Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 21 - Evidence - Meeting of June 10, 2013
OTTAWA, Monday, June 10, 2013
The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages met this day at 5
p.m. to continue its study on best practices for language policies and
second-language learning in a context of linguistic duality or plurality.
Senator Maria Chaput (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on Official
Languages. I am Senator Maria Chaput, from Manitoba, chair of the committee.
Before we begin, I would like the senators to introduce themselves.
Senator Champagne: Good afternoon. My name is Andrée Champagne,
and I am a senator from Quebec.
Senator Mockler: Good afternoon, I am Percy Mockler, a senator
from New Brunswick.
Senator Poirier: Good afternoon, I am Rose-May Poirier, a senator
from New Brunswick.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Good afternoon, my name is Suzanne
Fortin-Duplessis, and I am a senator from Quebec. Thank you for accepting
Senator McIntyre: Good afternoon; Senator Paul McIntyre, from New
Senator De Bané: Good afternoon. I am Pierre De Bané, a senator
Senator Tardif: Good afternoon, I am Claudette Tardif, a senator
Senator Robichaud: Good afternoon; Fernand Robichaud, senator from
Saint-Louis-de-Kent, New Brunswick.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Joining us today is Jocelyne Lalonde, the executive director of the
Association des universités de la francophonie canadienne and of the
Consortium national de formation en santé.
Ms. Lalonde asked to appear before the committee, in order to present the
point of view of both organizations as part of the study on best practices
for language policies and second-language learning in a context of
linguistic duality or plurality.
Ms. Lalonde, on behalf of the committee members, welcome. The committee
has asked you to make a presentation of no more than seven minutes. I would
ask you to go ahead with that now, and the senators will follow with their
Jocelyne Lalonde, Executive Director, Association des universités de
la francophonie canadienne and Consortium national de formation en santé:
Good afternoon and thank you very much. On behalf of the board of directors
of the Association des universités de la francophonie canadienne and the
board of directors of the Consortium national de formation en santé, I would
like to thank you for your invitation. You have given me an opportunity to
share with you some information and joint recommendations from the two
organizations for which I am the executive director and oversee the existing
policies, challenges and best practices to promote learning French as a
second official language of Canada.
First of all, I would like to give you a brief overview of the AUFC and
the CNFS. I will then share some information with you about today's study
and the role the members of the AUFC and the CNFS play in this area, and I
will conclude with a few recommendations.
The AUFC includes 14 francophone or bilingual universities in seven
provinces outside Quebec. The programs offered by these institutions promote
learning, teaching and university research in French and, as a result,
improve the vitality and influence of Canadian francophone communities.
The AUFC contributes to the human, cultural and economic development of
Canada, by strengthening Canada's francophonie through quality and
accessible university training throughout the country. Every year, over
27,000 students enrol in the 755 programs offered in French at our member
universities. This critical mass of students is very important because it is
imperative to develop a bilingual labour force at a time when Canada is
preparing to play a larger role in the international economy. Each year, our
universities confer diplomas on close to 6,000 highly qualified and
The CNFS is a group of 11 colleges and universities, 7 of which are also
members of AUFC, that offer programs in French in various health
The CNFS also has a national secretariat in Ottawa, which plays an
important leadership and coordination role. The CNFS helps improve access to
quality health services in French in francophone minority communities by
training francophone and bilingual health care professionals and through
related research, favouring the well-being and development of those
Since 2003, the 100 health care programs supported by the CNFS have made
it possible to train over 4,000 health care professionals capable of
providing quality services in French to millions of francophones in a
minority situation and, in doing so, have improved and strengthened health
care for all Canadians.
I will now move on to the topic that has brought us here today, the study
of practices to support learning French as a second language among young
people and immigrants, as well as to ensure Canada's official languages are
Over 5,500 students enrolled in our member universities come from
immersion programs. As recent statistics show, knowledge of French as a
second language seems to decrease over time in the absence of a post-secondary
experience in French, which is nonetheless accessible throughout Canada.
This observation confirms the importance of doing more to promote post-secondary
programs in French across Canada, as well as putting in place the
infrastructures required to encourage students to continue studying at the
post-secondary level in a program in French or in an immersion program to
help their bilingualism take root.
Currently, the support programs and services offered to immersion
students and French-speaking immigrants vary from institution to institution
and region to region in Canada.
In general, our member institutions are active in a number of sectors.
These include providing language training in French and English; pedagogical
support like tutoring and mentoring for immersion students and immigrants;
retraining, meaning training to upgrade skills, particularly in the health
care sector for immigrants who arrive from other countries with health care
training; orientation and employability services related to their training
mandate, such as the program we have at the CNFS that is offered to health
care professionals trained abroad. We have clinical training, ongoing
training and professional development in French, and our regular post-secondary
I would now like to talk briefly about the particular role of post-secondary
education in immigration. In recent years, the colleges and universities of
Canada's francophonie have taken in more and more international students and
have offered various training and employability programs to French-speaking
immigrants who have settled in francophone communities. The demographics of
the student population of our member institutions have changed a great deal
over the years, and the student population is more diverse. The support
services that are offered must be adapted to the needs of the immigrant
student population, whose language skills and cultures are more varied.
