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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Official Languages

Issue 11 - Evidence


WINNIPEG, Wednesday, October 22, 2003

The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages met this day at 9:04 a.m., to examine education within the official languages minority communities.

The Hon. Rose-Marie Losier-Cool (Chair) in the Chair.

[Translation]

The Chairman: Today is Wednesday, October 22, 2003. First of all I would like to thank the Centre culturel franco- manitobain for welcoming us for these public hearings of our Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages.

The purpose of these meetings is to examine French education within the official languages minority communities. We will start the day by examining the situation for our young people. It is a pleasure to welcome Mr. Aimé Boisjoli and Ms. Rolande Kirouac from the Conseil jeunesse provincial du Manitoba.

This is what we will be doing this morning. From 9:00 until 9:45 we will hear the Conseil jeunesse provincial du Manitoba. After a 15-minute break, we will visit the historic centre located in the Centre culturel franco-manitobain building. That visit will be followed by a round table.

Without further delay, I give the floor to Ms. Rolande Kirouac from the Conseil jeunesse provincial du Manitoba.

Ms. Rolande Kirouac, Conseil jeunesse provincial du Manitoba: First, I would like to thank you for giving us this opportunity to present our point of view. In our presentation we will give you an overview of the many successes, challenges and needs of our youth as part of an official language minority.

The Conseil jeunesse provincial has been in existence for 29 years. Its mandate is to standardize life in French for Manitoba's youth. The mandate is to promote the French language in our young people's everyday lives so that living in French becomes the norm.

The CJP offers leadership training workshops and group activities for youth between the ages of 14 to 25. Our budget comes from many sources, about 50 per cent from Heritage Canada, 30 per cent from various provincial sources and 20 per cent from our members and partners in the private sector.

We participate in the educational sector at several levels. For 30 years, now, we have been offering a course entitled Projet étudiant animateur. This is a credit course. We also work in partnership with the Division scolaire franco- manitobaine. The role played by our organization in the field of education is mainly one of support. The purpose of CJP activities is mainly to develop pride in the ranks of Manitoba's francophone youth. To do this, the CJP must give the young people an opportunity to express themselves in their own language whether in the areas of visual arts, sports, music, debating, game playing, theatre, culinary arts and many other areas.

So our objective is to get these young people to live in French and support the educational sector in this essential undertaking.

The CJP is proud of its success. The Projet étudiant animateur course is a credit course in leadership which gives our youth an opportunity to learn how to become group leaders.

We offer practical training sessions in leadership. Those sessions teach the principle of how to organize and manage a meeting. They also teach our youth time management and personal development.

The Association des conseils étudiants is made up of many young people from French schools who hold positions on their respective schools' student boards. This association offers those young people training and an opportunity to network.

In Manitoba there is a youth parliament where young people can play at being ministers of the Crown. Debates are held in this youth parliament. The young people can then participate at a regional level in the west and the north. There was a first youth parliament organized at the Canadian level and we are now working on a second one.

We have the Jeux de la francophonie de l'Ouest et du Nord as well as the Jeux francophones at the Canadian level.

So we work with young people not only at the provincial level but also with the western and northern regions as well as at the national level.

The Christmas Réveillon is a yearly activity for the young people and another opportunity to get together. This activity is for those aged 18 and older.

One of the most important activities of the Conseil jeunesse provincial is the ``grand regroupement''. This activity draws over 1,000 young people who come from all over to participate. This goes on away from the city in one of the community's villages. Over the years the event has been called the Show Sont Nous, Foule Faire, Francotonne, Affaire Farouche, and finally RIFRAF. The name of this event changes from year to year so that the young people can go through their own particular event and not the same one as their big brother or big sister went through. Belonging is a very important element.

We work on the community's major concerns, the Sports Directorate being one of them. When a file goes by the wayside in the community, it is often picked up and adopted by the young people. We encourage that sort of thing because they are important for our youth. The Directorat des sports is an initiative whose purpose is sports in French in Manitoba for our youth and, possibly, for everyone. The Directorat des sports is presently going through a resurgence and we hope it will be able to fly on its own within a few years.

Our organization is also involved in entrepreneurship for youth. Within the context of the organizations Jeune Entreprise and Junior Achievements Manitoba, the Conseil jeunesse supports the development of francophone and anglophone partnerships with a view to ensuring greater development for our youth.

At the present time, we are working on the Programme d'animation culturelle (Cultural leadership program). This is a new program whose purpose is to develop everything concerning our young people's cultural identity and pride.

We have worked on breathing new life into the organization called 100 Nons. Once again, this is an organization that had dropped by the wayside and our young people decided to pick it up and run with it. The 100 Nons organization supports the development of the music industry in Manitoba. Today, it is an independent organization.

Mr. Aimé Boisjoli, President, Conseil jeunesse provincial: Our challenges are many. During last night's public meeting, some of the evidence certainly had to do with lack of funding. We also have that problem. We also have problems keeping our employees and recruiting new ones. We require rather qualified personnel that can take on major work loads. However, it is hard to pay these people what they are actually worth.

Within the context of our overall plan, we work in partnership with stakeholders in many areas. This leads to many meetings every year. Our sponsors are diversified. Each sponsorship has its own criteria that we must meet.

We also have problems keeping our members. Young people between the ages of 14 and 25, during that period of their lives, often go through a certain phase of discontent. The problem affects us and it is hard to bring those people back once they have left. It is a rather generalized cultural phenomenon.

The CJP wants to be an organization operated by youth for youth. The members of our board of directors are between 14 and 25 years of age. Our policy encourages the creation of programs and the coordination of those programs by the young people for the young people and not by adults. Our new clientele also includes aboriginal people, immigrants and people taking French immersion.

We have to create opportunities for the young people to meet and exchange views. Adequate funding must be obtained in order to encourage our youth to develop and to set up youth initiatives. We must support the development of cultural pride. Centralization of funding for youth activities has to be set up. Young people must have their own place in our community, a physical location that belongs to them. Our young people must also have their own role in the community and be engaged in the decision-making process.

We wish to thank the honourable members of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages for this opportunity to be heard.

The Chairman: Thank you for your presentation. Could you give us more detail on how you get your funding? You get 50 per cent from Heritage Canada in what form? Do you set up a program first and then ask for financial aid or are the funds simply given to you?

Ms. Kirouac: We have to go through a whole procedure to get funding from Heritage Canada. The basic operations of the Conseil jeunesse provincial must be presented as well as all its programming.

The funding from Heritage Canada is greatly appreciated. It allows us to get supplementary funds to finance the Conseil jeunesse provincial's projects and development. The basic envelope from Heritage Canada allows us to maintain our core. Setting up initiatives such as the 100 Nons, the Sports Directorate or the Cultural Leadership Program could not be done based only on the basic envelope from Heritage Canada. However, that envelope does allow us to get extra funding for our projects.

The Chairman: Does the basic envelope provide partially for your organization's operations and partially for your programs?

Ms. Kirouac: Yes, that envelope provides both for the basic operations and the basic programming. The basic operations include provision for an office, office supplies and the location as such. The basic programming of the Conseil jeunesse provincial includes the ``grand rassemblement'' and the leadership training.

The Chairman: Do you have full-time employees?

Ms. Kirouac: Yes.

The Chairman: How many full-time employees do you have?

Ms. Kirouac: Three.

Senator Comeau: I would like to pursue the funding question. In your presentation, you indicated that, amongst your challenges, you had to meet the criteria of your sponsors especially at the federal and provincial government levels.

Ms. Kirouac: Indeed.

Senator Comeau: Are your projects designed specifically around those criteria or are government officials receptive and forthcoming with criteria based on your needs?

Ms. Kirouac: We are constantly negotiating because our envelope comes from different sources. Each department has its own criteria that we must respect and they are a reflection of their respective mandates. So there is always ongoing negotiation.

It requires detailed work to understand the criteria fully. After that, we have to negotiate those criteria based on our own mandate because we do not want to change our raison d'être just to get our hands on a $5,000, $10,000 or $20,000 envelope.

Our sources of funding are diversified. Meeting all the criteria is a real challenge. We must manage those funds with care in order to provide accountability and credibility. We have to act with discernment within the context of our programming to satisfy our sources of funding. For example, for the Programme d'animation culturelle, we have to present that project based on the criteria as well as ensure relevant management in order to remain accountable.

Senator Comeau: And you do the same thing at the federal level?

Ms. Kirouac: Yes.

Senator Comeau: You fill out their forms.

Ms. Kirouac: Yes.

Senator Comeau: And you have to tick off the right boxes and meet the objectives?

Ms. Kirouac: Yes.

Senator Comeau: Then you turn around and go see the provincial government?

Ms. Kirouac: Yes.

Senator Comeau: And it has a different series of boxes with different shades of the same colours?

Ms. Kirouac: Indeed.

Senator Comeau: So, in a way, you have to become officials yourselves.

Ms. Kirouac: Yes.

Senator Comeau: Then you have to go get the funds you need to satisfy government requirements in terms of ``matching.''

