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OLLO - Standing Committee

Official Languages



OTTAWA, Monday, October 17, 2022

The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages met with videoconference this day at 4:06 p.m. [ET] to examine the subject matter of Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act, to enact the Use of French in Federally Regulated Private Businesses Act and to make related amendments to other Acts.

Senator René Cormier (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: Colleagues, I am René Cormier, senator from New Brunswick, and Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages.

I would like the members of the committee to introduce themselves, starting on my left.

Senator Gagné: Raymonde Gagné from Manitoba.

Senator Clement: Bernadette Clement from Ontario.

Senator Mégie: Marie-Françoise Mégie from Quebec.

The Chair: Thank you. I wish to welcome all of you and viewers across the country who may be watching. I would like to point out that I am taking part in this meeting from within the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe Nation.


Today, we continue our study of the subject matter of Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act, to enact the Use of French in Federally Regulated Private Businesses Act and to make related amendments to other Acts. The proposed short title for this bill is “An Act for the Substantive Equality of Canada’s Official Languages.”


For the first hour of our meeting, we are pleased to welcome two organizations. First, we have Antoine Désilets, Director General of the Société Santé en français. Then we have Martin Normand, Director, Strategic Research and International Relations, from the Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne. Welcome to the committee. We will begin by giving the floor to Mr. Désilets. Each of you will have the usual speaking time, then we will go to the period of questions and answers. Thank you for being with us. Mr. Désilets, the floor is yours.

Antoine Désilets, Director General, Société Santé en français: Members of the committee, good afternoon. Thank you very much for having me. My name is Antoine Désilets, and I am the Director General of the Société Santé en français. Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge that the land on which the Société Santé en français sits is part of the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe people.

Today I will present some statistics on health in French and then tell you about the Société Santé en français. I will conclude with some recommendations for the committee regarding Bill C-13. I would also like to inform you that the chairman of the board of Société Santé en français regrets that he is unable to appear today as he was prevented at the last minute from coming.

Here are a few statistics on the status of health in French in Canada. Our data come from a survey that the Léger organization conducted for Health Canada in 2020. When minority francophones were asked if they had access to health services in French, one third of respondents said that, in the previous year, they had received services entirely in French, another third reported that they had received services partly in French; and the remaining third answered that they had received no health services in French.

When respondents were asked about progress made in providing access to services, approximately 19% said they had seen improvements in the previous 10 years; some 40% had seen no improvement or thought the situation had remained the same; and 16% reported that the quality of access had declined. Those of you who are good with numbers will immediately realize that those figures do not total 100%: roughly 23% of respondents did not answer.

The main barriers to access to health services in French stem from a lack of human resources. Fear of long waiting times in hospitals, a lack of information available in French and concerns about receiving poor-quality services are still features of the health landscape in Canada today.

A few words about the Société Santé en français. We are a network of networks and a national organization. We work with 16 French-language health networks in all Canadian provinces and territories. Our collective mission is to encourage health partners to adopt better policies, practices and activities that meet francophones’ health needs. By equipping people through policies, practices and activities, we increase the availability of French-language health services over the long term.

We work in three stages: first, we identify the institutions in health care systems that need to be at the table; second, we engage in capacity-building to show them how they can better help francophones; and, third, we work with them to integrate the changes requested within their continuing practices in order to serve francophones better.

What place does health occupy in Bill C-13? I’m sure you know it off the top of your head. Since health is cited only once in the bill, it’s a short answer. It’s in the part that concerns positive measures. Health is cited in new subparagraph 41(6)(c)(v) along with other sectors — culture, education, justice, employment and immigration — that are considered essential to the vitality of anglophone and francophone minorities.

All of which brings me to the two recommendations that the Société Santé en français wishes to make respecting Bill C-13. Before discussing our specific recommendations, I would like to express our support for those of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, of which we have been a member since December 2021.

Our first recommendation is that the authority to subject the federal government’s spending power to official-language-related conditions be reaffirmed, particularly with respect to the sectors named in new subparagraph 41(6)(c)(v), including the five sectors I just cited. What kind of conditions? For example, they could be conditions respecting the collection of data, standardized by the provinces and territories, and the health status of official language minority communities in relation to the services they receive.

In Canada, we still don’t have a clear picture of the health status of French-speaking official language minority communities. We have anecdotal evidence, but no standardized national database with which to draw comparisons between the health status of francophone communities and that of the majority population.

Here’s an example of conditions that could be attached to the delivery of essential services in both official languages based on government priorities. As we all know, the federal government sets its own priorities, which include, for example, mental health and long-term care. We could also add the provision of multi-tiered services, in the same way as the provinces are at times encouraged to invest in those two sectors.

Our second recommendation is that a clear distinction be drawn in the act between the concepts of health services and public health services. Although health is named as a sector, it may often be divided into two parts. We often refer to health services, which constitute a public system of health professionals and hospitals, including everything that’s viewed as a service to heal the sick.

There’s also a separate dimension of health, public health, which includes health status, healthy habits, prevention, vaccination and health promotion. Under the first concept, an indirect contribution is made in order to provide services. That sector belongs to the provinces. The second is a shared responsibility. The enumeration of sectors in the subparagraph could be clarified by referring to culture, education, justice and health, including public health, and so on, which would help equip the federal government to develop true public health and health promotion programs. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you for that succinct and precise presentation, Mr. Désilets.

I now give the floor to Martin Normand, Director of strategic research and international relations at the Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne.

I would also like to greet our colleagues, senators Mockler and Dalphond.

Martin Normand, Director, Strategic Research and International Relations, Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne: Thank you very much for the opportunity to appear before you today.

The ACUFC welcomed this bill when it was first introduced. The fact that all federal institutions will now be required to take the positive measures they consider appropriate to ensure more opportunities for francophone minorities to pursue quality learning in their own language throughout their lives, including at the post-secondary level, is a major improvement over Bill C-32. Even more significant, institutions will now have to deliver on this commitment knowing that the federal government has acknowledged the specific situation of French in this country.

We want to make three suggestions for clarifying Part VII respecting cooperation with the provinces, scientific research in French and other administrative measures.

With respect to cooperation with the provinces, federal institutions have a duty to ensure that positive measures are taken to enhance the vitality of francophone minority and to support and assist their development. However, under new subsection 45.1(1) introduced by Bill C-13, the federal government would recognize the importance of cooperating with provincial and territorial governments in the implementation of Part VII.

This provision, as drafted, could be interpreted as meaning that the federal government’s commitment to the vitality of the minorities is subject to a sharing of jurisdictions.

In our view, the federal government cannot walk away from this commitment. Its willingness to cooperate with the provinces and territories must not undermine the vitality, development or maintenance of strong institutions. Instead the bill must establish favourable conditions for developing positive measures that will have a direct and continuing impact and be effectively and equitably implemented across the country.

We therefore suggest that every reference to cooperation with the provinces and territories be reviewed to dispel any ambiguity regarding the federal government’s exercise of its spending power to enhance the vitality of the minorities. If the implementation of positive measures were to depend on cooperation with the provinces and territories, the federal government might find itself developing measures that would be deployed unevenly if reluctant governments refused to cooperate.

As regards scientific research in French, the official languages reform document states that the federal government wishes to support the creation and dissemination of scientific information in French. However, we feel that the wording of new subparagraph 41(6)(c)(iv) is more restrictive and less ambitious than what is proposed in the reform document. It provides that one of the positive measures the federal institutions might take would be to “support the creation and dissemination of information in French that contributes to the advancement of scientific knowledge.”

The reform document suggests that these measures would support the creation and dissemination of scientific knowledge created by the francophone research community. However, the bill implies that all types of information are considered equal and that they may come from various sources. For example, the translation into French of information produced by federal institutions could qualify as scientific knowledge. That interpretation would therefore be redundant, having regard to what is already provided in part IV of the act, which concerns communications with the public.

We suggest that this subparagraph be reviewed to make it more consistent with the commitment expressed in the reform document. The original version was much more foundational for the post-secondary sector than the version proposed in the bill.

