VII of this act. Ladies, the committee members would like to thank you for accepting their invitation to appear today. The floor is now yours, and questions will follow.

Madam Deputy Chair, I want to thank you for agreeing to hear us today. I am accompanied by Suzanne Bossé, Director General of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada.

One year ago now, we at the FCFA began a major effort to reflect on and analyze the record of the four decades of the Official Languages Act, and we are very proud to be submitting the results of that process to you.

There is nothing new in the findings we are presenting today. Over its 34-year existence, the FCFA has spoken out on a number of occasions about the deficiencies of the federal official languages policy, with regard to both services to francophones and support for communities.

And we have not been the only one to do so. Year after year, in the past four decades, successive commissioners of official languages have used words such as "ceiling,'' "stagnation,'' "deterioration'' and "lack of leadership'' in their report to describe the situation.

In that respect, the tone of Commissioner Fraser's reports differs little from that of Commissioner Yalden's reports 30 years ago.

It is hard to understand why, in a number of respects, matters have not changed. As the year of the 40th anniversary of the Official Languages Act comes to a close, the question that arises is whether we have learned the lessons of the past four decades. We must ask ourselves "What do we do now?'' And that is the gist of my remarks today. We are here to suggest some solutions so that, 10 years from now, we do not have to restate the same findings we are delivering to you today. Let me be clear on this: there are definitely reasons to celebrate the act's 40th anniversary this year.

It is in large part to the Official Languages Act that we owe the French-language schools, institutions and services that we now have across Canada and that have enabled our communities to live better lives in their language. And I would definitely not want to pass over in silence the role that all French-speaking citizens who have complained to the Office of the Commissioner or who have gone to court to ensure their rights are respected have played in this regard.

And the fact is that some federal institutions do indeed take their obligations under the Official Languages Act very seriously. However, there are still far too many deficiencies.

How is it that, at three out of four designated bilingual federal offices, staff are unable to inform us that we can be served in French by saying "Hello, bonjour,'' or posting a pictogram stating "English/French''? Why is it that the manner in which obligations under the Official Languages Act are met is usually left to the discretion of senior management in every federal department and agency? Because, in the past 40 years, there has constantly been a significant lack of political and administrative will to take action and enforce the act as a whole. Left to a large degree to their own devices, many federal institutions have come to the point where they no longer even make the strict minimum effort to meet their obligations. By focusing solely on minimum obligations, we think they have forgotten the reason why the Official Languages Act was enacted in the first place. The Official Languages Act is a plan to achieve genuine equality between French and English in Canadian society. It is a plan to promote our linguistic duality across the country. It is a plan to provide support for the development of the ability of the official language minority communities to live and develop in their language. When the institutions lose sight of these three objectives, they are bound to fail. It is now time to go back to essentials.

To achieve this great goal of equality, the Official Languages Act was designed as a whole, not as a series of separate initiatives. For example, no institution can really say it supports francophone community development when its regional offices do not even offer French-language services. And the regulations are so complex that it is hard for francophones to know exactly whether they are entitled to service in French. Let me give you an example. You are on the Trans-Canada Highway, and you are arrested by the RCMP. Depending on where you are, you may be entitled to service in French, but not 10 kilometres down the road. That is because it was decided that statistics would determine where people are entitled to service, and the percentage of francophones 10 kilometres down the road is too small. And yet there is a French-language school there. Clearly, if there is a French-language school, there is a francophone community. That is why new regulations must be established so that services can be provided where francophones actually live; regulations that take into account not only statistics, which do not necessarily reflect the actual situation, but also the fact that, if there is a French-language school or community centre in a region, it is necessarily because a French-language community lives there. These regulations would apply to the entire act. They would determine ways of providing services that support the development of communities by responding to their needs, and that take into account the fact that, in some places, provincial language policy is now more generous than the federal government's. At the same time, they would define measures to enable francophone federal employees to work in their language, which would have a positive impact on the ability to offer citizens services in French. That is what I have to say about the ground rules. Now let us talk about the team.