Ms. Kirouac: Yes.

Senator Comeau: This has to be an easier job when you approach businesses, because their procedure is a bit less elaborate.

Ms. Kirouac: Actually, yes. The Conseil jeunesse provincial also had to make certain changes to its internal management to become a more credible and accountable organization. We had to increase the amounts allocated to the organization's bookkeeping and financial management. Thus, we have less money to provide coordination and programming for our young people.

Some efforts were made to become more accountable and better organized. Actually this approach was welcomed by our board. That kind of improvement is useful and necessary to get sponsors. You have to invest in order for non- profit organizations to be adequately funded. You also have to invest in order to manage the funding and the projects based on your different sources of funding.

Senator Comeau: I presume you have to report on your activities to your sponsors each year. However, when you ask for funds, do you have to start the whole process over every year?

Ms. Kirouac: Yes.

Senator Comeau: Is that the case for all your projects or can some of them last four or five years, for example?

Ms. Kirouac: Well, for example, we can present a project over three years. The Programme d'animation culturelle (Cultural leadership program) is a developing project. For that project we presented three stages of development, in other words three years of funding.

When the project is presented and the first year is accepted, then we get a certain level of funding for the first stage without knowing whether we will be getting any more funding for the second and third stages. So we have to present the project again the second year. However, there is a history at that point and a relationship has been established. So we do not have to go back to square one to study the criteria and meet the agents again.

Senator Comeau: However, there are no guarantees when you undertake the project. The whole thing could be wound up at the end of the year.

Ms. Kirouac: From year to year, the complete programming of the Conseil jeunesse provincial is not assured. We are talking about operations from year to year, about salaries and contracts with the employees. I for one have a one-year contract that extends from April 1 to March 31. That is about the time of year we get our answers for the different projects.

Senator Comeau: Do you generally deal with the same officials or do those people change?

Ms. Kirouac: I have been with the CJP for three years and I have been working with the same project officers. They are very receptive and support our work. This aspect is a very important component that helps with our development. The relationship with those project officers does not have to be constantly revisited.

Senator Comeau: If you were to make a recommendation to help us write our report, what would that recommendation be? I suppose you would like to get more money.

Ms. Kirouac: Yes.

Senator Comeau: But, more importantly, perhaps your wish would be greater long term stability? You have to negotiate every year on top of working on several projects at a time.

Ms. Kirouac: Indeed.

Senator Comeau: Those yearly negotiations take up part of the time which, otherwise, could be put into projects flowing directly from your mandate. In that sense, longer term stability might help accomplish your objectives?

Ms. Kirouac: Certainly. Stability can take on two forms. Youth funds could be centralized and that would mean fewer sponsors. Then, making it possible to submit projects on a five-year basis, for example, and then do the diversification and the ``matching'' would also be a step in the right direction.

Fifty per cent core funding on a longer period than one year, five years, for example, would afford some stability. Moreover, the fact of having to produce follow-up reports rather than having to submit new requests every year would add to that stability. Thus we could have long term planning as we are being asked to provide, rather than doing it one year at a time. It is hard to plan for the long term when you have to prepare new funding requests every year. That is the contradiction we have to deal with.

The Chairman: As a bit of an encouragement, I can indicate that yesterday, during the public hearing, some witnesses also raised that matter of long term funding. I can see that your organization, as it is set up, has to meet that challenge on an ongoing basis. You are not the only ones in that situation. I could quote you the old saying: ``When I look at myself I feel sorry; when I compare myself to others I feel better.''

Senator Comeau: That does not solve the fundamental problem.

The Chairman: Indeed.

Senator Chaput: When CJP refers to core operation funding, these are amounts of money obtained under the Canada-Community agreement?

Ms. Kirouac: Yes.

Senator Chaput: Those agreements are renegotiable in 2004. In many provinces they are trying to get funds from Heritage Canada. The committee could recommend that the projects submitted through agreements could be accepted for a period of three to five years with an annual evaluation and that funding could be assured for that three-to-five year period. That would provide a slightly more solid basis to the groups and organizations. That initiative could apply all across Canada where Canada-Community agreements apply.

The Chairman: Those are the agreements that are undergoing an evaluation process at this point.

Senator Chaput: Those agreements wind up at the end of March and the new agreement would come into force on April 1, 2004. So interim funding is going to be granted.

Ms. Kirouac, how many grant applications do you file every year?

Ms. Kirouac: Do you mean the applications that we actually get money for in return, or applications for which we do not get any money in return?

Senator Chaput: How many do you file over a year?

Ms. Kirouac: Grants include applications for the organization and applications for the projects. We can prepare up to 30 applications per year. Preparing an application first means a research stage to determine whether the application meets the criteria. Then, we write up the application. After that, we have to ask for community support at the government level to push that application forward.

Once the application is filed, we have to wait to find out if it will be accepted or rejected. During that time, we have to do a follow-up to know at what stage of the process the application is. When the application is accepted, it is rarely accepted for the exact objectives we had set out. Therefore we have to work on adjustments and follow-up after an application has been accepted.

Sometimes, an application filed concerning a given project will only bring in $500. In that case we go through the exercise anyway because that amount can help us go get more.

Senator Chaput: Mr. Boisjoli, when I met you, you were the president of the Association des comités scolaires secondaires francophones, were you not?

Mr. Boisjoli: The Association des conseils étudiants.

Senator Chaput: That association includes our French schools?

Mr. Boisjoli: Yes.

Senator Chaput: Could you tell me briefly about that association and those student councils? How many student councils are there and what do they do?

Mr. Boisjoli: In theory, the association is made up of the student councils of the Division scolaire franco- manitobaine high schools. This division includes 11 schools, if memory serves.

Things have changed a lot over the years. At the beginning, we examined the activities of the other high schools. When the DSFM started up, that network was quite new. Today, the network has become a forum for discussion and training. The young students go to a monthly meeting and learn how to advance demands. They start with the leadership training period and then training is ongoing throughout the year. Of course, we also do general networking.

The Chairman: And do you have a big budget?

Mr. Boisjoli: No.

The Chairman: I had the opportunity of teaching in a high school where student councils had major budgets available. I presume everything depends on the number of students?

Mr. Boisjoli: With respect to the student council, I agree. However, the council must pay to belong to the ASC. This body was established by the board of the CJP, because it was felt necessary to develop a network of schools. The budget today is higher. Three thousand dollars a year are spent on training and meals, among other things.

The Chairman: Are the $3,000 raised through activities?

Ms. Kirouac: The $3,000 amount comes from the basic operating budget. The figure does not include the salary of the person responsible for coordinating the activities of the Association des conseils étudiants. The budget for this is rather limited.

The Chairman: There is also a national body representing student councils. Is your organization affiliated with it?

Mr. Boisjoli: A national organization of student councils?

The Chairman: The organization that represents all schools across Canada?

Ms. Kirouac: Our partner nationally is the Fédération jeunesse canadienne-française, and we do contribute to the development of this body. In the last two years, we have taken part in meetings and helped define the mandate of this organization. We hope to see others join this group, and we are trying to establish ties with equivalent organizations at the national level.

Senator Chaput: How many years has the Division scolaire franco-manitobaine existed? I think the idea of establishing this division arose out of the fact that our schools are scattered around the province, in designated regions, where there are francophones. The idea was therefore to establish a network of young francophones who, all of a sudden, were no longer part of the division to which they previously belonged, but rather were part of a large division made up of schools located throughout Manitoba.

I believe that at the time your objective was to bring these young people together by establishing a network, because these young people suddenly found themselves cut off from their friends and in a state of psychological shock.

Mr. Boisjoli: Yes.

Senator Chaput: So this is something that was done initially.

Mr. Boisjoli: Yes, and this was particularly the case in isolated regions. For example, the school in Saint-Claude has 20 pupils, and there is an immersion school in Saint-Claude with close to 100 pupils. So the francophone pupils in this little community feel very much in the minority. The idea was to offer these pupils the opportunity to join another network, and therefore be part of a community.

Senator Léger: You are the provincial president of the Conseil jeunesse provincial?

Mr. Boisjoli: Yes.

Senator Léger: Are there any subsidies specifically for French-language radio and television in order to support your work for French in this minority community? Because we are so close to the United States, our media have to withstand a great deal of American competition. Would anyone even listen to a request for financial support for this purpose? I know such services are very costly. However, I think that the arts and music are important sectors. Do the francophone media receive financial support?

Ms. Kirouac: There is a community radio station — Envol 91 — which broadcasts throughout Manitoba. However, some regions cannot get this French-language community radio station.

Although this is a desirable objective, it is not part of our mandate. The Conseil jeunesse provincial has tried to ensure that community radio stations are established provincially and nationally. These efforts were also supported by the Fédération jeunesse canadienne-française. Community radio is very important.

Some schools have a community or school radio station, and we do support these through our activities. We are promoting the development of new music. We hosted the group Swing at the last RIFRAF gathering. In cooperation with the school division, we ensured that some teaching material was sent to the schools. Young people were therefore introduced to the group and had an opportunity to listen to their music before the meeting. So the group was a hit at the event.