A modernized Official Languages Act is not an end in itself. It is merely one piece, albeit a very important one, in the overall architecture of Canada’s language regime and must be coupled with other administrative measures, including two that will definitely follow from this bill.

The first measure will be regulations establishing the terms and conditions under which the obligations set forth in Part VII are to be performed. Those regulations may clarify the nature of the positive measures, consultations, accountability models and principles that should be established to assess the direct consequences of government decisions.

However, new subsection 41(3) does not establish a schedule for making those regulations. That possibility was introduced in the 1988 act, but no regulations ever followed. We suggest that the act include a timetable for making regulations under Part VII.

The second measure is the policy on francophone immigration. We simply want to express a wish, that the policy that is developed accommodate the international clientele of post-secondary institutions, an immigration pool that is essential if we are to achieve the objectives of the federal government’s francophone immigration strategy.

Many stakeholders have great expectations for this act, but history tells us you can never legislate on political leadership. A firm moral commitment from the political class will always be necessary. We ask that you lend substance to that commitment and to cooperate so the bill is promptly passed and we can work together on the next foundational measures that will enable Canada to progress toward substantive equality of English and French.

The Chair: Thank you for your testimony, Mr. Normand.

We will now proceed to questions from the senators.

Senator Gagné: Welcome, Mr. Normand and Mr. Désilets.

In her appearance here two or three weeks ago, Professor Linda Cardinal told us that Bill C-13 wasn’t perfect but was nevertheless a reasonable compromise for all stakeholders. That’s what she said during her testimony. She clearly told us it was time to pass the bill. She didn’t suggest making any changes. In her view, the acknowledgement that French is vulnerable, the obligation to set francophone immigration targets and the importance of French as a scientific language could help effect the necessary cultural change within the federal government that would support the francophonie and the French language.

You alluded to this when you referred to the leadership required to further the objectives of Bill C-13. According to Professor Cardinal, we must equip public servants to ensure the bill is implemented through regulations and administrative programs.

I’d like you to comment on that statement by Professor Cardinal. Why is it more important for the Société Santé en français and the Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne that changes be made to the legislative framework than that the federal government clarify the regulations or any other directive it might make?

Mr. Normand: First of all, we share that view: Bill C-13 isn’t perfect and it probably never will be. We have three suggestions for amendments that could clarify certain aspects of Part VII of Bill C-13. We’re prepared to start working immediately with the federal institutions on the content and implementation of Bill C-13.

The Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne cooperates with seven or eight federal departments and will continue to do so bill or no bill. We want to take this opportunity to put on the table some elements that would allow us more freedom to act. However, if the bill is passed, we’ll be able to go to work. We’re relying on the other measures that will accompany it. You referred to them in your question.

We’re ready to go to work right away on the content of regulations under Part VII to ensure that what shapes the definition of positive measures meets the needs of our member institutions and our association. The same is true of the francophone immigration strategy. Our member institutions have a special contribution to make, and our association can convey that message to ensure the policy reflects the needs of our institutions.

Mr. Désilets: That’s an excellent question. You mentioned that a cultural change was necessary, and you’re absolutely right. However, there are more technical aspects that should be framed by documents. I discussed health data. No standardized health data are currently collected by the provinces or territories. Canada spends $300 billion a year on health, yet we don’t have comprehensive data on the status of certain populations, such as francophone minorities.

A culture change has to be shaped by action. It can be done by regulations, but I side with Mr. Normand, and I think we should be able to clarify everything we can right now so the aims and intentions of Bill C-13 are as clear as possible.

Earlier I suggested that we discuss health and public health to ensure we distinguish both parts. We should do the same thing with education. We often talk about education as extending from early childhood to the post-secondary level to ensure it’s all included in the overall sense of that term. I think we have an opportunity to do that right now.

Senator Gagné: Mr. Normand, you said there should be a deadline or time limit for making regulations. How long should it take to make regulations?

Mr. Normand: Since I’m not a legislator, I won’t be drafting the regulations and can’t presume to know how much time it will take. There have been cases where two or three years were allowed to draft regulations, or at least to bring them into force. I’ll leave it to the experts to determine how long that will take.

I think it would be very useful for everyone to agree that there should be a timeframe and an obligation to make regulations within it. The obligation to make regulations appears in the 1988 act but was never executed. We’d like the government to take an extra step so that regulations are in fact made this time.

Senator Gagné: Mr. Désilets, do you have any views on the subject?

Mr. Désilets: Like Mr. Normand, I’m not a legislator. Generally speaking, regulations should already have been made because we’re in the process of redrafting the act. This is fantastic, and it will result in regulations being drafted.

The needs are immediate: the sooner we move forward, the sooner we can take the necessary measures to support the vitality of the francophone communities in health and all other essential areas.

Senator Mégie: My question is for Mr. Normand, and Mr. Désilets can add to his answer. Would you please describe the changes in the number of national and international francophone students at Canadian French-language colleges and universities? Do you have any data on that? What percentage of those francophone students stay in Canada after completing their studies?

Mr. Normand: With respect to the first part of your question, I don’t have the figures, but I’d be happy to forward them to you. We have documents that we use to monitor changes in enrolment numbers.

As for international students, percentages vary widely from one institution to the next, from 2% to 5% at some to more than 50% at others. It’s very variable.

As for the last part of your question concerning international students who remain in Canada, we know that 91% of students who attend ACUFC member institutions want to stay in Canada after completing their studies. That’s based on a study that was done in 2020; 91% said they wanted to stay in Canada after completing their studies, and nearly 70% reported that they wished to stay in the region where they had studied. In the vast majority of cases, they wanted to stay in Canada after completing their studies because they felt sufficiently supported by their institutions. Post-secondary educational institutions could always do more, but our institutions play a crucial role in retaining international students once they’ve completed their education.

Senator Mégie: That was precisely my next question. So I’ll continue on that subject.

Do these foreign students stay in francophone minority communities, or do they tend to migrate? You used the word “want.”

Mr. Normand: Yes.

Senator Mégie: We don’t have any figures confirming that they stay. Do they stay in francophone minority communities or do they tend to migrate to regions with larger francophone populations?

Mr. Normand: Mr. Désilets said there’s a need for compelling data across the system; and that’s a fact. We’re facing an obstacle in this specific case: once students graduate from our institutions, they’re no longer our responsibility. We don’t have any data on exactly what foreign students do once they leave our institutions, unless we conduct studies on expectations. However, we have no specific figures indicating whether they’re still living in the region or occupying positions in which they use French on a daily basis because the immigration system doesn’t let us do any follow-up once they leave us.

Senator Mégie: I have a question on the dissemination of scientific knowledge in French. I know there’s still a tendency in the health sciences field — and it’s a normal one — to want to stand out internationally. Researchers feel they won’t have a chance to do so if they publish in French. I’m not sure Bill C-13 will change anything in that regard. What can we do? Have you thought about that for your students?

Mr. Normand: Yes, we’ve thought about it a lot. The Standing Committee on Science and Research is conducting a study on scientific publication and dissemination in French. We’ll be appearing before it at 7:30 p.m. I can make sure you receive our statement to that committee.

I’d like to give you a quick answer on this issue. There’s definitely an eagerness to have all researchers publish internationally, but that also means pressure is put on the researchers themselves, who are increasingly dependent, for example, on promotions within their institutions or funding from granting agencies to study the impact measures, which are dominated by anglonormativity. For example, francophone journals aren’t indexed in the impact measurement tools used to measure the impact of scientific journals.

Consequently, if we could come up with better ways to develop the scope and dissemination of research in French, that would be a good first step. For example, even if researchers publish in major international journals, that doesn’t mean they’re read any more than if they published in local French-language journals. You have to take that into account when considering impact measurement. French-language articles published in Canadian journals often have much more impact, and their impact on the research community, the local community and the vitality of the communities is measured differently than that of English-language publications, which are more universal in outlook and less applicable in the context of our communities.

Senator Mégie: Thank you for your answer.

Senator Dalphond: Thanks to our guests for their observations. I missed something; I wasn’t quick enough to catch the results of the Léger survey you referred to in your brief because I guess it was done afterwards.

