Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Official Languages

Issue 5 - Evidence


OTTAWA, Monday February 14, 2005

The Senate Standing Committee on Official Languages met this day at 9:35 a.m. to study and to report from time to time on the application of the Official Languages Act and of the regulations and directives made under it, within those institutions subject to the Act.

Senator Eymard G. Corbin (Chairman) in the chair.

[Translation]

The Chairman: Welcome everybody. Happy Valentine's Day far from your respective spouses. Our heartfelt thanks for being here today. I know that you have made tremendous sacrifices to be here this morning. Your support for official languages never ceases to amaze me.

The objective of today's exercise, which will continue on Monday the 7th and 21st of March, is to complete the study started by this committee in the Fall of 2003. The purpose of the study is not to deal with French as a second language immersion schools, nor with bilingual schools. We have deliberately agreed to focus our attention and our thinking on education, from early childhood right up to college and university, in keeping with a logic of continuity.

Therefore, we are talking about educational training and ensuring the quality of schooling. We are also talking about schools, parents' rights to manage them and to be consulted when any agreements of any nature are entered into, and rights holders' access to these schools. Finally, we are talking about positioning these institutions in their correct community and cultural context.

We will hear from experts, analysts, researchers and especially representative organizations that are in a position to speak on behalf of all parents and children from French-language communities in Canada. Such parents and children often have to go to great lengths, sometimes at great personal costs, to have their rights recognized and to enjoy the respect that is due them. This sometimes means legal challenges.

Honourable senators, we are glad and indeed fortunate to be able to start this morning with Professor Pierre Foucher, full professor at the University of Moncton. You have a copy of Mr. Foucher's biography and brief curriculum vitae.

Professor Foucher has also argued before the courts. Professor Foucher is commonly recognized as an expert in the field of constitutional law and he just published, with Paul T. Clark, a book entitled: École et droits fondamentaux: Portrait des droits collectifs et individuels dans l'ère de la Charte canadienne des droits et libertés. He also made a contribution to a feature article in the second edition of a book entitled: Les droits linguistiques au Canada, under the direction of Michel Bastarache.

Professor Foucher, I would like to call on you to provide an update on francophone minority education rights in Canada.

Mr. Pierre Foucher, Full Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Moncton: I would like to thank you for this invitation. I would also like to thank you for having undertaken this analysis of such an important matter, that is the protection of minority language education rights.

I sent you a document in both official languages that I do not intend to read cover to cover. However, I would like to discuss the broad brush strokes of it this morning. I will try to be clear, and insofar as possible stay clear of technical and legal jargon, so that everybody understands everything I have to say.

First, I would like to remind you of the text of the Charter and then speak briefly about its objective, substance, implementation and potential obstacles to its application. Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a section adopted in 1982, is what brings us together this morning.

This section guarantees rights to three categories of people: Citizens of Canada whose language is in a minority situation in their province of residence; Canadian citizens who have received their primary school instruction in the minority language; and Canadian citizens who have a child who has received or is currently receiving school instruction in the minority language.

These are the three categories of people who have rights under the Charter. These people are entitled to have their children schooled in the language of the minority, if the number of those children so warrants it. As with any constitutional text, section 23 needs to be interpreted. In any such interpretation, one must bear in mind the constitutional text's purpose.

So what is the purpose of section 23? The Supreme Court of Canada identified it as the following:

... it seeks to preserve Canada's two official languages and their cultures, and to enhance the vitality of each language, insofar as it is possible, in the provinces where the particular language is not spoken by the majority. The section attempts to meet this objective by providing parents who belong to a linguistic minority with the right to an education in their own language wherever they may be in Canada.

The objective is therefore first and foremost a socio-linguistic one. Education is a means through which French or English as minority languages will be successfully preserved in Canada.

Therefore, we must not be waylaid by technical matters. We must always bear in mind the provision's objective when asking questions about its substance. Section 23 is a collective right which benefits francophone or anglophone communities in minority situations in Canada.

Therefore, the primary objective is to maintain and enhance the vitality of official language minority communities. The second objective, upon which the courts have always agreed, is redress. Section 23 was included in the Charter to redress wrongs or injustices of the past.

I do not have the time this morning to provide you with a history of minority language education in Canada, but history shows that there were indeed wrongs and injustices done and that section 23 attempts to redress them.

Furthermore, the court makes no ruling on the wisdom of the decision to include section 23 in the Charter. The third objective is to ensure that redress is obtained by providing equality in education. Allow me to once again quote the Supreme Court:

... history shows that section 23 was intended to redress, at the national level, the progressive erosion of minorities speaking one or the other official language and to apply the notion of equal partners to both official language groups in the realm of education.

I would like to make a couple of remarks about equality. Equality does not mean uniformity. It is indeed possible that minorities may need to be treated differently to majorities in order to reach genuine equality.

Allow me to give you an example in which I was personally involved, the Arsenault-Cameron case in Prince Edward Island.

Children had to travel by bus for one hour to get from Summerside to the Évangéline School in Abram-Village. When the lawsuit was filed, the province replied: "Why are you, Acadians, complaining when anglophone children also have to travel for an hour?" The court replied that the choice that francophones were forced to make was not being imposed upon anglophones. The option francophones had was to stay in Summerside, go to English school and assimilate or to travel by bus for one hour in order to get schooling in French.

Studies showed that there were potentially 300 children that could attend French school in Summerside, but 19 took the bus. And the province is asking why all 300 children did not opt to take the bus? When you give a parent the choice between sending a young six-year-old on a 60 to 75-minute bus trip to get schooling in French or sending their child to the school around the corner, what do you think the parent will choose? This is a choice that the anglophone community did not have to make.

So, when we say that equality does not mean uniformity, that is what we mean. The implications of the various options and of government decisions are not the same for the majority as they are for the minority. Allow me to give you an example, this time from the southwest of Ontario. The Ontario government has placed a moratorium on school renovations.

The community of Windsor, Ontario, is taking the Ontario government to court by saying: "Our French-language school is falling to bits, and we urgently need renovations." The government replied: "There is a moratorium across the board."

The judge stated: "It may very well be across the board but the ramifications for the Franco-Ontarian community are far more serious than for the majority. Francophones in Windsor only have one school that they risk losing if it is not renovated." Therefore, once again, equality does not mean uniformity.

Having said that, let us take a brief look at the substance of the rights that are guaranteed. What are people entitled to? Firstly, they are entitled to schooling. Schooling can be provided in many ways: the Internet, television, in class, in school, and through sociocultural activities.

Second, they have a right to minority language educational facilities, in general, homogeneous schools. Finally, they are entitled to manage these schools. Whether or not these rights are applied is dependent upon a condition, that is the number of students. The Charter clearly states: "Where the number of those children so warrants."

I always receive a lot of questions on the matter of sufficient numbers. The problem is that judges have told us that we cannot set numbers in advance. However the matter is context-specific. I will not be teaching you anything new when I say that in a country as vast and diverse as Canada, it would indeed be slightly ridiculous to establish minimum numbers in advance. Such a number would depend on the varying circumstances of each case. It would also depend on what is being asked for. One child is perhaps entitled to an Internet connection, ten children to a class. One hundred children to a school, and 300 children to a polyvalente. And are these children living in the city or the country? Is there public transport available? How old are they? Will a gym and a cafeteria need to be built? What does everybody want? Will they need laboratories? Will they need classrooms, teachers, remedial teachers? Numbers cannot be set in advance, that would be far too simple, but that is not what the Charter requires.

When conditions are attached to the number of students, we need to remind ourselves of the purpose of section 23: "The preservation and development of minority language communities." Equality does not mean uniformity. We should be ready to accept lesser numbers for minority communities than for majority communities.

Now I would like to make a remark about the implementation of section 23. I also get ask questions as to why there is a need for so much litigation and court appeals, given that the provinces, in 1982, accepted the Charter and section 23? I think the answer lies in the fact that the provinces do not necessarily understand section 23 in the same way that minority communities do. Perhaps it is because the provinces accepted section 23 rather begrudgingly. Regardless, the fact is that there have been lawsuits in the past, there are still lawsuits today, and it would seem that there will be more and more suits in the future. This is not an ideal situation as trials take up a lot of resources, time, energy and money that could be invested elsewhere. Cleary, this is not an ideal situation.

The federal government assists in implementation. The official languages education program promotes several initiatives. The federal government's official languages action plan includes new money for minority-language schooling.

The federal government is therefore meeting the commitment that it made under Part VII of the Official Languages Act. It could undoubtedly do even better. But I will leave it up to experts in public administration to explain how. Now, there are impediments to the implementation of section 23, and I will conclude this presentation by explaining them to you.

The matter of French schooling outside Quebec is of concern. You have undoubtedly heard demographers explain what is happening. From a legal point of view, I can assure you that rights holders are facing both active or passive resistence in many provinces. One of the major stumbling blocks that rights holders encounter is government inertia. Francophone communities — and I am speaking from experience here having met with them and listened to them — are extremely frustrated by how slowly decisions are made in provincial governments, as if minority language education was not a priority. Time is a key factor. The Supreme Court in Doucet-Boudreau v. Nova Scotia recognized this. If we drag our feet, assimilation will continue. And if this happens, there will be fewer and fewer potential students. If the numbers go down, then we have a problem with the clause "where the number so warrants." So the provinces just cross their arms, wait, allow time to go by, and tell the communities that the numbers are insufficient. This is why we must act now.

The second problem parents face is accountability. I hope that you will have the opportunity to hear from Canadian parents. They would love to know where the billions of dollars went, where the federal government money is going. How are the provinces spending this money? I am not familiar with accountability procedures and mechanisms for the implementation of federal-provincial agreements, but I think the time has come to think about better systems that enable the provinces to be more accountable as to the money they receive from the federal government for the implementation of section 23.

Furthermore, I think that you should be attentive to the fact that several provinces will not budge on this issue as long as the federal government does not get involved, as if education were not their primary responsibility.

I know that in some cases there are building and renovation projects in certain provinces that are on hold because the provincial governments are waiting to see what the federal government is going to do.

And the federal government is waiting to see what the provinces are going to do. Everybody is waiting, and while we wait, assimilation continues and the numbers shrink. This is unacceptable. The provinces must not use the pretext that they are waiting on the federal government. And the federal government must treat provincial requests in a diligent fashion.

The third problem, that is found in several areas of Canada, is quality. Several minority schools are located in areas that you would not want to send your children. Basements, trailers, renovated abandoned buildings, garages, social clubs. In the case of Prince Edward Island, it is the Lyons Club.

When schools are actually located in real buildings, and built for the purpose of being a school, often old buildings that are no longer in use and that were given to a French-language school board are used. These premises need renovation. Leaving the matter of the physical premises aside, minority language school boards lack the necessary resources to meet their educational needs. They lack qualified teaching staff, books, curricula, and optional courses. This inertia and this absence of quality is first and foremost damaging to children, that do not receive the quality education to which they are entitled; to teaching staff, who end up losing their oomph and their enthusiasm, which is required when teaching in minority language communities. School councillors find themselves between a rock and a hard place. School councillors broach the matter with the provinces that tell them to look after it, without giving them the necessary resources to do so.

This is damaging for the community which becomes assimilated and it has a negative impact on supposed rights under the system due to a loss of confidence in the Charter's ability to really guarantee rights. What are the challenges that await communities in the implementation of section 23? The first challenge is the changing demographics.

Canada is changing, diversifying, and minority schools are opening their doors to more and more young people whose first language is not French or do not speak French at home. There is the challenge of recruitment and retention, so that the children attending minority schools remain there until the end of their studies. There is also the challenge of providing cultural and social activities in the minority language; the much higher cost of teaching material in the minority language, especially in French; the need for ongoing teacher training and resources; specialized resources in French; and adequate physical infrastructures.

If action is not taken more quickly, there will be more court challenges and court challenges that are more and more substantive. In Saskatchewan, at present, the French language School Board has taken the provincial government to court for $10 million in damages and for an increase of its budget. Manitoba has just announced that it plans to take action against the federal government. Elsewhere in Canada, other communities are considering similar action, and as a result, costs might well be much higher than if we have been proactive.

It seems to me that it should no longer be necessary to go through the court to have a new school built, where there are precedents showing that schools have been built in the case of similar numbers.

We need a broad plan for implementing section 23 that is considerably more significant than the Action Plan for Official Languages, a plan that will include resources and accountability mechanisms. That essentially covers my remarks. I would now be more than happy to answer any questions you may have about section 23 and its implementation.

The Chairman: You are aware that our next witness is scheduled to appear at 11, so I will ask senators to be concise in their questioning.

Senator Comeau: You said that equality must not be equated with uniformity. Did the Supreme Court say that?

Mr. Foucher: Yes, in the Arsenault-Cameron decision.

Senator Comeau: Was it in the context of minorities?

Mr. Foucher: Yes.

Senator Comeau: You mentioned redress. Does the concept of redress come from the Supreme Court?

Mr. Foucher: It dates back to 1984. The Supreme Court said it in a case from Quebec. The Court repeated it in 1990, in a case from Alberta, and again in 2003, in the Doucet-Boudreau case back home, in Nova Scotia.

Senator Comeau: Does this concept apply beyond the issue of schooling or directly to schools?

Mr. Foucher: It applies first of all to section 23 itself. Which addresses primary and secondary school instruction. And the concept of redress arose in this context. The initial idea was to say: you must accept that it will cost more than for the majority; you must agree to pay what it will cost; you must agree to do more for smaller numbers. The idea is to redress, to refrancicise and to fight assimilation. Can that be extended to preschool? There is probably a good argument in the fact that if you want there to be primary instruction, then you must reach children in early childhood, at the preschool level. There must also be a childcare centre in the minority school.

I am going to tell you about a concrete case of a school that is a victim of its own success in Yellowknife. When I went there in 1988, there were eight children crowded into a trailer and a half located in a French school yard. Now, they have a French school. Last year, there were 125 students, but there were so many registrations that the school is overflowing. So they had to take the childcare centre out of this school. Taking the childcare centre out of the school means losing 15, 20 or 25 children who attended it. Will those children go back to the French school later on? The same thing is happening in Prince Edward Island and more or less everywhere in minority schools. Having the childcare centers in the schools is a way of ensuring that these children have access right from the beginning.

In extending Section 23 to preschool level, the concept of redress provides some good arguments for the postsecondary level, because the question is often asked: Does that entitle students to postsecondary instruction in their language? That is why law is an art not a science. I do not share the views of some of my colleagues. Some of them say yes, but I think not. That would extend the wording much farther than what it says. It is clear, the test of the Charter talks about "primary and secondary." I do not think that we can say it includes postsecondary instruction.

Senator Comeau: As a lawyer, I see the limits you are placing on how far this argument will apply.

However, as a lawyer, if you are dealing with an issue before the Supreme Court that had nothing to do with section 23, would you tend to use the same arguments?

Mr. Foucher: Yes, because it is all part of the overall dynamic of linguistic duality in Canada. But it will not necessarily be based on section 23.

Senator Comeau: You would simply mention it in passing?

Mr. Foucher: By way of reference, yes.

Senator Comeau: The Charter says "where the number so warrants" — I do not have the French text in front of me; I am going to read the English version — the right applies wherever in the province the number of citizens who have such a right and not necessarily who so request ..."

Mr. Foucher: Precisely.

Senator Comeau: That leads me to the question of communities or towns being assimilated. I have seen towns in Nova-Scotia that have been completely assimilated in one generation. Could we not say that these towns have the same right even if there are no francophones?

Mr. Foucher: I think that a minority school board is justified in applying what we call a grandfather clause and in admitting into these schools second and third generation children as was the case in several places in Nova-Scotia and Prince Edward Island. It is certainly possible to count them among the numbers that warrant, even if technically speaking they are not rights holders.

Senator Comeau: I assume data from Statistics Canada is used to identify the number of rights holders.

Mr. Foucher: Yes.

Senator Comeau: Could we use other means to come up with these numbers?

Mr. Foucher: Yes, because those figures are not reliable. I leave it to the demographers to explain why.

Senator Comeau: Senator Chaput could tell you about this as well.

Mr. Foucher: Those figures are not necessarily reliable, but it is a starting point. Other means are used. In British Columbia, in the early 1980's, a woman took her city telephone book and called everyone with francophone name to see if they had children who could attend the school. That is how they succeeded in the setting up the French school in Power River. In Summerside Ms. Angéline Martel was hired to conduct a study in this community to see if there were 300 potential pupils.

It is difficult to ask the francophone communities or the minority communities to do this research. They do not necessarily have the resources, the time and the means to do it. It is a heavy burden to impose on them. The government asks them to back up their numbers. That is difficult to do. We need to think about some proactive ways of helping the government to identify these numbers. It would not necessarily be the numbers they are asking for, because the provincial governments always tend to say that they have only received eight or ten applications. But that does not mean that they are eight, ten or twelve. Once again, Yellowknife started with eight people and now they are 125. It is going very well in Summerside, they were 17 pupils when the school opened and now they are 48, three years later.

The Chairman: Professor Foucher, you misspoke. You talked about a trailer in a French school yard.

Mr. Foucher: English.

Senator Chaput: I want to start by thanking you, Mr. Foucher. You presented section 23 in simple terms that were easy to understand and you gave some very concrete examples.

You said that the main purpose of section 23 was socio-linguistic, and that it was designed to correct the progressive erosion of a community, and that education was one of the means of achieving that. Is that what you said?

Mr. Foucher: Precisely.

Senator Chaput: One of the means of getting the most out of section 23 is education. We could possibly go even farther to extend section 23 to early childhood. Can we take it any further?

In Manitoba, we need our schools, child care centres, and early childhood services in French to continue to correct the erosion of our community, and you are aware of that. Moreover, in these communities where we do have a school and where we do have a child care centre, if we are fortunate, we also need to live in French. When the child and his or her parents are not at school, and they go to a credit union, for example, they face the whole issue of services in French, which leads us to the Official Languages Act and to the complaints that we have to continually lodge with the commissioner, because we do not receive services in our language. Does section 23 go as far as to cover that aspect of the community outside the school?

Mr. Foucher: Unfortunately not. We can nevertheless extend it and push it as far as to cover, for example, cultural life at the school. Section 23 could be broadened; if the Cercle Molière is putting on a play, perhaps it could be put on in the Franco-Manitoban schools. If Franco-Manitoban artists are producing material and receiving assistance, it would be good to fund a tour of the schools. We can broaden section 23 to encompass cultural life.

As far as sports go, perhaps under section 23, we can ask that sports be practiced in French. If the school ground is used to play soccer, or the gym for basketball, the coaching should be done in French. We should ensure that the sports teams at the French school have French coaches. There was a problem in Dieppe, in New Brunswick, where a team wanted to hire a unilingual anglophone coach. The sports team at the school should be coached by a person who speaks French. In that sense, yet, we can extend section 23 beyond the classroom. In may places, the French school is seen as a kind of community centre that includes the library, the credit union and various services. Moreover, in that regard, I think that the federal government has an important contribution to make in terms of developing the community side of the school so that the French school is at the heart of French life in many regions, towns or cities, where it is the only institution identified with the French community. I do not think that you can go from there to claiming private services in French before the courts. I do not think that section 23 can be extended to encompass stores, credit unions and bank services. We must be careful, because if we try and push section 23 too far, and if we imply that the section says things it does not, the general population will see that and perhaps revolt.

Senator Chaput: What I meant was services provided by federal departments, if they have offices in those areas, not private services.

Mr. Foucher: It is the same thing. The Official Languages Act adds rights.

The Chairman: There are clearly causal links, but let us please stick to education, to instruction for young people. Those issues are related and important. We could explore them at another time, but let us focus here on education and education rights.

[English]

Senator Buchanan: Mr. Foucher, I am Deputy Chair of the official languages committee but I do not speak French. I am fluent in English and learning French with the assistance of Senator Comeau. My daughter-in-law is a francophone, from Moncton, New Brunswick, who lives in Halifax. The foundation is in place but at my age I am not sure whether I can learn French fluently, but you never know.

I remember section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms well. I was Premier of Nova Scotia from 1978 to 1982 when we passed the Constitution Act, the Charter of Rights, patriation, et cetera. At that time, if you look back in the record, Nova Scotia wholeheartedly supported section 23 and had no difficulty whatsoever with it being part of the Charter of Rights. I hope that, since that day, it has been properly implemented. I can only speak for the period of time from 1982 to 1991, during the last years of my premiership when, I believe, we implemented it well. Through the 1980s we instituted francophone school boards in Cape Breton and western Nova Scotia. We built and operated the Carrefour du Grand-Havre, which is a great school. Through the years to 1991, we implemented French Immersion throughout the Halifax-Dartmouth area and other areas of the province. I cannot speak for what has happened since that time — 1991 to the present — including the Doucet-Boudreau v. Nova Scotia case. I believe that section 23 has been adhered to; perhaps you could correct me if there are areas of Nova Scotia where it has not been implemented properly.

Mr. Foucher: I am not familiar with all areas of Nova Scotia. As far as I know, the Carrefour du Grand-Havre is working well. It is one of the schools that is a victim of its own success. It has been so successful that they no longer have enough space, and they will have to either renovate it or build another school.

Senator Buchanan: So I am told.

Mr. Foucher: In other areas, there seemed to be a problem, according to the Doucet-Boudreau case, with the expansion of French language instruction at the high school level. Since the Justice Leblanc decision, this has been corrected. However, I am told that there are still places in Nova Scotia where buildings given to the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial are not adequate and need renovation or upgrading.