Events of this type are wonderful experiences for young people. Our role is to stimulate their interest in new music by getting samples for them to hear. The purpose of this contribution is to develop the French music network in Manitoba.

The organization 100 Nons of the music industry puts on shows. Once a year students put on the Chicane électrique.

Senator Chaput: That is a special event?

Ms. Kirouac: Yes. In the summer, a group of young people put on a show which, I can tell you, looks very professional. About 30 young people present a show on stage. Some very attractive prizes are given out during this event. One of them is the opportunity to produce a CD during the year.

So we do have cultural development activities, and we support initiatives of this type. However, the situation is not ideal. There is still a great deal to be done to develop cultural activities in French in Manitoba in the audiovisual sphere. Of course, young people are very exposed to American products, and there is nothing we can do about that. In any case, our objective is not to fight this phenomenon, but rather to add to the culture of young people. That is the objective of our activities.

The Chairman: What activities are the most popular with young people? Cultural or sports events? Is it not more or less always the same young people who take part in these events whose success you have mentioned?

Mr. Boisjoli: RIFRAF is definitely the most successful event. All high school students in the DSFM take part in it, that is about 1,000 students a year.

I think most organizations face the problem you mentioned, namely that it is always the same people who take part in these activities. However, we are trying to involve as many young people as possible. For example, we noticed that the Sports Directorate initiative seems to appeal more to the young people who are interested in culture. From my involvement with 100 Nons before going to the CJP, I noticed that this is a natural tendency among a number of young people.

We also noticed that many young people involved in sports had to leave to go to the University of Manitoba or to other places. We therefore established a Sports Directorate so that francophone coaches could teach young francophones in their own language. We have francophone coaches in the schools. I was at a French-language school of the DSFM, and the terms used were in English, because that was our coach's training.

Senator Léger: Can you talk to us about the Francophone Games?

Mr. Boisjoli: There are the northern and western Francophone Games. These are Canadian Francophone Games. They include track and field, volleyball and all the sports offered in the schools. The games also have a cultural component. Various groups perform as part of the musical awareness program. The games also have visual arts and improvization activities. A leadership workshop is also offered at which young people are given an opportunity in their field.

Senator Léger: Do these games take place in the west generally, or just in Manitoba?

Mr. Boisjoli: In the entire western region.

Senator Léger: And the games are held in French?

Mr. Boisjoli: They take place in French. The Francophone Games are held once every three years, and the Canadian Francophone Games are held the year after.

Senator Léger: Do you receive enough funding to meet your needs? In my experience, politicians are not accustomed to the words ``artist'' or ``arts''. Do you have the same problems?

Ms. Kirouac: Let me give you the example of the northern and western games. We would like to organize games in British Columbia in 2004. We received about $25,000 from the inter-regional envelope under the Canada-Community agreement for events. The shortage of funding for these games means that we will have to consider having athletes travel by bus rather than by plane.

It will take athletes coming from Manitoba three days to travel to British Columbia by bus. They cannot remain seated for two days. So the trip has to be broken up. The athletes travel one day and stay overnight somewhere to train, eat and sleep. Then they continue their journey. So these factors must be taken into account in making the travel arrangements.

All these events have so many variables. We must manage to carry out these projects as economically as possible and resist the temptation to reach beyond our means. When we organize the northern and western games, sometimes we stretch our budget resources and push the envelope beyond what we have. Our volunteers become exhausted and employees have to do overtime, which is often unpaid, and therefore becomes volunteer work as well. However, these games are very important to us.

Perhaps we are not very good salespeople. Apparently we are unable to communicate the value of this experience for young people. Our organization funds these young people. How can we describe the contribution we make? How can we make it be seen for what it is worth?

Mr. Boisjoli: How can we quantify it?

Ms. Kirouac: How can we quantify it? That is the challenge. We know how important these activities are. At every opportunity, we point out the importance of these activities to whomever will listen. The challenge lies in following up on written remarks. We should write them on animated paper.

Senator Léger: Well put.

The Chairman: The Western Games are the equivalent of the Acadian Games.

Ms. Kirouac: Exactly.

The Chairman: I do not know which year the Acadian Games started. That year a foundation was established for the first time to look after financing and other matters. Has any thought been given yet to the athletes from the west who may go to the upcoming Francophone Games? As you know, the Olympic athlete, Joël Bourgeois, got his start in the Acadian Games.

Ms. Kirouac: Our men's and women's volleyball teams are outstanding. Last year, one of our young athletes went to Rivière-du-Loup and was lured away. He got a scholarship to continue his education in Quebec.

The Chairman: Maybe he will go to Niger next year.

Ms. Kirouac: Who knows? The games provide an opportunity for cultural expression and gathering. They also provide an opportunity to train an outstanding group of athletes.

[English]

The Chairman: Senator Keon.

Senator Keon: What an enormously interesting enterprise. It is wonderful. Tell me how your ``parlement jeunesse'' works and what it consists of.

[Translation]

Senator Chaput: You may answer in French, if you wish.

Ms. Kirouac: I will try to answer in English.

[English]

I will try in English. ``Parlement jeunesse'' is an initiative where youth get together and reproduce what actually happens in Parliament.

Senator Keon: Right.

Ms. Kirouac: They will nominate ministers and all the other people that you need to form the government. They prepare legislation ahead of time and then debate these issues in Parliament. Everything is simulated and this happens at the provincial level in most provinces across Canada.

Eastern Canada has been ahead of us when it comes to the Games and to sports. It has sort of transferred west. The Parliament is something that is stronger in the west and being transferred to the east. As far as youth development goes, this is really interesting because sports types and parliament types and cultural types are all different. We try to offer these types experiences so we can reach these people and give them opportunities to be together.

We are fond of the youth parliament initiative because it gets these types of kids involved in the youth sector. We have a youth parliament that's very active in Western Canada and in the north.

There is a youth parliament every year and we send a delegation of 10 youth to participate. It is a tri-level initiative. At the provincial level, it is aimed at younger kids. The regional level focuses on ages 16 to 18. At the community level, we hope to be able to reach the age group 18 to 25. That is more difficult. It is easy when they are still in school, but when they are out in the community, they are doing their own thing.

At the regional level, it becomes very ``professional.'' I would even say that the bills they make are very well developed and each province comes with their own bills and are ready to defend it when they present it at the regional level.

The nominations for the ministers are also very interesting. It happens every year. Therefore, in addition to our delegation, there are the ministers from Manitoba that were elected the previous year. That is another way of ensuring development: they go from participating in youth parliament to becoming ministers at the provincial level, at the regional level and at the national level.

Now, we are working on the national level, however we are a little bit behind. We have to ensure the development in the east for these initiatives to be able to have a strong youth parliament at the Canadian level. Currently the national level is dominated by the west because that is where it began. That is rather interesting, is it not?

It is a very valuable experience. As to funding this initiative, I think we will get enough because it is very structured, goal-oriented and it has a development component.

We are having problems with our games. I think we have to do a sort of a mea culpa. We are in development as well. We are working to ensure that the games will happen and that they are truly recognized as part of the Canadian portrait. We have been working with various sports organizations in this regard. We are also developing a partnership with Sports Manitoba. Here we are not only working with a professional organization, we are also working with the anglophone sector.

It is a challenge for French community to join up with English partners. It is a shift for us and it brings about challenges that we did not expect. For example, in which language are we going to have our meetings? We do not have translation. We are in a sort of getting-to-know each other phase — we are ``dating'' if you will. It is all in the early stages, but it is going well.

Senator Keon: Congratulations. I think you are terrific, yes. I would recommend you do not get translation because the system is forced to work when there is no translation. People can communicate and understand without translation and their concentration breaks with translation, I think.

Ms. Kirouac: Yes, thank you.

[Translation]

The Chairman: We thank you for coming and we wish you good luck. Your comments were most interesting. With your dynamism, you cannot help but succeed. You have been an inspiration to us this morning.

We will now take a short break before going to the Heritage Centre Museum.

The meeting was suspended.

 

The meeting resumed.

The Chairman: Committee members, I would suggest that our next trip be to Regina, Saskatchewan. It would be an interesting opportunity for those of us who have never been there.

Today we have with us some representatives from Saskatchewan. Mr. Denis Ferré is with the Division scolaire francophone, Ms. Michelle Arsenault is with the Services fransaskois d'éducation des adultes, and Mr. Bernard Roy is with the Association des parents francophones. You are also a school principal, are you not, Mr. Roy?

Mr. Bernard Roy, Association des parents francophones: I was a principal. I am now Superintendent of Education.

[English]

The Chairman: From Canadian Parents for French, we welcome Dr. Karen Taylor-Brown.

[Translation]

Mr. Ferré, you have the floor.

Mr. Denis Ferré, Division scolaire francophone: Our presentations share certain points. I would therefore invite the other witnesses to comment if they would like to. We have prepared visuals. As a teacher by avocation and by vocation, I find that visual tools are often useful.