Mr. Désilets: [Technical difficulties]

Senator Dalphond: Precisely. Would you please repeat the percentages for the people who saw — not those who saw nothing, the 23%, but the other two groups — an increase in accessibility and those who saw a decline?

Mr. Désilets: Yes, 100%. It was a survey on the ways minority anglophones and francophones perceived access to health services. Some 19% of francophones observed that accessibility had increased, 42% said that the situation had remained the same, and 16% noted that accessibility had declined. It was a survey of perceptions. We also have figures showing that perceptions can be different at certain locations. You have to be careful because these figures are averages. There are places in Canada where the situation has really deteriorated and others where it has sharply improved. If you average the data, that yields the numbers you see.

Senator Dalphond: That was the point of my question. Since these are national data, they mean both everything and nothing at all. One region can be doing well and another poorly. Do we have an idea of the situation by region? Is this a reflection of the fact that there has been a general improvement or is it the status quo? On the other hand, have there been losses in certain regions, in the Western provinces, for example?

Mr. Désilets: That’s a very good question, and it can be partly answered by analyzing the data. If you look at a province like New Brunswick, which is responsible for providing health services in both official languages, everything looks good based on the averages, but services aren’t available in some regions, such as Fredericton and the area around St. John.

There are very troubling situations even in provinces that, on paper, seem to be doing very well. I mentioned the compelling data issue. You can’t change what you can’t measure, and it’s hard for us to get a clear idea of what services are available and in what language. Is the situation permanent or is the evidence anecdotal? Does it depend on whether an employee is on duty all day? Are any public policies in place to ensure the level is maintained? I can tell you there are very significant challenges in Western Canada. Francophones in Western Canada have been abandoned, as it were, and have stopped asking if services are available in French.

It’s very troubling to see these population trends. These people are exposed to major health risks and issues where there are language barriers.

Senator Dalphond: Do you mean there are waiting lists everywhere, including for consulting a family doctor? Are you telling me, “If I request a doctor who speaks French, it may take longer to see one than to take the first available doctor, who probably doesn’t speak French”?

Mr. Désilets: That’s one of the concerns that people have, and many of these health systems can’t match the people who need French-language services with the professionals who can provide them. We generally don’t have a clear idea of where francophones live, what their health needs are or what points of service they use. Once again, this is a compelling data issue. Solutions do exist, and it’s possible, for the purposes of the provincial health cards, to add a question on the form requesting the desired language of service. This could be done on a permanent basis; we can gather the data, but only one province is doing it now, and that’s Prince Edward Island.

Many other provinces have considered this approach. The idea is working its way into patients’ electronic files. They’re talking about it in New Brunswick, they’re talking about it in the Northwest Territories, and the issue was the subject of a unanimous motion in Ontario’s Legislative Assembly a few years ago. The idea is making its way, but we need to acquire the resources to measure needs and our ability to meet them.

Senator Dalphond: Is this kind of topic brought up in your discussions with the provinces? I imagine it is, and if so, how do they react? Do they say, “We’re short of personnel. We have recruitment issues, so don’t bother us with a criterion like that”?

Mr. Désilets: I’d say the reaction is generally quite positive. Ontario, for example, has a tool called OZi that’s been introduced to assess the capacity of service points to serve francophones. The Ontario government recruited OZi to go into institutions and identify their capacity. It’s been so appreciated that it’s been incorporated in an internal public policy of the Ontario government, which now has its own collection and capture tool.

So there’s definitely an interest in gathering more data. Now we have to ensure that this generates interest in engaging in better service planning in order to provide better service to francophone communities.

Senator Dalphond: My next question is for Mr. Normand. I think we’re witnessing a change in scientific research. Even the Pasteur Institute, in France, has switched from publishing in French to English. How can we come up with the resources — they’re often algorithms — to ensure that work published in French is retrievable by someone conducting a search? These publications should be entered in the system because they’re in French, but they aren’t in the system because the programmer understands neither the title nor the subject.

How can they actually be made accessible, and how can researchers be made to realize that it may be more worthwhile to publish in French in Canada than to publish in English at the Pasteur Institute?

Mr. Normand: An entire academic culture change is obviously needed to achieve that. I mentioned impact measures; more generally speaking, we can consider new ways of measuring the excellence of research conducted in French. How do you determine that? I’d say many researchers want to nudge the federal research granting councils in that direction.

This is an observation that we’ve heard, particularly during the francophone minority post-secondary education estates general that the ACUFC held in conjunction with the FCFA. Our report will be released next week. We have a whole chapter on scientific research and publishing. The measurement of excellence is one, but there’s also content discoverability. That’s also an issue that’s specific to the entire international Francophonie.

There are scientific diplomacy issues that need to be addressed with the international Francophonie to ensure the major research players and international institutions understand that knowledge in French is also innovative, that it’s worth conducting and disseminating, that a very large research community uses French and that this community doesn’t have access to scientific knowledge in other languages. It can’t be assumed that all French speakers know English and have access to the mass of information that’s produced in English.

There’s a major scientific diplomacy effort that researchers and institutions can make, but that will require federal government support. Scientific diplomacy requires resources that our institutions don’t currently possess.

We need support from institutions such as Global Affairs Canada, for example, to design support measures for the scientific community.

Senator Dalphond: I recently travelled to Paris. In his opening statement, Stéphane Dion, Canada’s ambassador there, noted that the pool of French speakers in the world is in Africa. The fact is that the rate of internet penetration is not as high there. He proposed that Canada’s strategy should be to encourage initiatives and that the internet should expand its presence in francophone African communities and research communities so that the instruments are available and we can guarantee the kind of discoverability that requires help from the platforms.

Mr. Normand: Absolutely. In many instances, the platforms are controlled by the major English-language scientific publishers, and that’s becoming another issue. There are platforms such as Érudit, which strives to disseminate scientific knowledge produced in French, but, apart from that, the major platforms are controlled by the big publishers and major scientific journals. We need to examine the publishing ecosystem and impact measurement.

Senator Dalphond: Thank you.

The Chair: This last discussion merely takes us back to the Committee on Transport and Communications and to the study of Bill C-11, which concerns this discoverability issue. Thank you for contributing to the work of other committees through your comments.

Senator Clement: Thanks to both witnesses. I have two questions, one for Mr. Désilets, and another for Mr. Normand. I’ll begin with Mr. Désilets. I’m interested in the language clauses, particularly in the health sector. When I asked Minister Gould the question, she told us that everything was fine in the child care sector.

Mr. Désilets: That’s not my sector.

Senator Clement: I wasn’t sure about her answer either, but whatever. That’s what she told us, that it was going well. I wanted to know if the same is true in the health sector since you said there’s a lack of information.

Are language clauses relevant in all this? What language would be effective in language clauses?

Mr. Normand, with regard to international students, we hear that Canada’s reputation isn’t spotless. They’re often viewed as a source of funding for our post-secondary institutions, even more for francophone institutions, which also face other challenges.

How do we respond to this difficult situation? Do international students get the right information before arriving here? How should we go about meeting francophone students’ needs?

Mr. Désilets: That’s a good question. Many very intelligent people wonder how exactly to say it. There may be two aspects to the language clause issue.

We generally view it as providing a share of funding for the communities. To give you a general idea about health funding, as I mentioned earlier, we’ve spent $300 billion a year on health for the entire country since COVID, and we spend $35 million to $40 million a year on the official language commissioners, both anglophone and francophone. So there’s already a huge funding issue.

For the official language communities, that represents 0.01% of health funding in Canada. When we discuss language clauses, it’s necessarily about funding to ensure that adequate investments are made to avoid creating more health inequalities between Quebec anglophones and francophones and the majority populations.

The second aspect of language clauses concerns the capacity to acquire the necessary resources, tools and cooperation with provinces in providing services for which they are primarily responsible in order to equip them properly and to maintain good federal programs to assist them.

I discussed the compelling data issue earlier. In his letter, the Minister of Health states that we need to collect world-class health data on Canadians’ health. The white paper that was released last year outlines very clear intentions to enhance the collection of data on anglophones and francophones. If we could do that, we could ultimately establish programs that can better meet needs.