I do not know the exact details but that is what I have been told. There also seems to be problems with specialized resources, for instance, orthophonists, psychologists, and aids for children with special needs, et cetera. There are still areas to be developed. I mentioned that in my presentation. I do not think parents should have to take the government to court to secure and implement those services. Rather, they should be proactive and do it with the help of the federal government.

Senator Buchanan: I failed to mention that in 1988-89, we commenced the Collège de l'Acadie, which is operated through the Université Sainte-Anne. I believe it was successful in its early years and remains so. Are you familiar with it?

Mr. Foucher: It is so successful that it has propagated to Wellington, Prince Edward Island.

Senator Buchanan: That is right.

Mr. Foucher: Collège de l'Acadie is dispensing its own courses.

Senator Buchanan: We did some good in that time.

Mr. Foucher: It is not all negative. It is just that the needs are so great and there are still so many things to do. What has been done has been good but it is not a reason to sit down and do no more. As I said, there are still things to be done with regard to upgrading the facilities, special education and courses, especially at the high school levels.

Senator Buchanan: At the first opportunity, I will talk to Premier John Hamm about that and perhaps he will use some of the new money from offshore funds for that. Those funds, by the way, would not exist if I had not negotiated and signed the 1986 agreement, as Senator Murray is well aware. I will tell Premier Hamm that some of those funds now must be used to look after the francophones of that region.

Senator Jaffer: In respect of the numbers that you mentioned, I am interested to know whether families who have a minority language as their first language would be counted as part of that?

Mr. Foucher: Yes, they would be included in those numbers if their second language is French, outside of Quebec.

Senator Jaffer: What if their first language is French?

Mr. Foucher: They would be included.

Senator Jaffer: Are they entitled to the education?

Mr. Foucher: They are not entitled under the Charter but usually the French language school boards will take them.

Senator Jaffer: They are not entitled to it as francophones?

Mr. Foucher: That is correct, They are not entitled until they receive their citizenship. Section 23 is reserved for citizens. That reason pertains primarily to Quebec.

Senator Jaffer: Once they receive their citizenship, does that change the numbers?

Mr. Foucher: Yes, it would increase them. However, in practice, when these people arrive and want French language education, they make a request to the French language school board. The board will admit them because the children speak French. I have one last detail: Once they are admitted, they become right holders, because under one of the clauses, when you are a Canadian citizen, then are you counted as a right holder. For example, the child of a person from the Middle East who speaks French as a second language, would be admitted. When the citizenship is granted, they become right holders.

[Translation]

Senator Léger: I would perhaps like to make a comment, but I am having trouble keeping it in line with education. Because for me, "education" is often the rest.

I do not have a problem with the statement that English and French are equal. However, the expression "where the number so warrants" still exists in section 23. In my opinion, that must change, as well as the word "minority." That is not quite culture. Could you say a few words about that?

Mr. Foucher: First of all, as regards the word minority, it refers to the language, in that the language is not spoken by the entire population. As for "where the number so warrants", there again, the courts have not emphasized that much, because that is not what is most important. From the perspective of redress, even a small number requires doing something for the children. It is always a matter of context. For example, in Summerside, 100 children is enough to warrant a primary school. In other places in Canada, if there are two or three children who make a request, for example, in an isolated region in northern Saskatchewan, they will be provided with a computer, a tutor, and an Internet connection so that they can take an online course. In that sense, the number is a practical matter, a matter of application, and not what determines if the rights exist or not.

Senator Leger: I appreciate your explanation. In your example where there were just a handful of pupils, it happened anyway?

Mr. Foucher: Yes, and here is another example. Do you know what they do in British Columbia for some grade 12 level classes? They send the young people to Vancouver for two or three weekends, and give them an intensive course. It is a big celebration at the same time. During the weekend, they have a social sciences course, a law course, or another course in the curriculum. Instead of taking a course every day in the school, they go to Vancouver, perhaps two or three times a year, they take an intensive course, and they earn credits for the course.

There are many ways of getting the number. It is not a barrier, it is more about how you do it than knowing if you have the rights or not. Your question is important. There are still regulations in Canada where the numbers are predetermined. In British Columbia, there must be 10 students. If there are 10, but one of them has to leave because the father is transferred and the family is moving, the number drops to nine and they loose the class. That kind of thing must not happen.

Senator Léger: We wonder how to deal with the problem of active and passive resistence. That deals with the mind, with mentality, and it is more complex.

Mr. Foucher: After I launched my book, I spoke at conferences in western Canada, and I realized that we have a considerable amount of work to do to educate the majority, because it does not understand section 23. The majority sees it as a privilege, and they do not see why francophones need anything special. We must help them understand what it is all about.

Senator Léger: It is very urgent that we change the attitude whereby French and English are equal. This is important because the demographics are changing drastically. Quite often, it is as if Aboriginals did not exist from a linguistic standpoint.

Mr. Foucher: Now we are getting outside of section 23 and it was not in my mandate to explain Aboriginal rights to you. Indeed, that can present certain problems. You are right when you say that the demographics are changing and we have to educate people to ensure that Canada's duality is maintained. It is through educational rights — and the court has said do — that Canada will maintain its two official languages. It is by having schools where young people are educated in French outside of Quebec that the French language will be maintained. Otherwise, English will just steamroll over Canada.

The Chairman: I would like to get back to the issue of rights. This is a fundamental right?

Mr. Foucher: Yes.

The Chairman: It is a right that implies that certain parties have obligations?

Mr. Foucher: Yes.

The Chairman: Who are those parties?

Mr. Foucher: Governments.

The Chairman: The governments that bound themselves by the wording of the Constitution?

Mr. Foucher: Yes.

The Chairman: So nine provinces —

Mr. Foucher: Nine provinces, the territories and the federal government.

The Chairman: When these obligations are not fulfilled, who has the right to sue the parties?

Mr. Foucher: Rights holders and those who represent them. Thus, you see parents and minority schools boards file lawsuits.

The Chairman: Before this gets to trial, are there any other ways to give an incentive to the parties so that they respect their commitments?

Mr. Foucher: We have to use any means available. They have to be told that if they do not respect their commitments, they will be sued and they are responsible for their decisions. Someone also has to explain to them why this is the right thing to do.

The Chairman: And if they do not?

Mr. Foucher: It is the same as in the private sector. If you sign a contract with a business person who does not fulfill their commitments, you can negotiate with that person first, and if he refuses, you can go to court. That is the civilized way of having one's rights respected in a democracy.

The Chairman: Would I be right in thinking that there are governments that are bound by these obligations and who only wait until someone takes them to court before they react?

Mr. Foucher: It is possible that they use that tactic as a political strategy.

The Chairman: Do you not find such behaviour shameful and scandalous?

Mr. Foucher: Absolutely. I find that unspeakably low. It should not exist, but unfortunately it does.

The Chairman: Do you feel that Parliament fully meets its obligations?

Mr. Foucher: I would make a distinction between Parliament and the government. The federal government could do more. Does Parliament, which is itself federal, assume its responsibilities? Within its area of jurisdiction, I would say yes.

The Chairman: Parliament passes legislation.

Mr. Foucher: It passes legislation but the Constitution does not allow it to legislate in the field of education. However, the federal government has spending powers in this area. It does so, but as I said earlier, it could do more and better.

The Chairman: In your experience, Professor Foucher, have any members of the linguistic majority of this country joined efforts with the minority in having their rights recognized?

Mr. Foucher: Yes, many times.

The Chairman: Can you give us some examples?

Mr. Foucher: For example, we were talking about the second generation of the grandfather clause.

I know of places in Canada where those who were demanding French-language education were parents whose own parents spoke French but who did not have the opportunity to be educated in French and they want their children to reacquaint themselves with their culture of origin. There are many such people and they are very valuable allies in the fight for educational rights recognition. There are anglophone public servants and the majority of those who work in the Ministry of Education, and many of them believe in minority language education. They do everything possible within their means and their purview to make this work. On the other hand, some do not seem to understand.

The Chairman: You are also a professor of administrative law?

Mr. Foucher: Yes.

The Chairman: You have training in that area?

Mr. Foucher: Yes.

The Chairman: Do you find that the federal government administers the Official Languages Act properly?

Mr. Foucher: Like any professor, I would draw a nuance here. There are parts where this is well done and others where it could be improved, among other things, Part VII of the Official Languages Act which is the basis for federal intervention in the area of education.

Senator Murray: I read your document over the weekend, the English version of course. I have noted that many of the issues you have raised will be dealt with in more detail by witnesses who will appear later. It is very useful to have a context for their presentations. I cannot help but ask you to elucidate the following statement and I will quote it in the English version:

[English]

Section 23 can, in fact, be interpreted as including an obligation on the part of the federal government to provide public funds for minority language instruction. The federal government currently meets this obligation.

[Translation]

Is there any precedent for this or is this just an idea that has been germinating in your own mind?

Mr. Foucher: It is an argument. I have reasons to believe that this could be accepted by the courts, but no court has ever said so to date.

[English]

It is a bit academic, I suppose.

[Translation]

Senator Murray: Everyone knows that the federal government already spends money. It is not an exaggeration to say that the federal government funds most of the costs of minority language schools in the province.

Mr. Foucher: You are probably right.

Senator Murray: In another statement, you ask the following question:

[English]

Should some thought be given to devising a mechanism that a community experiencing problems in implementing its rights could turn to, on short notice, to apprise a particular agency of the situation? Should consideration be given to adopting a more expeditious legal recourse than the ones currently available? What about beefing up the court challenges program to that end?

[Translation]

What did you have in mind here? Have you developed a plan in this regard?

Mr. Foucher: No. Those are just ideas that I have expressed because I have noted that trials are very long and costly. Right now, the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada investigates or intervenes regarding section 23. She intervenes, but technically, that is not her primary mandate. One cannot file complaints with the Office of the Commissioner for the violation of educational rights because she cannot investigate. Her investigations are limited to federal law. I was thinking of something along those lines. Perhaps broaden her jurisdiction or come up with an administrative organization that could intervene rapidly and that could file complaints; there would be an investigation and a proposal of recommendations rather than having to go through the courts. I just put this idea forward.

Senator Murray: Who would inherit such an agency?

Mr. Foucher: It could come from the Council of Ministers of Education Canada.

Senator Murray: With a quasi-administrative status?

Mr. Foucher: Yes, of course.

Senator Murray: I have another comment I would like to make.

[English]

Perhaps some thought could also be given to providing direct federal funding to minority language school boards such that the onus would be on the school boards, not on provincial governments, to be accountable for any actions taken.

[Translation]

Frankly, I would say that that is inadvisable and not just for constitutional reasons.

[English]

You do not want to take the pressure off the provincial governments, whose constitutional responsibility it is, I would say.

[Translation]

Mr. Foucher: You are right on that point — you want provincial governments to continue to assume their responsibilities — if part of the funds of the federal government is given directly to francophone associations.

Senator Murray: I know but you are talking about school boards.

Mr. Foucher: It is the same thing. You could take part of the federal funds and give it back to school boards and tell them to develop the cultural or community aspects of their mandates. You would have school board representatives and you would see whether they agree or not. The role of a professor is to propose ideas and then you can determine which ones are valid.

Senator Comeau: I would like to get back the possibility of making funds available for school boards. Let's take for example a school board that wants a community centre. Nearly every document we see says that a community centre is part of what a community needs. This may not be possible in all minority communities. This issue is currently being debated in my region. Many people want a community centre. Another group of very active people are saying that buildings are closing, the Legions has no more funds, the Knights of Columbus have financial problems Sainte-Anne University has many buildings that are not used to full capacity. If these funds were transferred to school boards they would spend them for a new building and that might not be the most practical way of meeting community needs. So we have to be careful when transferring funds directly to a group that is involved strictly in education.

This will not meet the potential needs of the community. That why I somewhat disagree with our chairman who mentioned that we have to deal only with education. We have to put ourselves in the much broader context which is the community.

Mr. Foucher: With all due respect for the Knights of Columbus, their rights are not guaranteed in the Charter.

Senator Comeau: You misunderstood my question. I am talking about a community where many buildings are being closed while others are being built.

Mr. Foucher: Indeed, if these buildings are adequate for French language education, they could be renovated.

Senator Comeau: For a community centre, not for a school?

Mr. Foucher: For a community centre attached to the school, it would be useful. This is a matter local context. It may not be a panacea that should be used in every case. It depends on the community. In other communities, the community centre is linked to the school because is the only French language facility in town. In other communities where the number of Acadians is greater and more concentrated, there are other French language institutions in town. So these situations call for different responses according to the local context.

Senator Comeau: That brings me to my question. Before transferring funds to authorities that look after education, we might want to consider that their decision may not be advantageous to the community at large.

Mr. Foucher: That possible.

Senator Chaput: I agree with you when you say that we have to go much further with the Official Languages Action Plan. The federal government has an action plan on official languages. We are talking about education and things are not moving very fast. When we talk about pushing things further and implementing accountability mechanisms for the provinces, I would say that also applies to the federal government.

What does Section 23 allow us to do? How much further can we push for its implementation and what would be the accountability mechanisms?

Mr. Foucher: With regard to the accountability mechanisms for the provincial and federal government, I think you need to put that question to experts in public administration rather than law. The Auditor General and the Commissioner of Official Languages come to mind. There are already mechanisms that make government accountable in certain areas. They are none for minority language education.

The Chairman: The Auditor General with regard to the allocation of funds and the Commissioner of Official Languages for compliance with the Charter and the Act?

Mr. Foucher: Yes.

The Chairman: To each his own area of expertise?

Mr. Foucher: Yes or another institution. And here I think that experts in public administration would be better qualified than I am. This is the type of things I have been referring to so that we do not have any more reports like the one written in 1996 which asked: where did the billions go? We hear all kinds of things. I do not know if these things are true or not. We hear the community say: the province took the funds and built roads with them. The province took the funds and built immersion schools. The province took the funds and spent them on all kinds of things other than minority language education. The provincial governments respond: that is not true, we did spend the funds on minority language education. Who is telling the truth? There should be mechanisms that allow us to verify such allegations, and demand accountability so that we do not hear this type of thing anymore.

The Chairman: Honorable senators, do you have any other questions? Well professor Foucher, I wish to thank you for your contribution and for having travelled to Ottawa. I wish you the best of luck in all your endeavors, especially those involving the rights of the minority or linguistic minorities in this country.

Mr. Foucher: Thank you for the invitation. I wish you good luck with your ongoing work. I can assure you that my colleagues and I eagerly await your reports and we will read them with great attention.

The meeting was suspended.

The meeting resumed.

The Chairman: We now welcome from the Canadian Teachers Federation, Ms. Terry Price, president, Liliane Vincent, director, Services to francophones, Gilberte Michaud, the chair of the advisory board on French, first language of the Canadian Teachers Federation, from Saint-André, New Brunswick, Paul Taillefer, member of the advisory board on French, first language and president of the AEFO, and Anne Gilbert, director of research, Francophonie and minorities at the CIRCEM, University of Ottawa. You have biographical notes and a brief C.V. for each of the witnesses.

The people appearing before us are all experts in their respective fields. They have broad experience and are very much involved in the educational profession. They are deeply committed to the success of the school system in Canada and the system of learning French as a first language.

[English]

I invite Ms. Price to proceed with her presentation.

Ms. Terry Price, President, Canadian Teachers' Federation: We are pleased to present before the committee. The Canadian Teachers' Federation represents 210,000 teachers across the country, including the entire 10,000 that are teaching in francophone schools and minority settings. Ours is the only organization that represents 100 per cent of those teachers. We also have representation in Quebec with the Anglophone teachers of Quebec. We have undertaken, with the support of various federal departments and other partners, significant research in the area of education in the francophone minority setting. We are pleased to have with us today our researcher on that, Ms. Anne Gilbert, and Ms. Liliane Vincent, Director of Services to Francophones. I would ask Ms. Vincent to proceed with an outline of the federation's activities.

[Translation]

Ms. Liliane Vincent, Director of Services to Francophones, Canadian Teachers' Federation: The FCE's thinking and action on the two major themes that I have the honor of discussing with you here today, namely early childhood and education in francophone minority communities, are anchored in two fundamental principles. First of all, the CTF has long defended the rights of official language minority groups and subscribed to the principle that the survival and flourishing of these communities and their protection against assimilation constitute a right that Canadian authorities have a duty to promote and conserve.

The second principle is that school is a major instrument in maintaining a living language community, and this has inspired the title of the research action plan that the CFT has been directing in the past few years: The school at the heart of the living francophonie. This is a title that we chose well before we knew we would be invited here on Valentine's Day.

The research conducted up until now has enabled us to present certain elements of the overall situation of French language education that your committee is seeking to build and examine in greater depth.

Let us start at the beginning, early childhood. I invite you to imagine a teacher entering a first grade classroom on the first day of school in September. You are welcoming some 25 students and suddenly you are faced with a mosaic of cultural and linguistic backgrounds. You think to yourself: I have to integrate all these children, many of whom have had very little contact with French language and culture in the home or in their community. You have to smooth out the differences in knowledge of French as much as possible and as quickly as possible while avoiding lowering the level of French to the detriment of those for whom French is part of their daily life. To add to the weight of this responsibility, you know that a significant proportion of these students, up to 35 per cent in Saskatchewan, may drop out and register in immersion schools or English schools, as early as grade 2, if they do not successfully integrate into French school.

You will understand that French language schools face major challenges. They only attract a slight majority of rights-holders. They have trouble keeping those they attract and their chances of success depend largely on their linguistic abilities in the language of learning. Our look at early child education is aimed at the fullest possible integration into French language schools, both quantitatively and qualitatively for the children of rights-holders which inspire the title of our 2003 report: "Early Childhood: Gateway to French-Language Schools."

This study involved preparatory studies including a picture of the experiences of minorities in other countries. We studied how the French language is learned in a bilingual setting in Canada and we described services to early childhood in minority communities across the country.

We conducted community studies in places that are representatives of the Canadian francophonie. I will name them quickly: Orleans and Timmins in Ontario; the Chaleur region in New Brunswick; Baie Ste. Marie in Nova Scotia; Calgary and Edmonton in Alberta.

Afterwards we held regional forums. Based on this massive information, we develop a vision of the early childhood. With regard to the international situation, one can say that free services are offered in schools for all four years-old, and even three years-old in Belgium, Spain, Italy and so forth.

We also implemented national pedagogical frameworks linked to school learning for all age groups. Your idea of a learning continuum as mentioned in your invitation is already very much the case in Europe for minorities. And let me add that there is clearly a transnational trend toward the requirement of a university degree for anyone who works with young children, and not only in classrooms.

This was such a marqued contrast to what we found in Canada, where the state does not really have a dominant role to play in the implementation of early childhood services. There is a blatant lack of services. We can give you many more statistics if you wish.

The services that do exist are very precarious, are very vulnerable financially, and have to resort to casinos and bingos; they are constantly moved around from one facility to another and are subject to closures for certain periods of the year because there is no money to pay salaries.

There is also an enormous disparity not only in the availability of services but also in the quality of those services. Each individual tries to do his or her best with the means of their disposal. The poorest families do not have access. So there is a great deal of inequality in the services provided.

One major obstacle to real progress in the area of early childhood that I would like to point out is the shortage of qualified teaching staff and the absence of training programs in educational child care. We even saw some services where they had to choose anglophones because they favoured training over linguistic competence so anglophones are placed in early childhood centers that are supposed to be for francophones.

In addition, we saw that there is a vary little connection between school and what precedes it, so there is a missing link at school and in school programming. The transition to school is a very difficult one, not only for children and parents but also for teachers and principals.

It is very difficult for school to compensate for the lack of linguistic and cultural exposure of young children. The parents, provincial ministries, educators, school board authorities who were invited to our consultation forums were unanimous in saying that we can and must do better to prepare children for integration into French language school. It is urgent because we are losing too many at the outset and we will lose too many over the years.

It is urgent that we counterbalance the dominance of English in the early years of a child's life, a period that is critical for language learning. It is urgent that we provide them with an opportunity to start on an equal footing with students from the majority community.

It is urgent that we offer parents options that will give them a natural incentive to choose francophone schools. Ninety-seven per cent of the 180 parents we interviewed in day care centres and community centres firmly intended to enrol their children in French-language schools. The recruitment problem would be alleviated if there were good quality French-language services for very young children.

Early childhood services are clearly a meeting place, a gathering place for the francophone community. The first grade teachers that we interviewed stated without exception that children who benefited from French-language services adapted more successfully in schools where the teaching language was French.

The confidence the children acquire facilitates learning and promotes perseverance in school; they run a lesser risk of dropping out after first grade and attachment to the francophone community is more likely to be maintained, and that is the link between early childhood and the vitality of the communities.

The data and opinions that were gathered generated the following vision which I can only describe in general terms: a whole set of services is necessary. There is not a single type of service that would suffice. There need to be play groups, resource centres, daycares, junior-kindergartens and kindergartens.

Because of constitutional protection that ensures the stability and accessibility of schools, they are the best structure to oversee the development of early childhood services. The integration of such services under the aegis of the school would also promote the continuity we consider essential, facilitate transition to school and enable parents to familiarize themselves earlier with the francophone school environment and thus better prepare their child.

But — and it is a big "but" — the primary role in service management should not be left up to the schools but rather to the community because it is the community that took the initiative of establishing such services from the outset.