The cacophony of the past 40 years has clearly demonstrated a need within the federal government for a single official languages conductor. Coordination of Official Languages Act implementation should be assigned to an institution that has clear authority throughout the federal government and can command results. That institution is the Privy Council Office. There, we believe, lies supreme responsibility for the official languages file.

PCO should be the captain, but three other players on the team are also very important, and they are expressly named in the act. The Department of Canadian Heritage, the Department of Justice and Treasury Board. Those three institutions are on the front line when it comes to implementation of and compliance with the act, and it is important that they work together. We propose that there be a memorandum of understanding among the three institutions to ensure that everything done with respect to official languages is done by the three together, not separately.

However, this would not relieve the rest of the team, the rest of the federal government, of any of its official languages responsibilities. In every department and agency, there are employees who believe in the importance of the Official Languages Act, who want to take action to ensure it is complied with. All too often, however, they are isolated. Too often, the office responsible for official languages is shoved away in a corner. We propose a change of culture. Walls must be torn down and organizations opened up, and official languages must be an organization-wide issue in every department, and every institution as a whole must become an official languages champion.

Third, let us talk about us, francophones. Measures must be introduced so that the communities can influence all development stages of the policies and programs that have an impact on them, but especially, the federal institutions must be compelled to show how they have consulted the communities and how they plan to respond to the needs expressed during those consultations. In that respect, federal institutions must be accountable for the measures they take to support the development and vitality of our communities.

Finally, let us talk about the umpire. For 40 years now, the six individuals who have occupied the position of Commissioner of Official Languages have done an exceptional job, and I wish to emphasize that fact. All were and still are brilliant people who used every possible means to advance linguistic duality in Canada. The fact remains, however, that people listen to the commissioner only when it suits them.

And yet what we want is for everyone to take the Official Languages Act seriously. That is why we propose that consideration be given to the possibility of granting the commissioner enhanced authority to compel federal institutions that do not meet their obligations to take corrective measures, as well as the power to sanction those institutions to ensure that corrective measures are indeed taken.

That then is what we propose. We are presenting this new approach in a spirit of openness and dialogue with the government, with a desire to work together to find solutions to the deficiencies that francophone and Acadian communities, the Commissioners of Official Languages, official languages parliamentary committees, the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages and many others have lamented year after year for four decades.

Thank you. I am ready to answer your questions.

The Deputy Chair: Thank you, Ms. Kenny. The first question will be from Senator Tardif.

Senator Tardif: Thank you, Madam Deputy Chair. I would like to congratulate the FCFA for the important, well thought-out analysis it has done, leading it to recommend a new vision, a new approach to implement the Official Languages Act. You have a number of excellent recommendations.

If linguistic progress depended on a single key step, what would that be, in your opinion?

Ms. Kenny: Identifying a single one would be quite difficult. Our first three recommendations would require changes to the regulations and administration of the official languages program.

The last recommendation would require a legislative change. If we acted on the first three recommendations, in other words, a review of the regulations, consultation and governance, I am not sure that the commissioner would need enhanced authority, because I think that would help correct many of the deficiencies identified.

With regard to the regulations and governance, the latter is very important because, at present, the three ministers involved cannot tell each other what to do and be accountable. One minister cannot ask that of another. That is why we suggest that the Privy Council have an overarching authority; it could then tell the ministers that they are responsible for implementation and results. There is currently accountability with regard to implementation and the identification of solutions, but there is no accountability as to the implementation impact and results.

Senator Tardif: Between 2002 and 2006, things were coordinated because the Official Languages Secretariat was located within Privy Council. It was then moved to Canadian Heritage.

Do you believe it was a mistake to move the secretariat responsible for official languages and send it back to Canadian Heritage?

Ms. Kenny: There were certainly repercussions, but a minister cannot tell a peer what he or she can or cannot do, whereas the Privy Council Office has this authority. Yes, it was a setback in terms of implementation, but above all, in terms of accountability as far as the programs implemented are concerned, because these three departments are specifically identified and named in the legislation and are responsible for the programs implemented. However, no one is asking them to be accountable for their results.

Senator Tardif: Do you believe that the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality has set out the objectives clearly enough? And how are we to know if the results have been achieved under the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality?