We are here representing the Division scolaire francophone and the Parents' Association. We will begin by examining the impact of federal-provincial-territorial agreements on early childhood. Our presentation is structured more or less on the basis of the questions that you sent us.

The current agreements give us no access to funding, since we do not meet the province's criteria. Young francophones in Saskatchewan do not have direct access to this early childhood funding. The province promotes the concept of community schools — a concept that I will explain to you in a few moments.

Those primarily targeted under these agreements are children at risk. A child is considered to be at risk if he or she is exposed to violence, is homeless, or is inadequately fed. A small percentage of young children meet those criteria, but the majority do not.

If the agreements are designed primarily for children at risk, what is left for young francophone children in Saskatchewan? In reality, they are left out of these agreements, and there are no financial resources to meet their needs.

This may be a negative situation, but we do not lack for ideas. Our successes also deserve mention. We have been successful because we have created a partnership between the Division scolaire francophone and the Parents' Association. Why did we choose to partner with the Parents' Association? That association is responsible for early childhood issues. It has taken on that mandate. What is the purpose of this partnership? In Saskatchewan, the only institution that has a legitimate existence is education. Therefore, in order to gain visibility and access to resources, we need to create a link to educational institutions. That is the reason behind this partnership between the Parents' Association and the Division scolaire francophone. Mr. Roy will now describe some of the challenges we face.

Mr. Roy: The Parents' Association was unable to be present today. Since we work together, we were asked to make this presentation on their behalf.

We have needs in terms of access to services. Meeting those needs poses a number of challenges. We now have the beginnings of early childhood centres. However, we need to go further in order to meet early childhood needs. When we talk about early childhood, we need to talk about day cares, preschool programs, an early childhood centre that can provide primary health services and family services. Our objective is to meet families' needs by emphasizing prevention, promotion and information to parents. It is very important to help parents prepare their children for school.

There is a lack of money and a lack of qualified professionals. The Division scolaire francophone trains its people. We have few professionals, and they are not always available where there is a need for early childhood intervention. It is important to develop family service centres, which are indispensable for readying our children for school and meeting needs.

The Dion plan, of course, made it possible to develop projects and created the opportunity for research and further development. That is the federal government's vision. Unfortunately, implementation of all our plans depends on the province. And the federal and provincial governments do not always share the same vision.

Another challenge is that the majority of our children are from mixed marriages, from exogamous families. The centres have to take the children where they find them. We are dealing with a very high rate of assimilation. In Canada, 6 out of every 10 children in exogamous families where the mother is a francophone are assimilated; in the case of exogamous families headed by a francophone father, the rate is 9 out of 10. That means that the culture is not being passed on. The assimilation rate in Saskatchewan right now is the highest in Canada. So we are dealing with a dual challenge. The challenge is greater in Saskatchewan than in any other province or territory. So research is an important avenue for us.

The Association des parents fransaskois took the initiative of carrying out research on early childhood issues of francophones in Saskatchewan. That research was made possible by a grant from Agriculture Canada. We are very pleased to have been given that support.

Mr. Ferré: Some amount of imagination went into that.

Senator Chaput: That is the creative spirit of Saskatchewan francophones.

Mr. Roy: It is very important to us to be able to seek out such support. Research is an important aspect. We want to determine how well-prepared our children are when they enter the school system. There are clear and identified francization needs. We want to better prepare our children in terms of those needs.

Let us turn now to the need we have for resources. We already mentioned that, in Saskatchewan, a child considered to be at risk is one that is exposed to violence or is homeless. From our standpoint, children at risk are those who are not fluent in their own language when they get to school. That can become a learning barrier.

I would remind you that Saskatchewan did not take part in testing at the national level. When we compare our results with those of minorities in other provinces, it is clear that Saskatchewan francophones are not succeeding as well in certain areas. We need therefore to concentrate on francization in order to prepare our children better for school. Without that emphasis, children in Grade 1 cannot meet the requirements of their grade level.

Mr. Ferré: It becomes very difficult to learn physics or chemistry in high school for children who do not master their mother tongue. That is why we need to emphasize language teaching at the elementary level. Francophones are no less intelligent than other children. But we know that language is a learning barrier.

Mr. Roy: That is why it is important to have resources to support children's overall development. The mandate of schools in minority communities is to ensure school success. Schools also need to ensure identity success. We therefore need to take action in early childhood so that parents know what to do. We need to guide parents in fostering the development of their children.

Mr. Ferré: We do, however, need to point out a positive aspect in all this. Yes, we need resources, which is our main message. But we have the energy to get where we want to go.

For example, the day cares in our two urban centres are full. That is a good sign. So we are succeeding in some areas in spite of the obstacles. However, it would be wrong to think that we have enough resources.

I would now like to comment the studies at the elementary and secondary levels. The parameters are the basis of section 23. The rulings in Mahé and Arsenault-Cameron are key to the whole education system. They deal with remedial steps, francization and, once again, equality of results.

There is an interesting concept being promoted in Saskatchewan. This is the ``School Plus initiative.'' Under that approach, the school becomes the centre of the community. It is a service centre for families, which seeks to meet the needs of families in various ways.

In order to meet early childhood needs, pre-kindergarten in Saskatchewan starts at the age of three. Our schools have programs for three-year-olds. They are paid for with public money. Although these kinds of programs supported by the department are very positive, there are costs involved.

We talked about early childhood services. The concept of integrated family services is one that includes health, social and legal services. As has been said, these services come out of the education budget. The $2 million we get goes quickly. The Saskatchewan agreement produces about $2 million a year out of a budget of $11 million.

Mr. Roy: The $2 million is used for francization. Major efforts are needed in that area. We have a plan for full-time kindergarten. Unfortunately, we are not able to go ahead with it.

Mr. Ferré: We have talked about half days for children between three and four years of age. However, we want to keep a full-day program for our five-year-olds.

Mr. Roy: We are investing a lot of energy in cultural activities in order to develop cultural references for our children and build their identity through culture. We assign teachers to help our children improve their French, since this is a teaching activity.

We also have marketing officers in every school to reach out to young people and make our product known.

We have also developed distance education. Some high school courses are available through distance education. For example, there is a grade 9 course to familiarize students with the system. Last year, we offered 14 television-based courses at the grades 10, 11 and 12 levels. Every school has that service. There are two teachers who devote their time to distance education. We are continuing to develop it. Some funding has been obtained to develop on-line teaching units.

Over 125 young people took distance courses last year that were offered by our small schools. We are not able to have specialists in each one of our small high schools. So we need to use distance education to provide physics and math courses.

Our research has shown that the success rate is the same whether the courses are provided in the school or through distance education. Every one of our schools has a resource person available to help with distance education. The program has met with a degree of success over the past three years. I would add that one of the winners at the science fair was a student who had taken the courses through distance education.

Mr. Ferré: He got to the national level.

Mr. Roy: That is right.

Mr. Ferré: It is true that he was a very strong student.

Mr. Roy: Those courses are not available in the regular school. However, we are doing well in that area.

We increasingly have to meet the need for distance education. Some students are outside our school areas, others live in regions that do not have access to our schools. We have eligible students who would like to do courses through the Internet. We need to be able to offer that service. However, we do not have funding for it.

How can we meet these needs without funding? That is a challenge we have to meet.

As for student recruitment, we need to have the support of families. We need to work with the families so that they support our mission and our vision. They also need to feel at home. We mentioned this with respect to early childhood, and that aspect is very important.

Our marketing is done where the people are. As a school division, however, we have to be responsible to the province. We are not successful in all regions. Some regions do not have schools despite having a certain number of francophones. Some 20 per cent of our student population lives in our region. That means that 80 per cent of the student population is outside our region and we need to reach those families.

Mr. Ferré: The question of student retention is dealt with in the document that you sent us. Our greatest challenge in that area comes when children move from elementary to secondary school. In Saskatchewan, that happens in grade 8 or the start of high school.

Our retention rates, especially in urban areas, are about 60 to 65 per cent. So we lose 35 per cent of our students. That loss can be explained by comparing our schools with neighbouring schools. Students have told us some reasons why they switched: the size of the schools and groups, infrastructures, nice buildings, gymnasiums. Although it is difficult to accept, these losses are part of reality. Students have a right to an education in adequate facilities in order to achieve the best results.

The province recently announced an enlargement project at the secondary level, in principle, for Saskatoon. However, as you know, there is an election campaign going on and things could change. If there is a change for us, there might be a change everywhere. If that happens, once again, what recourse will we have? For francophones, it means court proceedings and expenses. We are ready and our statement is ready. People say that negative energy is needed in order to make progress —

I am a teacher by training and not a lawyer. However, we spend most of our time working on our demands. We will carry on, whatever happens. That goes with the territory.

Part of the reason that we lose students is because there are tensions and because our infrastructure does not compare well with that of majority schools.