As you know, the OECD advocates unified administration of early childhood services. Without a central authority that deals with early childhood in Canada, it is not that simple. We recommend that mechanisms be established and maintained to coordinate efforts, among all stakeholders involved in early childhood services, health services, social services, family support structures and, of course, education.

One important distinction that must be made between junior-kindergarten, kindergarten and services for younger children is that there must be programming and training for people working with children between zero and three years of age. They require special kills. It must be recognized that this stage in a child's life is separate from the school years. Certified teachers would be in charge of four- and five-year-old children.

In order to standardize the quality of service, a framework program is recommended, focused on the objectives to be achieved in order to ensure integration into the school environment. The word "framework" here is the key word because it would necessary to adapt such programming to the various realities experienced by minority language groups. It is not simply a question of standardizing things across Canada, but rather of having a set of objectives towards which we would all work.

Another point that was clearly highlighted is that we must protect the integrity of the French-language character of early childhood services. As soon as that aspect is diluted, it goes against the objective of establishing French-language services.

However, we must take care not to exclude parents from exogamous families, anglophone parents. We must find ways to integrate those parents, to develop francization tools and so forth.

To summarize in a few words, our national vision, which is explained in detail in the report that Ms. Gilbert prepared for you, must consist of a range of services that are coherent — "coherency" is the key word here, with the school being the hub in partnership with the community. In other words, we have a lot of work to do, and all stakeholders have a role to play.

[English]

I would like to switch to English now because we do represent a bilingual organization, and I am the product of the French language education system.

After examining the pre-school experience of young children, we focused on the experience of teachers entrusted with the education of these children in the 12 minority communities, symbolized by the 12 circles on the cover of our report. The report was launched in September and is entitled, "Teachers and the Challenge of Teaching in Francophone Minority Settings."

The process that we used mirrored the one that we used for our early childhood study. First, we asked: What lessons can be drawn from existing literature on the topic? Second, we said: Let us go the field and collect information first-hand from the teachers. Third, early on in the process, we said: Let us engage in a dialogue with the major players to share the data, of course, but most importantly to consider avenues for future action.

Our starting point was the mission of the French language school. There is abundant reference to the specific mission of French language schools due to the fact that they have to function in a minority community. I quote from Canadian Heritage that describes it as having, "an additional objective to that normally expected of any school, and that is the maintaining and strengthening of French language skills but also of the heritage and culture of the community." We have a host of quotes that we could present to you that show that the school in a minority context is considered a tool of survival, a tool for identity-building and a tool for the reproduction of social models in the francophone communities.

We wanted to know if teachers felt that their work entailed challenges that resulted directly from that mission. The answer is, unequivocally, a resounding yes, with only slight variance by region. We then asked them if they recognize that there are challenges specific to that context and what those challenges are. In an open question, we asked them to list the five major challenges. First on the list is human resources — teachers, supply teachers with proper qualifications, specialists such as speech therapists, counsellors, and math and science teachers. We have heard stories of speech therapists being sent to French language schools who could not speak a word of French: the fact that teachers, because of the lack of staffing, are forced to teach outside the area of expertise for which they were trained. Second on the list is teaching materials, across the country. It was felt strongly that the lack of teaching materials in French that reflect the realities of the minority communities is a major stumbling block to the actual fulfilment of the mission of French language schools. They believe that it is not sufficient to import things from Quebec that just do not relate to the realities that the students live on a daily basis.

Third on the list is the physical facilities, which were referred to in our first presentation this morning, and the lack of space for lesson preparation, courses, libraries, gymnasiums, extracurricular activities and even cafeterias. Underlying all of this, of course, is the lack of financial resources. There have been some interesting studies to that effect, in Ontario the Rozanski study, and in Manitoba the Comtois study. There was another study in New Brunswick to the effect that equity does not mean equality does not mean equal treatment.

We have resources topping the list, followed by demographics and the broader socio-cultural context that comes clearly into play. The struggle to stem assimilation and to promote the French language and culture in an environment that is overwhelmingly anglophone is daunting for teachers in French language schools.

The fact that students have little connection with French outside of the school walls makes it difficult for teachers to motivate them to perfect their skills in French and to want to actually conduct social activities in French. The teachers feel the weight of the task of compensating for the lack of continuity in the use of the language and the exposure to the culture. More often than you can imagine, we hear teachers say, "Oh, when we hear the parents come and collect their children after school, before they are out of the door they have reverted to English." How can they expect the students to be motivated when they do not have that support outside of the French language school context.

The teachers were asked to measure the level of importance of a list of 31 difficulties viewed as impediments to the fulfilment of the schools' mission. At the top of the list is the sheer workload, which is likely the sum of the challenges described earlier, and, in particular, the fact that they have to teach and prepare too many courses without the proper teaching materials and the proper specialists to help them out. That is compounded by the lack of materials, for example software in the French language that is relevant to the community. The diversity of subjects for which they do not have specialized training, the shortage of specialists and the resources were mentioned by 65 per cent of respondents as the major difficulties.

The shortage of reinforcements in a socio-cultural environment is overwhelming to teachers who are, in effect, expected to produce francophones without any support elsewhere. It is like trying to teach a student to play the piano, knowing that the student may never come across a piano anywhere else and may never be able to practice the lessons at any other time but in the classroom. It is evident that such piano classes might never produce a concert pianist.

A variety of actions were suggested in our final report, and I have four of the fundamental needs identified. Teachers do not believe that they have the training required to deal effectively with the challenges specific to the minority context. Both pre-service training and in-service training need to take into account this essential component of their role. I am happy to say that the faculties of education have shown a great deal of interest in our research and have requested a large number of copies. I am hopeful that it will start the wheels turning in terms of devising different ways of preparing our teachers to teach in francophone contexts.

Not only do they need better-suited training but also they need teaching approaches that reflect the reality in such a way as to ensure the maximum development of each child's human potential in terms of academic achievement and their own identity, so that they become contributing members of the francophone community.

Linguistic and cultural integration was identified as a huge issue and will become only bigger. Two thirds of school-aged children who are entitled to French language education come from linguistically mixed families. The majority arrive at school with limited, and often no, knowledge whatsoever of the French language and culture.

Factors tied to the minority setting that affect the teachers' work need to be considered in determining their assignments and the time allotments for the various tasks, given the small supply of French language resources readily available. As well, teachers suggested development of a national portal that would be available with the use of technology of all French language learning materials by grade and by subject, which could be made available to teachers across the country.

Also recommended is the pooling of school board training resources. The smaller school boards do not have the same resources as the larger school boards for providing professional development opportunities. Could there not be a greater pooling of resources among the school boards? Another recommendation is new recruitment strategies and the provision of incentives in areas where it is difficult to get student to study in faculties of education in French because there are no French language programs close to home. Could we not find a way to support them so that they will be encouraged to study at, perhaps, the University of Moncton, and then go back to PEI to teach in French?

In the same way that early childhood is the gateway to French language schools, secondary schools should also be seen as the gateway to French language post-secondary learning. There is a sense that many students and parents will, after grade school, choose English language secondary schools in preparation for post-secondary education because there are no post-secondary education establishments in their area in French. They know they will not be studying French later and so they continue their education in English at the high school level. We lose a great many students to the English program at the high school level. The post-secondary part of the continuum is just as important as the early childhood part of the continuum.

[Translation]

I would like to briefly summarize the key points that I have tried to communicate this morning. The starting point and the focus must remain the core mission of francophone schools, which is mainly to be a place where education, socialization, acculturation and community participation take place. Our study identifies key factors that influence the ability of schools to carry out that mission: the increasingly heterogeneous demographic profile of Canadian francophones, the predominance of English as a spoken language and a language of everyday life, thus the sociocultural aspect. There is a need to rethink, of course, the whole pedagogical approach. To what extent does the pedagogical approach lead to success and inculcate a sense of identity and belonging in children and youth? Another perennial and inevitable issue is funding, as Mr. Foucher's presentation highlighted this morning.

Where there is a question of funding and especially of different treatment, politics is inevitably involved. You see the major factors here on the screen. As we think about these issues and take action, the needs of the students for whom these systems exist must remain front and centre. When they choose French schools, parents have to feel that their children will receive a top-quality education, which the government has a responsibility to ensure by providing school boards with the resources needed by teachers, who bear most of the responsibility for this mission, in their day-to-day work.

But the schools cannot do this work alone. The whole community must work together. You see here once again the 12 circles that represent the 12 francophone and minority communities up on the screen. I hope that I have given you a clear idea of the continuum that exists from early childhood education through to the post-secondary level.

We are very pleased to see that the committee has chosen to focus its work today on this idea of a continuum from early childhood to post-secondary education. We appreciate that, since it is very much in line with the advice and data we have gathered in the community. Thank you for your attention, and we will be pleased to answer your questions.

The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Vincent, for carrying out this study and analysis that gets right to the heart of the problem and the federal government responsibility to protect the rights of linguistic minorities in Canada, particularly the francophone minority. You are providing a great service. Your remarks will be reflected in those of other witnesses, which is a good thing. We will now go to questions, and I will take the unusual step of asking the first one.

Given the dichotomy between the primary responsibility of provincial and territorial governments for education and the proactive role that the federal government needs to play because of constitutional provisions and court rulings, how do you make these two levels of governments more aware of the needs that you have identified this morning, so as to remind them of their duties?

For example, how do you make representations to the provincial or federal governments, outside this committee or through parliamentarians in general? How do you approach them and raise this awareness? Could you elaborate a little bit on that for us?

Ms. Vincent: My colleagues will certainly have things to add where the provinces and territories are concerned. At the federal level, we have undertaken a number of research studies with the support of the federal government: Canadian Heritage, Social Development, and so on. We are always talking to them about the need to build this support for our research. You asked about our mechanisms for providing information and creating awareness in connection with the first presentation as well. Research is a critical element. Solid and credible research with our partners, Mr. Landry of the ICRML and Ms. Gilbert of the IRCEM, show that we can use this data as a basis to move these issues forward. I believe that this is crucial.

We have partners at the federal level with whom we are in constant dialogue. In the provinces and territories, the CTF represents the teaching profession. We have two representatives of provincial associations here, Mr. Taillefer, from Ontario, and Ms. Gilberte Michaud, from New Brunswick, who could explain how they approach the provinces and territories to parallel what we are doing at the national level.

At the national level, we work on an ongoing basis with other national groups, such as the Commission nationale des parents francophones and the Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires. We work closely with them and always keep them abreast of the work that we are doing. We invite them to our consultation forums, which are always a component of our research and are aimed at not just gathering data but also creating solidarity among all the stakeholders on the national scene involved in French-language education. The researchers who came up with that methodology deserve a lot of credit! This is an important factor in the success of our research.

The CTF also works on an ongoing basis with the Council of Ministers of Education. That gives you an idea of the kind of work that we try to do at the national level. Perhaps my colleagues would like to add some comments to that.

The Chair: I would ask Ms. Michaud and Mr. Taillefer to be as concise as possible.

Ms. Gilberte Michaud, Chair of the Advisory Board on French, First Language, Canadian Teachers' Federation: In New Brunswick, we publicize the report by sending letters to all MPs and MALs, the universities, departmental officials, the Forum de concertation des organismes acadiens, district school boards and parent associations to let them know about the research and raise awareness in the francophone community about their rights under the Charter of Rights and section 23. As a result, the francophone community is now in a position to demand that its rights be respected.

Mr. Paul Taillefer, Member of the Advisory Board on French, First Language, Canadian Teachers' Federation: In Ontario, following the Rozanski report, which found that in order to provide an equivalent level of services and teaching in the minority language, a considerable investment of between $120 and $150 million would be required to bridge the gap and provide annual increments, we have obviously been calling for these measures to be implemented quickly. The government made a commitment to implement all the recommendations in the report. We have taken part in a working group with French-language school boards, and we meet regularly with the Minister of Education and other provincial Liberal ministers to push for francophone rights.

We are working to make headway on this issue. We have allies in the community, and the AEFO is working the francophone community to set up, this spring, we hope, a political organization to advocate for francophone rights in Ontario and help us win this battle.

[English]

Ms. Price: I would like to comment briefly on the rest of Canada. Within our structure, the only provinces that have distinct teacher federations for francophone teachers are New Brunswick and Ontario. In all other provinces and territories there are subgroups within the teacher federations for francophone teachers teaching in the minority schools. They are very active members of the community and often they are leaders in the francophone community, which touches on Ms. Vincent's comments about the additional role that teachers take on to enhance the culture and heritage. They work actively with the school boards and parent groups to attempt to influence their governments in those respective territories and provinces. All of our research is provided to those government officials as well as to the parent groups and the school boards. They are well aware of what the rest of the country is saying about francophone education.

The Chairman: I am not sure that I understood correctly but you do not seem to intervene directly with the federal government. You do cooperate, and indeed the federal government may finance some of your research projects, but the main vehicle for your concerns is the provincial government, on which you depend to transmit these concerns in terms of taking into account any negotiations that are taking place.

Ms. Price: As was recognized earlier, the jurisdiction for education is provincial and territorial, and we fight that all the time. The Canadian Teachers' Federation has been involved in the symposium of official languages. We work as actively as we can with the Official Languages Support Programs Branch to determine what we can do at the federal level. Much of the promotion and monitoring has to take place at the provincial and territorial level.

The Chairman: Out of curiosity, is Quebec part of your federation?

Ms. Price: The anglophone teachers in Quebec are part of our federation. The francophone teachers in Quebec are part of the Centrale des syndicats du Québec.

[Translation]

Senator Comeau: I would like to come back to the issue of early childhood services. You make a distinction between children aged zero to three years and those four and five year of age. If I understand correctly, you assume the younger groups to be daycare-age children and the older group to be preschool-age. You said that the school system would be responsible for preschool and the community for daycare.

Have you looked at the potential or the impact that a daycare system might have on children when all children come together at the age of four, that is, how those who have benefited from a daycare system fare compared with to those who were at home with their parents?

Ms. Vincent: I imagine that Anne will certainly have something to say on this. The teachers that we interviewed told us that the role of parents was crucial. Children who have been taught French well at home certainly do better than those who always speak English at home but go to daycare for a few hours a week in French. Whether at home or in a daycare setting, children need to be exposed to the language and culture before they reach school age and have to learn in a setting where the language of instruction is French. The teachers told us clearly that there was absolutely nothing that replaced the responsibility of parents for providing motivation and not just knowledge.

Ms. Anne Gilbert, Director of Research, Francophonie and Minorities, Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Citizenship and Minority Studies, University of Ottawa: The family plays a fundamental role. It is important to realize that, given the current structure of families where linguistic intermarriages are increasingly common and where, not just in minority communities, many families have both parents in the work force, a lot of emphasis is placed on formal early childhood settings that take a variety of forms. That is what the research has shown.

There were a number of successful approaches where these services were provided. No one structure will meet the needs of all families across Canada. Diverse models need to be put in place to meet the needs for part-time and full-time care, with more varied schedules, and settings where parents can play a role and others where they are less involved. Those are the real needs of families. However, even if a variety of services exist, we have found by examining the various models that have been tried, that the most formal structures give the best results.

Senator Comeau: That makes sense.

Ms. Gilbert: We need to be realistic. Daycare set up by parents in church basements and community centers under one-time grants, will not be sustainable. Whatever models are used, the structures should be as formal as possible so that it is sustainable, and this is where schools play an important role.

Senator Comeau: It does not take a major study to come to that conclusion. Where there is such a system — daycare for children from birth to three years and preschool for those four and five years of age, should we not encourage parents whose children are at home to send them to daycare or preschool so that they are not at a disadvantage and we do not end up with children being at two different levels in the regular school system?

Ms. Gilbert: That is the approach that many European countries have taken, in order to create greater equality among children entering the school system and promote free services that are accessible to as many children as possible so that they all have the same opportunity. But forcing people is not the answer. A wide range of services should be offered at the lowest possible price. That cannot help but be beneficial, especially in a context where families often find it difficult to play the role expected of them on the linguistic and cultural front.

Senator Comeau: It would be better for parents whose children are at home to send them to these programs if there is a high-quality system?

Ms. Gilbert: And help them as parents to complement the role of the daycare by providing them with the best francization tools possible.

Senator Comeau: There are quite a number of children who stay at home until they are five. It is important not to create other problems. Especially in rural communities, children are not part of any group for the first five years of their life. They do not make any friends.

The federal government has proposed $5 billion. Do we have the necessary funding to create this system and meet the needs?

Ms. Gilbert: I cannot answer that question.

[English]

Ms. Price: I do not know if anybody can answer that question. I do not know if the provinces will stop wrangling over the accountability questions. The kind of question you are asking about mandatory daycare for parents is at the heart of Minister Ken Dryden's problems in getting it through. Within the francophone community, it is more critical that parents be mandated or encouraged to get their children into cultural activities where they are speaking French as early as possible and as much as possible before they hit formal schooling. Kindergarten is mandatory in most jurisdictions and that would take in most five-year-olds. Junior kindergarten programs would take the four-year-olds. They are normally half-day programs but that is still better for the families in which English is spoken at home. Those citizens of the francophone communities are spread out in that their neighbours are not necessarily francophone. The children that they play with when they leave the formal setting are speaking in English. It becomes even more critical for francophone families to be encouraged to undertake as many activities in French as they can at as early an age as possible.

[Translation]

Senator Chaput: I want to begin by thanking you for the excellent brief that you sent us. I read it with great interest on the weekend. It truly reflects reality and is a well-researched document that presents possible solutions.

But like all possible solutions, these are long-term undertakings. There are so many things to be done. Your brief states that you have partners in government and in education. Here is my concern. I come from Manitoba. On the weekend, I was at home in Manitoba and we met with provincial ministers who told me very directly that the federal government, in the agreements that they have negotiated, was not giving adequate funding for French schools. The federal government did not have enough funding for French schools.

In another meeting, this time with parents, I met a francophone parent from Lorette, Manitoba, a small community with a French school. He told me that they had a bilingual daycare — daycares are not necessarily part of our schools — and that he did not want to send his son to a bilingual daycare. The father works in Saint-Boniface and he brings his son with him every morning and puts him in a French daycare. Then he plans to send him to a school that is not in his community.

In your opinion, how can we get the excellent ideas in your document implemented, given all these particular situations and difficulties? We all know that every day counts. Assimilation is rampant. We are losing more and more of our children, who no longer go to French school because they have been put in English daycare. How can we implement these ideas across Canada, for both francophones outside Quebec and anglophones in Quebec, in a concrete and specific way? It is a good document, but I have those concerns.

Ms. Vincent: Your question is a broad one and not easy to answer. I believe that we need to work at this issue from all possible angles. I do not think that there is just one approach that will work. That is why the CTF is working with the Council of Ministers of Education and trying to create awareness, carry out research and bring as much attention as possible to these findings.

In the provinces and territories, our colleagues are doing exactly the same thing. The same kind of work is going on at the provincial level. Our francophone liaison officers — this is a Canada-wide network — worked with their school board and in their schools. I think that we really need to move this forward on all fronts.

The priority for early childhood services has been defined in our regional forums: we first need to help four and five-year olds. We want to put everything in place for children three years and under and those four and five years of age. But the situation is urgent. We really need to staunch the flow of students away from French schools. We are losing so many already. We get them to come for a while, but they get discouraged, their parents get discouraged and they feel that they do not have the resources they need. Francophones do not believe that they can give their children the necessary support. We really need to give proper support to those coming into the system, the four and five year olds, as soon as possible. That is the priority that came out clearly in the forums.

Ms. Gilbert: One of the findings of the research on approaches was the need for a national policy on early childhood education in minority communities, so that this whole emerging movement can be supported. There are a number of initiatives attached to this. We need to be able to give this issue the emphasis it deserves.

Another recommendation made at the end of the research was that, given the important role the school plays, perhaps instead of all the services being offered through the school system, the school be made a sustainable setting and one protected by the Charter so that it would become the most important setting for the development of French life outside Quebec.

Why not expand the memorandum of understanding on minority-language education to include early childhood? Why not make that an integral part of the agreement? That is something which can be done quickly within an existing framework and which could make it possible to structure efforts in this area better.

The Chair: Are you prepared to make that a recommendation?

Ms. Vincent: The recommendation on broadening the parameters of the agreement is clearly set out in our report on early childhood. Our chairperson has written to the CMEC and her predecessor to encourage them to take this step. We have also talked to Canadian Heritage about the possibility of broadening an agreement to include targeted measures for early childhood services in francophone minority communities.

Ms. Michaud: It should be noted that the provinces have major challenges. Issues related to early childhood are often divided up among a number of different departments that offer various services. It is a major challenge when people try to sidestep responsibility for issues and say that it is someone else's jurisdiction and not theirs. Young children are always the ones who suffer for that. The other challenge is that the provinces have to match federal funding dollar for dollar. Funding for services to francophones does not always have to be matched because of the additional costs. Books, for example, pose a greater challenge. Our dollar does not go as far. We do not have enough money to get matching funding from the federal government. To answer the senator's question, it takes a great deal of political will and a serious commitment on the part of the government to make a difference.

Ms. Vincent: The issue of a national policy, which Ms. Gilbert brought up, is doubly important. We saw this in our research on the international context. One finding that struck me and stayed with me is that granting a language official status does not guarantee the vitality of minority communities; the social prestige of the language and the community that speaks it is also important.