Suzanne Bossé, Director General, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada: It is clear that the government has recently published its accountability framework in the assessment. A structure has been put in place. However, it is clear that a lot of work remains to be done before drawing up a schedule and deciding who will be at the table. Already, at the outset, the communities were not always consulted when performance targets and indicators were set.

We certainly have questions, such as how were the targets identified? What was the starting point? Why one percentage in comparison with another? All of this had already been identified in the past by the communities. We asked to be involved in the next stages of this assessment. We are waiting for a meeting to be organized by the Official Languages Secretariat on this issue.

Senator Tardif: Have there been any consultations up till now?

Ms. Bossé: Not by all departments. In some cases, departments did carry out consultations, but the performance targets that were identified within the framework of the roadmap were not the same as those discussed and identified during the consultations.

Senator Tardif: Do you have any explanation for that?

Ms. Bossé: No. The only information we were given was that this was not a harmonized process within the bureaucracy.

Ms. Kenny: This means that each department or institution chose whether or not to carry out consultations in establishing the targets and measures. In some cases, there were consultations, and the targets set out by the community are not the same as those set out by the departments.

[English]

Senator Jaffer: I know your organization but not well. I know that you are very active in my province of British Columbia. What is your membership? How do you actively seek membership?

Ms. Kenny: We have 22 members. All of the spokes agencies of the provinces and territories are members, as well as various national organizations including culture, parents, elders and health. We consider any membership. These organizations represent the francophones within their respective provinces and territories. We represent all francophone artists outside of Quebec as well.

Senator Jaffer: How do you define "francophone artist?''

Ms. Kenny: Definitions can be wide. It is different for everyone, I believe. My definition of "francophone artist'' is anyone who writes, produces, speaks or interprets in French.

Senator Jaffer: You would consider an Arab dancer in French a francophone artist.

Ms. Kenny: Absolutely. We have quite a few anglophone artists who write and interpret in French, and I consider them francophone artists.

Senator Jaffer: I am interested in your suggestions to the government about consultation.

Ms. Kenny: Yes.

Senator Jaffer: I am keen to hear more about active participation. Can you give examples of how federal institutions demonstrate best practices with respect to consultation? How do you think the federal government should go about consultation? I am keen to hear from you because you have pockets all across the country, so you can teach us.

Ms. Kenny: Absolutely. There are several good practices. We are a not-for-profit organization. Obviously, with so many departments knocking on our doors to ask us, it becomes very time-consuming both for departments and for us. Some of the practices we have seen were through senior federal councils in different provinces. All the departments would get together and then consult the community all at the same time. If someone is creating projects for us, we want to be consulted. If you are creating projects in general, we want to be consulted. We want you to let us know how you took into consideration. We are not saying do everything we asked for. We understand that every department has its own mandate. Agriculture will look after agriculture and DFO will look after fisheries. Every department has their own mandate and parameters but how can we fit and work together within those parameters?

One of the best practices I have seen was through the senior provincial-federal councils coming together with an official languages component. Across the country, there used to be senior federal councils with funds to look after official languages. In some cases, it is ongoing.

Ms. Bossé: I would like to add to that. One of the most recent good examples of consultation is with Canadian Heritage in the design of the new language program after the old program was abolished. The FCFA was the representative of all francophone communities and sat down with Canadian Heritage at all stages of the design of the program within the parameters that had been established by the department. We were there at every stage and Minister Moore launched the program in September. That is a very good example to copy.

The Deputy Chair: We will make sure that the minister knows that you agreed.

Senator Seidman: I look forward to reading your document, The Official Languages Act: A New Approach — A New Vision. In this document, which you introduced to us and précised today, you recommend that the government introduce comprehensive regulations for the full implementation of the Official Languages Act, including Part VII.

Former Justice Bastarache was asked about the government bringing in regulations to implement Part VII. He said that it was possible but would be difficult because the regulations would have to be department-specific and program- specific.

We have also heard from the Commissioner of Official Languages, who said that he favours an approach other than regulation. He favours a pragmatic approach that involves demonstration of cooperation and positive measures between a federal institution and a particular community.