Canadian francophone colleges and universities are well placed to
encourage the socio-economic and cultural integration of French-speaking
immigrants by improving the programs and services offered to new immigrants.
They all provide information, training and services to support them in their
new life as Canadian students, but also activities so they can have a
francophone cultural experience.
Our two main recommendations to improve the current situation when it
comes to learning a second official language are as follows. First, we hope
that your committee will recommend in its report that the Canadian
government increase its support for the French-language education system and
immersion programs in French as a second language across Canada at the
primary and secondary level, but also by including the post-secondary level
to ensure the continuity and maintenance of language skills.
To that end, with the federal government's support, the member
institutions of the CNFS and the AUFC could then increase the number of
students enrolled in their programs by informing more Canadians, including
the immigrant population, that French-language programs exist so that
everyone knows that they can get an education in French from the primary to
the post-secondary level.
Currently, we mainly talk about primary and secondary, but very rarely do
we talk about post-secondary. We hope that your committee recommends that
the federal government increase funding to strengthen the capacity and
infrastructures of smaller francophone post-secondary institutions outside
Quebec. That would make it possible to put in place more services and tools
to receive and support Canadian students in immersion, international
students and immigrants during their studies in French and to ensure that
they can gain a sound mastery of French and the French culture.
With the government's support, the AUFC, the CNFS and our members can
continue to play a central role in promoting learning official languages,
French as a second language and French immersion throughout the country. The
CNFS and the AUFC have ambitious goals, but they are essential to promoting
Canada's francophonie, to developing francophone minority communities and to
strengthening Canada's official languages.
There is significant need when it comes to French-language education, and
the planned federal contributions are essential to deploying a French-language
education system, from the primary level to the post-secondary level, so
that Canada can have a highly qualified bilingual labour force.
Once again, thank you for inviting us here today. I will be pleased to
answer your questions.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Lalonde.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Ms. Lalonde, a few weeks ago, we heard
from the Canadian Association of Immersion Teachers and the Association of
Second Language Teachers. They told us about the difficulties in recruiting
staff and I would like to know whether this is an observation you have made.
Ms. Lalonde: They were likely talking about immersion teachers at
the primary and secondary levels, which is the purpose of their association.
Immersion is very different at the post-secondary level than it is at the
primary and secondary levels, in the sense that every university and college
has programs that vary from place to place. For example, there are programs
where students who come from an immersion program are expected to take at
least four of their courses in French, as well as language training to help
them. The needs of the instructors are very different at the post-secondary
level than at the primary and secondary levels. I could not necessarily
answer your question in that respect. However, I know that a number of our
universities train teachers who will work in primary and secondary schools
in immersion classes.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Have you seen a change in recent years
in the socio-demographic profile of the student population in Canada's
Ms. Lalonde: Absolutely. There has been a huge change in terms of
the students who enrol in our AUFC member universities. First of all, the
universities are working increasingly to engage international students. I
can tell you that at the University of Moncton, for example, between 18 and
20 per cent of the student population is made up of international students.
At Glendon College in Toronto, 65 per cent of their students come from
immersion programs. So the student population is quite diversified depending
on the region.
At the University of Ottawa, the student population is truly
international. There are Franco-Ontarian and Franco- Canadian populations,
but the university has very high targets for the coming years for
international students and immigrants. Each university has established
targets like that. So they need to adapt their programs to reflect that
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Have you noticed any differences between
boys and girls? Are there more boys who enrol or more girls?
Ms. Lalonde: I cannot tell you in terms of immersion and
immigrants, but without having the exact figures, more and more girls are
enrolling in the various programs in our universities. It certainly depends
on the programs. Some programs still attract more boys than girls, but when
it comes to health sciences, for example, there are more girls than boys.
Generally speaking, more girls have been enrolling in university and college
than boys for a few years now.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Thank you, Ms. Lalonde.
Senator Tardif: Good afternoon, Ms. Lalonde. I am quite familiar
with the excellent work done by the Consortium national de la formation en
santé and the Association des universités de la francophonie canadienne. I
have had the great pleasure of working as the head of a French-language
post-secondary institution and have seen the excellent results that these
two associations have achieved over the years.
While I was there, the problem was always — and I believe this is still
the case — the capacity of our francophone post-secondary institutions
outside Quebec to attract students, to recruit a sufficient number of
students. It is still a challenge, I believe, because a large number of
students do not know that they can continue their post-secondary studies in
French at these institutions, which are in seven Canadian provinces. What
are you doing as an association to try to recruit more students, not only at
the international level, but also from within Canada?