Moreover, we would like to have larger groups and to be able to offer all the services. But we do not have economies of scale or the funding to do great things, even though we have a right to them. As a result, maintaining the balance we need to retain our students is quite a challenge.

We also have some unfair competition. In Saskatchewan, section 144 of the Education Act deprives a generation of their privileges in the following circumstances. In a family where the grandparents speak French but the parents no longer do, yet they would like to send their children to francophone schools, they cannot do so without permission from the majority-language school division. The number of students is declining in Saskatchewan, as is the population in the various sectors. So the majority is not interested in letting go of their young people to minority-language schools.

We feel that it is deplorable that we have to once again ask the majority for permission to put our young people in francophone schools. Do we have the right to manage education or not? That important question is before the courts right now, and I wanted to raise it here with you.

Another point is that we currently have many francophone students in immersion schools. I do not mean to criticize immersion programs — and Ms. Taylor-Brown will forgive me. Immersion programs are very good programs for our anglophone friends who are interested in French. I would add that their support is very useful to us. However, the majority school divisions do not ask us for permission to register our francophone students in their schools. This is unfair competition.

We are feeling a little sorry for ourselves. But I will end on a positive note.

Another challenge is teacher recruitment. There are 32 minority francophone school boards outside Quebec, and we are all competing for the same teachers. There is a serious shortage of teachers. How many teachers did we replace this year?

Mr. Roy: We have hired 37 teachers.

Mr. Ferré: Thirty-seven teachers for a small division like ours! We are at the point where there are hardly any teachers left. It is difficult to explain this to our taxpayers.

There is also a problem with training in specialized areas, especially in math, science, speech therapy and special education. It is difficult to work with split grades. There are no teachers left.

However, as promised, I will end on a positive note. Despite all these obstacles, and despite Saskatchewan's declining population, our school division is holding its own in terms of population. Our numbers even increased 3 per cent this year, which is not bad. So we are having some amount of success.

Mr. Roy: How do we view negotiations under the official languages program in the education sector? In Saskatchewan, our applications have to go through the department. We have good relations with the department. Our applications are processed, and the funding is provided. However, that situation creates some problems. When the officials change or when there is a new government, we risk losing that good relationship. We would like to be at the bargaining table. We could then make our demands and describe the situation we are dealing with.

Mr. Ferré: In addition, we are the only francophone school division in the province. So it should not be too complicated to include us in the negotiations. A school board is a legitimate level of government. So it should be possible to be involved in the negotiations.

Mr. Roy: I would like to briefly describe what the level of services should be compared with what the majority has.

Mr. Ferré: If the number is lower, in the table, we usually indicate it at the bottom. When the numbers increase, the services increase. We know that this is not the case for francophones. We do not have the figures. So we would first need to start with a higher level of services and then increase. As you can see, the picture is not the same and this is not reasonable. We have to start higher. Section 23 of the Education Act makes the difference. So we could probably have our school.

We will now turn to the post-secondary level. I believe that Ms. Arsenault will have a few comments on that.

Mr. Roy: To begin with, we should mention the Institut français at the University of Regina. The institute was built in the 1990s with funding of $2 million provided to the university. At that time, it was called the Institut linguistique français.

Francophones in Saskatchewan kind of lost control over that institute. But we are currently working with the university to try to offer some services once again and get funding. At one point the funding decreased and the services were affected. The problem remains: the numbers are not there, nor are the services. As we already pointed out, if we want to attract people, we have to have services and we have to promote them.

The Committee for Post-Secondary Education in French has worked with the University of Regina to redefine the institute as a French institute providing post-secondary services. We have already talked about the early childhood issue and about elementary and secondary education. But we need to have something after that in order to encourage people and support our communities, otherwise we risk losing our young people. So it is important that the agreement with the Institut français be signed very soon, because the needs exist. Every day that goes by makes the situation worse, and we still do not have funding to allow us to go ahead.

We have to continue to provide services in French at the post-secondary level. That is where the Institut français comes in. We also need to create gathering places, where these French post-secondary services will be offered.

There is talk of staying in contact with our young people who leave to study elsewhere so that we can invite them to do work terms here. To create an impact on our communities, we need to have a succession strategy. Our young people leave in large numbers to study in other jurisdictions. If we do not keep in contact with them, we cannot ensure that there will be young people to take over.

Saskatchewan does not produce enough teachers for our current needs. Steps have to be taken to resolve that problem. A few teachers come out of our education programs, but not enough to fulfil our needs.

Mr. Ferré: We do not want to lose all our young people to the University of Ottawa. For example, my daughter is studying this year at the University of Ottawa.

Mr. Roy: I had the same experience. One of my sons went to study in Sherbrooke, Quebec. And I had to pay $800 a semester extra because he was from outside the province.

So we send our young people to study outside the province, and then we have to pay a supplement. We have to deal with our young people leaving — which is a sacrifice on both sides, since our young people also suffer from being far away; once you go away from home, you can feel a little lost.

Also with a view to educating our young people so that they can take our places, we need a bursary system and the possibility of offering work terms. If we do not have post-secondary programs, we could at least hire young people on work terms in various areas such as health and education and ensure that services are networked.

It is increasingly important for us to tap into our community in order to create the necessary resources. We often respond to requests without having the people we need to provide the services in French. It is a vicious circle. We need to prepare our young people and ensure access to services.

Ms. Michelle Arsenault, Services fransaskois d'éducation des adultes: Without repeating what has already been said by Mr. Roy and Mr. Ferré, I would like to mention two issues that we have in common. The Saskatchewan francophone adult education service, which has its headquarters at Mathieu College in Gravelbourg, offers French education programs to anyone 16 years of age or over, across the province.

The first issue is the need to have quality programs in French that are credited at the college level. Since September 2003, the service has worked with the Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise, which is the governing body for francophones in Saskatchewan, to apply a structured approach to developing a francophone college in Saskatchewan, in parallel to the Institut français at the University of Regina for undergraduate, masters and doctoral level programs.

For the moment, the work is limited essentially to researching information and looking into studies. We have two people who are working with the network of francophone CEGEPS and colleges in Canada, to develop a model that would serve francophones in Saskatchewan at the college level. A critical path has been presented to the college network. However, there are still some reservations about its development in the medium and long terms. We all want this to happen and, as my colleagues put it, we are ready to go. We are not bureaucrats. You could say that we are content mercenaries.

At the post-secondary level, the financial resources allocated are quite meagre. We need expertise and people who have a great training capacity. We have an employee right now with a doctorate in education, and I am concerned that we will lose him because our financial resources are limited. It is difficult and even impossible for us to pay him what he is worth, and we need this kind of expertise at the college and university level. It is a serious problem for us.

In order for these real needs to be met, we have a few suggestions. First of all, with respect to the recruitment and retention of the human resources needed for college training in French in Saskatchewan, we need to set up a system with a structure. We also need to find instructors in the various disciplines. Mr. Ferré and Mr. Roy raised this point when they talked about specialized education.

A lot of training is necessary at the college level in order to be able to foster the skills that are essential in elementary and secondary schools.

We need to secure adequate funding in the definition of a governance model, because there is none at present. The project has existed for several years now. It includes new initiatives that today meet the very serious requirements of Franco-Saskatchewanians after grade 12.

We are also seeking adequate funding to develop an organizational structure. We are looking for competent francophones and francophiles to serve Franco-Saskatchewanians.

We need to secure long-term funding. We are not looking for funding over a two- or three-year basis, but rather funding for a project that will span several generations, that will deliver programs essential to the survival of the Franco-Saskatchewanian community plus support to learners. It must not be forgotten that our young Franco- Saskatchewanian learners, after the 12th grade, need bursaries.

We also need to provide long-term funding for the Centre fransaskois de ressources pédagogiques et culturelles. The only centre of this type is Le Lien. Le Lien is a provincial library located in Gravelbourg. This library serves households, families and individuals right across the province. The school division also uses the library a great deal as a source of teaching aids for teachers. A staff of one and three quarters persons run the centre. The centre has more than 40,000 resources and needs to serve some 60 communities. This is a huge job.

Second solution, we need to provide a diverse range of communication and learning technologies that meet the requirements of a clientele scattered throughout the province. Meeting the needs of all these communities is a tremendous challenge. We have the distance education network. Heritage Canada provided funding for this network for three years and today we have the challenge of obtaining additional funding in order to maintain this network, give it some style and ensure that people use it.

Distance education is not an end in itself but is an essential complement to training.

Third solution, we must ensure that there is both intraprovincial and interprovincial liaison to establish a partnership network for college training in French in both Saskatchewan and Western Canada. In what is commonly referred to as the ``Far West'' project, we are partners with Alberta and British Columbia because of the number of francophones. The goal of this project is to ensure that Saskatchewan provides programs serving not only our Franco- Saskatchewanians but also Franco-Albertans and British Columbia's francophones. Every province does its own work to meet the needs of its community and for the common benefit. The structure of this partnership is unique in Canada, as it meets not only the needs of Franco-Saskatchewanians but also francophones outside of Quebec and Ontario. This is a considerable but very motivating challenge.