I would appreciate you sharing your comments with us about these opinions.

Ms. Kenny: The regulation we are talking about is regulation on Part IV of the Official Languages Act, which is the famous 5 per cent; if you are more than a 5 per cent minority group, then you are entitled to services in French. There is regulation in place. It is based on the statistics. It is a static statistic, and communities and times have changed. The different parts of the act have been compartmentalized. Part IV says service to the public; Part V is federal employees' right to work in their language of choice in designated areas; and Part VII is about enhancing linguistic minority communities.

You cannot enhance linguistic minority communities if you are not providing them with service; and you cannot provide them with service if you are not giving the employees the tools to provide the service in French. We are saying rather than compartmentalizing the different parts, let us have one universal regulation that will link all these parts together.

The different parts of the act are interdependent, and that is what we are saying. We should not compartmentalize all these parts of the act, but rather have one.

I agree with former Justice Bastarache and the Commissioner of Official Languages that creating regulation has its downfalls. What we are going to do is say the basic minimum you need to offer is this. The fear with that is that people will stick to the strict minimum.

The Official Languages Act was a society act. It was created to give every Canadian citizen equal status under the act. We are saying that we need to look at the act as a whole, go back to the main objectives of the act, and not necessarily create regulations for every instance of the act — guidelines, certainly, but not regulation for Part VII.

We are not advocating regulation for Part VII. We are advocating a review of the current regulations that are under Part IV of the act.

Senator Seidman: Basically, your regulation involves only Part IV; is that correct?

Ms. Kenny: We need to look at Part IV. There is only regulation on Part IV right now. That is what we are saying; we need to look at the complex 5 per cent minority based on a given area that is completely based on the department's service area. We are not advocating that we create regulation under Part VII.

[Translation]

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: I found your recommendations very interesting.

I have two questions. Could you explain the steps you have taken to convince government representatives, parliamentarians and federal institutions of the merits of your new vision?

Ms. Kenny: We released the document or we made it public last week. Following the press conference we held last week, we met with Minister Moore and Mr. Layton. We also appeared before the House of Commons committee. We are here today, and we are giving several interviews. We have received requests to meet with various ministers, including the Minister of Justice and the President of Treasury Board. We are continuing our political processes on the plan, and we have also met with the Commissioner of Official Languages.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Precisely, is the Commissioner of Official Languages in agreement with this new vision?

Ms. Kenny: As the document is quite recent, what we have heard from the Commissioner's office is that they are interested in what we have to say but that it requires very detailed analysis.

We do not come up with very concrete solutions and say, "This is what you have to do and this is what we have to do.'' It is the plan for an entire society. The various key stakeholders, including this committee, the House of Commons committee, the ministers responsible and the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, must all sit down and explore the various options we are putting forward.

We did not show up saying "Change the regulations to this and that.'' It did not make sense for us to do that. I must admit that, as a non-profit organization, we have neither the resources nor the expertise to do that. However, it is clear to us that changes need to be made. It is unbelievable that 40 years later, we are not able to offer bilingual services in three-quarters of our offices.

Senator Pépin: People are working in silos. You are suggesting they come together to find a more appropriate solution.

Ms. Kenny: Exactly.

Senator Pépin: Are federal institutions meeting their obligations with respect to the implementation of Part VII of the Official Languages Act? Are these institutions performing better? Which ones are performing better, and which ones are performing worse? And what is missing for them to be able to implement Part VII?

Ms. Kenny: We stated it in our document. There are departments and crown corporations where things are going very well. I cannot name them off the top of my head. There are others where things are really not going well. Things are a mess. Each department is left to its own devices. We say let us work together. In the past 40 years, there has been a lack of administrative and political will. I am not blaming any particular government.

People working on the ground have a great deal of initiative and are stalled by people who are higher up. In other cases, there is a will in the upper echelons, but there might not necessarily be a desire to do things at a lower level. I must say that if the desire does not come from above, things will not work, regardless of the degree of initiative or intelligence of employees making suggestions. Things have to start from above. There needs to be a clear and solid commitment. This is the law, and we need to apply it in its entirety.