Ms. Lalonde: The AUFC, which represents 14 institutions, has an
action plan in terms of its visibility and the visibility of the
universities it represents. For example, we are working closely with the
Canadian Association of Immersion Teachers, which appeared before you. We
are also working closely with Canadian Parents for French. In terms of
immersion programs, we are working very closely with these people to reach
out to parents and let them know what is available at the post-secondary
level in French.
We are also part of the round table on education. This round table brings
together all the national education organizations, from the primary level to
the post-secondary level. Through these meetings, we work with the
Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones to connect with
French schools across Canada and to promote post-secondary education in
We are becoming increasingly known in these areas. There is still a lot
of work to do to inform parents and young people, because parents still have
a big influence on their children when the time comes to decide where they
will do their post-secondary education. There are some myths that persist,
and we must work hard to show the excellence of programs that exist in
French here. The universities do a lot of promotion across Canada. We have
given you a document describing the programs offered at the various
universities. We have launched a website that gives us some visibility.
We are working very hard to develop and do the necessary promotion to get
the universities recognized.
Senator Tardif: Are you also considering scholarship programs and
student exchange programs to attract and recruit young people?
Ms. Lalonde: Absolutely. At the moment, there are scholarship
programs in every university for francophone students. We are very pleased
that the federal government is supporting us for a second year and that it
is funding up to 25 scholarships for immersion students. Over the past two
years, 25 immersion high-school students have had access to scholarships for
the first semester of their post-secondary education.
Senator Tardif: I have another question. Are those scholarships
part of the roadmap or are they from another program?
Ms. Lalonde: No, they are not from the roadmap. Most of our
scholarships are offered by universities to first-year students in specific
programs. There are various scholarships and foundations that provide
funding. The funding for the immersion scholarship I am talking about comes
from Canadian Heritage, not the roadmap.
Senator Tardif: Based on the amounts disclosed in the 2013-2018
roadmap, are there investments that support the work that you do?
Ms. Lalonde: I think the investments that support our work in
post-secondary education come to us through agreements with the provinces.
At the moment, negotiations are under way between the federal government,
the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada and the provinces.
There is more to come, but the amount in this envelope is the same for
the next few years.
Senator De Bané: Ms. Lalonde, your document says that almost 6,000
graduates from various universities that are members of these associations
are well trained, bilingual, and so on. Do these 6,000 graduates a year find
work as immersion instructors?
The various provincial governments have programs to stimulate demand in
this area where the 6,000 graduates find jobs. But demand could be increased
significantly if those courses were properly promoted. Could you comment on
Ms. Lalonde: First, university graduates work in a wide range of
areas, such as training and education, but all other areas as well. Those
graduates do not usually have a hard time finding jobs. If we look at the
statistics and various studies, it is quite clear that people with post-secondary
education who are fully bilingual are usually in high demand on the labour
There is no denying that there is room for improvement in the promotion
of our programs. We have the capacity to increase the number of students
that we can accommodate. We need to continue to work to promote the
importance of post-secondary education in French for everyone, be it
francophones, immersion students, international students or immigrants in
Senator De Bané: Are you satisfied with the contribution of the
provincial governments in promoting the French language? According to the
figures I have, it seems that, with the exception of Alberta, the number of
students in French immersion is going down. Am I right or not?
Ms. Lalonde: Are you talking about French immersion students in
elementary and secondary schools?
Senator De Bané: Yes. The number is going up in Alberta, but it is
dropping in the other provinces.
Ms. Lalonde: I would not be able to give you any information about
the primary and secondary levels. At the post- secondary level, the number
of students is going up, because the universities are increasingly setting
up support services for people who come from immersion programs. We must
remember that, when they start post-secondary education, it is their first
time in a class with francophones, because in secondary school immersion,
anglophones are the ones who take the immersion classes, whereas at
university, they are often in classes with more francophones and fewer
anglophones. Every university has support services to help those people.
However, there are not as many services as we would like. They are available
in major universities such as the University of Ottawa, which has a very
good program for immersion students. However, in small universities, it is
very difficult to provide all those services without the support of the
Senator De Bané: What is your personal opinion on the best age for
a child to be exposed to a second language? Some say that it would have to
be before they turn 11 so that they can eventually have an excellent command
of both languages. Others say the opposite that they must not be exposed too
soon to a second language.
Ms. Lalonde: I am not an expert in the field, but I know from my
personal experience that the younger a child is, the easier it is for him or
her to learn a second language. It is often a lot easier for a child to
start in immersion in elementary school to learn a second language.
However, I know someone at Université Sainte-Anne who took French as a
second language, not even immersion, and is currently teaching at the
university. That might be an exception to the rule, but that is my answer to
Senator De Bané: If you had one recommendation for us this evening,
what would it be? In your view, what is the most important thing to keep in
Ms. Lalonde: Over the past several years, we have talked a lot
about immersion in elementary and secondary schools. However, we have not
talked much about continuing our studies in French after secondary school,
especially for those who have been in immersion.