Here’s a very specific example that may illustrate the situation. I mentioned Prince Edward Island, where some francophones live, and information indicated on the health card. When the Prince Edward Island government needed to open a new long-term care centre, it looked at where the francophone population pools were located and where long-term care services were most frequently used in order to identify the best place to build a new long-term care centre.

This type of connection between collecting data that informs us about needs and good decision making that reinforces services provided is essential over the long term, if we really want to ensure our communities receive good service. Community organizations can’t offer those services. Our responsibility is to enable the provinces to do it in their area of jurisdiction. That will be done with money and better cooperation between the federal government and the provinces. The Canadian Health Information Institute is starting to look at how to standardize data collection, and this is the kind of measure we absolutely need to encourage. I hope that answers your question.

Senator Clement: Yes, thank you.

Mr. Normand: Senator, your question reminds me of the one asked by one of your colleagues, Senator Moncion, when I testified before your committee as part of the francophone immigration study. She asked me virtually the same question, a basic one: is it reasonable for our institutions to rely on an international population to meet their budgets and for that population to contribute a significant amount of their revenues?

This is obviously related to the decline in public funding for post-secondary institutions, and it’s confirmed by the data being gathered, for example, by the Higher Education Strategy Associates organization. Every year, we see a decline in public funding and an increase in the percentage that tuition fees represent of the revenues of post-secondary institutions.

That’s the basic question. The answer we would eventually like to hear is obviously increased support for post-secondary institutions to avoid the easy solution of using tuition fees to replace revenues that aren’t obtained by other means.

Obviously, as you can understand, the federal government announced that it would grant $121 million over three years to support the post-secondary education sector. During last year’s election campaign, the Liberal Party promised to increase that funding by $80 million a year and to make it permanent.

In our minds, the next step is definitely for the government to make good on that promise. We also want to ensure that the funding available from that budget is enough to meet the actual needs of post-secondary institutions and that this funding is related to project funding, as is currently the case. That money must be used to fund the long-term operations of the post-secondary institutions. If this envelope materializes, we may be able to rely less on the share of revenue generated by tuition fees.

I’d like to go back to the issue of reputation. I mentioned Global Affairs Canada a little earlier. GAC manages the EduCanada brand, which promotes post-secondary education in Canada to foreign students. GAC rightly protects that brand, obviously, and the minister wants to ensure that, when the brand is used for international promotional purposes, it’s used properly and benefits the entire post-secondary ecosystem.

In our case, when we use the EduCanada brand to promote study in Canada at institutions in Canadian francophone communities, but that 90% of study permit applications are denied for candidates coming from francophone Africa, that has an impact on Canada’s international reputation, which depends not on the effort our institutions make to attract and welcome those students to Canada, but rather on IRCC’s internal and administrative measures.

In contemplating positive measures, we’d also like to see greater interdepartmental coordination in this matter between IRCC and Global Affairs Canada, for example, to ensure that the international clientele is well served by our institutions and receives the information it needs, and that our post-secondary institutions can welcome them and retain them for the benefit of francophone communities but also for Canadian society as a whole, which benefits from this influx of skilled labour that can work in French.

Senator Clement: Thank you for your comprehensive answers.

Senator Mockler: First, I’d like to congratulate you on your leadership regarding the Official Languages Act. Mr. Chair, I very clearly remember the first meeting held in Moncton in 2002, when the Société Santé en français was founded back home in New Brunswick.

Mr. Désilets: We celebrated our twentieth anniversary in Moncton.

Senator Mockler: I also remember the minister responsible. However, when you cite me statistics from 1982, I understand that they’re 40 years old and that we’re still waiting for certain measures that should be considered in the modernization of the Official Languages Act to be taken.

I’d like to hear your comments, for the benefit of members of the committee and those who are watching. On March 3 of this year, the Société Santé en français reacted to Bill C-13 by issuing a press release condemning “the absence of provisions respecting language clauses in federal transfers to the provinces.” Have there been any improvements?

Mr. Désilets: Those language clauses don’t appear in either of the two bills. That fact is referred to in the recommendations for structuring cooperation between the federal government and the provinces. There have been no improvements yet, but the regulations issue is an interesting one and may constitute a second path. My approach is always to clarify immediately whatever can be clarified because a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Consequently, I think that, if we can immediately resolve the language clauses issue, that’s better than waiting for regulations.

Senator Mockler: Would the regulatory aspect be better than the legislative aspect?

Mr. Désilets: Based on the facts as reported, I think it would be preferable to do it through legislation, since we know that sometimes regulations are never made.

Senator Mockler: You also said that that Société Santé en français had suggested adding enforceable language clauses to the Official Languages Act, as many other stakeholders have done since we began our pre-study of Bill C-13. Would you please give us more details on the subject?

Mr. Désilets: I’m sure you’ve heard from the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada. This is one of the FCFA’s demands, and it’s supported by the FCFA’s members.

We echoed its call for those clauses. We know that language clauses in health, particularly as a result of the funding discrepancy I mentioned earlier, seem to be one way to make fundamental and lasting changes in access to service. That was really to echo the FCFA’s recommendations that the SSA supported.

Senator Mockler: We also hear parliamentarians and stakeholders tell us that the Official Languages Act shouldn’t be a general store. Please comment on that observation.

Mr. Désilets: Could you clarify your interpretation of “general store”?

Senator Mockler: Some say that the Official Languages Act shouldn’t be a general store, in the sense that everyone having a piece of the act to say they contributed to it. You are leaders in the health field, in the francophonie field and in the administration of the Official Languages Act. I’d like to hear your comments on the subject.

Mr. Désilets: We have to focus on the sectors we consider essential so that communities can fully flourish. What I didn’t mention earlier regarding the Léger survey was that 98% of respondents had used a health service in the previous 12 months. Health concerns everyone, all the time, every year. It’s one of the rare government services that are that important and prevalent. The same is true of education, and that’s why, in many instances, they’re the largest provincial budget items.

Should the act support the vitality of all sectors deemed essential to living a full life? I think so. Health should be included. I think the general store issue is actually an issue. It’s up to legislators to decide what an essential component of vitality is and which sectors we want to support. As a francophone, I obviously want to live my life in French 100% of the time, if possible, and not to have to wonder every morning what obstacle I’ll have to face as a result of my mother tongue.

Senator Mockler: I’d also like to hear your comments on the department that should be responsible for administering the act.

Some say it should be the provinces or certain ministers, while others say it should be the Prime Minister. I’m going to put the question to you directly: considering what you hear and what you’d like to recommend to us, which department should have full responsibility? Perhaps the Office of the Prime Minister?

Mr. Désilets: That’s a very good question. As if by chance, the main department that funds us is Health Canada, whereas its Canadian Heritage for the vast majority of francophone organizations. So we’re well aware of the communication issues between the departments, the issues involved in prioritizing files and the decisions that are made on both sides and that are subsequently made together.

We feel that the role of a central agency in implementing the act, in order to coordinate and monitor progress and results or objectives that are set, is essential to avoiding having to rely on the cooperation of departments that are equally involved. Without knowing exactly which central agency… I think the Treasury Board would absolutely be capable of doing it. We think it’s essential that the reins be handed over to an agency that can hold the other departments accountable. Otherwise you’ll wind up with programs that are built in silos and subsequently integrated under the action plan.

Senator Mockler: In addition, we often hear people say there may be a lack of political will or that political will is necessary when it comes to the Official Languages Act, especially when you look at the progress made since 1982, 40 years ago. Do you think we lack political will in the way we’re studying the modernization of the Official Languages Act?

Mr. Désilets: I don’t think that there is a lack of leadership at the moment, particularly with respect to language clauses, because we are talking about very complex relations between the federal government and the provinces concerning constitutional jurisdictions that are clear for some, and divided for others.

Leadership is sound, but I think it’s simply a matter of prioritizing relations with the provinces; it might often go beyond the objectives that affect francophone communities. That’s the feeling with respect to health. The impression is that the provinces are asking for more money, and more freedom about what to do with it.