Social prestige goes along with that recognition. Court challenges are one way, of course, to impose that recognition, but they will not create a good climate for truly enhancing the vitality of minority communities. I believe that a national policy would go a long way not simply in political terms but also in terms of social prestige for the language and the community.

The Chair: Senator Chaput, you have provoked a lot of reaction, which is excellent. I would remind honourable senators that this study was launched in the fall of 2003 under the chairmanship of Senator Losier-Cool. Welcome to our committee, Madam Whip.

Senator Losier-Cool: I am very pleased to be here today. I was listening to you and I would have liked to be here to take part in this discussion with you.

My first experience in the Senate was in 1982-83 when I was in the position that you now hold, Ms. Michaud. I had come to meet with a group called the GPR: the groupe parlementaire Robichaud.

We were saying just about the same things, but I can see that there has been progress at the CTF. I was one of the people fighting to get the structures that you have put in place, and I congratulate you.

I would say that a national policy is important particularly for the children's sake. With all these educational daycare programs — and I agree that they should be set up — we need to make sure not to make parents who stay at home feel guilty. That is important. Those parents might feel that their children are not as good as the others because they do not go to daycare, which is why it is important to have a program that is structured, free of charge, accessible and motivating for parents.

My other question is about the table that presents the mission of French schools. I know that you meet with teachers, school boards and government as part of this mission. But are students and children involved in the research? Do they give their views? Are they adequately involved in your discussions? It is as if we are here talking about people who are over there or in a classroom. I would like to see a greater emphasis on students in the mission.

In the second round, I would like to say something about teacher training, but I want to talk about the children for now.

Ms. Gilbert: Perhaps I could respond as a researcher. During our research on early childhood, we had planned to observe children and speak to them to get some idea of how they reacted to various experiences in a daycare setting.

As you can imagine, it is extremely difficult to be able to do research on children and get the permission you need to do that. All the parents have to give their consent. Every organization that provides daycare services has to give its consent. Our efforts were not very successful. Daycare directors are extremely protective of the children in their care.

We were able to observe but not interact directly with the children. We watched what happened when the daycare teachers used one language or the other and how the children related among themselves. But we were unable to do much more than that.

In the research on challenges facing teachers, the reason we chose to focus on teachers in this case is that there is already some amount of research on children in minority communities, on their aspirations and commitment, on how they see their lives and their futures.

So we felt that the most pressing need, given the issues we were looking at, was to hear from teachers, knowing that studies of young people in minority communities had already been carried out. Those studies never give us all the information we would like to have. They will be complemented by initiatives that are underway, in particular the large national study being done by Statistics Canada on participation by members of minority communities. So we deliberately chose to focus on teachers.

It is very difficult to do research on children, since they are so tightly protected by the institutions responsible for them, and that is a good thing.

Senator Losier-Cool: But from the age of ten, they can give their views and say things. In many schools, there are student councils and students are the primary people concerned here. I often wonder if we have become more inclusive in listening to them and having them tell us things. Maybe it is the grandmother in me speaking, since my grandchildren tell me things that I wish everyone could hear.

Ms. Vincent: We have just undertaken a project that I think is very much in line with what you are saying. We are meeting with groups of kindergarten and grade one students, that is, young children. In fact, this is a follow-up to our early childhood study: a profile of children entering grade one from a linguistic and cultural perspective. Minister Dryden, in his wisdom, gave us a grant to do this work, in cooperation with Canadian Heritage.

It is a profile of children as they come in; what kind of language and cultural background should they have, as they begin grade one, so that they can be successfully integrated into the French school? The research team is organizing meetings with young children aged 5 and 6 to ask them how they feel about their skills.

The Chairman: This is still in the context of francophone minorities?

Ms. Vincent: Yes we are. This is a profile of those beginning grade one as regards the linguistic and cultural background for francophone minorities.

Ms. Michaud: There is also a third aspect to our research action project which will deal more specifically with schools and communities. We intend to consult groups of students to find out how they define a francophone community.

At that time, we will also have the contribution of students at the secondary level and at the end of the primary level. And let me tell you, as someone who spent her career teaching kindergarten, that you can have very interesting conversations with five-year-old children.

Senator Losier-Cool: On the second round, I will deal with training.

[English]

Senator Buchanan: Throughout my many years in government in Nova Scotia, I was always a great supporter of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, NSTU. After hearing the presentations today, I have no doubt that I will be a great supporter of the Canadian Teachers' Federation. Children across Canada, whether francophone or anglophone, are in good hands. Is the NSTU part of the Canadian Teachers' Federation?

Ms. Price: Yes.

Senator Buchanan: Ms. Price, you said that New Brunswick is the only province of the Canadian Teachers' Federation that serves francophones?

Ms. Price: That is not what I tried to say. Within our structure, we have two provinces that have stand-alone francophone teacher organizations, New Brunswick and Ontario. In Nova Scotia for example, they are part of the NSTU and there is a sub-organization within NSTU that represents the francophone teachers.

Senator Murray: Your brief and some of the briefs from other organizations that we will hear from later in the day, point to the fact that, perhaps, more than one-third of those having the right to avail themselves of French language education actually do so. This is a serious problem, and there are a number of possible ways to attack it. Two approaches that have been mentioned in some of the briefs are: First, the need for better community infrastructure for francophones, which becomes most apparent when you tell us that over 37 per cent of francophones live in communities where they make up less than 5 per cent of the total population. That tells us just about everything we need to know about the situation.

The second approach has to do with the early childhood, daycares and pre-school subjects. It is obvious that of the one-third, one-half or two-thirds of eligible students who come to the school, do so with varying degrees of competence in the French language. The development of an early childhood link to the school setting is key.

[Translation]

Ms. Gilbert wants a national policy for early childhood. To me, there is a distinction between a federal government policy and a national policy. In my opinion, the only policy that will work will be a national policy that will fully involve, to use a Quebec term, both orders of government — in Quebec we do not talk about levels of government, but rather about orders of government.

As you know, the current negotiations between the federal government and the provinces are looking at a national system or network which will not necessarily be public. According to the newspapers and the news media, they are looking at something more like a mixed system involving the private, public and non-profit sectors.

Are you ready to adapt to such a system, if this is what really comes out of the current negotiations?

[English]

Ms. Price: That is a political question. The Canadian Teachers' Federation is strongly in favour of public education — that would be our political stand. Access to services in French is the most important aspect of this particular issue.

Senator Murray: I agree.

Ms. Price: I will take off my general political hat and say —

Senator Murray: It is important that this national program have carved into it a dimension that focuses on minority languages. Definitely, I am in agreement with you about that.

Ms. Price: I will not comment further unless you force me to.

Senator Murray: I cannot force you but I am inviting you. Pre-school, or kindergarten as you pointed out, is a public service and mandatory in some provinces.

Ms. Price: It is mandatory everywhere except in PEI.

Senator Murray: I think we will have to envisage this because they seem to be talking about, for a good part of the rest of it whether it is early childhood education or préscolaire maternelle, a system that will be partly private, partly non-profit and partly public. I see some eyes rolling at the witness table. Please, speak to it. Could we make that work?

Ms. Price: The most critical point is that it is accessible — universally accessible — to all children. That is the critical point for us politically and —

Senator Murray: — accessible?

Ms. Price: Yes.

Senator Murray: That is fair enough.

Ms. Price: That accessibility will depend on cost, and that is the one thing that negates the accessibility.

Senator Murray: In answer to the question that my friend asked, God forgive me for saying it, but $5 billion is not much over five years, given the needs; and we all know that. You understand the provincial government —

[Translation]

The provincial governments are afraid that the federal government might withdraw from the program or, if fiscal conditions change, reduce its contribution. Ms. Vincent, would you like to add anything else regarding this point?

Ms. Vincent: Our national chair answered this question well. It is an accessibility issue. If there is a cost, poor families will bear the burden. Our study showed that the poorest families did not use the few existing services because they did not have the means to take advantage of them. The poor will be penalized once again, although there is no doubt that they need this more than anyone else as they have no other means for supporting their child's education at home.

Once again, I think that the disparities are still there, to a certain extent.

[English]

Ms. Price: I would like to add a comment that is not on the pre-school level about the accessibility question. I have been a counsellor in Whitehorse, Yukon, for the last 15 years. I cried each time I registered secondary-age students coming from the francophone school board. Many times for these students, the problem was that once they reached the more difficult curriculum of secondary school, resources were not there to help them, for example if they needed tutoring in mathematics; and I challenge any one of us to do what the kids are doing in grades 11 and 12 these days. The services are non-existent. As Ms. Vincent pointed out, families without the resources to hire private tutoring were reverting to the English schools to obtain the services they needed.

Senator Murray: In respect of the problem of insufficient French language teaching materials, if a textbook comes out of Quebec and goes to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia or Ontario, and its subject matter is mathematics or science, it surely does not pose a problem? I assume that you are not so parochial as to reject a book simply because it comes from Quebec.

With the others, how will you solve this problem of the cost of publishing textbooks? Are there history or sociology texts available without breaking the bank? What areas are you talking about? Are these textbooks on history, sociology and civics?

[Translation]

Mr. Taillefer: This is really the curriculum because it was conceived in Ontario for Franco-Ontarians. The link between this curriculum and Quebec text books is not always obvious. We recently went through an extensive overhaul of the Ontario curriculum, both in French and in English. I must say that book publishers competed to try to produce material closely linked to our curriculum.

I know that in our schools, because it has not been all that long since I got out of school myself, they would sell us science books one chapter at a time. We find this completely unacceptable.

Senator Murray: How would you solve this problem? You have what we could call a critical mass of students in your region and in New Brunswick. But it is nonetheless very difficult to publish text books.

Mr. Taillefer: The answer is that we are pleading with the government not to overhaul the curriculum every three or four years so that publishers can have a chance to catch up and produce the books.

This is our first intervention but I must say — this is perhaps our fifth year — that we are revising the curricula and very important updated textbooks have just been published such as Histoire franco-ontarienne, specially written for us by University of Ottawa researcher Michel Bock. These textbooks are now coming into the system. It is a question of time and we hope that within a few years we will have a set of textbooks and an inventory that will be large enough to meet the needs of our students.

Senator Murray: Is your problem less serious than the problem in New Brunswick?

[English]

Ms. Price: We are walking into another political difficulty. The development of curriculum is a provincial responsibility. Ontario has a critical mass of francophone students that may warrant the publication of textbooks developed for its curriculum. However, that is not the case in the rest of the provinces and territories.

Science textbooks and others that are developed in Quebec may be highly suitable as far as the technical material is concerned but they are not for the same curriculum that is being taught in the other territories and provinces. We do need resources for the francophone school boards in other parts of the country so that they can develop the supplementary resources that will allow the teachers then to work with an existing textbook. Of course, there is no money to print one that suits our curriculum. We have touched on another political problem and as long as curriculum is a provincial responsibility, this will be an issue.

The Chairman: The federal government could help.

Ms. Price: It could help in providing more resources. Ms. Vincent mentioned the national portal. Each time you ask a student to research a particular topic, they have to utilize the English Internet. Thus, we have pushed them back into the majority culture. A national portal of resources in French, more French websites, the media, and not just a separate English and French media but print media in both languages, or some articles in French and some articles in English, would be huge steps in the right direction. We need to see the prestige of French as a spoken language and the francophone culture raised in all of Canada, not just in pockets here and there. That is the only way we achieve a doubling of bilingual youth in any one decade of our history.

[Translation]

Ms. Michaud: In New Brunswick, we have what the Department of Education produces. Both languages have official status, and this is reflected in our programs. But we have the same problem as in Ontario where there are many reforms and we spend much time trying to adapt the school books and rewrite them to meet the department's needs.

Senator Murray: Is the curriculum from the English part of your department?

Ms. Michaud: No, I must say that we are not divided along those lines. We produce our own material ourselves.

The Chairman: Briefly, we will adjourn in five or ten minutes for refreshments and then we will resume in 45 minutes. Senators Comeau, Losier-Cool and Chaput have the floor.

Senator Comeau: Ms. Vincent, you spoke of a study that you are carrying out on the entrance profile for young children. Are you drawing a distinction between the entrance profile, for instance in New Brunswick, in Ms. Michaud's region, in Saskatchewan, in Manitoba and in Nova Scotia? Are you using the same basis as for your document, where you visited various communities? Let me assure you that there is a vast difference between young children in Ms. Michaud's region and those in Baie Sainte-Marie, Nova Scotia. Have you made that distinction?

Ms. Vincent: This is a crucial philosophical issue. We had to think about it very seriously. But the definition of the profile excludes any diversity. The profile must reflect the common ideal towards which we should all strive as we provide services to young children. In other words, we will try to describe the ideal cultural and language background of the children entitled to enter grade one in our francophone schools. This does not mean that it will happen in New Brunswick and in Saskatchewan, not at all. They should all begin grade one ready to learn in a francophone learning environment.

A profile does not seek to describe reality but rather it seeks to describe an ideal which will then serve as a beacon, if you wish, for the implementation of various services up to grade one.

So this will point the way or set the goal that will guide us in producing framework programs, as we recommend, for children aged from zero to three. What should they be taught from the age of zero to three in order to begin grade one ready to learn and succeed in French-language schools?

You probably know about the recent report from the Council of Ministers of Education on learning. Mr. Landry played a key role in this study. This study clearly shows that language skills are basic to successful learning in all subjects.

The idea is to show parents, educators of young children and the departments involved how to structure the services for zero to six year olds so that those who enter a francophone school will be equally and adequately prepared to succeed in school. This is the ideal profile and not a reflection of diverse realities. That is the distinction to draw.

Senator Comeau: Could you send us the method that you would use to do this?

Senator Losier-Cool: Let me leave the topic of young children and go directly to the training of teachers. At the same time, I am trying to make a link with the committee's mandate to study institutions subject to the Official Languages Act, including training institutions. I think that a teacher needs special training to teach Francophones in a minority environment.

Otherwise, he will burn out, as has already happened. Last year we met some francophones teachers from Edmonton who were highly motivated. At the same time as they teach, they have to do all the paperwork for the classroom. They are culturally motivated. I met teachers from La Grande Terre, in southern Newfoundland, and it was the same with them. They are so isolated. They have not had any training.

At Moncton University, or the University of Ottawa, is there anything to help train teachers in the minority situation?

Mr. Taillefer: In support of what you said, it is very important for us to have this kind of information. We insist that it is essential for everyone in the system to receive this support.

When you said that this is exhausting work, let me quote some provincial statistics from Ontario where we are rather spoiled compared to the rest of the country. Our colleagues, the anglophone teachers, take advantage of long-term disability insurance. Approximately 16 out of one thousand teachers applied for it. Among francophones, the figure rises to 36 out of a thousand, half of them because of mental and nervous problems. The workload also has an impact in our region. I can imagine what is happening in other provinces. Clearly, the teachers' workload is very heavy and we need mechanisms to train people who can work in these very specific minority situations.

Ms. Gilbert: The family situation of teachers is not the same as that of the students whom they teach. Most of them have francophone spouses; the vast majority of teachers were raised in families where both parents are francophones. Generally, they do not understand the experience of the children whom they teach. This must be addressed in the training.

To answer your question about whether universities or educational institutions offer training of this kind, I think that this is a very new concern. It is not widespread.

We do not need just preparatory training. We must realize that many teachers in French schools in Canada were trained in Quebec. A quarter of them come from Quebec. I do not think that we can ask the Quebec postsecondary system to give this kind of training, but we must ask the school boards that bring these teachers from Quebec to compensate for this lack of training in their basic system.

Ms. Michaud: In New-Brunswick, there are optional courses on minority situations that are not compulsory.

The Chair: Senator Léger, who is so eloquent on the stage, has hardly said a word this morning.

Senator Léger: Let me congratulate you for your presentations. Your speech truly reflected the life and culture of all these tiny children from zero to five years of age. Social prestige is crucial. You said that. And I find that your statement should be proclaimed and outed from the roof tops. Budget cuts can happen anywhere. If there is a strike in Quebec now, they will be cuts in the art sector. The first thing they always cut is the extracurricular or optional or less tangible side of education.

The Chairman: That was well put.

Senator Chaput: The federal-provincial education contribution agreements have reached the negotiation stage. We are expecting them to be signed in 2005. At this time, these agreements do not include early childhood services. These agreements usually last three, four or five years. This means that in order to broaden these contribution agreements, according to the recommendation, for example, the work would have to begin now in order to prepare for the next round of agreements in three or four years, and there would be a number of partners. At this time, only the Department of Canadian Heritage is involved. If we open up the negotiations to include early childhood, would this not then include the minister responsible for childcare services at both the federal as well as provincial levels? Am I correct in saying that these agreements would be extended to a number of partners?

Ms. Vincent: Precisely, as I stated, education is not uniform across Canada. It is complex. We would have to devise mechanisms to integrate and bring together all of the stakeholders. That is why we must act on all levels and create an awareness.

Senator Losier-Cool: But the agreements cannot use up the $5 billion from the daycare program. I think this would lead to an interesting debate. I think that the $5 billion has been allocated to provide child care for everyone. The Canada-community agreements represent another objective.

Senator Chaput: And the education agreements are yet another one.

The Chairman: I would like to thank all of you. Before we adjourn, since you have provided us with intellectual nourishment, may I now invite you to share a bite of lunch with us? We will reconvene with Mr. Landry from the University of Moncton, at 1:15 p.m.

The meeting was suspended.

The meeting resumed.

The Chairman: Good afternoon everyone. We are pleased to welcome Mr. Rodrigue Landry, director general of the Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities, from the University of Moncton.

Mr. Landry sent us a nine-page bibliography of studies and research analyses that he has done on his own or in cooperation with other researchers. He was a professor at the University of Moncton from 1975 to 2002, he has had various responsibilities in his capacity as director of the Department of Special Education. He was a guest researcher at the Institut de recherche interethnique et interculturelle at the University of Nice, and he was dean of the faculty of education and founding director of the Centre de recherche et de développement en éducation.

He has a Ph.D. in educational psychology. He has written a number of publications and research papers dealing with ethnolinguistic vitality, education in a minority setting, bilingualism, and learning. I will say no more. Professor Landry listened to this morning's evidence and we look forward to hearing what he has to say.

Mr. Rodrigue Landry, director general, Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities: Thank you for the invitation, Mr. Chairman. I will of course be happy to answer all of your questions. I am pleased to see that you are interested in this field which, as you can see from the title of my brief, is the key to revitalizing the francophone and Acadian communities.

I know that the committee is concentrating on education in a broad sense, from early childhood to the postsecondary level. My brief is an attempt to encourage you to see education as a cohesive whole which is part of the values, language policies and laws of the country.

As to the English translation of my text, I had an opportunity to read it but did not have time to respond. There are a few things that I might have said differently, but otherwise, the translation is excellent. I do not think those who read it in English will have any trouble understanding what I wrote.

The Chairman: If you would like to provide the corrections, we will ensure that your text is revised before it is published.

Mr. Landry: Yes, but the corrections are relatively minor ones.

This morning, there was a reference to clause 23, which represents a ray of hope for francophone and Acadian communities. Much of the progress that has been made involves access to education, but that does not mean that there are no longer any obstacles or problems in accessing French-language schools.

Before explaining the context, I would say that when we examine the history of this clause, we see that it was strongly influenced by the work of the Laurendeau-Dunton commission, the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Biculturalism that sat from 1963 to 1969. I was not very old at the time, but I was able to refer to the documents.

If the commission could begin anew, the recommendations which were positive at that time would no doubt be even broader and more all-encompassing than they are today. The current vision of education seems to include early childhood, literacy and postsecondary education.

Research also shows that education, as essential as it may be, cannot, on its own, ensure the development of a minority. Our own analysis indicates that the progressive erosion of francophone minorities in Canada must be countered, not by a greater resistance to assimilation, but rather through a true ethnolinguistic revitalization.

We must try to reverse the linguistic transfers through an integrated approach that will breathe new life into francophone and Acadian communities. My brief attempts to underscore the fact that education can be the key to this revitalization effort.

The brief, which I will not read, as it is quite lengthy, is divided into three parts. I will demonstrate that, in Canada, there are demolinguistic trends that would be difficult to reverse, which leads us to conclude that revitalization represents the best approach. I will also give some examples of challenges other than those relating to education, and, finally, I will emphasize the ways in which education can serve as a springboard for this revitalization.

The first trend that we see in Canada is the territorialization of official languages. I will be using expressions that I am not fond of but they will help you to understand the message. The terms "English Canada" and "French Canada" are often used. We could summarize the situation by saying that English Canada is becoming more English and French Canada is becoming more French, which means that in each of these territories, the language of the official minority is losing ground.

The second trend relates to the growth in the proportion of allophones in Canada. We all know that allophones are people whose mother tongue is neither English nor French. At the present time, 18 per cent of the population speaks a language other than French or English. Outside Quebec, where the francophone minority communities are concerned, the proportion is 20.4 per cent; these are immigrants who are now the greatest contributors to the demographic growth of our country.

The third main trend, which affects the allophone and francophone populations, is a greater than ever social attraction of the English language. Not all of the allophones in Canada are affected by linguistic transfers, but among those who are, 44 per cent gravitate towards English, and 3 per cent towards French and this includes Quebec.

The social attraction of English contributes to a weak linguistic continuity among francophones outside Quebec. Currently, 38 per cent of francophones do not use French most often at home. Allophone transfers to French are, for all practical purposes negligible. I would go as far as to say that the status of the English language explains, in part, why the anglophone minority in Quebec has an advantage when it comes to language continuity.