If we want to have a bilingual workforce, those people must be able to
continue their studies in French after secondary school, otherwise we
clearly see that, five years after they graduate from secondary school in
immersion, if they do not continue, they start losing their ability to speak
If we earmark funding for immersion programs, we should look at the
importance along the education continuum and start talking about immersion
from the first year to the end of post-secondary studies.
The second important thing is that we must also meet the needs of
international students and immigrants. To do so, we must develop programs
that will allow them to adapt to a new reality, a new country and a new
Senator McIntyre: Recently I read in a daily newspaper that there
are currently more allophones than francophones in Montreal schools. In
other words, the number of allophones is now higher than the number of
francophones. In the Montreal school system, 42.6 per cent of students are
allophones, whereas 36.7 per cent are francophones.
This reality forces teachers to come up with new ways to keep French in
the classroom. What is even more worrisome is that the parents of allophone
students do not speak French at home. Some school boards are providing
French courses to parents to reverse this trend.
In your view, are there other ways to reverse this trend and are our
post-secondary schools facing the same problem?
Ms. Lalonde: You are talking about the current situation in
Montreal specifically. It is important to find a way to ensure that people
can speak French in our francophone communities outside Quebec.
You talked about the involvement of parents and I believe that education
cannot take place only in school. At the primary and secondary levels,
parents must be able to provide opportunities for students to be successful
in the French language.
The school system must also be able to require students to speak in
French when they are at school. At the post- secondary level, the students'
language skills must be assessed when they arrive to be able to propose
French courses to them. It all depends on their language skills. That would
enable them to acquire French-language skills, to speak French at an
acceptable level and to take French courses that will ensure their success.
Most of our universities assess students, determine their training needs
in French and the students must take those courses to stay at the university.
Senator McIntyre: Usually, the universities of the Canadian
francophonie target various francophile immigrant groups. How do those
various groups interact with each other in and outside the classroom? Does
everything go smoothly or are there conflicts as to the language spoken?
Ms. Lalonde: I have never heard of any issues at school board
meetings when all the university presidents attend. They have never talked
about social difficulties, since you are talking about various student
groups that are on the same university campus.
However, I am sure that the diversity of people goes hand in hand with a
diversity of practices. Conflict can often stem from misunderstanding each
other. I think it is important to enable young people to really get to know
their culture to be able to avoid misconceptions of another group, because I
feel that is how problems can arise.
Senator McIntyre: In francophone post-secondary institutions, I
would like to think that students usually speak in French outside the
Ms. Lalonde: Absolutely. You must know that some universities are
exclusively francophone, like Université de Moncton. In addition, some
universities such as the University of Ottawa are more bilingual.
Université de Hearst is also fully francophone; the Campus Saint-Jean of
University of Alberta is a francophone campus in a large anglophone
university. It sort of depends on the communities in which people live,
whether they are predominantly anglophone, which is more often the case in
western Canada and perhaps also in some regions in New Brunswick.
I think it is more difficult when you live in a predominantly anglophone
region. If the proportion of francophones is a little higher, it is more
likely that French will be more present in the university.
Senator Poirier: Ms. Lalonde, thank you for being here this
evening. Of the students who were in immersion, what percentage will pursue
post-secondary education at a French-language university?
Ms. Lalonde: I do not have the percentage and the number right
now. I think there are about 5,500 students in our universities. I would
have to check and send you that information.
Senator Poirier: It would be interesting to know how many students
come from an anglophone family and how many were in the French immersion
program in elementary school and decided to go to a fully francophone
Ms. Lalonde: I could get the number of immersion students who are
currently in secondary school. I could forward you that information, but I
know that there are 5,500 students right now. However, that is not the
number for one year necessarily because they might have been there for four
years as well. It is difficult to obtain the percentage, but I could provide
you with some numbers that would give you an idea.
Senator Poirier: Do you know if one province is better than
another? If so, what does that province do to encourage immersion students
to go to a francophone university?
Ms. Lalonde: That depends on where the university is, not on the
university itself. For instance, Toronto is quite anglophone, but it has
many francophones. Glendon College has a good percentage of students from
immersion programs and it is the only college where it is possible to take
courses in French.
In Nova Scotia, the Université Sainte-Anne is very appealing to immersion
students. There is also the Campus Saint-Jean in Alberta. Université de
Saint-Boniface also attracts a significant number of immersion students.
However, the Université de Moncton has a much lower percentage of
immersion students. In fully francophone universities, the number of
immersion students is also lower.
Senator Poirier: Could you forward those figures to the clerk?
Ms. Lalonde: Which figures would you like?
Senator Poirier: I am interested in how many immersion students
decide to go on to post-secondary education and how many attend a
francophone university as opposed to an anglophone university.
Ms. Lalonde: I will see what I can do.