At the same time, the Canadian government acknowledges in the bill that health is a component essential to enhancing vitality, and hence that there are obligations to help or provide support to health. In the federal government’s transfers to the provinces for health services, there is nothing pertaining to official languages. There may be an issue of alignment or priorities.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Before moving on to the second round, I’m going to ask a few questions about language clauses. There is clearly a form of consensus; I don’t want to speak on behalf of those testifying here, but this subject keeps coming up.

My question is very simple. Given that there are no language clauses in the bill at the moment, what would be the benefit of having them, and what current issues are the outcome of not having language clauses?

Can you help us acquire a better understanding of the importance of language clauses in your respective sectors? Of course, you are from sectors where there are federal jurisdictions, and provincial and territorial jurisdictions. I’d very much like to hear what you have to say about this.

Mr. Désilets: Thank you for that excellent question. Without language clauses, as is currently the case, the development of French-language health services, with funding from the federal government is being done by organizations like the Société Santé en français, which can put pressure on the provinces to shoulder this responsibility. With a language clause, it would be possible to require conditions on the use of federal transfers, instead of relying on goodwill, which is often political in nature.

We have to repeat our efforts to exercise pressure every time there is a provincial or territorial election and every time there is a change in leadership among our health care partners. Before an organization can be changed, the people working there have to be changed; we often push as hard as we can, but it’s a David and Goliath situation. The francophone communities often end up asking for more services.

That, moreover, is why I would suggest identifying public health as an area where the federal government can take action with respect to the status of health and health outcomes, to give it more latitude to take direct action on program outcomes and on the impact of the act.

So I definitely agree that there should be language clauses. Without them, progress is often temporary or short-lived, unless we manage to have them included in regulations, public policies, or statutes, which has not been the case for 20 years in all the provinces and territories. Even in the provinces where there are designations, there are recruitment issues.

Mr. Normand: I have a few reservations to inject into this discussion. First, on the issue of language clauses, it might appear to be in contradiction with the federal government’s desire to implement Part VII. That, to a certain extent, is the message we were sending out by mentioning collaboration with the provinces, and the federal government performing a leadership role in official languages, through the introduction of positive measures that would enhance the vitality of the communities by means of its spending authority. That is something it can already do. When we talk about political leadership, it’s an aspect where it could demonstrate political leadership. That does not require language clauses, but firm leadership with respect to official languages.

Beyond that, language clauses will not solve all the problems, either. In education, there is already the Official Languages in Education Program. It changed its name recently; you know it as the OLEP. In education, it could almost be construed as a language clause. It could be viewed that way. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be any problems in deploying the program. The idea is to come up with ways of improving the existing mechanisms. For the OLEP, the allocation of the federal government funding envelope for post-secondary education would go through the OLEP and there may of course be issues in allocating this funding, tied among other things to the requirement for matching funds from the provinces.

This means that there may be instances in which the post-secondary institutions would have to be responsible for the provincial contribution in order to have access to federal funding. Language clauses will not correct that; with a regulatory application of Part VII, it would be possible to ensure that a positive measure in post-secondary education would mean that funding would go to post-secondary institutions to meet their immediate and long-term needs, rather than on a project by project basis. Simply adding a language clause won’t make this happen. Language clauses can’t solve all the problems in education or other sectors.

The Chair: You’ve been talking about Part VII and it’s true that the more closely the bill is examined, the more we realize that everyone is trying to see how they fit in. That’s altogether to be expected; the organizations and sectors want to know where they fit in.

You mentioned the possibility of including public health in the health field.

In education, from early childhood to post-secondary, with respect to everything that affects formal and informal learning, do you feel that the current wording is sufficiently inclusive and that it covers the concept of formal and informal learning, adult education and the training of future teachers? Do you get the impression that the terminology will include everyone in a sufficiently clear manner for them to see how it applies to them when it is implemented?

Mr. Normand: We think so. Moreover, Bill C-13 puts it as follows:

. . . to pursue quality learning . . . throughout their lives.

As far as I’m concerned, that goes well beyond what might be considered to be formal learning in a regular and continuous process. Formal and informal learning could be added, as well as skills development, skills acquisition and literacy.

Nevertheless, there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that there are adequate resources to get this part of the work done in areas like literacy and skills development. Besides which, it’s also a message that we heard at the post-secondary education summit, and it was included in a report that will be released next week. There is a section that will discuss this aspect, which could be built into how we view post-secondary education. Many of our colleges are involved in literacy and adult education.

When positive measures have been developed to actually implement lifelong learning, it will be important to ensure that this component of education is also included in the positive measures that are developed.

The Chair: I have a final question for Mr. Désilets. The Commissioner of Official Languages has said that in view of how they are currently worded in the preamble, the legal obligations with respect to official languages that are applicable to emergencies are inadequate and that they should appear in the body of the act. Do you have an opinion on this?

Mr. Désilets: I haven’t really looked at that part, and so I had better not comment on an issue that’s unfamiliar to me. Thank you for the question, and I can send an answer on that to the committee members.

The Chair: Thank you very much. I’m sorry, but we won’t be able to have a second round of questions.

Thank you very much, Mr. Désilets and Mr. Normand, for your testimony and your perspectives, which will definitely be useful to us in writing our report on this pre-study, and especially as we begin to study Bill C-13.

For our second group of witnesses, we have Nancy Juneau, President, and Marie-Christine Morin, Director General, of the Fédération culturelle canadienne-française. Welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages.

From the Fédération des francophones de la Colombie-Britannique, we have, by video conference, Lily Crist, Chair of the Board of Directors. Welcome, Ms. Crist. I’m pleased to see you again following my trip to Vancouver earlier this week.

We’ll begin by hearing the witnesses, and then move on to the question and answer period.

Nancy Juneau, President, Fédération culturelle canadienne-française: Honourable senators, good afternoon and thank you for your invitation to appear.

My name is Nancy Juneau, and I’m the President of the Fédération culturelle canadienne-française. With me today is our Director General, Marie-Christine Morin. Also with us here today — unusually enough — are several members of our board of directors from francophone minority communities across Canada.

The FCCF is the only Canada-wide voice for French-language Canadian and Acadian arts and culture. Our sector, excluding Quebec, employs more than 26,000 people and generates more than $1.16 billion annually.

While the arts and culture clearly play a key role in the economic development of our communities, even more important is the fact that their capacity to “live in French” everywhere in Canada depends directly on the artistic and cultural vitality of our communities.

To mention a concrete example, in 2019 the FCCF launched its PassepART program to boost our artistic, cultural and heritage activities and offerings in our French-language schools. Since its establishment, PassepART been able to reach out to 94% of the 750 eligible schools, and over 290,000 young people. A thorough evaluation of the results is underway, but we are already envisaging further development. That’s only one example among many of a concrete project run by our members in every part of the country.

That’s why — for the sustainability of this ecosystem that is so crucial to our vitality and growth — we are enthusiastically celebrating the fact that Bill C-13 officially recognizes the arts and culture as an essential sector.

In doing so, the bill echoes the historic declaration that recognizes culture “as a global public good with an intrinsic value to enable and drive sustainable development,” a declaration that was signed by 150 ministers of culture — including the Honourable Pablo Rodriguez — who met recently at MONDIACULT, the UNESCO world conference held in Mexico City.

Thank you. I will now give the floor to my colleague.

Marie-Christine Morin, Director General, Fédération culturelle canadienne-française: In 2022, the challenges being encountered for the future of French language and culture around the world requires Canada to equip itself to play a more effective role as a leader in the Francophonie. Bill C-13 will help us make progress. We must act forcefully and with conviction on behalf of the French language in Canada by ensuring that we do a better job of supporting the culture it underpins.

As representatives of the arts and culture sector, we want to underscore just how important it is for the government and its institutions to implement transformative and measurable positive measures. We are also pleased about the fact that Bill C-13 aspires to enhance the role of Canada’s arts and culture institutions, not only for federal institutions, but also — and especially — our local and regional institutions, which play a front-line role in our communities.