For example, let us imagine that the rate of continuity is 100 per cent. That means that the same number of people who speak a language in the home have that language as their mother tongue. Among francophones, the rate is .62, which means that 38 per cent do not speak French. Among anglophones in Quebec, the rate of continuity is 1.26.

Therefore, there are more people who speak English at home than there are anglophones. This can be explained by the social attraction of English which is so strong that it is even making headway in Quebec.

And all of this could be made easier for francophones if we still had what was once known as the revenge of the cradle. Today's fertility rate is very low. In barely 40 years, the fertility rate of francophones outside Quebec dropped from 5 to 1.5. Demographers have told us that it takes 2,1 children per family just to maintain a stable population.

Among the trends, the rising exogamy rate, meaning cross-language marriages, is perhaps the most important one because it relates to a comment I will be making on the solution for the francophone situation. Exogamy is a perfectly normal phenomenon in a minority situation. In 2001, 37.4 per cent of francophones outside Quebec living in a couple had an anglophone spouse, and 4.6 per cent had an allophone spouse; hence, the exogamy rate was 42 per cent. In other words 42 per cent of francophones marry outside their language and culture.

The most damaging effect that exogamy has is its impact on the rate at which French is transmitted to children. I will come back to that later. It affects the language that is transmitted in the home, but I emphasize that, and I will come back to this, exogamy is not the direct cause, but, rather, a factor. It is a factor that leads to this situation. I will explain that later.

This is a relatively recent phenomenon with an increasing frequency among couples of child-bearing age, and even with an exogamy rate of 42 per cent, today, 64 per cent of the children of rights holders, according to the definition in clause 23, come from exogamist households. Of all of the children who are eligible to attend French school, 64 per cent come from mixed families in other words, families with one francophone and one anglophone parent.

There is nothing wrong with that; we know that exogamy is based on love and the language of love is universal, nevertheless, this does have a considerable effect on the language that is passed on to the child.

Because of the high exogamy rate and the fact that the language is transmitted to barely 23 per cent of the children in these families, among all of the children who are eligible to attend school in French, only one out of every two speaks French as a mother tongue and only four out of ten speak French most often at home.

This contributes to a drop in the student population. Other factors such as language transfers and the low fertility rate also contribute to the declining numbers of children who are eligible to attend French school.

In the past 15 years, the school age population for children between 5 and 17 shrank by 17 per cent; the pre-school age population, from ages zero to four, decreased by 27 per cent in 15 years. This suggests that the downward trend is accelerating over time.

There are two trends remaining. There is the aging population, something that can be relatively easy to calculate: it is represented by the ratio of the 65-and-over population to the under-15 population.

As an illustration, there was a time when the ratio was only .27, in other words, there was one older person for every four youths. Today, the ratio for the country is .63. This becomes interesting when we begin to examine the various languages. Among anglophones, the rate is .5; in other words, there is one older person for every two young ones, but among francophones outside Quebec, the ratio is 1.15. That means that there are more people over the age of 65 than there are francophones under 15. In Saskatchewan, the ratio is 4.14, or four times as many seniors as young people.

One final trend demonstrates why we must encourage revitalization. It is Canada's growing urbanization and the exodus of young people. Today, to further their education, or for economic reasons, many young people leave their region, and they don't always return. This results in a number of consequences that weaken francophone communities and make the young people more vulnerable to assimilation. When a person leaves Caraquet, where there is no assimilation, and moves to a place like Edmonton, in Alberta, where the assimilation rate is 80 per cent, then the reality becomes quite different. These young people are making themselves vulnerable.

I have just described sociological trends. They cannot be reversed overnight. It is difficult. That is why I say that we must stop talking about resisting assimilation, because the time has come to consider revitalization.

There are authors who study a variety of linguistic minorities worldwide, and who have examined the feasibility of doing just that. It is not an easy task. There are very few examples of success in ethno-linguistic revitalization. Some demographers will go as far as to say that we could loose up to one half of the world's 6,000 languages within the next two generations. I cannot tell you if they are right or wrong, nevertheless, this is a concern.

My brief advances a number of reasons to believe that, if success is possible, French in a minority environment may have a chance, thanks to the federal government's support, the structure of the country, our laws, and because it is an official and international language. Even if it will be difficult, if there is a place where revitalization can succeed, it is undoubtedly among the francophones outside Quebec.

The theoretical model in the second part of my brief explains these factors. I will not go into details, but we will simply point out that the central message demonstrates that we must work on a number of levels simultaneously if we want revitalization to succeed.

The model on page 8 of the report shows that what happens to minorities is the result of government support on the one hand, as well as other vitality factors such as numbers, institutional support, the status of the language; and on the other hand it also depends on the level of ownership, the collective awareness and the work that the group will do to succeed in their community.

Some people express it in terms as simple as saying that it is either a murder or a suicide. I believe that it can be both at once. The lack of support would lend itself to the murder concept, but often the community itself, in failing to respond, is in some way committing suicide. So both of these concepts apply.

Among the main principles set out in my brief, there are two aspects that I would like to emphasize. The greater the synergy between the government interventions and those of the minority group, the better the results will be. This applies to the entire spectrum, from society to the individual, whether it be the country's ideology, the institution, or the way young people socialize, and what they do. We have to act simultaneously on all of these levels and coordinate the actions of the communities and governments if we want ethno-language revitalization to succeed.

If our actions are compartmentalized, are fragmented, and if everyone is only acting in his own best interests, then revitalization is not likely to succeed.

As a second principle, only the language policies and interventions that act upon one's linguistic experience will have any lasting effect on the vitality of a community. In other words, regardless of the number of laudable endeavors, if such actions have no effect on one's day-to-day life or on one's identity, their impact will be, at best, minimal.

As the late Roger Bernard used to say, you are not born an anglophone or a francophone, you become one. What is important is socialization, the socialization that comes from living in a community, from going to school, from just about everything we do.

To demonstrate that these challenges go beyond education, in my brief, I give an example of the redefinition of the Canadian identity of francophones. I have an understanding of the situation in Quebec, which I have studied extensively. In wanting to control the situation, Quebeckers have territorialized their identity. They have gone from being French-Canadians to being Quebeckers. This caused of all of the other francophone communities to also territorialize their identities. They became Franco-Ontarians, Franco-Manitobans, Franco-Territorians, et cetera. Acadians kept their identity, which, at a certain time, complemented the French-Canadian identity. Today, we are experiencing the same compartmentalization of identity.

Without denying that territorial identities exist, it is important for the francophones of Canada, including those in Quebec, to rediscover a common identity and give themselves national institutions that represent all of the francophones in Canada. I see no reason why we could not have, in schools — I am not saying in the entire curriculum, which I know, is a provincial jurisdiction — a single course on the history of the francophonie which would be given in Quebec and elsewhere, to illustrate the common identity of all francophones.

Another challenge lies in increasing francophone immigration. In view of our low fertility rate, it is one of the only ways to develop the country. We can work on two levels, increasing both francophone and Francotropic immigration. In the first case, this would mean francophones coming from other countries, while Francotropic immigrants are those who, through their education and culture, though not originally francophone, have a preference for the French language. These would be people from certain African countries. French is not their mother tongue, but they are educated in French. They should become integrated into francophone communities. Luckily, that is one of the objectives of the new 2002 immigration and refugee protection legislation, but there is still a great deal of work to be done, whether it be in the selection, information, or intake structures.

The other great challenge lies in coordinating government and community action. The official languages action plan was discussed this morning. I think it is one of the best federal government initiatives since the Official Languages Act was reviewed in 1988. It involves three main priorities: education, community development and the public service. All departments will be made accountable. What I have observed, and I do not think it was intentional, but the newly accountable departments have found themselves competing for the funds that are scattered here and there, and there is no longer a cohesive picture. Francophone communities have never been known for their joint planning. The services are available, but there is no coordination; the integrated plan does not seem to have been of much help.

There are other examples as well. There are conferences on francophone affairs that bring together the ministers of all of the provinces and territories. They feel left out of the national plan. The plan emphasizes the actions of the federal government and provincial government actions are not necessarily included. Work remains to be done to increase this cohesion through federal-provincial agreements. We could work in a number of sectors. I did not mention them because our emphasis here is on education.

This brings me to education. As part of an overall collaborative approach, if we were to agree to consider the challenge of community revitalization in its entirety, then lifelong education would be considered part of the continuum. In a book that I wrote with the jurist Serge Rousselle, we talked about going beyond section 23. I do not know whether my colleague Pierre Foucher would agree but section 23 is restrictive. There is nothing preventing the government, with a commitment under Part VII of the Official Languages Act from going beyond section 23. If we lose half of our children before they enter school and we lose another third when they finish high school, because they go to anglophone universities, section 23 is far from exercising its full impact on the community. And that is where I say that we should give some consideration to going beyond section 23.

I propose six priority challenges from early childhood to post-secondary education.

I would like to support my colleagues from the FCE as well as my colleagues from the National Commission of Francophone Parents in considering the number one challenge to be the promotion of socialization in French during early childhood and maximizing enrolment in French-language educational institutions. That is what I refer to, in a recent study, as "unleashing exogamy's hidden potential."

I am convinced that this initiative can have the greatest impact on the future vitality of the francophone and Acadian communities. But this is far from being my area of expertise, even though I have worked in the field of early childhood education. Senator Corbin mentioned that I was involved in special education; I am particularly interested in children with learning difficulties. A great deal of research demonstrates that investment in early childhood proves to be extremely profitable: for every dollar invested in early childhood, society ends up saving several dollars. This has been shown by an ever increasing body of research.

As I was saying, almost two-thirds of the clientele eligible for French-language schools under section 23 now comes from exogamous families. We know that not much French is spoken in these families. We have also seen that in the school population only slightly more than 50 per cent of the children entitled to attend French-language schools actually do so. Even if the Official Languages Action Plan does mention 68 per cent, which is a bit exaggerated, in my view.

In order to fully appreciate the possibilities for recovery from such a situation and to recognize the hidden potential of exogamy, one must understand that exogamy is not the direct cause. It is not the family structure that is the cause but the language dynamic chosen by the parents. Our research shows this to be the case: even in an exogamous situation with a francophone parent who decides to speak French to his or her child, even if they speak English to the anglophone parent; when this child attends a French-language school — so he speaks French at home with the francophone parent and at the French-language school — by the 12th grade, it is no longer possible to distinguish such children from the children of two francophone parents, either from the point of view of identity or with respect to skills. After 12 years of schooling in French, with family support, this situation produces the best type of bilingualism in the country. There is no other school program that can produce such a high level of bilingualism as that of children from exogamous families who attend French-language schools. As a matter of fact, it is a fairly simple principle that applies to all children from minority groups: the greater the emphasis on the weaker language, the easier it is to learn both languages. Many people have understood this. There are lots of parents who are in an exogamous situation who have understood this message. They choose French-language schools and they obtain an excellent result.

I would like to emphasize the great demographic potential that exogamy offers for the French-speaking community. Let me use an example. On page 15 of my brief, you will find a table for each province and territory. Let me use the example of Manitoba, for the benefit of Senator Chaput. All things being equal, one should expect approximately the same proportion of francophone children in the provincial school system as there are francophones in the province, assuming that there are the same number of children per family, no assimilation, and so forth. It should be approximately the same. We have the data here for 1996 since we do not yet have any reliable data for 2001. In 1996, the proportion of francophones in Manitoba was 4.5 per cent. But when it came to the school population, francophone pupils amounted to 2.2 per cent of the population.

Thus we can see a fairly significant gap. The interesting point, one that shows the hidden potential of exogamy, is that if all those who were entitled to send their children to French-language schools, mainly those in an exogamous relationship, sent their children to French-language schools, the potential provincial representation would be 7.4 per cent. Thus, they could mathematically almost triple their school enrollment.

This explains the dilemma of the francophone minorities. Do they make the required effort to attract all these children? Children who do not speak French at home, and in such a case, that would mean transforming French-language schools into immersion schools. The other part of the dilemma is that if they do not do anything with the two-thirds of the children who come from such families, that is exogamous couples, and in western Canada it can amount to 83 per cent and even be as high as 91 per cent in certain provinces and territories, if they do not do anything, then that means they will end up with empty schools. They must come up with a solution between these two extremes. That is why I am proposing a tripartite strategy. Work must be done simultaneously on the three parts of the strategy.

The first stage is a national awareness campaign aimed at rights holders and the population of Canada at large and it would include four elements: First of all, they must be made aware of their constitutional rights. Many parents do not even know that they have such rights. I would go so far as to say that there are many teachers working in the school system with children who do not know that they have rights. Second, a greater awareness of the conditions necessary to produce an excellent level of bilingualism. Third, the beneficial effects of French-language school on such bilingualism and fourth, the results of a poor choice and the constitutional consequences of not availing oneself of one's constitutional rights.

We carried out a number of surveys of parents and asked them what would be the best choice for their children, either having them educated in English, mainly in English, half and half, mainly in French, or completely in French? It is amazing to see how many parents say that the ideal for their children would be 50-50, in this way, passing the buck to the school. They forget that there is a society where English predominates in almost all institutions surrounding them and forget to take this factor into account.

Mr. Chairman, I know that this is not the place for joking but I think I have an anecdote that illustrates my meaning. My father fought in the war and he told me that in those days they sometimes served them soup that was half horse, half rabbit. It was one horse, one rabbit. I think that we are putting a horse and a rabbit in parents' soup. They think that 50-50 will be a successful combination. They may be forgetting the weight of the horse.

That is why in this campaign, I refer to the social marketing of French-language education. This would be a national level marketing campaign in both English and French-language media — make no mistake about it, the English-language media have a much greater audience — in order to make people aware of their rights.

I was speaking to people in marketing and they told me that we could give a positive and enhanced status to the term rights holders, a term that is not widely known.

This national campaign is focusing on the phenomenon could then prove to be helpful to school boards in engaging in what I describe as social community marketing at the personal, local and provincial levels. I am not a specialist in marketing but I have worked with people in the field to test a concept and a number of them are convinced that it could have a major impact. I believe that the strategic plan of the National Federation of School Boards does talk about the importance of this campaign.

The second component of the strategy: if we recruit more children through an efficient campaign, we must ensure that these children are ready for French-language schooling. This is where my views join those of my colleagues this morning and the colleagues from the Commission nationale des parents francophones. In its program the commission notes the importance of having daycare structures, early childhood and family education centres connected to the schools. The federal government talks about the possibility of setting up a national system of daycare. We must not miss this opportunity. I am struck by the number of inconsistencies in our federal system where, for example, the Action Plan for Official Languages recognizes the importance of early childhood.

In launching our institute, Minister Dion said that he hoped we would be doing research on early childhood because it is the number one challenge. On the other hand, we recently drafted two agreements on early childhood: the early childhood development agreement in 2000, and the multilateral framework for learning and childcare in 2003, which are federal-provincial agreements. But there is no reference to francophone minorities or official language minorities. If there is any mention, it is indirect. Yet this is one of our country's values, that is the possibility of achieving equality and we are missing an opportunity. I hope we will not miss the boat with the new daycare system and forget that this may be one of the best things that can happen to francophones, namely their own daycare structure linked to the school system in order to broaden encouragement and deal with the problems related to French-language schooling.

The third component is easier to explain, namely an affirmative, open support structure. If we recruit new people, particularly from exogamous families, and immigrants, that means that there will be a change in the French-speaking population in certain areas. This phenomenon has already begun. Our support structure must be open to this cultural diversity. At the same time, this is the meaning of the word affirmative, namely continuing to affirm the mission of French-language schools. Once this is properly explained, exogamous parents will understand. They will realize that French dominates at school, but that does not mean that within the classroom, the teacher is not able to explain to anglophone parents matters relating to their child's development at school.

I would like to quote an example from a study carried out by Angéline Martel where she quotes a young parent:

I am "exogamous" and did not even know it. The word itself does not matter much, but I live in a mixed marriage without realizing what that would mean for my children and me. I spoke English with my spouse. When children came, it was much easier just to speak English. The issue did not even arise.

We must realize that parents have all sorts of preoccupations, they are not sociolinguists, they are not engaged in profound reflection on the future of the country in terms of language equality. They need to be properly informed in order to make the right decisions. I am not talking here about forcing the children of rights holders to attend French-language schools. It must be a free choice, but an enlightened choice based on information and research.

The other challenges are also important but perhaps not quite as fundamental as that of early childhood. The increase in urbanization and the exodus from rural regions has increased the need for community school centers. This concept was born in New Brunswick and it has now spread throughout the country. These centres also have to be used more creatively. In urban centres, francophones are really concentrated in one location. Community school centers bring community life and school life together and give parents the opportunity to go to school and to experience that community life which is essential to linguistic continuity. Researchers agree that if there is no community life, there is very little chance a language will be sent down from generation to generation.

The third big challenge is implementing teaching methods that foster individual and community development. Fostering individual development is a feature of all schools systems. We all want our children to reach their full learning potential and francophone schools are no exception. The community development aspect, where the school works with the community to increase its vitality, is not an issue for the majority.

This community development must be based on a school-family-community partnership and there is still much to do in this area.

Figure 1 of the theoretical model shows three important types of learning; socialization, self-reliance, and awareness. These are big words but they are an attempt to simplify some rather complex concepts. The school must play a role at all three levels.

It needs to socialize children in their own language and culture, and help children choose their identity without making them feel it is being imposed upon them. They have to be made aware of their minority rights. This can be part of the community development component of the curriculum.

As was discussed this morning with the Canadian Teachers Federation, all of this will require initial and on-going extensive training for education professionals. I say extensive because this is nothing less than a paradigm shift. If we want children to make their own decisions, then we have to reach them from the inside.

That has not always been the approach of faculties of education. I was a Dean for 10 years. I know what I am talking about. I worked on this concept. Teachers were traditionally trained in what I would call socialization from the outside. Culture and knowledge were transmitted and control was exercised through discipline. This was done for the outside.

Socialization from the inside makes young people internally aware so that they become more self-reliant, responsible, responsive, and so on.

The advantage is that this makes teaching much easier. Senator Losier-Cool mentioned that children need to be involved. With this approach, they become directly involved as agents of their own training.

The fifth major challenge is to promote access to and enrolment in French-language postsecondary institutions. The Association des universities de la francophonie canadienne recently prepared a very good action plan and I do not think that I need to add much.

I would like to say that I have been studying minority communities for 30 years and postsecondary institutions are the source of community leaders. If they are not taught in French, the chances of them working for the francophone community are slim.

The last challenge is to encourage young francophones to return to their community after postsecondary education. Many young people, even the most well-intentioned, develop new life styles during their postsecondary education and they no longer want to go back to their communities to become those leaders.

Theses small communities do not give them the career opportunities that correspond to their training and this can become a vicious circle: they do not go back because there are no opportunities and because there are no opportunities they do not go back.

In conclusion, the aim of this brief was to show that the declining vitality of francophone and Acadian communities is serious and requires a comprehensive ethnolinguistic revitalization approach.

Life-long education, from early childhood to old age, can serve as the cornerstone of this revitalization, but it needs to be part of a whole — a comprehensive, coordinated plan involving both government and community stakeholders.

Our official language minorities are among the best protected and supported minorities in the world. That does not mean there is nothing more to do. This is a fact that has to be acknowledged.

Nevertheless, the French language faces unprecedented challenges, especially in North America. No colonizing or military force has ever had as much power over linguistic minorities as the entire globalization movement, based primarily on the global economy. Francophone communities are very close to the epicenter of this tidal wave of economic globalization led by multinational corporations around the world. In North America, we are at the epicenter of this tide wave.

English is the predominant language of this globalization movement and it is the envy of most members of francophone minorities, and even francophones in Quebec, in their everyday lives.

According to some researchers, this ideological and linguistic invasion is a new form of colonialism. It is a colonization of people's brains because these models are integrated and it is thought to be a good thing to encourage young people to move towards English. The challenge of the ethnolinguistic revitalization of francophone and Acadian communities involves not only the need to create a francophone community life but also the need to promote collective awareness of the issues and challenges.

It remains to be seen whether Canada's political will and the solidarity of francophone community organizations are strong enough to carry out a genuine campaign to revitalize the francophone and Acadian communities.

The Chair: We will now move on to questions; Senator Comeau followed by Senator Losier-Cool.

Senator Comeau: You ended your presentation by speaking about solidarity between communities. In your presentation you mentioned the territorial behaviour of all our communities, starting with Quebec. Quebec wanted to create a nationalist identity, we have seen what the Franco-Manitobans have done and you indicated that it is a bit different for Acadians. I would suggest that it is not different for Acadians. Twenty years ago, Acadia included New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, and there has even been a loss of this identity in these three provinces.

Quite often New Brunswick is presented as being Acadia, as if there were no Acadians in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Institutions are doing this. You need only read l'Acadie Nouvelle. You often see the University of Moncton, my alma mater, claiming to be the only francophone university in the Atlantic region.

Recently the Official Languages Commissioner stated that we need to have a new employee in the Atlantic provinces. You can imagine where the new employee went. To Moncton. This is a case of territorial behaviour getting worse.

As a researcher, do you not think it would be possible to find ways of redefining ourselves? Is there some way we could strengthen those links we had in the past?