Senator Poirier: Here is my second question. We know there are
many francophone universities scattered across Canada. Do the students who
go to those universities come from around the world, not just Canada?
Ms. Lalonde: Yes, absolutely.
Senator Poirier: At the Université de Moncton, what is the
percentage of students who come from abroad and who go back to work in their
communities after they graduate?
Ms. Lalonde: Each university should be able to provide that
information, but I am not sure that universities know where all their
graduates work. I do not think the universities have that type of
information. I do not have those numbers. I can check, but I would be
surprised if the universities have that information.
Senator Poirier: You have talked about francophone and anglophone
universities, but also bilingual universities. Could you tell me what a
bilingual university is? What types of services does it provide?
Ms. Lalonde: A bilingual university might offer, for example, a
nursing science program completely in French and another nursing science
program completely in English. Universities of that kind offer programs in
various areas in English and in French.
Senator De Bané: Like the University of Ottawa.
Ms. Lalonde: The University of Ottawa offers most of its programs
in French and in English. Some people may decide to do two courses in French
and two courses in English. Others do not do everything in French but take
some programs, some courses, in English and some in French. Universities
like that offer both possibilities.
Senator Poirier: If you take a student, for example, who decides
to take most courses in English or French, do you know if his background is
French-speaking or rather English-speaking with an immersion program? Are
there any statistics along those lines?
Ms. Lalonde: No, not at all. It would also depend on the region.
In some regions where French is more in the minority, that student might
prefer to take some courses in English and some in French. But I am almost
certain that they do not have that data in the universities.
Senator Poirier: Does a bilingual university offer more choice,
more services, a bigger selection of courses, in the other language? For
example, does an anglophone student at a bilingual university have more
advantages or more programs in which they can take courses in French? And
the other way around, if a francophone wants to learn English?
Ms. Lalonde: Sure, because they are available at the same
university. But an anglophone student might decide to go to the University
of Ottawa because he likes the programs that their faculty offers in
English. It may be both. It may be someone who wants to take some courses in
French and others in English. It may be because such and such a program is
well regarded at such and such a university that offers it in English and he
wants to do it there. It may also because a university offers it in French.
Laurentian University in Sudbury offers programs in French and in English.
The programs are not always offered in both languages; some can be offered
strictly in French and others strictly in English.
Senator Poirier: If they are able to offer students a second
language, does that mean that their programs are more advanced, compared to
Ms. Lalonde: Not necessarily.
Senator Tardif: I would like just like to tell my colleague that,
at the Campus Saint-Jean of the University of Alberta, for example, in the
bachelor of health sciences and bachelor of business administration
programs, given the availability of human and financial resources, students
have to do two years in French and then two years in English. Those are both
considered bilingual programs. Clearly, if resources were sufficient to be
able to hire the necessary professors to offer all the courses in French, it
would be all in French. As that is not the case, an agreement was reached
with the main campus and students do half their courses in English and half
Senator Poirier: They really have to be bilingual.
Senator Tardif: For a number of them, English is the dominant
language and their challenge is with French. But for some, French is the
dominant language and the challenge comes in English. They need support
outside the classroom.
Senator Champagne: You were saying just now that the memorandum of
understanding between the federal government and the Council of Ministers of
Education, Canada just expired at the end of March and that they are in the
process of renegotiating it.
Ms. Lalonde: That is correct.
Senator Champagne: Have you been consulted during that
renegotiation? If not, do you expect to be consulted? Have you been asked
for your opinion?
Ms. Lalonde: The Association des universités de la francophonie
canadienne was not consulted about the negotiations that are now underway.
However, I feel that it is possible that some AUFC member universities,
through their rectors, certainly have links to their respective provincial
ministries and are able to talk about their needs.
Senator Champagne: We can but hope that postsecondary education
will still be among their priorities in the next agreement.
I have something else that I would like to discuss with you. Some
anglophone school children take immersion and others take basic French. Do
those who have taken basic French move on to postsecondary education in
French, or do they do so to a lesser extent? Can the two sets of results be
Ms. Lalonde: Some students with basic French education have moved
on to postsecondary education in French. But more immersion students do so.
In terms of their success, I could not answer that.
Senator Champagne: That is a pity. I really would like to know the
success rate of those who have just taken basic French. Because, basically,
all Canadians will win with French.
I do not know if you saw this in the paper two weeks ago: in France, a
number of universities are giving courses in English only. They say that
their graduates will be able to go anywhere in the world and their training
will be better if it is in English. That drives me absolutely nuts, but it
is still a fact. Your extensive work with health sciences reminds me of
someone we met once. I do not remember if Senator De Bané was on that trip
with the Assemblée des parlementaires de la Francophonie when we made a
quick stop in Louisiana.
I will always remember one young man — I could draw him if I had any
talent. He was in high school and must have been 16 or 17. As well as his
high school classes, he was learning French for two hours a day. He said
that, rather than going off to play music with the guys, he was taking
French courses because, when he graduated, he wanted to be a nurse.