Senator Pépin: As you were speaking, I noted the Privy Council and the various departments that would report to it, such as Canadian Heritage, Justice Canada and Treasury Board. Below, there would be the Commissioner of Official Languages working on this, as well.

Ms. Kenny: Yes. To us, it is clear that they must keep the powers they currently have. The Commissioner of Official Languages must remain the ombudsman, and carry out studies and present reports. That role is essential. However, once he has investigated and said, "You violated the act,'' he should be able to come back and say "You must take X or Y corrective action.'' And if that is not done, he should have the power to impose sanctions. So, we are talking about progressive authority.

Senator Pépin: When we talk about what is currently missing, would you say that there basically needs to be more teamwork for Part VII to be implemented?

Ms. Kenny: Absolutely.

Ms. Bossé: I would like to add one point. Clearly, when we talk of changes in governance, the role of Privy Council, it requires action from the Prime Minister's Office. We would like to see a clear desire for change on that level. We will, of course, be meeting with Minister Moore again. We have asked for a meeting with Prime Minister Harper, and we hope to receive a positive response to continue this dialogue we began almost two weeks ago.

Senator Pépin: You work on the ground, so you know what is going on.

The Deputy Chair: I would like to say something about your last statement, Ms. Kenny. When you speak of giving the commissioner this authority, in other words, to require corrective measures and to sanction institutions, what type of sanctions are you thinking of?

Ms. Kenny: There could be a variety of sanctions.

The Deputy Chair: That is why I was asking the question.

Ms. Kenny: Yes. We refer to exploring options; we did not look into how this would translate into concrete terms.

For instance, in Nunavut, there is an Official Languages Act because there are three official languages in Nunavut. If it were proven that someone had contravened or discriminated in terms of official languages, that person would be subject to a fine, which would go into the francophone community fund — if it was a francophone issue — to promote the community and language rights.

The Deputy Chair: Very well. Let's continue.

[English]

Senator Jaffer: I want to follow up with a question concerning modern, electronic facilities. I do not know why we cannot find a way for people to access government faster and find ways to communicate. Is your organization looking at more creative ways to do consultation?

Ms. Kenny: We are not; the obligation to consult is not ours. Of course, we are in a participative consultation. We are in a not-for-profit organization; all our members are not-for-profit and our resources are stretched to the maximum. I do not want to talk money, but it is quite impossible. We do not have the resources to do this kind of work.

The obligation rests with the government. We are happy to be consulted, and we are happy to use whatever is chosen as long as it works for them and for us. As you said, there is no reason why we cannot do it, whether it is electronically or by any other means. However, there are certainly ways of consulting with the communities.

[Translation]

Senator Tardif: Before I ask my question, I would like to some clarification on a question asked by Senator Seidman.

If I understand correctly you are suggesting updating the regulations for Part IV, which deals with services to the public in the Official Languages Act. However, you are not in favour of adding regulations, as provided for in section 41 of Part VII of the Official Languages Act.

Ms. Kenny: That is not what we are asking for. As I stated earlier, we want all-purpose regulations that take into consideration the various components of the act.

That could translate into regulations with respect to that part, but that is not what we are proposing. We are cautious of the fact that, by creating regulations, as was done with the famous 5-per cent concept, it would lead to the bare minimum. And for this type of plan for a great society such as Canada's, we should not be content with the bare minimum. Our concern, therefore, is that, by adding regulations to Part VII, people would choose to comply with the bare minimum. We would like to see the various parts of the act working interdependently. To achieve vitality, we have to offer services, and if we want to offer services, we have to give employees the tools to do just that.

However, under Part IV, it is already there; you represent 5 per cent and you receive the service, otherwise you do not. And that is that. These regulations are both complex and static, and they do not take into consideration our reality.

Senator Tardif: I fully agree with the need to see the Official Languages Act as a whole because the various parts complement one another.

I come from Alberta, and if we were to consider that services should be offered only where 5 per cent of the population is francophone, it would mean that no services would be offered in French because, in actual fact, the level is 2 per cent, except perhaps in some regions. Even then, I do not think it would be 5 per cent even with the province's 5 French-language school boards and 30 French-language schools.