These are the people who work in our organizations across Canada to get things done and make a difference. They promote and deliver culture in the field to the communities, and help our artists develop. Consistent investment is needed to enable the arts and culture ecosystem to fully perform its role as a socio-economic driver.

In its brief on the next Action Plan for Official Languages, the FCCF requested new funding of $75 million over five years. We are also supporting Canada’s FCFA in its efforts to make our organization stronger.

A community that is connected to its culture is a strong, proud and open community. The cultural vitality of our communities makes them more attractive to people who might choose to come and live there. A lively artistic and cultural environment makes our communities more inclusive and welcoming. This power of attraction is the key to our sustainability and will contribute to a better future.

The choices our country is about to make to support French language and culture will be more critical than ever for the future and for the dissemination of our diverse cultural expressions both here and around the world. Our sector, which propels a strong and lasting francophonie, needs this bill to pass as soon as possible.

Thank you for listening. We’ll be more than happy to answer your questions.

The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Morin and Ms. Juneau, for your presentations.

Lily Crist, Chair of the Board of Directors, La Fédération des francophones de la Colombie-Britannique: Thank you very much for having invited me to share with you the issues facing British Columbia’s francophones. We’re very pleased to see here today members of the Senate committee that we have known for a long time. Some among you visited us last Friday in Vancouver.

We are counting on you, as members of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, to advance our rights and support the development of official language minority communities. As our time is short, I’ll begin with our main issue, which is specific to British Columbia, and then move on to national issues that we share with the FCFA.

This issue shouldn’t come as a surprise, and we’ve already discussed it many times, but we are emphatic that it requires special attention. Our request is intrinsically linked to the appeal we filed, which was ruled upon by the Federal Court of Appeal on January 20. You’ll find more information in the open letter we published on Friday, February 11, 2022, which we have attached to the brief submitted to the committee.

Our specific issue is related to the devolution agreements. First of all, we have been in court for almost 12 years as a result of this type of agreement. These agreements are not of the traditional variety for a program or a shared jurisdiction. The judge also ruled that the province was sovereign at the time of the devolution in question for the duration of the agreement. With this type of agreement, we have systematically been losing our services, because British Columbia does not have any language legislation or policies on services in French. We would like the act to be very specific about agreements of this kind, particularly when language clauses are mentioned in the federal-provincial agreements. Senator Cormier, you asked us earlier what positive measures might result from language clauses. I’d be happy to share the results of our research with you.

In connection with our federal provincial agreements, we share the same issues with the FCFA. We therefore suggest the following amendments: first, that Bill C-13 provide an automatic process to include a francophone addendum to all agreements signed by the federal government. Such clauses should at the very least identify the goals and the means of achieving these objectives, in addition to an accountability process. We spoke about the devolution agreements. I would like to reiterate that it’s a key issue for our community.

We are also asking for the designation of a single central agency to coordinate the application of the act. And of course, the final point is the government’s obligation to develop a francophone immigration policy whose explicit objective would be to restore the demographic weight of francophones. We support the targets put forward by the FCFA, which would have francophone immigration increase by 12% in 2024 and 20% in 2036.

We are also counting on your commitment to ensure that the modernization of the act would include the items we have just presented, particularly those pertaining to a procedure that would automatically add a francophone addendum to all agreements signed by the federal government. We’re hoping for a strong commitment from the committee to ensure that we don’t miss this unique opportunity to strengthen the Official Languages Act decisively and to perpetuate Canada’s francophonie from coast to coast for the coming decades.

We would like to comment once more on the problematic issues in federal-provincial agreements. If ignored or forgotten, we can expect that the modernization will not have a positive impact in the field for our community. Thank you for hearing us out and for having invited me to share this information with you. I’m available to answer any questions you may have.

The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Crist. We are now going to move on to the question and answer period. We’ll begin with Senator Gagné. Please indicate to whom your question is addressed.

Senator Gagné: I’d like to welcome all the witnesses. Thanks for your positive comments about the bill, and also, for British Columbia, your grievances, particularly about the absence of language clauses.

My first question is for the Fédération culturelle canadienne-française. My understanding is that the legislative framework before us is satisfactory. Where it’s important to be careful is in the implementation process, meaning that public servants have to be equipped so that they can comply with the legislative framework. For administrative programs, funding is probably the basis for any progress the cultural sector might be able to make under Bill C-13. Have I got that right?

Ms. Morin: You’ve understood our position accurately. Of course the accountability process under this bill will be crucial for us. Because our organizations in the field are going to be doing the front-line work for this bill once it has been adopted, we will have to be in a position to finance operations in the field coherently to enable workers to do what they so crucially have to do.

Senator Gagné: As we are talking about accountability, I’ll ask Ms. Crist to return to the language clauses.

Practically speaking, in the best of all possible worlds, it would be desirable to include language clauses in Bill C-13. In the worst of all possible worlds, they would be included, but some provinces would fail to comply with clauses that might be included in the federal, provincial and territorial agreements. If the provinces did not comply with the agreements, what would we do? How would we administer that? Would it end up in court? Would we have to penalize them by withholding funds? I’m trying to see what the consequences of non-compliance with the language clauses would be.

Ms. Crist: All I can tell you is that failure to comply with language clauses always has disastrous consequences for our community, because it means that our members, the francophones who live in British Columbia, won’t have access to services.

For employment services, I am very familiar with one of the five centres that is now closed, because I worked there. Overnight, we dropped from 12 people providing employment services to only one part-time person. This centre provided services to those marginalized people in our society who need the most help. I don’t know how the government is supposed to do its work, but the consequences are always the same, meaning that we lose our rights in the field and we’re required to go to court over something that should never have happened. We should be able to live, work and have access to services in French without always ending up in court.

I think that demanding language clauses, French-language clauses, right in the act itself, would help us protect our communities. I’m not only talking about British Columbia, because it would be useful from coast to coast.

Senator Gagné: I’d like to hear what you have to say about languages clauses.

Ms. Juneau: The Fédération culturelle canadienne-française firmly believes in this request. We too have agreements in our provinces that pertain to culture and other areas, and they have an impact on our members; the question is how to make sure that the federal government can require an outcome obligation. It seems to me that there must be some models out there. It doesn’t have to be a difficult process in terms of accountability, but we need to agree on the tangible outcomes before any agreements are signed and let the province determine how to achieve these outcomes. If the outcomes are not met . . . I’ll use the example mentioned by our colleague from British Columbia, where they had a centre that was providing the services, but they lost their funding.

Could there possibly be a mechanism through which the federal government, which has an obligation to support communities, could provide funding directly for the services whose objectives were not met? I’m thinking out loud. It strikes me that if we were to agree on outcome obligations, that a first step might be to put this concept into the act. If that didn’t work, then other mechanisms to serve communities not receiving the services in question could be considered.

The Chair: I have another question about what you’re proposing, Ms. Juneau. We’re talking about language clauses because we’re talking about agreements between the federal government and the provinces and territories. Basically, another option might also be direct agreements between the federal government and organizations like yours in the field to deliver certain services. Have I got that right?

Ms. Juneau: It’s an avenue that could address Senator Gagné’s concerns about whether, if a province fails to meet its outcome obligations under the signed agreements, people in the field could be called upon to achieve these outcomes. It seems to me that there might be provinces interested in looking at this model. If they are unable to comply with the language clauses for one reason or another, then the community would have to do it and provide the service that the provincial government cannot.

Senator Mégie: My question is for Ms. Crist. After the launch of the consultations for the new Action Plan for Official Languages, the statistics from the last census were published, and they showed that the francophone community in British Columbia was still very much alive and well. The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages mentioned an increase of almost 30% in French immersion programs between 2006 and 2016. Do you have data that would show whether these programs have remained as popular from 2016 to 2021?

Ms. Crist: Thank you for the question. I was a teacher for 12 years, and my daughter is also an immersion teacher. I don’t have the exact figures unfortunately, but I can say that all over British Columbia it’s a lottery system to enrol children in an immersion school. In northern British Columbia, the school boards have been trying to reduce the number of francophone schools offering French immersion courses.