Mr. Landry: When I said that Acadians were different, I meant that the name had not changed. I agree with your analysis. This is a reality. One could criticize my comments by saying that we all have these national organizations made up of people from all the provinces. We all work together. That is true and I acknowledge that.

My studies involve ordinary people; children and parents. You cannot assume that the unity that can exist in associations is necessarily reflected amongst ordinary people. One can feel relatively isolated within one's own identity.

One of the criticisms made by sociologist Joseph-Yvon Thériault of the CIRCEM — who will be appearing before your committee — when he speaks of the little community school, is that we have focused so much on our small local school that we have forgotten our role as representatives of a country. This is the problem I want to raise.

I am glad. There is a good side to this. It is good to have territorial identity. But it is also good to see what we have in common in this identity. This is why, for instance, I mentioned a history course; I do not mean the entire history curriculum, as I know that this comes under provincial jurisdiction, but there may be components that would enable students to realize that they belong to a national francophone community. To my knowledge there are currently very few curriculums of this kind. This would be one way, and we could certainly find many others, to help students see that there are different components to their identity, other than just their francophone identity in some small, and sometimes pitiful, region.

Senator Losier-Cool: I do not know if this is a question or a comment; I will try to include my comment in a question that you can choose to answer or not, and the committee could consider making it into a recommendation.

The purpose of our current study is to produce a report on the enforcement of the Official Languages Act. As I listened to your presentation and other presentations this morning, I thought to myself: we will have to continue to legislate. Because, as you said so well, the Official Languages Act enables us to be one of the "best countries in the world." For instance, there is New Brunswick, with its equal opportunities program. If we have made any headway in New Brunswick, it is because of our laws. I would also include the Immigration Act.

This leads me to mention the importance of a national daycare plan, which you referred to as well. A national day care plan will be a part of federal government services and the plan will be subject to the Official Languages Act.

In order to achieve this synergy you mentioned, you suggested various organizations. Some fancy terms were used, people talked about marketing and so forth. We have been talking about this for a long time, we raised this issue for Minister Dion. Should we consider legislating certain synergies?

So I would ask whether we should have a department in charge of all these organizations involved in promotion. This is not a new idea.

Mr. Landry: I would not want to begin — as this is not my area of expertise — discussing the issue as to whether we should legislate or not.

Nonetheless, in my own opinion, we may not need to legislate, we should simply enforce the act we already have. This morning we mentioned the case law on section 23 and how it seeks to foster community development. The Official Languages Act already says that there must be a federal commitment to fostering minority community development.

I know that the Federal Court of Appeal recently said that the federal commitment in Part VII, and specifically section 41, was probably not binding, but it did say that this is a question of political will. This is why, if we exercise political will with the current act, we do not need to set up a national department of education. I do not think that would be well received. But we could have federal-provincial agreements to improve young children's access to daycare, because that is where they go before going to French-language school. And this is very consistent with section 23. The next thing is to promote post-secondary programs in French in every province.

I think we have what we need, as long as there is the political will, to do the job with the current legislation. I am not saying that we do not need to change some regulations. I am not trained in sociology, but something I learned during my training in psychology is that in the case of values such as the equality of both official languages, in order to make progress towards genuine, not merely official equality, we have to walk the talk. Actions must be consistent with values, otherwise the value is not a value at all. Psychologists will tell you that a value that does not give rise to action is not a true value. That is why I am appalled to see federal-provincial agreements signed that disregard values as basic as protecting official language minorities, which is one of the great principles of our country according to the Supreme Court.

If the value is forgotten, do not try to tell me that it is a true value. My training tells me that if a value is forgotten, it is perhaps because it has not yet been properly integrated. A great deal of progress can be made here, just by enforcing the laws already in place.

Senator Losier-Cool: You spoke of great national awareness campaigns. You also said that if you are a francophone from Caraquet or from the Acadian peninsula, it is easier to identify one's values and to recognize one's francophone identity. But when you move to the West, for instance to Edmonton or Calgary, the attraction of the English language and culture brings us suddenly to a point where as I experienced personally, my children told me: "We have had enough of watching you struggle, we do not want to go through all that again" — it is easier to let things slide, especially if you are a minority in that region.

To what extent can we have a strong national campaign without legislating?

Mr. Landry: This is an excellent point. There is a phenomenon that scientists call emergence. Sometimes many small things can do some great things. If, for instance, we work on the curriculum in each school where the children have been forewarned — as they say, forewarned is forearmed — I think that very few schools warn children about the very strong possibility that they might sometime enter into a mixed marriage, and then encourage them to debate what they will do with their children. If, in the case of someone leaving Caraquet for Alberta, there are already structures for francophones — daycare centres, a community school centre, etc. — people who have not been forewarned have less of a chance of being part of that community — and continuity can be ensured.

A central point that I would like to make, and I am struck by this because it is stated in the conclusion of the official languages plan, i.e. that together all these measures will have an impact. Sometimes we forget to put them together. This is the message I am trying to send: let us try to act more consistently and more synergistically. It is no more expensive to act in coordination than to scatter our efforts. Sometimes it is even less expensive because there is less waste. We will act more efficiently if we take the time to set the main priorities, and to get the communities and governments to agree on these priorities. This takes a certain amount of leadership, I know, and someone will have to do that job. All of this is feasible.

We cannot say which measure would be the best, but we must be sure that the essential things are done in a coordinated way and that is where emergence will manifest itself. We will see things changing more than we imagined. I am an eternal optimist.

Senator Losier-Cool: We are going to put that in our committee's recommendations.

Senator Chaput: Since this morning, we have been hearing groups of people doing presentations and putting a lot on our plate, so to speak.

That is a fact. Even if we think we know the facts, we will never push our thinking as far as we are seeing here today. There is no doubt national policies are important. We need a properly targeted national marketing campaign that will actually reach parents. Parents need to see the benefits of learning both official languages.

Early childhood has to be included in federal-provincial education agreements, to have a complete package. You raised the idea of a history course, and I think it is a very good one. Young francophones in my province should learn Acadian history.

Earlier, I wanted to know what the limits of section 23 were. I really liked what you said when you said we had to go beyond section 23. You and I both know there are a lot of players and it is very complicated. I know there is a ray of hope, but I cannot see it clearly.

Given all of the work that has been done, who do you think is going to come forward and bring together all of the interested parties and explain the existing mechanisms to them? Who is going to push us and encourage us to take action? We absolutely have to find an answer to that question.

Mr. Landry: That is the kind of question I do not like because in general, I try to remain relatively neutral. All of my recommendations are based on an understanding of research on minorities. I have studied the systemic approach in depth, and that is why I am convinced that it is necessary to create synergy.

Within a system, the more the components act in unison, the better it works. The human body is a system. Imagine if the heart decided to go one place and the lungs another. The human body works in synergy and keeps us alive. The same thing goes for a social system.

Systemic theory also says that in any complex situation, there must be some centralization, if only to make it more clear what needs to be done at the grass roots level. If everything is imposed from the top, then grass roots creativity is lost.

Whether to start working top down or bottom up is quite straightforward, in my view. You have to do both at the same time, but you do need some leadership within an overall vision, combined with local creativity.

We share a vision made up of broad concepts. As for local creativity, it operates as needed, and that creativity must be respected. The danger is the temptation to impose everything top down. If each province starts exercising its leadership, nothing will get done because there needs to be some consistency.

The FCFA could work with key partners to combine efforts in order to act in concert, with both the federal government and the Council of Ministers of Education of Canada. The various players have to sit down at the table and find ways of creating synergy.

I am not so negative as to think nothing is being done, but there is room for improvement. Some synergy is needed to help bring out all of the little things that have a fairly significant impact.

For example, there is the French school national awareness campaign. On television, it is the commercials that are done with creativity that people tend to notice most. We could use a television commercial to get the message across that French school develops excellent bilingualism in homes where both languages and both cultures cohabit.

There is a new magazine out about exogamist families. In fact, there is a lot of material but no one is really aware of it. Combined, the work at the top to raise awareness of the fact that there are things out there and the work at ground level to help parents make informed choices will have a much greater impact. It is much more encouraging to work with the support of a national program than to work without solid support.

The Chair: We have five minutes left. I am going to ask Senator Léger and Senator Murray to share the time.

Senator Léger: You suggested going beyond section 23. Do you think that adding other languages could enrich both of Canada's official languages? Could we begin to consider that?

We could add aboriginal languages or Chinese. We always say that French and English are the two official languages. But is it too early to start including other languages?

Mr. Landry: The Multiculturalism Act tries to encourage allophone minorities to retain their language and culture. Unfortunately for them, that act does not go as far as section 23 of the Official Languages Act. I already mentioned that minorities assimilate less in Quebec than outside Quebec, simply because French is not as imposing as English can be in North America.

Young people in the French school system have a better chance of retaining their other language. There are even studies that show that it is possible to develop excellent trilingualism. I think the Official Languages Act protects official language minorities first, and allophones cannot immediately enjoy the same rights.

But eventually, in terms of school, they integrate into each of the two broad language communities. Parents have to make a choice as to whether it's preferable to send the child to French or English school. And even if French is not their language, there are apparently advantages for what I would call "francotropes."

I agree with encouraging other languages. I think Canada was the first country in the world to come up with a multiculturalism policy. It is an open country, but we must not lose sight of the huge challenges for the francophone minority.

Senator Léger: To be a Canadian citizen, to speak English and French, and eventually, all the rest. I will not ask for more.

[English]

Senator Murray: Mr. Chairman, I have one or two comments that may or may not invite response from the witness. I will put them on the record anyway. The complementarity between the presentations we have heard earlier and will hear this afternoon is striking. You find a point made in one brief that has analytical and other support in a brief from quite another group. This makes the day interesting and helps some of us along the learning curve.

There is one point that should be in 10-foot high letters to be paraded across the country in respect of children who grow up in the context where French is the minority language: those who enjoy a high level of family-school French are the ones who developed the highest level of additive bilingualism; they attained the highest level in French; and their English skills are similar to those of the majority of anglophones. That information should be in 10-foot high letters, because not all would believe that data.

I read in one place that 50 per cent of francophone parents seem to believe that the best way to become bilingual is to attend a bilingual school, and yet that is not true, is it?

Mr. Landry: No, it is not true.

Senator Murray: Mr. Landry, you said that francophones in Acadian communities have a number of factors in their favour, which you listed. French is one of our official languages, with the same legal status as English, as in section 23 of the Official Languages Act.

[Translation]

But there are other advantages for French-speaking Canada. Radio-Canada and a number of other private French-language stations are accessible to francophones. Francophones have at their disposal the Department of Canadian Heritage. They are provided with many events, such as the Jeux de la Francophonie, which bring together athletes from Canada and the entire world, the 400th anniversary of Port-Royal, the 250th anniversary of the Great Upheaval, the World Acadian Congress, and in a few years, the 400th Anniversary of Quebec City.

[English]

We have the performing arts, musicians and rock stars produced not only in Quebec but also in other francophone regions in the country. The music they produce may not be music to my ears or even to your ears but the kids love it.

There are many possibilities for building a better sense of francophone community across the country.

[Translation]

I do not fault you for neglecting to mention those things. However, the committee has to consider the role these other factors might play in building a better sense of francophone community in Canada.

Mr. Landry: Your comment enriches my message. I did not explain the theory of the model, going from society to the individual, which illustrates the power dynamic between fields, institutions and socialization. The organizations you mentioned work on that.

We see no synergy between these components working along the continuum. If we could concentrate more on the synergy of our resources and their activities in the community, we would probably have a greater impact. That's the basic message.

The points you raised are very important. We should of course work in all relevant fields, and the media are no exception. The committee wishes to deal with education in particular. Although I did not mention it, it goes without saying that I fully agree with you.

The Chair: Professor Landry, the committee would like to thank you sincerely for your presentation. Its content will be very useful and even essential to the effectiveness of our deliberations. Thank you very much for coming.

Mr. Landry: Thank you for the invitation and I wish you every success in your huge undertaking.

The Chair: We are now pleased to welcome Ms. Ghislaine Pilon, President of the Commission nationale des parents francophones. With her is Ms. Murielle Gagné-Ouellette, Director General, Commission nationale des parents francophones.

Ms. Pilon has lived in various parts of Canada. She has experienced life as a family in a minority setting and also knows the education options in a minority setting. She chairs two French-language school councils in the Mississauga area and has represented Ontario francophone parents in the Greater Toronto area on the Parents partenaires en education de l'Ontario (PPE) since February 2001. Ms. Gagné-Ouellette is from Saint-Pierre Joly, Manitoba. Without further ado, I now turn the floor over to Ms. Pilon.

Ms. Ghislaine Pilon, President, Commission nationale des parents francophones: On behalf of the Commission nationale des parents francophones, I would like to thank you for providing us with this opportunity to meet with you at a time when we need to rally all of our support in order to make progress in the area of official languages.

As you know, the Department of Social Development is currently negotiating agreements with the provinces and territories with respect to the implementation of a national daycare system. This project is extremely important for the minority communities. It is something we believe in with all our hearts and it is important to speak about it today, as it is February 14. We love our children. We want what is best for them. We have a new understanding of research into their development. But it is our feelings that move us to act on their behalf.

For the past 30 years, scientific evidence has shown that the pre-school years are the most important ones in terms of personality development. So this would be the best place for an investment in human capital. However, we as a society rarely invest our money where it could best be used. We are waiting, and the longer we wait, the more expensive it is and the fewer results we get. Our education system is, in a manner of speaking, an enormous game of "catch up" with what was not done when it should have been.

Of course, we learn at all stages of our lives. But health, self esteem, motivation and social behavior are developed in the first few years of life. You know as well as I do that the teenage years are very difficult, but when you are an adult, things are nearly impossible. Our public policies in Canada do not reflect this. Our public policies focus on fixing things up. And fixing things up takes more and more money.

Today, there is research that clearly shows how cognitive, social and emotional development peak in the first three years. The effect is permanent. Development leads to further development, just as success breeds success. These fundamental traits tend to continue along the path they started on. In the case of a child, there is a world of difference between a good start and a bad start.

So today we are making a speech in defense of young children. We need the Senate's help.

A few years ago, through Minister Stéphane Dion, we were successful in putting the issue of early childhood development on the agenda. Social Development Canada has since been a part of the Action Plan for Official Languages. The commission brought up the issue of minority francophone early childhood development on three successive occasions with Ministers Stewart, Frulla and Dryden. We actually have an excellent relationship with the department.

A year ago, we received one million dollars over 25 months for the project called "Partir en français." More recently, we received $2,365,000 over a period of eight months for the same project, announced by Member of Parliament Raymond Simard during our 25th anniversary gala dinner in Winnipeg last October. These funds will be used to build the capacities of our members and their partners in the field. Early childhood development falls under the provincial and territorial jurisdiction. Our network greatly appreciates the department's support.

We are working closely with the applied research sector to steer our daycare pilot project — which is worth $10.8 million — under the Action Plan.

Two representatives from the national commission as well as several minority French-language community researchers sit on the research advisory committee. The research will allow for the development of crucial scientific data upon which to base the department's future policies and programs.

It is recognized in the business world that investing in early development leads to substantial and sustainable savings. Research has confirmed these savings in the most costly public services such as justice, health and social programs. While it may appear expensive to take action, the cost of inaction is beyond measure.

As a society, we cannot continue to sustain these systems without a preventive approach with the youngest segment of the population. In today's economy, investing human capital is the key to innovation and creativity. This is why the issue of a national daycare system is of concern to us.

In a minority setting, we do not have the same needs and priorities as the Canadian majority. We cannot expect provincial and territorial governments to fully grasp our specific needs and priorities. Therefore, we are asking them to make room for their respective francophone communities, just as the federal government does for the francophone community.

You may find that our comments are very similar to those we made when the school governance issue was at the forefront ten years ago. That is not a coincidence. As we speak, only 8 per cent of children in Canada have access to an accredited daycare centre, excluding the early childhood centres (centres de la petite enfance) in Quebec. Francophones in minority environments are even more poorly served, even though their needs are urgent. The proof is that at least half of them will be assimilated before the age of five and will not go a French school. Just imagine the long-term consequences.

According to the most recent research, learning a language — or two, as is the case in exogamous families — begins in the sixth month of pregnancy and peaks before the age of three. Talking and reading to a child are essential to learning a language. Stimulation of the senses — touch, hearing, sight — is conducive to the development of the brain. Without this stimulation, we lose part of our learning ability, as well as our curiosity and our desire to learn. This is a reality which has a material impact on the future of francophones.

Quebec's family policy is a good model for us. In addition to the emphasis that is placed on quality, two other key elements of the Quebec pre-school initiative must be emphasized. Firstly, the anglophone and first nation minorities receive equivalent services. It goes without saying, therefore, that minority francophone communities across Canada should be on an equal footing with other communities when it comes to receiving services from their governments.

The other important element is the participation of parents. In Quebec, parents are the managers of the preschool centres, thanks to professional guidance and ongoing education. For francophone parents in a minority environment, there can be no question of letting the majority manage the family and early childhood centers. The governance of French schools was so important that we went before the court to obtain it. The management of ECFCs will be even more important because the children concerned are even younger and more vulnerable.

Francophone communities must benefit from federal, provincial and territorial early childhood education funding agreements. Early childhood partners are well positioned to negotiate with their government. They are demanding an equitable portion of the funding that has been specifically earmarked for the stable and sustainable development of francophone communities.

It is possible that the provinces and territories will make room for francophone communities. If they do not, we will have to seek other avenues.

Excellent solutions have been identified in the area of health care by the Société Santé en français. Other solutions have been found in areas such as the economy and human resources by the Comité national de développement des ressources humaines de la francophonie canadienne and the RDEEs, Economic and Labor Development Networks. We understand the language of management. We are willing to explore other avenues with the department.

The Commission nationale des parents francophones is mobilizing with its partners, and everywhere we ask parents' federations to provide information to and raise awareness among all levels of government in preparation for the negotiations on the funding of the proposed national daycare system. We want to speak with the Department of Social Development, specifically with Minister Ken Dryden and his provincial and territorial counterparts.

We have four basic demands. First of all, we want the emphasis to be on early childhood development. We want public policies to foster an integrated approach to health, learning and social development in minority environments, focusing on intervention in families in the months and the first two years immediately following the birth of a child.

Second, we would like to see the creation of early childhood and family centers — commonly called ECFC — linked to each French language primary school. ECFCs are a center for family intervention and include a variety of services for children, such as educational daycare, resource centers, preschool, playgroups and early detection.

Third, we would like to have access to federal, provincial and territorial agreements. Minority francophone communities must be a priority beneficiary of these agreements. The federal government must ensure that equitable funding is reserved for francophones in every jurisdiction. Governments must consider francophone communities as priority locations for immediate action. In other words, we cannot afford to wait as the rest of the population goes to the front of the line.

Fourth, we would like to see the establishment of an early childhood network. Governments must immediately and actively support the consolidation of partners — institutions, professionals, instructors, communities and governments — into a network and provide them with the ability to get together, inform each other and promote francophone early childhood development in each province or territory.

Basically, we want social and education policies that make it possible to take action where it will be most effective, in prenatal and postnatal support to young parents, in the well-being of children, and in early learning which begins at home. Not investing in minority community early childhood education will waken our human capital to the point of no return.

Already, 50 per cent of children are starting their lives with considerable ground to make up, because their language, culture and identities have been neglected. Instead of building on the level of bilingualism that the family already has, poorly informed parents abandon an area that is fundamental to development and personal growth for themselves and their child. This loss of identity has repercussions on success and motivation, and this initial failure is likely to lead to further failure. From a social point of view, it is progressive anaesthesia, the tragic outcome of national policies that disregard children.

Even among children who go to French school, there is a general lack of motivation and confidence in terms of using French in situations other than in the classroom. These elements are related to the non-cognitive dimensions of learning and are probably the ones with the greatest impact on linguistic skills. In fact, there is a significant drop-out rate in favour of English schools in kindergarten or in first grade, simply because children are unable to keep up with the curriculum. This loss of identity cannot be adequately reversed, in the current circumstances, with an educational daycare (at age three) or at school (at age five), simply because, when you are trying to catch up, the lost ground is irretrievable.

There must be absolutely no decrease in the level of support for French-language school systems. As long as the students are housed in substandard buildings, the ones that anglophones do not want, French school will not be very popular. Students are attracted by the physical and material environment, as it is a visible and inescapable sign of the quality of education.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Senate, Canada is neglecting its children. It has left French-speaking children behind. The loss is inestimable, appalling and unjustifiable. What is at stake is the future of our families, our schools and our communities, as well as the future of Canada's linguistic duality, cultural plurality and human capital. Can we count on you?

The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation, Ms. Pilon. We will now move on to our question period.

Senator Comeau: Firstly, Ms. Pilon, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a warm welcome to our committee. We are grateful to you for having agreed to help us study the challenges that lie ahead.

I would like to come back to the question that I asked the representatives of the Canadian Teachers' Federation this morning. You made reference to their organization in your brief. I would like to know whether your definition of the system is the same as theirs. They refer to a daycare system for children aged between zero and three, and a preschool system for those aged between four and five.

Ms. Pilon: Our definition is not quite the same. We want the system to be more than a daycare service. What we have in mind are centres for early childhood and families offering a wide range of services in French, with particular emphasis on helping and educating parents from the time of their child's birth, or even earlier.

Research has shown that an infant hears his mother speaking English or French, and begins to learn the language from the sixth month of pregnancy onwards. It is more than a daycare system that is required. We have to provide services to both parents and children. Daycare centres have their merits; however, they ought to be education orientated.