My question has to do with Part VII and "positive measures.''

In your negotiations or discussions with the departments, have you heard what their definition of positive measures is?

Ms. Kenny: No. After the act was amended, briefing sessions were held. I will tell you straightaway; I worked in the federal government, and I managed a national official languages program within a federal crown corporation. When the act was amended, I, myself, attended a number of workshops where they talked a lot about what a "positive measure'' was. No two definitions were the same, depending on the stakeholder. So there is no common definition. I would say to you that, today, our departments do not agree as to what a francophone is.

Earlier on, Senator Jaffer asked for my definition of a francophone. My definition may be different from Ms. Bossé's, and our departments have not defined what a francophone is or what a "positive measure'' is and what that means.

To me, a "positive measure'' is decided upon with a community. The department should meet with the community, state its mandate and establish what can be done within the community and how to work with it. As far as I am concerned, those would be positive measures. But each department is left to its own devices as to this part of the act.

Senator Tardif: Do you believe that Canadian Heritage, which is responsible for the coordination of the Official Languages Act, is playing a leadership role in this definition? What about Justice Canada? Have you heard opinions on that? What do you think?

Ms. Kenny: Definitely. Canadian Heritage was one of the first to provide a definition or flesh out Part VII of the act to some degree. We heard from experts at the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, Justice Canada and several others. But again, it is all quite vague. And if it is vague for someone like myself, who used to manage a national program, imagine how vague it must be to someone in a region who is supposed to promote the development of communities.

It is still not very concrete. It is not very well known either. Within the same department, I am unsure that you would find people to agree on one definition.

Senator Tardif: What do you suggest to remedy this situation?

Ms. Kenny: Meetings and consultations with the communities. The communities do not just want the departments to provide services; they want to work with the departments to know what projects could be undertaken within these departments' parameters. You would not expect the Department of Agriculture to go fishing in Regina, but we would want it to meet with the community, in the context of its mandate, and see whether there may be projects that can be undertaken. Perhaps there are none, but I would bet that there are projects the department and the community can work together on. I mean true partnerships and cooperation.

Senator Tardif: People are telling us that there should be awareness-raising workshops with staff, but you are saying that is not enough, that there needs to be consultation.

However, is the effect that the decisions will have on communities being considered in the consultation process?

It is all well and good to say that you have consulted communities, but the second step would be to take into account what the communities have said.

Ms. Kenny: That is why there is an entire part of our document that deals with consultations. Not only do we want to be consulted, but we would like some accountability as to how the community consultations were taken into account.

Again, make no mistake, once we have been consulted and we have said one thing, that does not mean everyone must say the same. But we want our consultations to be taken into consideration. And if some aspects are not taken into consideration, we would like an explanation as to why not and the reasoning behind the suggestions that were or were not chosen.

Ms. Bossé: Currently, there is no accountability as to the impact of programs and services. Under the roadmap, the management and evaluation framework provides for an evaluation of the delivery of actions, but not an assessment of the impact of these initiatives.

Clearly, at the beginning, in our first meetings with Canadian Heritage and the Official Languages Secretariat, communities were not a part of the evaluation process and were not among the stakeholders who participated in the evaluation process.

Today we are. It is just that these meetings need to be held. A first meeting between the communities and the departments was to have taken place this month, but it has been postponed to spring 2010.

I think it will be the beginning of a definition of these "positive measures'' and evaluation frameworks. And then perhaps we could discuss performance indicators. I think that is a start and we are anxiously awaiting a date.

[English]

Senator Seidman: You say that substantive equality of English and French, the promotion of linguistic duality throughout the country and support for development and enhancement of official language minorities must become values genuinely anchored in Canadian society.

I must say I think about this with the head and heart of a member of the English language minority community in Quebec, so I have enormous empathy.

In Quebec, we have the Quebec Community Groups Network, which is an organization quite similar to yours. Have you had discussions with them about your new vision? Are you working on this with them?