So we have a situation with a population that wants their children educated in French and that strongly wants the immersion schools to get rid of a system that requires them to camp out for three days to have an opportunity to maybe find a space one day for their children. It’s really a glaring need. I’ll try to get you some information about it. I had the opportunity to meet the Canadian Parents for French team last Friday, who told us about the major challenges in the province.

Senator Mégie: Thank you for your answer. If you have any information, please send it to the committee via our clerk.

Ms. Crist: I’ll do that, senator.

Senator Dalphond: My question is mainly for Ms. Crist. I’d like to congratulate you for your efforts. Unfortunately, there had to be some legal action to get recognition of the fact that your language rights were not being respected. The appeal court decision was scathing when the federal government asked for a suspension of the application of the appeal court decision. The Chief Justice said that only a “bureaucratic miasma” could explain the federal government’s delay and that the request was an abuse of procedure. Those are very harsh words.

A few days later, the Attorney General announced that the federal government was no longer requesting permission to send the appeal to the Supreme Court. You, on the other hand, indicated that you were going to request permission to appeal the decision. Was that done and if so, where do things stand now?

Ms. Crist: It was done the very next day and we are still waiting. The Supreme Court of Canada will be responding within a few months, soon I hope, as to whether or not it will hear our case.

Senator Dalphond: Did the federal government write a brief in opposition to your request?

Ms. Crist: No.

Senator Dalphond: So in principle, you don’t have an adversary, and no one is opposed.

Ms. Crist: For now, I think that if the Supreme Court were to hear our case, the federal government would, of course, oppose it.

Senator Dalphond: So you’ll be hearing soon from the Supreme Court about the application for permission to appeal, since it takes 4 to 5 months?

Ms. Crist: Yes.

Senator Dalphond: In addition, the federal government announced not only that it would no longer be applying for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, but that it had provided a notice to the province of British Columbia because it wanted to end the agreement. Since then, has the notice been filed and did it lead to discussions within the provincial government, which perhaps tried to contact your organization to negotiate the sorts of new agreements that could be put in place?

Ms. Crist: Absolutely not. Neither the federal nor the provincial government. We wrote to both and have never received a response of any kind.

Senator Dalphond: And yet, notice had been given to the effect that the agreement had been criticized and that the federal government wanted to end it?

Ms. Crist: Yes.

Senator Dalphond: Is anyone currently working on the next phase? Or at least, if they are, you weren’t involved?

Ms. Crist: Exactly, but I don’t think that there is much happening at that level.

Senator Dalphond: I’m sorry to hear that, particularly as your challenge had been successful, making you the experts on the matter.

Ms. Crist: Winning your point is one thing, but being able to follow through and achieve actual changes will, unfortunately, take time.

Senator Dalphond: You’re no longer being opposed, but rather ignored.

Ms. Crist: For now, we’re not being opposed, but I think that will change. Particularly if the Supreme Court decides to hear our application, we will launch further proceedings that will be lengthy, exacting and very expensive for our community. I’d rather see our funds used to grow our community rather than spend time in court defending our rights.

Senator Dalphond: Understood. Thank you very much and congratulations on your work.

The Chair: Ms. Crist, were you able to get any help from the Court Challenges Program for what you did? Just to help us understand the ties.

Ms. Crist: I don’t have the exact figures, but yes, we did take advantage of this program. The Court Challenges Program covered some of the costs, approximately $35,000 to $45,000, for the various levels of the legal proceedings, but it did not cover all of the costs. Our own funds were used in this proceeding over a period of 12 years. The Court Challenges Program doesn’t pay all costs, but only a small portion. If we make it to the Supreme Court of Canada in order to continue this proceeding, we’ll have significant costs. That’s part of the jigsaw puzzle.

The Chair: I can understand that for you, it’s important for the Court Challenges Program to be clearly explained in the act?

Ms. Crist: Yes, but perhaps the funds allocated should be more representative of what’s truly required, because if you have several appellants when you present a challenge, then, of course, it will cost two, three or four times more, depending on the number of appellants.

The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Crist. I’ll get back to some other questions later.

Senator Clement: I’d like to thank the witnesses. Congratulations Ms. Crist, for your last comment about the costs of an appeal in response to a challenge. It’s definitely worth talking about this point. I’m pleased to see members of the board of directors; I’ve had experience with community boards of directors and we’re always grateful for your presence here.

Ms. Morin, I’d like to return to your comments about the need for funds to keep your organizations healthy. Can you give us more details with respect to your comments? What’s required?

Ms. Morin: Thank you for your question. Any financial and human resource increases in our organizations were negatively affected by the pandemic over the past few years. The arts and culture have always been underfunded, and that has been the case for a long time. Resources are in short supply. The main sources of funding in our sector for those who actually receive funding — I will comment a little later on the organizations that we in the arts and culture sector call orphans — are primarily Canadian Heritage and its Official Languages Support Programs.

Needless to say, this source of funding is restricted owing to its limited envelope. In some instances, it enables us to conduct operational activities, and regular programming, but there is a major problem if we want to do any sector development work.

When I talk about sector development, I mean new emerging issues like francophone immigration. Our organizations also need to move their operations to digital. Also included is cultural diplomacy, and exporting to international venues. All of these, and international efforts in particular, involve expenditures that we can’t handle with the funding we receive from Canadian Heritage. For organizations like ours, it means all sorts of fundraising exercises from more or less stable sources, which are often used for projects other than multi-year ones.

The financial structure of our organizations is tenuous, even for those that receive Canadian Heritage funding, and even more so for those that do not. In our application under the next Action Plan for Official Languages, an amount is set aside specifically for these orphan organizations that do not have access to funds from Canadian Heritage and that rely on volunteer work and small budgets collected from municipalities and other community stakeholders that support their activities. It’s difficult and exhausting work.

Given that this sector is identified as essential in the act, which places the arts and culture on a pedestal in terms of its development potential, you’d expect a level of funding support that would enable these organizations to keep French-language culture alive. It’s interesting to see that at the end of August, a summit was held at the end of the Action Plan for Official Languages consultations. A group of young people had been invited to comment on this event. It’s absolutely clear that the things that triggered their interest in continuing their efforts and their community involvement in French were the artistic, cultural and community activities they had engaged in at school and outside the school setting. But if this kind of interest is to be triggered, funding is required.

That’s more or less what we’re saying. If we want this linguistic and cultural vitality to be supported in our communities, then the means are needed to do so.

Senator Clement: Thank you for this comprehensive answer and thanks for having spoken about the consultation held in August. As for the municipal sector, in this act, there is a great deal of discussion about the provincial and territorial governments. Do you see a role for the municipalities? Should the act pay more attention to the municipal sector?

Ms. Morin: Our organizations are in fact well connected within their municipalities.

Senator Clement: Yes, I know.

Ms. Morin: Yes, you’re in a good position to comment on it, probably better than I am. There’s already a connection. Just as we’ve been saying that the cultural community needs to link up with other sectors — I mentioned francophone immigration and the economy — isn’t it also true that ties need to be strengthened at all levels? Absolutely. It’s part of the equation. The federal government is one answer, but not the only one.

There are all kinds of players who must get involved in this desire to bring culture and the arts alive in French in the communities. There is clearly a place for the municipalities.

The Chair: I have a few questions for the Fédération culturelle canadienne-française. I heard you speaking earlier about the arts and culture. In the bill, in what is identified as an essential sector for enhancing vitality, all the talk is about culture. People increasingly want all the dimensions of their sector to be included.

Are you satisfied with the use of the word “culture”? Do you feel that it captures the entirety of your sector, or should there be further details, within the meaning of the act, in connection with this terminology?

Ms. Juneau: If we had the opportunity to improve what we have now, then, of course, the more precise we are, the better we will be able to ensure that this act protects what we value most. Of course, culture, broadly speaking, can include the arts. Our federation works with the cultural sector and an artistic sector. From that standpoint, if the act could be more precise and speak about the arts and culture sector, we’d be delighted. We wouldn’t object to that; quite the contrary.

Ms. Morin: I’d like to point out that at the federation, we adopted UNESCO’s definition of culture, which includes the arts and heritage. Their concept of culture is broad enough for us to feel included, I think.