I asked him if he had any particular reason for that choice. He said that
it was very simple: his grandmother spoke no English. They were Cajun; his
grandmother spoke only French and there were no nurses or doctors who did,
and we were in Lafayette. He said that, with the little he had learned in
his two hours a day for two years, he had to be her interpreter. And, for
me, if there is a time when you want someone to talk to you in your own
language, it is when you are ill.
If our dream is to have a bilingual workforce in our country, we have to
keep French. You can learn English anywhere, even though it is not always
spoken impeccably — English-speakers who speak our language do not speak it
impeccably either — but it would be good to have a bilingual workforce in
all areas, in health or in anything else.
Two years ago, I went to Montreal where they were celebrating the 50th
anniversary of the universities of the francophonie. There were a lot of
people from Canadian universities, but there were also a lot from
francophone universities all around the world, such as l'Université Senghor,
I think that we in Canada have every possibility to provide our young
people with opportunities to become bilingual, including by immersion. We
are still fighting the fight in Quebec, of course, although there has been
immersion. The small city of Saint-Lambert had it. At one stage, there was
immersion in both languages, English and French. There was immersion in the
street. The proof is that, two years after moving there, all the children
spoke both languages. But if we do what we can do, with the help of people
like you, I feel that we will be able to have bilingual Canadians.
When I listened to the interviews from the Olympic Games in Vancouver, I
realized that young anglophones from British Columbia, Alberta or Manitoba
often speak better French than the English spoken by Quebecers. Immersion
courses and basic French may not be enough, but we have to encourage them.
Ms. Lalonde: Absolutely.
Senator Champagne: Because, as you were telling us just now, it
really is those who did immersion in high school and are going into
university who are most tempted to do their postsecondary education in
French. Those who have only learned two or three poorly constructed
sentences in something resembling French will be less inclined to go to
university in French.
Ms. Lalonde: You know, the students who get to postsecondary level
and who are paying for their education want to do well, after all. It is
important for them to feel that they have the support of their universities
and then that they have the ability to be able to continue in French, and
immersion, at postsecondary level, since they do not want to jeopardize
their chances of success.
Senator Champagne: Let us hope that those negotiations go well and
that postsecondary education is always one of our education ministers'
Senator Mockler: Ms. Lalonde, Senator Tardif was saying earlier
that, at the Campus Saint-Jean, students enrolled in a bachelor's program in
health sciences, for example, do their first two years in French and their
last two years in English. Does that allow us to think that nurses, or other
people in the health care system, who can speak both official languages have
an advantage in getting jobs and better salaries?
Ms. Lalonde: First, I can tell you that the bilingual bachelor's
degree in nursing science at the Campus Saint-Jean is a very good program.
It is the only bilingual bachelor's program that exists in most of our
programs across the country. But nursing science degrees in French are
offered everywhere and 98 or 99 per cent of the francophone graduates of
those programs are bilingual because, in order to work in our situation, you
also have to be able to speak English.
I can tell you that people who are able to speak both languages are much
sought-after by employers. More and more, employers are recognizing how
important it is for French-speaking communities or individuals to be able to
have access to health services in French. In the last 10 years, there has
been a lot of awareness of this. We support 23 different health care
programs, from nursing to health care workers in seniors' homes, from
doctors and physiotherapists to paramedics, at both college and university
level. I must also say that, for CNFS' entire range of health-related
programs, the funding comes from the roadmap for official languages.
To answer Senator Tardif's question, if we are just talking about
postsecondary education in general, that funding does not come from the
roadmap. But the consortium's funding does come from the roadmap.
So the answer is yes, people trained in our programs find it very easy to
find jobs because they are in demand with employers.
Senator Mockler: According to a lot of recent research, learning a
second language can be beneficial in a number of aspects. That bachelor's
program is an example.
Could you give us other economic benefits from knowing both languages and
being able to provide services in French and English?
Ms. Lalonde: For our country of Canada, I feel that a bilingual
workforce is one that can function very well in a global economy such as the
one we have at the moment, where the government is signing economic
agreements with various countries. So I feel that, for the federal
government, which has been talking a lot about the importance of the economy
for several years, having a bilingual workforce is a very significant added
value for the global economy in which Canada has to position itself.
Senator Champagne: We are all going to want to learn Mandarin or
Ms. Lalonde: As a third language!
Senator Mockler: As a last comment, I would like to thank you for
the role you played in getting health courses at the Université de Moncton.
I know you played a major role; I was there.
I would like to add that I have only just found out that the president of
the Agence universitaire de la francophonie, Yvon Fontaine, is an Acadian.
He is doing an excellent job.
Ms. Lalonde: Yes, excellent.
Senator Mockler: I think that has to appear in our report. You are
doing an excellent job.
Senator Robichaud: He was from Saint-Louis.