Ms. Kenny: We did talk to them before and they received a document as well. We were quite aware that they are our English counterpart in Quebec and this affects them as well. However, I must say that we have had a tendency to think of the Official Languages Act as the "francophone act'' and the "outside-of-Quebec francophone act'' because we are the people who complain the most about not receiving the services provided for under the Official Languages Act.

I would venture to say that most of the complaints to the commissioner's office are from francophones. Yes, we have been talking to them, absolutely, on this and other projects.

[Translation]

Senator Mockler: I must say I am confused, but that would not be a first. The reason is that I find there is a disconnect when you speak of a lack of administrative will. I looked at the document you made public last week; were all your members consulted on that document?

Ms. Kenny: Yes, absolutely.

Senator Mockler: What process did you use?

Ms. Kenny: To consult our members? The process was led by a committee appointed by our members, and the document was adopted by the board, in other words, our membership as a whole.

Senator Mockler: On page 20 of your document, in the conclusion, you state "survey after survey, the majority of Canadians say that having two official languages is an asset for their country. It is difficult to understand why we have not made a greater effort to take advantage of this reality.'' It is true that it is an asset. I fully agree with you. Are there regions in Canada that make greater use of this asset than others?

Ms. Kenny: French?

Senator Mockler: The asset of having two official languages, of being bilingual.

Ms. Kenny: There is increasing openness, as we have said. If you look at the ministerial conference, it involves all ministers responsible for services in French, in the provinces and territories. The provinces and territories have shown great awareness and openness to working with francophone communities. There really is a minister responsible for services in French in each province and territory, including Quebec, of course, but in Quebec, it is more intergovernmental. In the other provinces and territories, there is this openness, absolutely.

Senator Mockler: Are there certain regions in the country or certain departments in certain provinces where it is easier than in others?

Ms. Kenny: At the provincial level? I would say that we have challenges in every province, but we have seen some great successes as well. To name just a few initiatives, in Saskatchewan, there is a committee that deals with all French services and reports directly to the minister responsible. It is a committee that reports to Cabinet, in the end, to ensure the implementation of French services according to the policy in Saskatchewan.

That is just one example; we referred to Nunavut earlier on as having quite a solid official languages act. That is another example where things are going very well. There are regions where it remains a challenge.

Senator Mockler: Last question, have you drawn up a history of the successes in the various provinces over the last 40 years?

Ms. Kenny: With the provincial government?

Senator Mockler: In cooperation with the federal government.

Ms. Kenny: I would say no; we have not, but the territorial and provincial stakeholder organizations certainly have. They could give you a very good overview of their progress.

Another good example, which would be an avenue to explore in this context, is what is being done in terms of services in Manitoba, where the federal, provincial and municipal governments are working together to provide bilingual service centres, a comfort zone. That is a very good example of a federal, provincial and municipal initiative.

Senator Mockler: Would it be possible for your organization to draw up a description of what each province is doing, and perhaps we could borrow, as you say, from Manitoba. I know they borrowed from New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island; and I know Nova Scotia, as well. But would it be possible for you to identify what is happening in other provinces to allow whichever government is in power at the federal level to see exactly what the inputs and outputs are for the francophone community?

Ms. Kenny: Yes, we certainly could ask our members for that. We would have to establish exactly what we want to measure and why. What information are you looking for and what would it be used for?

Senator Mockler: It is just an observation, and I will end on this point; on page 8, you say that francophones receive services in French in only 75 per cent of offices. What we want is 100 per cent.

Ms. Kenny: That is at the federal level, not the provincial.

Senator Mockler: That is why I asked the question earlier on, to be of service to the federal government and vice versa.

Ms. Kenny: I understand.

Senator Mockler: The reason is that there is often a disconnect. I think that you, Ms. Kenny, as an observer, can play that role.

Ms. Kenny: Absolutely; point well taken, thank you.

The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much, Senator Mockler. The time we had for this meeting is now up. I would like to very sincerely thank Ms. Bossé and Ms. Kenny. Keep up your good work. What you have shared with us today will certainly end up in our upcoming report. Thank you very much Honourable senators, this meeting is adjourned.

(The committee adjourned.)


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