Fourth solution, the promotion of college training in French in Saskatchewan. To do this, we need to prepare a marketing plan and implement it on an ongoing basis and in accordance with an approach calling for short, medium and long-term investment.

When we talk about marketing, we are often talking about spending. But more and more we must think about the issue in terms of investments that meet the needs of francophones scattered everywhere. The cost of sending advertising packages through Canada Post's Media Post is $170,000. We are talking about sending a brochure. But in marketing, a brochure alone is not adequate; we need to use the newspapers. Consequently, we cannot use Canada Post at such a cost. If you would like, we can provide you with the marketing plan.

So we are facing a real challenge. Will we be able to meet it? Yes, but not without the financial means. I cannot hit the streets and go door-to-door. Moreover, we are already travelling many kilometres every week to meet our respective agendas.

Budget cutbacks over the past few years have considerably reduced the quality of the services provided. At one time, we secured nearly a million dollars to meet the needs of post-secondary level services. Now our budget has been cut back to $300,000. The staff has therefore been reduced significantly.

The second issue is literacy amongst Saskatchewan's francophone adults. The Franco-Saskatchewanian Adult Training Service has been working in the area of literacy since 1990. A significant number of francophone adults are increasingly finding that their difficulties in reading and writing French prevent them from developing and contributing to the economy in general. Action must be taken at a local, and therefore community level.

The geographic map for Saskatchewan shows what type of distances separate communities. When you have to travel six and a half hours in order to take a French class, you can understand why the person would stay home.

We have to provide services at the community level. We have the school division and several schools. Nevertheless, we have only 12 schools in the province to cover more than 60 francophone communities. So we do have good components, but we also need school network experience.

Meeting the challenge of developing reading, writing and mathematical skills at the local level is a significant concern given that the students need the support of qualified teachers, who are able to cover a broad territory. The SEFFA must participate in the development of means and resources, to train and support local interveners working with adults, and to provide management and assessment.

We also need to hire interveners at the local level. However, we have absolutely no funding that allows us to do this. We do receive funding from the National Literacy Secretariat, which enables us to pay the salaries of one and three quarters persons. However, we have absolutely no funding to train interveners. We therefore have to find other alternatives to hire qualified literacy trainers within the community. And here I am not referring to the distance education network because adults need human contact at this point in their training. The distance education network is an option once the adult has acquired more advanced reading skills, at the third, fourth or fifth level. When you are dealing with students at level one and two — which represents 52 per cent of the francophone population outside of Quebec — training has to be provided in person.

Currently two literacy teachers are trying to meet the literacy training requirements for the entire province. This is quite an undertaking. It is a paradox that we are limited to only two teachers, when in fact literacy studies clearly show that the recommended training cannot be done through distance learning. Consequently, a whole range of measures targeted at francophone communities should be accessible to help individuals with inadequate French skills.

Obviously, we applaud the initiative to promote literacy and French among federal public servants at all levels. However, what about adult Franco-Saskatchewanians who wish to improve their mathematical, reading and writing skills in French to enhance their quality of life?

The problem of the number of learners points to an even more in-depth question on the way to deliver literacy programs in an effort to provide training at the local level through small groups.

For instance, a minimum of 12 individuals are required to provide a university course, otherwise the course is not offered. In our case, what do we do if we only have two people? We have to look after these two individuals, because tomorrow there may be four, and after that six. If we do not look after these two individuals, the next day we will drop to two less, and then four less.

We are therefore part of the assimilation process. It is horrible to say such a thing. However, we are contributing to assimilation, since we were not able to meet the needs of these two adults who wanted to pursue their education and develop their literacy skills. And these two, four or six individuals do in fact exist in the community. We cannot simply assign a trainer or tutor for two or three individuals.

Literacy initiatives exist, studies on the field exist and are, of course, continuing. Learners exist and they are scattered throughout the province. We have models enabling groups to work together and share information. In Saskatchewan, I believe that we have what is needed to build a network and to talk to each other. This is good news for Franco-Saskatchewanians.

What we do not have are sufficient human and financial resources to adequately meet the literacy needs in both a family and work place setting. We are recommending that action be taken as quickly as possible.

What job prospects does a young person have who has completed high school? Without wanting to discredit the Institut français and the university sector, only 26 per cent of the Canadian population pursue university education. What about the rest of the population?

We have noted the importance of college education. Let us take the example of the young Franco-Saskatchewanian who has completed his studies, but who is still living on the farm and wants to become a mechanic. We need electricians and plumbers. We need French-speaking tradespeople. These sectors are important. By not making the required effort to provide our young Franco-Saskatchewanians with this training, we are contributing to the exodus of our young people, who are leaving the province and are not coming back, knowing that there is nothing there for them.

This concludes my presentation.

The Chairman: We will now be hearing from Ms. Karen Taylor-Brown from the organization Canadian Parents for French.

Ms. Karen Taylor-Brown, Canadian Parents for French: First of all, I would like to thank you for inviting me to appear before your committee. The document you sent me indicates that you are travelling in western Canada to study education within the official language minority communities. The organization Canadian Parents for French is primarily composed of anglophones and non-francophones who would like their children to be educated in French.

Where does this organization fit into the minority community? In asking myself this question, I came across an excerpt from the action plan launched by the federal government back in March. In the chapter dealing with the assimilation of the minority population, it says that a very crucial aspect to maintaining the francophone population is in fact the transmission of French to the child and the knowledge of this language by the non-francophone parent in an exogamous family. The transmission rate is set at 70 individuals out of 100 if he or she knows French, and only 32 individuals out of 100 in the opposite case.

Saskatchewan is a province with a tiny minority population; 2 per cent of the population of Saskatchewan claims to be francophone and 4 per cent of the population claims to be of francophone origin. We need to work together. Bilingual non-francophones need to support the efforts made by the francophone population. The strength of this population is absolutely essential if we are to meet our objectives. Therein lies the challenge.

The population is experiencing the same thing as we are. It is scattered across a wide territory. In Saskatchewan, only 13 communities have a population of over 5,000. At the same time, we have 450 villages and administrative groups for the population, which does not include aboriginal bands or rural communities. We are also facing a challenge in that regard.

In terms of education, Saskatchewan has fewer than 2,000 young people of school age for 94 school boards. This is the highest number amongst all of the provinces in Canada.

There is some rivalry between these school boards. We have school boards for towns with fewer than 500 inhabitants. School boards for Catholic and non-Catholic students and school boards for francophone and non- francophone students. It is therefore possible to find three or four school boards, in addition to school boards serving the adjacent rural community, in a town with a population of under 5,000.

Earlier, Ms. Arsenault talked about the problems in sending flyers out to the francophone community. We are facing the same challenge. Sending brochures or advertising to school boards is a big job, compared to what it would take in Nova Scotia, for instance, where there are seven school boards for a population that is roughly that of Saskatchewan.

We do have some concerns with the Dion plan. First of all, from the political and economic viewpoints, we know that Saskatchewan will be facing several hurdles to obtain new financing or even maintain the existing financing. This is a political issue. It is possible that, by the end of the month, we will have a government that is not at all favourable to the promotion of French. We therefore have legitimate concerns about whether or not we will be receiving this new money.

The board of directors of Canadian Parents for French, on which I sit, is somewhat like a family. However, when it comes to money from the federal government, some of us are wondering about what is in store for us in the future: why give money to a province that is facing so many challenges, when we can give this money to another province where there is a greater chance of success.

According to the Dion plan, we should be doubling the number of students or graduates in secondary programs within 10 years. In the appendix to my presentation, you can see the numbers for the francophone and immersion schools since 1971-1972. In 1986-1987, the francophone school board began separating their schools from the immersion schools. Consequently, it is difficult to determine where these numbers are with any accuracy.

The data for the year 1990-1991 show that the young people enrolled in this school year passed Grade 12. Five hundred and forty students passed Grade 12 in these two groups of schools. The data for the year 2001 reveal that the students currently enrolled in Grade 2 are students who, in 10 years' time, should have gone beyond Grade 12. Today there are fewer than 1,000 students in Grade 12 within these two groups of students. Consequently, even if we were to manage to keep these 950 students, it would be impossible to double the number that existed 10 years ago. In these programs, we lose an average of nearly 60 per cent of the population that started out in kindergarten by the time they reach Grade 12. We need to look at these figures more closely.

The federal census shows that Saskatchewan produces bilingual people destined for other provinces. If we compare the census data for 1976 and 2001, we can see that we lose more than 2,050 youths who are part of this same group of bilingual students, who were between 15 and 19 years of age in 1976 and between 20 and 24 years of age in 2001. These students have not lost their language abilities, they have simply left the province. We can therefore see that there has been a migration of francophones outside the province, and not the other way around. That is the challenge.

On this issue, I would like to go back to the question of post-secondary education. There has been an impact on this sector. Progress, as far as francophone and non-francophone populations are concerned, is tied to post-secondary institutions. The young people who leave the province do not come back. The demand for teaching staff far exceeds the available number of teachers in Saskatchewan and outside the province. This situation is becoming a real crisis.

