Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Official Languages

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.

[English]

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 our invitation.

Senator McIntyre: Good afternoon; Senator Paul McIntyre, from New Brunswick.

Senator De Bané: Good afternoon. I am Pierre De Bané, a senator from Quebec.

Senator Tardif: Good afternoon, I am Claudette Tardif, a senator from Alberta.

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 questions.

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 bilingual graduates.

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 disciplines.

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 communities.

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 promoted.

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 training programs.

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 French-language universities?

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 diversity.

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 French.

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 that?

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 market.

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 our communities.

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 government.

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 your question.

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 mind?

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 French.

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 culture.

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 classroom.

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 university.

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 another university?

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 in French.

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 compared?

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, for example.

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' priorities.

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 Cantonese.

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, Senator Robichaud.

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 Fortin-Duplessis.

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 those communities.

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 not.

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 training.

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 workplace?

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 English.

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.

(The committee adjourned.)