Senator Mockler: Yvon Fontaine was from Saint-Louis. Thank you,
I was going to say that about 40 per cent of the students in the
administration faculty are from other countries. I also strongly recommend
that you take a look at the report called Canada, Bilingualism and Trade,
prepared by the Conference Board of Canada for RDÉE Canada, CEDEC and
Industry Canada. It concludes that language plays a central role in
commercial relationships. For example, in 2011, exports from Quebec and New
Brunswick to francophone countries were twice as high as could be expected
from their proportion of exports within our own country.
One last thing; could you give me your opinion about distance education?
It is often thought that we need to build infrastructures in order to
improve education in the country.
Ms. Lalonde: That is a very important point. Minority francophone
communities are very spread out and are often in rural areas. Distance
learning makes postsecondary education accessible to all and we really have
to develop it.
We do it a lot at the Consortium national de formation en santé because
we have entire programs offered by distance learning. In Nova Scotia, The
Université Sainte-Anne needed social workers. In health matters, it is
important for patients to be able to communicate with their caregivers in
the language they understand best. So Laurentian University in Ontario
offered a number of online courses that students could take from home. An
agreement was reached between the two universities, and 30 or so students
received a social work degree without having to leave the Baie Sainte-Marie.
More and more, those 14 universities are looking at distance education as
a way of working together to reduce costs and increase their offerings. As I
am sure you are aware, in some areas, there can be a shortage of professors
to teach certain programs. This is a situation that can perfectly well be
improved by university distance education programs.
We are currently implementing a mobility program all across Canada,
including Quebec. This will give students the opportunity of taking
semester-long courses at any of our universities, including those in Quebec.
It would be possible for teachers to go to another university for another
semester to provide their services. There would be the possibility of
conducting research at a pan-Canadian level, allowing researchers to work in
other universities. We are implementing the program and we are hoping to get
support from the federal government so that we can work together to improve
access to education for all.
Senator Mockler: Rather than investing in infrastructure?
Ms. Lalonde: We do not need any more infrastructure.
The Chair: Senator Mockler, you quoted a passage from a report;
could you give us its full title and where it came from?
Senator Mockler: I can get that to you; perhaps we should do what
is necessary to circulate it to all senators.
Senator Champagne: I do not know if you have read the report by
the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology that
was tabled in the Senate about a year or year and a half ago. They were
studying problems in First Nations' education. It is difficult in small
communities, but now they have the Internet, they have electricity, there
are satellites, and a lot of courses are accessible online. There has been a
lot of talk about it because it is one of the subjects that was studied in
depth by the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and
Technology. What you are telling us supplements that report and it should
convince our government to make an effort.
We are finding the same problems in health. Nurses working in the far
north often have no access to a doctor in the village where they are
located, but they can get information and ask for advice from a doctor
online. That is another form of distance education. What you are telling me
reminds me that I have worked on this committee for a number of months.
Senator Robichaud: I have a quick comment in support of what has
just been said about the importance of health care in French.
In New Brunswick, we have two networks: one operates in one language and
the other operates in the other language. But identical services are not
offered in the two languages. Some people sometimes have to go to the
network in the other language. A friend confided in me that, on occasion, he
had to act as an interpreter in a conversation between a doctor and a
patient. The patient was quite elderly and did not understand English very
well. We have talked about that before; when you feel ill, it is important
for you to be able to understand what you are being told.
You made two recommendations. You said that the Government of Canada
should increase its support for the French-language education system and you
also mentioned increased funding. How much are we talking about? What are
these resources? Is it a lot of money?
Ms. Lalonde: Personally, I do not think so. Just to respond to
your first example, I just want to say that is unacceptable to be doing
translation like that and that is why we are working hard to increase access
to health services in French.
Senator Robichaud: Let us not think that there was any ill will on
one side or the other. It was just the situation.
Ms. Lalonde: They simply did not have the staff they needed.
As to your second question about the amounts, to give you an example, we
have worked with CAIT and Canadian Parents for French. To get a little
funding, we have to look at the needs with students if they want to continue
their studies in French at postsecondary level, and what must be put in
place in our universities in order to meet those needs. We submitted a
funding request that was quite reasonable. Funds are very limited at the
moment, so, when we received a small amount from Canadian Heritage to launch
the project, we were very pleased.
But it would be good to have some seed funding; that is the hardest to
find. How do we get seed funding to develop the best practices in our
system? The University of Ottawa has good practices, the Université de
Saint-Boniface has good practices in support services. How do we help small
universities put those support services in place? We are not talking about
large amounts, just amounts that could make a major difference to
postsecondary studies. It could be done with a tiny amount, but I really
cannot give you any figures.