Our programs are not adequate. This problem exists in both the small communities and large cities. Finding supply teachers and specialists is next to impossible.

Another determining factor is the significant decrease in the number of young people in Saskatchewan. However, there has been tremendous growth in the aboriginal population. As a result, the number of young people who were traditionally targeted by bilingualism programs, both francophones and non-francophones, is on the decline and the aboriginal population is growing.

What can we do to correct the situation? To double the member of students we have to show a lot of imagination with our programs. There is an immersion program at La Ronge which is a community in northern Saskatchewan. This little town is some five hours away from Saskatoon. In the context of this immersion program we are teaching Cree. Over half of the enrolment in this immersion program is made up of young aboriginal students.

There is no government test in Saskatchewan to ensure the quality of programs. The La Ronge program might be able to serve a larger population. However, for lack of evaluation, we are not in a position to measure the success rate of the program.

Promoting that kind of program always represents a very political question. Are we, who are working for the future of French, adversely affecting the development of the aboriginal population that has all kinds of problems? As parents encouraging the teaching of second languages, or French as a second language, we are the butt of certain comments by school boards. We are told that our students are very privileged compared to the young aboriginal students who have so many problems. Consequently, the teaching of French is not really important.

For Saskatchewan to have a fully-developed aboriginal population, it must have both official languages and that means becoming trilingual. Our programming does not address that aspect.

For the time being, another element not addressed by our programming is the great number of small immersion programs. According to the figures we have produced, in Saskatchewan we probably have the greatest number of vary small immersion programs in Canada. In many of these programs you have teaching in a single classroom for three or even four grade levels. This is an enormous challenge for the teachers. In different schools we have teachers teaching four grade levels without any consultation between schools. These teachers do not have the necessary resources.

Such working conditions in a minority French-speaking community where there is no support in the community for the French culture and language lead to the departure of many teachers. We are in a real catch-22 situation.

On that point, I would like to come back to the matter of post-secondary education. The University of Regina is now offering a training program in education for professors and teachers. This program does not have the maximum number of registrations for minority teachers nor for immersion teachers nor for the basic French programs. So it is getting harder and harder to respond to this lack of teachers within the province. The scholarships available outside the province for education in French also reduce the possibility of seeing our youth return to Saskatchewan some day.

An alternative no one seems to have thought of would be setting up university scholarships to encourage the young people to pursue their studies in Saskatchewan. The University of Saskatchewan is the biggest one in the province. It had to cancel its two second-language teacher-training courses. For a number of years those courses were actually being taught by an anglophone professor who did not speak a word of French. So the biggest university in the province now offers no professional training for teachers. So if we want to train our future young teachers, scholarships must be made available for the University of Regina. The cost of living in Regina as well as the university tuition fees there are far higher than in Saskatoon. In the absence of any scholarships, the students will prefer going to pursue their studies at Collège Saint-Boniface or at the Faculté Saint-Jean in Alberta or even at the University of Ottawa.

Scholarships are available for young people who wish to pursue their studies outside the province. However, there is no scholarship available for those who wish to pursue studies at the University of Regina. That kind of situation is a real problem.

Canadian Parents for French has been working with the francophone community for some years. Given the scarce francophone population, it is very hard for the majority to see the need to learn French.

We often receive funding requests from our teachers so that students can attend Winnipeg's Festival du Voyageur at an incredible price. For $10,000, 30 students can attend this event, which is a day and a half long, whereas for the same amount those 30 students can attend one of our summer camps for six weeks.

As an organization, for the past eight years, we have been receiving the same amount as we did 10 years ago for the development of programs for young people. As a matter of fact, eight years ago, we were getting more money from the provincial government for youth programs than we do today.

We work with the francophone community to develop sufficient basic activities to show the majority that there is an active population, a culture and cultural pride; to also show that it is worthwhile to support this community and to continue to encourage people to learn French.

I could go into more detail on the need to speak for a somewhat forgotten community. This community of francophiles, or non-francophones who speak French, occupies a very significant place in the future of French- speaking Saskatchewan.

The Chairman: Thank you, and congratulations on the quality of your presentation. Before turning the floor over to my colleagues, allow me to ask a technical question. You repeatedly referred to the lack of teachers. Without suggesting that salary is the main reason, do teachers in Saskatchewan have a collective agreement or province-wide salary scale? Given the large number of school boards, are salaries negotiated at the provincial or school board level?

Mr. Ferré: There is one collective agreement for salaries and a number of local agreements for working conditions. Both agreements are similar and constitute a kind of teachers' federation for the entire province.

If I am not mistaken, the salaries in Alberta are the highest — adding to the omnipresent competition with Alberta.

That said, other trends are noticeable. I attended the recent SELF congress in Toronto. At that congress, the teacher shortage was raised. It is a national phenomenon. It is often a matter of working conditions, especially in schools in minority settings.

We cannot just provide equivalent conditions. We have to provide better conditions. That is what our teachers expect. So the bar is very high. There is an expectation that the school will be a focal point of the community. Teaching-related tasks and the way this lifestyle compares with an individual's normal lifestyle influence the decision to pursue a teaching career.

Young people make certain choices. In my family, both parents are teachers by training. Our daughter sometimes asks, ``Why would I go into teaching, when you guys are always in a bad mood?'' That says it all about the working conditions.

One last comment on salaries. There is a teacher shortage even in Quebec. At the SELF congress, we found out that Quebec is recruiting abroad and in the other provinces. That is another thing to look out for when it comes to our expectations in terms of the career itself and the working conditions.

Mr. Roy: If you don't mind, I would like to add the following point. We are in a shortage situation and have to meet the challenge of attracting young people, teachers, and retaining them. When you hire someone with little teaching experience, especially in a minority setting, given the limited funding, we could limit that teacher's tasks to 80 per cent of the curriculum to enable him or her to take courses and to reach a certain teaching performance level. That approach might slow the rate of teachers who leave in the first few years of employment.

Furthermore, if we are not able to attract teachers from Saskatchewan and other provinces, how can we hope to integrate trained francophone teachers from outside the country? The likelihood of success is pretty slim, even if we try to put them in the classroom straight away. The cultural difference is too great and the preparation is not the same.

This year, we had to hire people from abroad. The three individuals had to be taken out of the classroom, because it was not working. It caused some concern among parents who did not see their children doing well at school.

We know that we have to develop host programs for these people coming from abroad to help us out. However, we do not have the necessary funding. We can be creative. However, we need financial support for host programs. Work must be done with the universities so that our people are given proper guidance to enable them to grow in their profession.

Senator Comeau: First of all, I would like to thank you for coming to Winnipeg to represent the interests of Saskatchewan.

I have been on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, for 17 years. I have found, based on my experience in Ottawa, that there is a scale of importance attached to our regions in Canada. The issue of languages and minorities gets a lot of attention in Ottawa and also in New Brunswick. Given the large francophone population, a number of provincial representatives very competently argue New Brunswick's interests in Ottawa. The same thing goes for Ontario.

The province of Quebec is a completely unique region. Its representatives provide us with the viewpoint of the anglophone minority.

As for the other regions, like Nova Scotia and Manitoba, we also have representatives that convey, perhaps not always with the desired success, the interests of these provinces. Senator Chaput from Manitoba and Ron Duhamel are very good representatives. From Nova Scotia, we have Minister Robert Thibault.

However, some western provinces, like Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, as well as some eastern provinces, like Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, do not have any champions. At times, the representatives of these provinces do not necessarily defend their interests productively. Without naming any names, I will simply say that what some people from the west say goes completely against the points you have raised today. Those remarks undermine what we, in Ottawa, might be able to do for you, because they create the impression that the west is not concerned about minority interests.

This matter leads me to the following problem. You are not represented in Ottawa, or if you are, you do not have good representation. When national plans are developed to take into account minority needs, a very special place should be reserved for you. However, the above-mentioned provinces have no champions at the bargaining table. You should be given that chance.

Under the Dion plan, which purports to be a bit of a cure-all for the future, have you been given that special place? Does the plan offer an answer to your concerns; or does it merely, once again, leave it to Ottawa to deal with your perceived interests?

Ms. Taylor-Brown: To answer your question, I would like to raise the following point. To be eligible for federal funding, we first have to get provincial funding. But if a provincial government is opposed to bilingualism, we will never be able to get that money.

Senator Comeau: In order to reflect western reality, the Dion plan must therefore also provide specific responses to the needs of your region, and not just establish a national standard that applies equally to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and elsewhere.

Mr. Roy: Absolutely.

Ms. Taylor-Brown: I would like to raise another point. I have a PhD in linguistics. I have done comparative studies on the linguistic development of young francophones in immersion schools and minority community schools in Alberta. It was a long-term project.

When I arrived in Saskatchewan, I could not find a job, despite my expertise.