Senator Comeau: If one of the parents is able to stay at home with the child, do you think that the child should still be sent to daycare to avoid being excluded from the system?

Ms. Pilon: No, it is not our job to encourage parents to send their children to daycare. If the parents have been educated about parenting for at least the nine months preceding their baby's birth, then they will already understand the importance of starting the socialization process at a young age. They will already understand that it is important for their child to speak French, to realize that French exists around him, and that French TV is also available. They will understand the importance of their child interacting with other children, and will realize that they themselves will have access to resources for being a better parent. It is a lot more than a daycare service. We do not want what is referred to as a "glorified baby sitter." That will do nothing to help French-speakers. It is far more important than that. We have to make parents aware of the importance of the early years, when the child is aged between zero and three.

Senator Comeau: If some children attend school between the age of zero and three, and have the opportunity to learn alongside their peers, will those children who stay at home with one of their parents not be disadvantaged when compared to those who are integrated into the education system earlier? That is the sort of question that comes to our minds. I am not trying to create difficulties for you. It is just that it is important for us to know the answer.

Ms. Murielle Gagné-Ouellette, Director General, Commission nationale des parents francophones: The Commission nationale is our network for French-speaking parents in Canada, and we support the concept of centres for early childhood and families. Our vision is much larger than a simple daycare network. That does not mean that we are against daycare centres, but, rather, we feel that daycare centres ought to provide an educational program which will encourage the child's development so that he or she will be ready to enter the school system at four or five.

The Commission nationale is in favour of centres for early childhood and families which provide a complete range of integrated services to parents. As is stated in the national plan, it often happens that rural regions rely on family-run daycare as opposed to larger daycare institutions. What we are saying is that it does not matter whether daycare is provided by an institution or in someone's home as long as there is an educational program and full support for parents as well as children aged zero to three.

Senator Comeau: Let us move on. We currently have a proposal from the federal government to provide $5 billion over five years. In the past, federal-provincial programs and national programs have run into problems when it comes to renewal, especially if the federal government feels that not enough emphasis is being placed on promoting its involvement in the programs. At times, when the deficit is causing problems, funding is not made available for renewing these programs.

Have you discussed this with Mr. Dryden? Is he aware of these problems which can occur once the system has been implemented? Does he understand the paramount importance of continuity?

Ms. Gagné-Ouellette: We have raised the issue with Mr. Dryden, explaining to him that it is an ongoing process and that the program should not simply be shut down overnight. However, we expressed more concern over the issue of French speakers and our needs in term of centres for early childhood and families than we did on the issue of continuity, although I know that our English-speaking counterparts at the national level made this a priority. There is a need for continuity, and it is on that front that the provinces should assume their responsibilities within the program.

Senator Comeau: Previously, the provinces have had their fingers burnt by entering into partnerships with the federal government. Programs have been set up, but the federal government can later say that it does not have enough money and is therefore going to implement cutbacks. We saw that happen with the health care system. The provinces have had to stop the gaps left by the federal government. We have all seen the results. What worries me is that the provinces have been burnt in the past, and when they come to the table, at the back of their mind will be the thought that this is another national program that they will have to shore up in the future if the federal government pulls out.

I say that for many reasons. Last time, it was on the pretext of the deficit; next time, it will be the same pretext or perhaps that the federal government is not making headline news.

Ms. Gagné-Ouellette: We do not have a crystal ball to tell what governments will do in the future. However, we do know that research has shown that investment in early childhood is of paramount importance from the time of the child's birth. We hope that governments, be it the same government, or another one, will continue to invest in early childhood.

Senator Comeau: Even if the federal government backs out because of the cost?

Ms. Gagné-Ouellette: I am referring to the federal government or provincial governments, irrespective of the party in power. We hope that governments will protect their investment in children.

Senator Comeau: If they do not invest in health care, do you think they will invest in early childhood education?

Ms. Gagné-Ouellette: It is the same for education and other areas. We hope that every government and every party will give this issue the attention it deserves.

Senator Comeau: For a certain number of years now, the federal government has created foundations which have received significant amounts of money. Once the money is in a foundation, the federal government cannot take it back. Have you thought of this type of approach?

Ms. Gagné-Ouellette: As far as the Commission nationale is concerned, we realize that in the most recent discussions held over the weekend, francophones were not mentioned in the press release put out by the federal government. Provinces are still holding discussions with the federal government with regard to issues concerning francophones. We are looking at the possibility of studying all basic issues, including a French-language health care organization. We are studying this matter with the department.

Ms. Pilon: Every study has shown that if you invest a dollar in early childhood education, you will save $8 in the long run in health and legal costs. It may seem like a big investment up front, but in the long term, society saves money. There should be a way of maintaining this investment over time.

Senator Comeau: I am very well aware of that reality. As soon as water comes pissing through the roof of your house, you have to repair the leak, otherwise you end up with more serious problems!

The Chairman: Spoken like a good Acadian. You met with Minister Dryden; did you also speak with the Honourable Mauril Bélanger, who was given this responsibility by the Prime Minister? Mr. Bélanger wears three hats, and one of his responsibilities is to ensure that the Official Languages Act is applied. He is both the inquisitor and the father confessor of all the other departments which fall under the Official Languages Act. Included in his responsibilities, as was explained to me, and he has told this committee, is to make sure that when the federal government announces a new program or signs or intends to sign an agreement with the provinces, that there are also measures to help Canada's francophone minority.

The flipside of the coin is that this also, to a certain extent, applies to Quebec anglophones, in a manner of speaking. He is not only the minister for francophones, he is responsible for bilingualism. Did you share your concerns with him?

Ms. Pilon: We speak with Mr. Bélanger on a regular basis. We have met with him several times; he gave us a presentation on "Partir en français 1," and the press conference was held jointly with Ms. Frulla. He is aware of all of that. He may have many mandates, but I am sure that he has not forgotten us. In any case, we will meet with him again. On the one hand, we were a little concerned by the fact that francophone communities were not even mentioned in the last press release, but on the other, the optimist in me thought that perhaps we may witness the creation of a foundation for early childhood education in French.

The Chairman: I was not aware of that.

Senator Losier-Cool: I would like to thank Ms. Pilon and Ms. Gagné-Ouellette for their excellent presentation.

However, I have to admit that I found the wording of the last paragraph a bit strong, because it says that Canada neglects its children. Perhaps so, even if the United Nations, in ranking Canada, have always said that this country has the poorest showing with regard to the way it treats its children. However, Canada ratified the Geneva Convention. I reread the entire brief and that part jumped out at me.

I would like to come back to page 5 and to your second basic demand which is in keeping with the early childhood education centre concept. To take senator Comeau's argument one step further, perhaps the federal government should withdraw from the funding plan, but the provinces may take the money and put it in their consolidated provincial revenue fund. That's another danger which we will have to look out for.

Are schools involved in Quebec's early childhood centres? You say that the two should be linked, but schools fall under provincial jurisdiction. Are they located physically in the same building?

Ms. Pilon: If possible, we would like both to be under the same roof. When you live in a minority environment, the only thing that brings you together are community school centres or schools, which are also community schools.

Francophones wanting to go to French school are under the same roof as the school or the school community centre. If a francophone parent with a young child has access to an early childhood education centre located in a French school, that parent would in all probability put the child in the daycare or in a play group, irrespective of what type of service the parent wants, and then the child would go to that school. So, for us, the building is our only visible structure. It would be a good starting point.

Senator Losier-Cool: So the two would be physically attached, as is the case with the community centres in Fredericton. So it would not fall under the Department of Education?

Ms. Pilon: No, the early childhood centre would be located in a school but managed by parents. It has to be managed by parents. That is why the system works so well in Quebec. Children are what is most precious to us. Children are Canada's most important natural resource. Year after year, more children are born and this precious resource will never run out. Compared to other natural resources, we do not really look after our children very well. That is why I said we were neglecting our children; I meant it in that way.

Another problem is that educators are very badly paid. Educators working in day cares receive minimum wage. Yet they look after the world's most precious resource. That is another reason why we talked about neglect.

Senator Losier-Cool: Have the parents who manage Quebec's early childhood education centres told you that they are happy with what they are doing?

Ms. Pilon: Yes, parents represent the majority on boards of directors. They receive some training and manage their centres very well.

Senator Losier-Cool: That is not what you hear in the media.

Ms. Pilon: We conducted an exploratory mission in Quebec and we spoke with parents and educators, and we visited five or six centres. All the parents were thrilled with the system. What the media say did not at all reflect what the parents told me.

Senator Losier-Cool: Rather, my question was: In Quebec, will ECE centres be located in the building, yet not fall under the jurisdiction of the government and the education system?

Ms. Pilon: It does not even fall under the area of education. ECE centres are located all over the place. For children living in a minority environment, it would be better if the centres were located in schools, because that is where francophones congregate. However, in Quebec, there are francophones everywhere. An ECE, for instance, could be located in a small neighbourhood beside a parent's house, which is an advantage for the mother who won't have to go far with her baby to get there. As a starting point, the very least we are asking for is that the centres be located within francophone schools or close by — since the schools are already filled to bursting — so that the child could naturally progress from the centre to the school when he or she reaches the age of four, five or six, depending on the province, since that also varies from province to province.

Ms. Gagné-Ouellette: In our communities, when francophone schools have enough space for a daycare or an early childhood education information centre, they make that space available for us. This is already happening in some areas. If they do not have enough space in the school, the centre is often located close to the school within the community. This is already happening in some regions. However, we know this is all happening on a volunteer basis. There is no funding.

Senator Losier-Cool: Do you have any figures indicating the percentage of provinces with the highest number of children registered in a program for children under the age of five?

Ms. Gagné-Ouellette: We are just concluding that research. We know that in francophone Ontario — we could check this in a few moments with Mr. Charbonneau — most school boards take registration for four and five-year olds; they even make space available and provide an educational program in the morning, the afternoon or one day a week; the other part is organized with educators.

There are also several francophone daycares in New Brunswick. The Manitoba government has said it supports the idea and it has just opened two pilot projects in the area of early childhood education. These seem to be working fairly well. As for the other regions, we are just finishing our study on that subject.

Senator Losier-Cool: I believe that the percentage in New Brunswick is high.

Ms. Gagné-Ouellette: You cannot confuse bilingual and francophone.

Senator Losier-Cool: That is true. Your data applies only for francophones.

Senator Chaput: I have a brief question regarding ECE centres, which would include, according to your concept, an educational resource centre to help parents.

Could the centre also help mothers who decide to stay home with their children just as mothers who have put their children in daycare are being helped? Would that system therefore help both stay-at-home mothers and mothers who place their children in daycare?

Ms. Gagné-Ouellette: The system would include playgroups, parental education, workshops, ongoing education for parents and educational programs for children.

Senator Chaput: You said that francophone communities should benefit from federal-provincial funding agreements as they apply to early childhood education. Exactly which agreements are you talking about? Are you saying that agreements in the area of education should be opened up to include early childhood education, or are you referring to the agreement signed between Canada and Manitoba, in the case of Manitoba, or are you referring to another agreement?

Ms. Gagné-Ouellette: In fact, we were referring to two agreements: the federal-provincial social development agreements and the federal-territorial social development agreements, which were discussed last weekend. Francophones are well aware that there was no mention of them in the press release, but we also realize that this issue is still under discussion.

When the time is right, we will continue our discussions with the department. Daycare and education fall under provincial jurisdiction, but there are also federal-provincial education agreements.

As parents, we would encourage school boards to integrate four and five-year olds into educational programs. It is important for four and five-year-old francophone children to do this in order to prepare them for school.

Senator Murray: I am aware of the importance of having a national daycare system accessible to all our children. It is also very important that when negotiations are held particular attention be given to linguistic communities. However, we have to recognize that federal-provincial negotiations are first and foremost based on the Social Union Framework Agreement, which was negotiated several years ago between the Chrétien government and nine provinces.

Therefore, a national daycare program could only get off the ground with the agreement of six provinces, or a majority of provinces. Furthermore, if a province does not want to join the program but would rather create its own program with the same objectives, that province has the right to compensation from the federal government.

In the course of the negotiations, the issue of a combined daycare system, which would include both private and public daycares, or for-profit daycares, came up. If ever such a system came out of the current negotiations, would you be ready to deal with that type of reality?

Ms. Gagné-Ouellette: We do not really care if daycares are public or private. What really matters are the needs of our province or our community. Institutional daycares with room for 20 children hardly exist in rural areas. Rather, home daycare with up to five children is the norm. In fact, the only thing that matters to us is that home daycare also provide an educational program which would meet the needs of children.

Senator Murray: You also support the creation of educational centres which include early childhood networks. Governments must immediately consolidate networks involving partners, professional organizations, educators, communities and governments, and must build the capacity to promote the development of early childhood education in French.

This includes a variety of services for children such as educational daycare, resource centres, junior kindergarten groups, playgroups, and early detection. Do you really believe that Mr. Dryden is negotiating all these issues?

Ms. Gagné-Ouellette: We know that the government is not negotiating those issues. But as francophones we are asking for the creation of early childhood and family centres. When we met with Mr. Dryden, he recognized the particular needs of francophones with regard to this type of service.

We need private and institutional daycare, or family daycare, just as much as anglophones do, but our concept is much more wide-ranging and includes family or institutional daycare in a community, depending on the circumstances.

Mr. Murphy: Therefore, negotiations should take place with the provinces once an agreement has been reached.

Ms. Gagné-Ouellette: Last October, the Manitoba government launched two pilot projects involving early childhood and family centres.

Mr. Murphy: It is a very attractive idea, I admit, but the concept has to be negotiated with the provinces.

Ms. Gagné-Ouellette: Provincial parents' organizations and their partners are currently meeting with each minister to promote this model.

[English]

Senator Buchanan: Are you not concerned that you might get lost in the so-called shuffle of what will happen over the next number of months?

Ms. Gagné-Ouellette: We have been shuffled around for about 100 years.

Senator Buchanan: I know and I listened to your comments. However, I sense that when your program is thrown onto the table of federal-plus-10-provincial representatives, it just might get lost. After years of experience in this business, I sense that will happen. That is unfortunate, and I am not saying that it should get lost in the shuffle but it probably will be.

You may end up with agreements but you will be secondary to those agreements later on. Are you concerned about that?

Ms. Gagné-Ouellette: We are hopeful that we will not be secondary to these agreements from now on. We know that these are the needs of the community and we need to continue in this way. The CPEF is the answer for our communities and schools to ensure that our children attend French schools. That is why we advocate for the CPEF.

Ten to 20 years ago, the conseil national advocated for the French governance of our schools. It took us a long time and we had to go to court many times. We hope that we will not have to go to court again but these are the needs of our communities. We had consensus throughout last year and so we will continue to advocate this.

With luck government will understand our position and our needs. The ministry of education knows that we have French schools, and having daycares integrated to the schools is the answer for the communities.

Senator Buchanan: I wish you good luck.

Ms. Gagné-Ouellette: Thank you.

Senator Buchanan: I hope you do not have to go to court, because the only winners there are the lawyers.

Ms. Gagné-Ouellette: We do not want to go to court. However, we know that in the last four cases before the Supreme Court, the parents won. We have over 400 francophone schools across Canada. We know that this concept of the CPEF is one of the answers for the community.

Senator Buchanan: Ms. Pilon, there is one thing that I do not understand. I believe you said that anglophones and First Nations receive equal treatment in Quebec.

Ms. Pilon: Yes, in Quebec that is so. Everyone in Quebec has the right to attend the centre for early childhood. The francophones have their CPEF, the anglophones have their CPEF and the Aboriginals have their CPEF. The Aboriginals have their own CEGEP to learn to be educators for their communities when they return so they can help the children in their language. It is like a dream come true when you go to Quebec and find that everybody is equal.

Senator Buchanan: I was unaware of that.

Ms. Pilon: We were impressed when we went there.

Senator Losier-Cool: I had a question in the chamber the other day on child care and anglophones in Quebec. Is it because it is a provincial program?

Ms. Pilon: Yes, it is a provincial program. It is not national yet, in Quebec. The provincial program is universal in that it is for everybody. Every child has the right to go to the early childhood centre of their choice.

Senator Buchanan: Does that apply to the child care centres in Quebec?

Ms. Pilon: That is the child care centre but I call them early child care. I must say that I go to those centres to show people what they are all about. One that I visited had many immigrants. My question to them was about the one- to three-year-old children who obviously do not speak French or English. I asked the educator how they learn and how fast they learn? She said that most of the children that come from another country speak in French within three months. I was duly impressed.

That is why we advocate these centres. Do senators understand why rapid learning occurs before the age of three, as research has proven? A young immigrant child speaks neither French nor English at home, goes to a daycare or child care centre and learns within three months how to talk to the educator in French. Within one year, each one of those children speaks fluently at the age of one or two.

Senator Buchanan: I am safe in saying to those in other areas that in the province of Quebec, early child learning and child care services are available equally to anglophones, francophones and Aboriginals. They are treated equally in the province of Quebec?

Ms. Pilon: Yes, that is what we have seen.

Senator Buchanan: I was not aware of that and we have heard that the opposite is the case.

Ms. Pilon: That is why we visit and ask questions. Perhaps some of those comments have come from complaints, but that is what we saw when we went to Quebec.

[Translation]

The Chairman: I would also like to ask a question.

I do not want to play the role of inquisitor or pretend that I have the powers of the Gomery commission, but since the federal government gave you one million dollars over 25 months for the project called "Partir en français" and $365 million over eight months for the project called "Partir en français 2," can you tell me exactly how you are spending the money?

Ms. Pilon: I just want to point out that it is $365,000 and not $365 million, because if that were the case, there would be ECFCs every where. I would not even be here right now! I would not want you to give people the wrong impression.

The Chairman: The reviser would have corrected that oversight. But how are you spending the money? It says a little further on:

These funds will be used to build the capacities of our members and their partners in the field.

What exactly does that mean? We have a Senate Committee on National Finance — which was chaired by Senator Murray for several years — whose mandate it was to see how money was being spent. So let me wear that hat for a few moments and ask you to tell us candidly how you are spending the money.

Ms. Gagné-Ouellette: It may seem like a lot of money. When Ms. Frulla told us that we would be getting a million dollars, we received calls from daycare centres in various francophone provinces asking us for some of that money. A million dollars over three years seems like a lot. However, we are building capacity with the funding we receive under the action plan on official languages. Twenty-two million dollars were earmarked for early childhood education. We travelled across Canada to gain support for our concept of early childhood education and to build capacities.

The Chairman: To gain whose support?

Ms. Gagné-Ouellette: From our parents' federations. The Commission nationale is made up of 11 members, each representing a parents' federation in every province. Each parents' federation has a parent committee or other groups of parents, or junior kindergarten or pre-school groups, which are also members of their networks. They are our partners, either on school boards or health groups, or in associations which speak for groups representing children's community action programs. Each province has its own partners. We traveled across the country and met with over 400 people.

In October, our Canada-wide congress was held in Winnipeg and there were over 300 participants. We also helped our provinces and territories, and our parents' federations to prepare action plans on early childhood and family centres so they could in turn present them to their ministers and governments in order to make progress in this area.

The work will continue over the coming year. We are in the process of preparing an environmental scan to see what kinds of francophone early childhood education services exist throughout the country and to see how these early childhood programs in French are funded.

This will give the federal government, as well as the provinces and the territories, an overview of what is happening in the area of early childhood education in French in their respective jurisdictions.

This scan will be completed by April 15, and we certainly want to make its results known throughout the country.

The Chairman: We would be pleased to get a copy of it. Are the provinces funding your activities?

Ms. Gagné-Ouellette: They are involved in the activities of each provincial federation. Some of our federations have received funding, in Manitoba and Ontario, from the ministries of early childhood development and other federations from their provinces' ministries of education.

The Chairman: Is the money allocated for specific activities?

Ms. Gagné-Ouellette: In Manitoba, for instance, funding was made available for two early childhood and family centres. They received $75,000. It is not a lot of money to create two early childhood and family centres. But thanks to the support of school boards, the centres do not have to pay any rent and they receive free material and support.

The Chairman: I am pleased that you mentioned the school boards because we will hear from them after you. Do you work in collaboration with the school boards?

Ms. Gagné-Ouellette: Certainly. It is because of the Commission nationale that there are school boards across the country. Twenty-five years ago, that was not the case. It is clear that, as parents, we keep a close eye on school boards and work in close collaboration with them. In answer to a question from Senator Chaput, the Commission nationale has an education table which focuses on leadership and education. Madame Chevalier and Mr. Charbonneau will be able to speak more at length about that. The education table brings together all national stakeholders. They can tell you about strategy, and the fact that early childhood development is part of that strategy. We will work hand in hand with the school boards.

The Chairman: If there are no further questions, I would like to sincerely thank you on behalf of the Senate Committee on Official Languages. Your contribution is valuable and we will take your comments into account. You asked whether we would listen, and we did.

Ms. Pilon: Thank you.

The Chairman: We are a bit ahead of our schedule. This is a good thing, since bad weather is forecast for early this evening. Senator Murray has to travel 60 kilometres to get home tonight.

I would therefore invite our next witnesses from the Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones to please come to the table. It is our pleasure to now welcome Ms. Madeleine Chevalier, President, Francophone Services for the Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones. She is accompanied by Mr. Charbonneau, the Director General of the Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones.