The Chair: We have now reached our second round. I have two
senators who wish to speak: Senator Tardif, followed by Senator
Senator Tardif: We have talked a lot today about students coming
from immersion programs and from basic French programs. It is important to
maintain a continuum of second-language teaching. However, it is equally
important to make sure that we keep our francophone students in minority
communities. It is important for those students to choose to remain and to
continue their studies in a francophone institution rather than one in which
they can do all their studies in English. It often depends on the range of
programs that they are offered.
We know that the CNFS has had excellent results; starting it in 2003 was
a good move. That is when universities got together to respond to the need
for health courses and programs in French. Our communities were demanding
health care in their own language. Nothing was in place to meet the needs of
In your opinion, are there other areas where there is a lack of
postsecondary programmes in French that can meet the needs of our
francophone minority communities and also our society?
Ms. Lalonde: I would just like to say that I did not put an
emphasis on francophone students because that was not today's topic; but it
is the priority for me. We must keep working to make sure that our
francophones are able to continue their postsecondary studies in French.
The roadmap for official languages also mentions justice. Justice is as
important as health. We are in a very vulnerable position there as well, and
we would not perhaps be asking for our services in French if we had someone
in front of us who could tell us if we would be charged with anything or
Some excellent work is being done at the moment, but we must continue and
increase the amount of education in justice-related areas and professions.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: I looked at all your programs of study
in health. Do you have a lot of young doctors, men or women, coming to learn
a second language or is that more in other technical areas, other sciences,
other forms of care?
Ms. Lalonde: In our health programs, most students are from our
own francophone communities who are continuing to study in French. Some
people clearly come from immersion programs. I could not give you exact
numbers, but in regions like the Université de Moncton, very few students in
health programs come from immersion. In western Canada, at the Campus
Saint-Jean and the Université de Saint-Boniface, in the nursing science
programs, 85 per cent of the students come from immersion programs. So it
varies a lot from one region to another.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Have you noticed whether there is a
shortage of doctors everywhere in Canada? In Quebec, there is a definite
shortage. We do not have enough doctors, but in other provinces, I do not
know. I have never really looked at it.
Ms. Lalonde: Doctors, including specialists, are needed all over
Canada. The important thing for us is to train a good number of doctors and
to increase the number of doctors who can provide health care services in
French. We have funding for medicine. That allows us to keep eight places
per year in the two programs offered in French outside Quebec. They are the
Centre de formation médicale de Nouveau Brunswick, in cooperation with the
Université de Sherbrooke, the Université de Moncton and the Government of
New Brunswick, and then at the medical faculties of the University of
Ottawa. The funding does not remove the costs for the students; we are
talking about basic funding. Students pay the same amount for their studies,
but with the funds from the federal government, we can have places set aside
for students from francophone communities who want to continue their studies.
So we have eight places per year for four years, which gives us 32 students
in each of the two locations, or 64 students each year. After four years,
they have to continue their studies in specialties, but we pay for the basic
Senator Robichaud: Do you do any follow-up with people who have
trained in both languages to find out if it becomes difficult for them to
keep working in both languages because of the language spoken in the
Ms. Lalonde: We are getting more and more active offers for health
services in French. In two weeks, at our next annual general meeting, all
the presidents and directors of CNFS universities and colleges will support
a statement in which we will include the whole question of working in
bilingual environments, and often anglophone environments. It means that our
people must be trained differently from those who work in a unilingual
anglophone environment, and it applies to training in all health programs.
If we want people in the labour market who are able to make an active
offer of services in French, we have to give them the necessary tools to
handle that situation. It is very different from the situation faced by
other health professionals.
Senator Champagne: I would have a comment to make on that topic.
We are talking about a person who would only be useful in a totally
francophone hospital. However, you also need anglophones or people who speak
I had this experience last summer when my husband was hospitalized for
quite some time; the next room was occupied by a woman who did not speak one
word of French. She was almost 80 years old, so it was a bit late for her to
start learning a language.
Because there was a bathroom between the two rooms, I could hear what was
being said. So I allowed myself to go over there and act as an interpreter,
because she could not make herself understood by the nurses who were there.
The same would have been true for my mother, when she was alive; if you had
sent her to a hospital where no one spoke French, she could not have
communicated. This is one of the professions where this matter is critical.
Earlier, we were talking about the justice sector, where the same issue
arises to some extent. If you have the good fortune of having a lawyer like
Senator McIntyre, there is no problem and you can go from one language to
another. Justice and health are sectors where it is important to have
bilingual Canadians. I apologize for my comment.
Senator De Bané: On the contrary.
The Chair: Ms. Lalonde, I thank you most sincerely on behalf of
the members of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages. It was a
pleasure to have you here as our witness. You demonstrated to what extent
you know these environments by heart and also to what extent, together, with
the two associations you direct, you work to find the best practices with
concrete results for our communities.
In my own name and on behalf of the members of the committee, I thank you.
Ms. Lalonde: I thank you as well. It was a great pleasure.
The Chair: We are going to suspend the meeting for a few minutes
and then we will resume in camera.