The Social Science and Humanities Research Council claims that it does not have funds available for research. To fund research, you have to go through academia. However, Saskatchewan has very few academics interested in this kind of research. Without access to funding, I am unable to pursue my research.

The Cree population is currently pursuing an immersion program at La Ronge. A professor, for example, from the University of Toronto who might be interested in that issue would probably be unable to pursue his or her research, because there is no grant. The very existence of the program is unknown. There are no funds in Saskatchewan for this field of research.

Mr. Ferré: Moreover, the consultation mechanism is not obvious. In fact, I raised this point with Minister Dion last July. However, his report had already been drafted.

It is very hard to foresee what kind of funding will be available. Our own government is not necessarily sympathetic to the issue of linguistic minorities.

Senator Comeau: At one time, I was on the Joint Committee on Official Languages. I decided to quit the committee because certain issues important to our minority community were being neglected. This morning, you have raised those issues.

Ms. Arsenault: Education comes under provincial jurisdiction — at least, that is what people say. I feel that you are, in a way, the spokespeople for our communities, getting it through to the provinces, in this case Saskatchewan, that they should be aware of the francophone factor in education.

When it comes to equivalence in education, from junior kindergarten to the post-secondary level, and in terms of literacy, the francophone factor in Saskatchewan is costly. In fact, equivalence issues always cost more. It is important for governments to understand this. They do not. Meanwhile, we are doing our utmost, working 14 or 18 hours a day to accomplish our mission.

Politics is part of the equation. In that arena, I think that you are good ambassadors.

The Chairman: As the Commissioner of Official Languages said, the federal government needs to make a stronger commitment. We cannot keep leaving it to you, who are already in a minority situation, to shoulder the responsibility. Such a burden quickly leads to exhaustion. The commitment has to come from the federal government. There has to be the political will to see to it that the province works out agreements and allocates the necessary funding.

Senator Chaput: Your presentations are excellent. They show how hard you have worked to survive and how little support you have received from governments, in this case the government of your province and the federal government, which we represent in the Senate.

Encouragingly, as a member of the Senate, I have been able to observe for one year the extent to which the Senate gets involved in protecting minorities. What an incredible ambassador! It is a little known fact.

How could the federal government support you in education? Although education comes under provincial jurisdiction, some of the funding comes from the federal government. In principle, the federal contributions are supposed to be matched by the province. Perhaps consideration should be given to whether, in future agreements, any changes could be made. You are seeking our support to advance the work on subjects that are of concern to you and that you feel strongly about. Do you have any suggestions?

Mr. Ferré: First of all, the $2 million under the Official Languages in Education Program agreement is not enough to meet our goals. Our imagination has its limits. We would need $1.5 million to $2 million more to meet our goals. We cannot just count on the tiny contribution from departments. The departments determine their contribution based on contributions made normally to a majority jurisdiction. For us, this contribution represents, in a way, 50 cents on the dollar. The funding issue is thus crucial.

In addition, it will take some lobbying with Canadian Heritage and Mr. Dion.

Ms. Arsenault: In terms of literacy in the workplace, the simple task of promoting French in our francophone organizations is quite a challenge. Our organizations are in place. However, the problem exists. For example, the secretariat of the school division has major problems reading and writing in French. It is not a matter of intelligence but of dignity and self-esteem.

According to our estimates, it would cost almost $1 million to provide service in French for one year, in terms not only of reading, writing and numeracy, but also in computer science. This area has become a literacy issue since the year 2000. In this day and age, there are no jobs that do not require computer skills, and that has to be done in French.

In my view, research is an important area. However, the distinction between concrete application and research is significant.

Mr. Roy: In my opinion, it is important for us to be able to feed into your debate directly.

Another thing, at the school division, we have a study on the current and chronic underfunding with which we struggle to meet our obligations under section 23.

Ms. Arsenault spoke to you earlier about the field of professional training for trades. We are required to prepare our young people for the labour market and to provide them training in the trades. In that area, we are getting closer to reality. This year, we have set up a program that provides courses in practical and applied arts. These are courses in mechanics, construction techniques, beauty care, sculpture and many more.

The Chairman: Are those courses offered regionally or at the college?

Ms. Arsenault: They are offered regionally.

Mr. Roy: The schedule is based on a 10-day cycle. We bring our young people together in two ways. First, every 10 days, we bring together young high school students from various regions for one day to take courses in the four aforementioned fields. Some students have to travel for over two hours to join our students in Regina. That is the case, for example, for students from Bellegarde and l'école secondaire Collège Mathieu. Second, we bring together students from northern regions to offer the same courses.

In order to do this, it costs $33,000 per year just for transportation. However, we know that it would be difficult to offer this range of courses on site, in the community. So we ask parents to make the sacrifice of getting up at 6 o'clock in the morning to drive their children to school so that they can attend these courses. We bring students together about 15 times a year.

So that is one initiative we have taken this year, and I have to tell you that students are delighted with it. We have 97 young people attending these courses, and the parents are very happy about it. Next year, we hope to increase participation. However, such a program costs around $90,000.

Senator Chaput: What is the funding for this program?

Mr. Ferré: We got a special grant from our department. We presented the project, and there was probably some money left over. However, we do not know what will happen next year.

The Chairman: Is there someone in the Saskatchewan government who is responsible for francophone affairs?

Mr. Ferré: In Saskatchewan, the Official Minority Language Office, better known by the acronym OMLO, deals with both immersion programs and programs for francophones.

Senator Chaput: A bit like for Manitoba beef?

Mr. Ferré: Yes.

Mr. Roy: The OFLC also deals with francophone affairs at the department. So we have two organizations.

Another recommendation is that we need to make sure that the early childhood funding is in place and that we stop being overlooked in policy. We spend money on early childhood, but no amount is provided for francophone early childhood.

Mr. Ferré: It is a lobbying issue.

Senator Léger: Allow me to make a simple comment. I liked what the Honourable Senator Comeau said when he indicated that some provinces have no champion. They are the ones that are really forgotten.

I am delighted to see the number of ambassadors among you. I am thinking of Roger Lavallée, who, for 20 years, has been on French radio in Saskatchewan. I am thinking of Hart Rouge, les Campagne, and many others.

The situation you have described to us is precarious. Thank you for letting us know about it. With the experience around this table, I sincerely hope that we will be able to help you out. You are also here with us, and your representatives are champions.

Senator Comeau: I was not talking about champions in the arts but on Parliament Hill.

Senator Léger: I agree.

Ms. Taylor-Brown: I would like to answer your question about how the federal government could help.

On the issue of minority populations, the federal government, through Canadian Heritage, gives organizations like ours responsibility for advertising for the francophonie. However, we are not given sufficient funds to accomplish that task. If the government truly wishes to support the minority, it should give us sufficient funds to do so, or it can just do the job itself with sufficient resources.

I get $136,000 a year from Canadian Heritage to serve, over a huge territory, the entire non-francophone population that wishes to learn French. Just sending flyers to 94 public school boards is a significant cost. There is not enough money to develop youth programs. One television ad costs at least $20,000. Even with the greatest of good intentions, I have no money. How then does one convince the public that French is important?

[English]

The Chairman: I will recognize Senator Keon, who did not have a chance to ask a question yet.

Senator Keon: I just have a comment. Your problems are enormous and I admire your courage for persisting. On the other hand, the whole reason for the existence of the Dion Plan and the reason for our existence is to take care of problems like yours. That is why we exist.

Senator Comeau pointed out that you do not have a champion in the West and indeed, you are caught in a situation politically that is counterproductive. I would encourage you to firm up your proposals and make them realistic. Stay on our back and we will stay on Mr. Dion's back and maybe something will happen for you.

The Chairman: I would add that you stay on elected politicians who are on the Hill, as Senator Comeau mentioned.

Mr. Ferré: In response to Senator Keon's comment, we have put in a concrete fashion. Again, we talk about negotiations however and what we have sent and what we have presented to our government or to the Department of Education. We have to believe that that is the same thing that is going to be sent to the next step. However, the two million dollars that I talked about and mentioned is in practical terms, we have got it all laid out. It makes a lot of sense. Will it be accepted? We hope.

I have a question, perhaps, of Senator Keon. With whom should we stay in touch?

Senator Keon: Us. That is what we are here for.

Mr. Ferré: In respect of mechanisms.

Senator Keon: We are the permanent committee.

Mr. Ferré: All right.

In conclusion, we do have the study on the financing of our school system. It is in both official languages. We would be willing to share that with you. I also have a document on behalf of the Parents Association, which we are quite willing to share with you as well.

The Chairman: Please do.

Senator Chaput: If you send a copy, we will make copies for everybody, right? You do not need to send a pile of copies.

The Chairman: Any final comments?

[Translation]

Ms. Arsenault: I would like to thank you for taking the time to meet with us. We would like, in turn, to have the opportunity to have you in Saskatchewan when you next visit the west.

The Chairman: Perhaps even at Collège Mathieu, of which I have fond memories. Thank you for travelling here. Your testimony was very insightful.

The committee adjourned.