Ms. Juneau: If it’s not otherwise mentioned, perhaps a reference to the UNESCO definition of culture could be included in the bill.

The Chair: I’d like to hear what you have to say about consultation. You haven’t talked about it, but we know that the issues between communities, organizations like yours, and the federal government come up often in the consultation process. You briefly mentioned accountability.

Bill C-11, which is being studied at another committee, goes into considerable detail about the various aspects that should be included in the consultation process.

Do you think that this should also be done in the Official Languages Act? If so, could you suggest any criteria or items that should be placed under the “consultation” heading?

Ms. Morin: I would say that the most important subsection in Bill C-11 is 5(2), which not only explains the consultation requirement, but gives specific details about how to conduct it. The level of detail in Bill C-11 is in our view better than what we have in Bill C-13.

So if there were a way of exporting what has been successfully clarified and specified into Bill C-13, we’d be overjoyed.

The Chair: Thank you for those answers. Ms. Crist, when I was in Vancouver, I was rather impressed at the diversity of the francophone community there. The bill stipulates that there will be a francophone immigration policy to be specified.

Do you have any content that you think it would be important to include in this francophone immigration policy? Is that something you have thought about?

Ms. Crist: Yes, of course. To quote a number that has already been published, the shortfall of francophones identified in Canada over the past 20 years — we never met the 4.4% objective for francophone immigration — is approximately 78,000 people. That’s how many francophones there are in British Columbia. The number is nevertheless revealing.

I can say that, not having had a clear policy on correcting the imbalance . . . It’s all very well to say that this year, or perhaps in 2023, we’ll manage to meet the 4.4% target officially, but I think we need to aim much higher than that to make up for lost ground. Doing so would have a very positive impact on our communities.

The Chair: You said that you could give me examples of positive measures that might be taken under Part VII.

Ms. Crist: Yes. In connection with our cause, we spoke earlier about devolution agreements. These provincial and federal agreements, even though the subject was only employment, can affect health care, health, education — in fact all fields of jurisdiction, whether shared or provincial.

Here’s a simple example. When we signed daycare agreements, there were agreements between all the provinces and all the territories. Unfortunately, in British Columbia, as in many provinces and territories, there was no clause about providing specific spaces for francophones when these new child care centres were created. So every agreement should concretely include clauses stipulating that certain services are reserved for francophones. That would mean there would be no guarantee of French-language child care centres.

The Chair: When we were in British Columbia, I heard that your government had a policy plan on services in French. I wonder whether including a language clause would help this plan. To put my question otherwise, what influence can you exert over your government on this French-language services policy? How in this instance would the Official Languages Act and the federal government become partners to help you ensure that the policy is sound and meets your needs?

Ms. Crist: I’m sure that there is goodwill on the part of the minister, Mr. Dix, in this area. My colleagues and the various boards of directors have worked on it for a long time. However, whatever the goodwill may be, it will not necessarily include what we would want or need. Negotiations are still underway.

However, I think that unless Bill C-13 is adopted — with substantive amendments — we would remain at the mercy of any form of instability.

A policy is not a statute. If we ever get a French-language services policy in British Columbia, we’ll be very happy. But would the policy go far enough to truly meet our needs? I still don’t know. I think that Bill C-13 could be considered our lifeline.

The Chair: Thank you for that.

Senator Mockler: I’d like to thank you, Ms. Crist. Since 1977, your organization has made a lot of progress. I’d like to congratulate you and everyone from your community for the hard work you have done.

You have all kinds of experience in dealing with every level of government. Do you feel that Bill C-13 goes as far as you would like with respect to your mission of promoting the artistic and cultural expression of francophone and Acadian communities?

Ms. Juneau: I’ll make a start and then let Ms. Morin continue.

An even stronger bill would include the cultural access issue. That goes back to the earlier discussion with Senator Clement about what our organizations need in the field to provide access to culture. If the claim is that culture is essential to the development and vitality of our communities, then citizens have to have access to it where they live. If the bill included the access to culture concept, we would be thrilled.

I’m not sure whether Ms. Morin would like to add anything.

Ms. Morin: That answer pretty well covers it. The starting point is the protection of language and culture. If these are protected, then we would go so far as to include the concept of access, which would enable the organizations to enable that culture to thrive and for people to have access to it. If the arts and culture are available, and a rich program enables people to enjoy them, to meet artists, and to feel emotional about it all, then we’ll have made a good deal of progress. We will have come full circle in terms of protecting language and culture, and covered every aspect, including access.

Senator Mockler: How would you like to see this worded in Bill C-13?

Ms. Morin: To cover the access concept?

Senator Mockler: Yes.

Ms. Morin: I could get back to you with specific wording. Based on our understanding and the opinions we’ve heard, there might, in Part VII, and more specifically in the section about institutions, be some places where the wording in question would be very appropriate.

Senator Mockler: Which department, or combination of departments, do you think would be in the best position to achieve the objectives you would like to meet?

Ms. Morin: It might be a combination of departments. We’re in favour of this idea of a strong central agency to handle accountability and the overall structure. We also think that some amendments suggested by the FCFA would provide a degree of balance in terms of the role to be played by Canadian Heritage with respect to culture. This would involve regional offices that are in touch with what’s happening on the ground. That department has expertise in dealing with our communities, and with the programs and public policies that affect us. More broadly, and that’s what’s interesting in this bill, there is the matter of institutions. It might also be possible to get some ideas from other departments that clearly need to give this some thought. Another possibility would be to work together with them to broaden our field of action.

At the FCCF, we have really emphasized intersectoral work, which allows for contacts with other sectors that have a role to play. I spoke about immigration earlier. This department would accordingly be a potential ally. The same goes for Employment and Social Development Canada, and Industry Canada. All the institutions and departments could play a role in this. The next bill should therefore further encourage intersectoral and interdepartmental efforts.

Senator Mockler: With all of your experience.

Ms. Morin: With our experience and the need to apply this artistic and cultural lens to communities other than ours.

Senator Mockler: Were you suitably consulted on Bill C-13?

Ms. Morin: The consultation process was spread over several months, or even years. Our sector participated very actively in the consultations. We had the opportunity to put forward the points that concerned us. We were heard on most of these points.

Ms. Juneau: We also know that this issue has been in the crosshairs for several years. We’re eager for the bill to be adopted. We also know that it’s going to be a historic moment. We have been living with the current act for 60 years. It’s not going to be reviewed within a couple of years. Now is the time to act. We can’t miss this historic opportunity. We need to do everything possible in terms of the review of the act to ensure that our communities will continue to prosper. If we miss it, I’m worried about the future. We can’t miss the chance to ensure that this act is effective, enforceable, comprehensive, and that it has teeth.

Senator Mockler: With your experience, you are aware that it’s possible to propose amendments or even to proceed through regulations. Which of those options would you prefer?

Ms. Morin: I would say both.

Ms. Juneau: As you can see, she has experience.

The Chair: Those are wise and creative words. I have a final short question. There’s been a lot of discussion on language rights. Would you say that the Official Languages Act is also an instrument that affirms the cultural rights of official language minority communities? From that standpoint, it goes beyond just language. It affects issues of expression and accessibility. Could you tell us more about cultural rights, and why Bill C-13 is so important for the affirmation and respect of cultural rights?

Ms. Morin: I think that some links have to be made, including with the official languages charter and other international treaties that Canada has signed. To answer your question, through the work we do in the field, we see a genuine link between the protective rights in this act and cultural rights, which provide access to language and culture.

The Chair: Thank you very much. On that note, Ms. Crist, thank you for having joined us to testify virtually from Vancouver. Your comments and thoughts will enlighten our debates, and contribute in particular to the drafting of our report on this pre-study.

I’d also like, on behalf of the committee members, to thank the Fédération culturelle canadienne-française and its members here today for the work you have done on the ground. I appreciate it in view of my previous experience in your sector. Of course, there is no language without culture. You are the leading workers in these efforts in the field. Thank you very much for your testimony. On that note, we are going to end the meeting.

(The committee adjourned.)

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