Ms. Madeleine Chevalier, President, Fédération nationale des conseils francophones: Thank you Mr. Chair, for inviting us to appear at your inquiry into minority-language education.

Indeed, I am the President of the Fédération nationale des conseils francophones and with me today is the Director General of our Federation, Mr. Charbonneau.

As you know, the 30 francophone school boards throughout Canada that we represent have a constitutional obligation. They must provide education for the francophone minority in its own language, education that is of equal quality to that available to students of the linguistic majority. This responsibility falls on our shoulders and on that of the provincial, territorial and federal governments. We are appearing before you in the interest of completely fulfilling this responsibility.

We will take a few minutes to present the current status of French-language education and its needs. We will then explain our strategy for fully developing this system pursuant to the vision outlined in section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The current status of our education system is worrisome. In short, we might say that it is on life support. We are far from achieving the community vitality set out in the Official Languages Act.

Since 1982, our education rights have of course been guaranteed by the Charter, and you know how hard our Francophone and Acadian communities have worked to have the courts fully recognize these rights.

The Supreme Court of Canada had to hand down three landmark decisions — the Mahé decision in 1990, the Manitoba Reference in 1993 and the Arsenault-Cameron decision in 2000 — to force the provincial and territorial governments to ground school governance to the francophone minority. In the meantime, the door was left open to assimilation by the various prohibitions of a century ago that caused French-language instruction to disappear or struggle throughout Canada.

In the last 15 years or so, we have had considerable success, gradually establishing 31 French-language school boards that now oversee 675 schools. We are proud to watch over the instruction that is provided to these 150,000 or so students, and the expectations are quite high. In addition to meeting Canadian education standards, we also want our students to learn about the culture, history and values of their society; and we would like them to develop pride in their language, an awareness of being a minority, a strong identity, community leadership, and knowledge of a number of languages.

How should we go about achieving this mission? To gain a clear picture, our federation recently commissioned an assessment of our schools' needs. Of the 50 or so important needs expressed by French-language school boards, 10 emerged as common priorities. Moreover, we consulted about 50 community organizations which validated these needs overall and clearly expressed the importance of bringing the school and community closer together in order to support the community's ethno-linguistic vitality.

As you know, the lack or poor standards of French-language schools in Canada over the past century have dramatically reduced the eligible enrollment under section 23 of the Charter. This "past injustice," as the Supreme Court called it, has meant that just over half the children of right holders now attend French-language schools. These schools lack resources now.

They cannot offer a range of programs of study, specialized services and equipment comparable to what is offered in rival English-language or immersion schools. Their infrastructure is often outdated or inadequate. They lack teachers and administrative staff. They also have needs that are specific to their minority status as they must recruit right holders and promote the school to them, francize young people before and even while they are enrolled in school and welcome and assist exogamous parents.

Finally, to increase their chances of success, schools must be able to count on early childhood and daycare services that prepare children to be educated in French. We have noted that school boards, provincial and territorial governments and the federal governments are not fully meeting obligations to the francophone minority as embodied in Part IV of the Official Languages Act, the Charter and the constitutional principle of the protection of minorities. A shift in direction is therefore urgently needed to correct this situation.

How do we go about this? How can the education rights set out in section 23 be fully implemented? Our federation has adopted the strategy put forward by its steering committee, which is chaired by Mr. Gallant. This action strategy is based on the needs assessment and the current legal and political framework.

First of all, we consider that the education rights and obligations of official language minorities have now been clearly established by case law. We advocate diligently implementing them rather than continuing to fight before the courts.

At the political level, the federal government's long-awaited renewed interest in linguistic duality signals a new approach to French-language minority school governance. The 2003 Action Plan for Official Languages promises new investments and has high expectations, as it aims to increase the enrollment of eligible francophone students to 80 per cent by 2013.

In our opinion, a concerted strategy on the part of community stakeholders, school boards, and the provincial, territorial and federal governments will be the only way to meet this challenge. We believe the provinces and territories are now open to considering such a strategy. A representative of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, also took part in our steering committee's work and will soon meet with the Office of the Conférence interministérielle sur les affaires francophones. We also have meetings scheduled with the chief education officers of the provinces and territories and with senior federal officials.

At the community level, our federation has rallied the key organizations with a mandate relating to education. I will not name them all because they are already on the list, although I should add that the CLPF is also at the table with us. We are now all working together on the action plan to fulfill the promises contained in section 23.

In addition, we intend to invite provincial, territorial and federal official government officials to take part in this exercise, since it is their responsibility as well. In this regard, next June we will be holding a deliberative assembly for education stakeholders on the implementation of section 23 in minority francophone communities.

As your committee correctly noted, education continues to be regarded as a continuum, from early childhood to the postsecondary level. While our primary interest is in the school system, we cannot ignore early childhood services that prepare students, the problem of family illiteracy that conditions students, and the prospect of continuing French-language education at college or university.

Our strategy thus comprises six avenues for action to revitalize the education system: identification, recruitment and retention of eligible school enrollment; school infrastructures; recruitment, training and retention of employees who are competent in French; early childhood services; school programs and teaching resources; and linguistic and cultural training and guidance.

Given the number of players involved in this strategy, we recommend that permanent coordination mechanisms be established which would include representatives of all school boards, governments and communities.

We are also seeking a complete reassessment of the budget in order to include the investments required by this strategy. The official language in education program is of course a key tool in furthering this strategy, but it should not be the only one. The federal government to which you make your recommendations must also increase its funding for various priorities: in terms of human resources development in the education sector; establishment of school infrastructures; support for the leadership shown by school boards and community organizations; support for early childhood; support for the technical networking of schools and communities; and support for the sociocultural component of teaching young francophones.

It is helpful to recall that case law has clearly recognized that the school boards have the authority to define the needs of their own community and to spend the funds provided for minority language education. Moreover, the highest court has ruled that the funding provided to minority language schools must be at least equivalent to that provided to the majority and sometimes even more, in view of their specific needs. Finally, the action plan should include an accountability framework to ensure its transparency and to promote the attainment of its objectives.

In closing, we reiterate the urgent needs relating to French-language minority education. The number of rights holders is decreasing because a good many of their children are not currently enrolled in French-language schools. As a result, these children will not in turn be able to pass their rights on to their own children. The future of Canada's linguistic duality is at stake if we do not maintain the vitality of the francophone minority.

Our school boards are aware of this. With the help of our community organizations, they have begun serious initiatives to change the circumstances for their future. The federal government must still be convinced of the importance and urgency of this strategy. We sincerely hope that your committee will assist us in this regard.

The Chair: I wanted to raise a little problem that we came across this afternoon. I see that Mr. Landry of the Institution canadienne de recherche sur les minorités linguistiques has actually left, but on page 13 of his presentation, he states that:

Although the figures vary from study to study, we can safely say that only just over 50 per cent of eligible students attend schools managed by francophone minorities.

In your brief you state the following:

... increase the enrolment of eligible francophone students from 68 per cent to 80 per cent by 2013.

Am I correct in assuming that you are quoting the action plan? This is federal government data, is it not?

Mr. Charbonneau: It is.

The Chair: Mr. Landry has cast serious doubt on this data. We will have to try to clarify this point, unless you can shed some light on the difference in the interpretation of the data?

Mr. Charbonneau: To be honest with you, I think that Mr. Landry is right. We used the official figures, but we do not know how the government came up with them. Our own census data would suggest that between 48 and 53 per cent of eligible francophone students attend our schools.

The Chair: Can you confirm that?

Mr. Charbonneau: We did not dare contradict Mr. Dion, but we are in a position to confirm what Mr. Landry said as being true.

The Chair: We will have to tell the federal government to do its homework again and ask it to provide us with accurate figures.

Mr. Charbonneau: I think that they updated the data at the last census, but I could not be sure. We believe that around 50 per cent of eligible students are currently in our schools.

The Chair: Do you feel that it is realistic to want to reach an 80 per cent enrolment level for rights holders by 2013? Fifty per cent to 80 per cent is quite the jump.

Mr. Charbonneau: We are facing the same dilemma as the provincial Department of Education. It is all very well to have such ambitious objectives, but without the necessary resources they are unattainable.

It would be realistic if we were able to reach the 80 per cent of rights holders who wish to attend our schools from a young age. It is clear, however, that with the budget granted in the action plan, little will be done.

Senator Comeau: On the last page of your brief, you state that:

Finally, the action plan should include an accountability framework to ensure its transparency and to promote the attainment of its objectives.

Are you referring to the action plan which stipulates a transfer of funds from the federal government to the provincial government and provincial accountability?

Ms. Chevalier: We are referring to the action plan for implementing the integral management strategy for offering a complete French-language education system here in Canada.

Senator Comeau: It has been mentioned several times today that the provinces are not spending the monies in the way set out by the federal government. We have heard several comments to the effect that both this committee and the Auditor General should study this issue. What do you think?

Ms. Chevalier: One of the federation's main concerns is regarding financial transparency. In some provinces, the funding is used for French-speaking communities, but that is not the case in all of Canada. We would like to see that happen in more provinces. If something is being done well in one province, we would like it to be done well in all the provinces.

Senator Comeau: Are you making a recommendation?

Ms. Chevalier: Absolutely.

Mr. Charbonneau: We currently benefit from two provincial funding mechanisms. There is the Council of Ministers of Education's Multilateral Protocol which gives rise to provincial action plans and bilateral agreements. And, in theory, parallel to that, there was supposed to be the action plan which sets out bilateral agreements between each province and the federal government. Why does the action plan refer to a framework for accountability and transparency? Because the protocol in its present form does not allow for transparency.

Let us take the example of Nova Scotia. The Department of Canadian Heritage carried out an audit to verify how the funds had been allocated, however, we never saw the report. We suspect that they were unable to find it.

In the case of New Brunswick, how can it be explained that the per capita funding for an Acadian living in either a rural or urban environment is the same as that for an English speaker living in a rural or urban environment. Nobody has explained that to us. We know that the monies go into a consolidated fund. We have always asked to be formally consulted. The protocol is based on tradition from the 1970s at a time when our organization did not exist.

Currently, in 65 per cent of cases where a provincial action plan is presented to the federal government, we are not consulted on the action plan and we may find out about its existence 18 months after its implementation, only to discover that it included issues of interest to us and that the funds had never been transferred.

We suspect that, in many areas, the department is simply looking after its own interests. Perhaps projects have been carried out, but in many areas, there is no evidence of this. We feel that the best way for the federal government to ensure that these funds are truly spent as intended is to bear in mind that school boards are responsible for the majority of school activities. The government should simply consult with us on action plans before they are implemented and, then, ask us to report on how the money was spent. Negotiations are currently underway to this effect, and we have had a cautious response from the Department of Canadian Heritage. The department said that it would like to proceed in this fashion, but that it depended on whether the CMSC could reach unanimous agreement on the issue. I do not think that we will be party to the protocol this year either.

Senator Comeau: I would like to congratulate you on the excellent work that your federation has been carrying out for several years. I have been able to see with my own eyes the way in which young people in Nova Scotia have greatly benefited from your work. It really is remarkable, and I appreciate what you are doing.

Senator Chaput: My question is on your strategy document which we received earlier. In the first section, you speak of identification and recruitment, but I am particularly interested in the issue of new immigrants and I quote:

Actively promote French-language school amongst new immigrants.

That the federal government affords particular attention to the recommendations made by both the commissioner and the FCFA.

Could you remind me of the key points raised in the recommendations made by the Commissioner of Official Languages, as well as those made by the FCFA?

Mr. Charbonneau: To briefly sum up the issue, there is an entire immigration process which does not strictly concern us but which does not sufficiently take into consideration the issue of Francophonie outside of Quebec. In most cases, immigrants are not told that there are French speakers living outside of Quebec. Furthermore, we ourselves do not actively approach these immigrants. We have not developed a mechanism for approaching people when they arrive in the community. To be honest with you, we did discuss the issue at the Canadian Teachers Federation last weekend. However, unlike the major urban centres such as Ottawa and Toronto, and to a certain extent Saint-Boniface and Vancouver, we have not trained our personnel to welcome and integrate immigrants into our schools. I would go as far as to say that we are not very open-minded when dealing with this issue, which, put another way, means that we are somewhat close-minded. However, the primary reason for our being this way is that we are not yet used to the situation and we do not have an integration mechanism, which is something we need to develop.

Senator Murray: Ms. Chevalier, you are a member of a school board, which board exactly?

Ms. Chevalier: I am a school commissionner for the Conseil des écoles catholiques du centre-est d'Ottawa.

Senator Murray: And you, Mr. Charbonneau?

Mr. Charbonneau: The school boards have taken me on to speak on their behalf. I am an employee.

Senator Murray: I know that the courts have granted francophones the right to manage their own schools, however, I must profess that I do not understand how that plays out from one province to another. Is there a difference between provinces? There is surely not a school board for every school?

Ms. Chevalier: Each province is different. There are 12 French-speaking school boards in Ontario. I could not tell you how many schools they represent, but Ontario is the province with the highest number of French speakers.

Senator Murray: Twelve school boards?

Ms. Chevalier: Twelve school boards.

Senator Murray: Did you say that your school board is Catholic?

Ms. Chevalier: Yes. In Ontario, we have French-speaking public school boards and French-speaking Catholic school boards. Alberta also has both public and Catholic French-speaking school boards.

Senator Murray: Do the 12 school boards that you mentioned include both the public and the Catholic boards?

Ms. Chevalier: There are four public systems and eight Catholic systems.

Senator Murray: And in the other provinces?

Ms. Chevalier: In the other provinces, the numbers are much lower. There is one French-language school system in Manitoba, one in Prince Edward Island and one in Nova Scotia. The situation is different in New Brunswick where there are five. There are four in Alberta and the other provinces each have one.

Senator Murray: Are all the school commissioners democratically elected?

Ms. Chevalier: Absolutely.

Senator Murray: How long a term do they serve?

Ms. Chevalier: In some provinces they receive a four-year mandate, in others it is three years.

Senator Murray: How long is it here in Ontario?

Ms. Chevalier: Three years.

Senator Murray: Is this your first or second term in office?

Ms. Chevalier: It is my third.

Senator Murray: I was reading the English version of your presentation and something struck me. The representatives of the Commission nationale des parents francophones told us that they wanted a community health care system, the introduction of centres for early childhood and families in all French-language primary schools, as well as a range of services for children such as educational daycare, resource centres, kindergarten, playgroups, and early detection services.

[English]

That is quite ambitious. It seems to me that when you make a list of the problems and needs, they are much more basic. You have problems that are fundamental, such as the state of your infrastructure and the availability of your teachers, et cetera. These seem to be much more basic than the more ambitious agenda of some other organizations that have spoken today. Is my perception accurate?

[Translation]

Ms. Chevalier: Do you find that our needs are more ambitious and demanding?

Senator Murray: No, the other witnesses have a more ambitious plan than yours.

Ms. Chevalier: Unfortunately, I was not present for all the presentations, but I heard the conclusion of the presentation made by the CNPF. It all comes down to needs. We are also trying to get work done before the summit which will be held in June. Within the francophonie, it is important to ensure that everyone does his share. The school system cannot do it all on its own. The Commission nationale des parents francophones bears its share of responsibility, as well as every other organization listed in our brief. Everyone has a role to play in the field of education. We would like to see each partner shoulder his responsibility based on area of expertise. This would make it easier for school boards live up to their language and culture commitments in a community setting.

It should also be recognized that minority francophone communities are very spread out. The hub of the community is the school and that is why every service is provided within the school building. Perhaps that is why you find the plans proposed by other witnesses more ambitious than ours, but there is nevertheless a convergence towards school systems.

Mr. Charbonneau: We made a mistake a few years ago when we went to court and won the right to have our school boards. In fact, I was involved because I am the founding director general of the CNPF. We asked for what we knew. We basically asked for the right to have a French school, just as anglophones have the right to have English schools. We asked to have our own French school board, just as anglophones had their own English school boards. Indeed, the legislation creating our school boards is almost identical to those creating the English boards.

It was only once we had gained some experience — because originally we did not have any — that we realized that when the Supreme Court ruled that we have to produce results, it did not mean we needed the same school system as the majority. It could have been defined differently. In 1982, we could conceivably have argued that French school should start at the age of one or two — a bit like Pierre Foucher argued this morning — but we did not do so.

In many communities with exogamous families — my children are from an exogamous family, it is very hard to maintain French when there are no French daycares or resources for children before they enter school, especially if the mother is an anglophone. The CNPF's plan is very ambitious, but in a way there is no way around it. Without that type of system, most exogamous couples where the mother is an anglophone will not be able to teach their children French. It would not be because of a lack of will, but rather because both parents work and see their children maybe two hours a day.

Senator Murray: In your brief, you say that French-school facilities are often obsolete or outdated. The Commission nationale des parents francophones goes even further by saying that, and I quote:

As long as the students are housed in substandard buildings, the ones that anglophones do not want, French school will not be very popular.

This seems to be a fairly general statement. Does this describe the situation of French schools in the nine provinces with an anglophone majority? Is it fair to describe the schools that way?

Ms. Chevalier: You will find at least one substandard school in every province. Some schools are in much worse shape than others. There are adequate school facilities in places where there was a need and where new schools were built. However, when francophones inherited a school from the English system, it was rundown and dysfunctional. These days, we still have schools without a gymnasium and even schools which may not have safe drinking water. This type of situation exists in our school systems.

Senator Murray: Can you be more specific? Does that exist in Ontario?

Ms. Chevalier: Absolutely.

Senator Murray: Is it widespread?

Ms. Chevalier: Mr. Charbonneau can answer that question. I can tell you that each school board has lobbied the government for matching funds which had been earmarked to address those problems. But since the money is not there, it takes years to address all these inequalities. And in the meantime, others are waiting.

Senator Murray: You are saying that, generally speaking, from that point of view, these schools are in worse shape than English schools in Ontario.

Ms. Chevalier: Not only in Ontario, but across Canada.

Mr. Charbonneau: It is more common in northern Ontario. Let me tell you about Saskatchewan. The school board wants a school in Moose Jaw. As it now stands, they are operating out of a basement. The federal government is supposed to come up with funding, and I hope that will settle the problem, but the school has operated out of that basement for five years now.

Saskatoon had a portable school inherited from an anglophone school, but it is full to bursting.

Last week, I was in Newfoundland. In Labrador City, there is a school where the wind whistles through the windows, and the temperature is -40 oC. You might say that there are not many students, but come on!

In St. John's, Newfoundland, there was a federal project to help build a community school centre which, up until last year, had been located in the basement of a contaminated anglophone school.

In Alberta, our richest province, the counselor for Léo Piquette once again asked for a school because there is not any. It is the same in Edmonton, there is another school which has to be changed. In British Columbia, there are two or three. Although things have begun to change. We have waited long enough and we finally did get a few. Yes, it is common problem.

Senator Murray: Is there a study or a document which summarizes the situation?

Mr. Charbonneau: I can make you a list. If it is not contained in Daniel Bourgeois' study, I have a research paper on that subject.

Senator Chaput: This morning, Mr. Pierre Foucher gave us a presentation on section 23, which stipulates that the goal is socio-linguistic and that education is the means to reach that goal. The general objective is to maintain Canada's two official languages, as well as the cultures they each represent.

We then heard presentations from other groups. Now you are before us and you have presented us with a document, which I mentioned earlier, and which speaks to a strategy for completing the French education system, French being Canada's first language.

It is interesting to note that this document contains the same requests or recommendations made by the other groups we heard from this morning; there are many common points.

This document was discussed with all stakeholders, and in the document, you lay out an implementation strategy at the national and provincial levels.

What has been done since this document was published? What kind of progress have you made? Has the document been distributed to governments? Have you made any presentations? What comes next? In my opinion, it is a very good document.

Ms. Chevalier: Thank you very much. We have indeed given it to anyone directly or indirectly concerned with education. This means that we give it to stakeholders at every level, including the federal, provincial and territorial levels.

We have also asked each community organization we consulted at the beginning of the study to produce action plans in order to incorporate them into an integration plan. We will then work with each stakeholder at the community and school board levels to begin our work, so that it will mostly be done by the time the summit is held and so that the entire community can come on board. For now, we are still waiting for funding from the government, because if we do not get any money, we will not be able to move the francophone education system forward.

Mr. Charbonneau: A little earlier, Mr. Landry said that we need leadership and synergy. That what we have tried to create. We have educational community groups on board, as well as institutional groups such as teachers, and we will also bring on board political groups like the FCFA.

Of course, we would also like the provinces to join us. In fact, we have invited them to a meeting on that issue in March. We invited every provincial senior official responsible for education, as well as officials responsible for French services. We also made a presentation to representatives from the Department of Canadian Heritage. The office of Mauril Bélanger is aware of the situation. The biggest problem we have for now is convincing the federal government to play a role in the field of education.

But what they always say is that education is a provincial matter and that they cannot get involved.

We reply that our school boards are particular; they are not like other school boards. We are the only level of government recognized by the Constitution, as are the provinces and the federal government. It would be possible to close down every anglophone school board in the country outside of Quebec, but not ours.

Proof of this is that in New Brunswick the school boards were shut down, but were forced to reopen because, under Section 23, Acadians had a right to their own school boards.

The Supreme Court Reference on Quebec Secession referred to five unwritten principles, including one which directly concerns minorities. It means that the federal government must play a role an education, even though it does not have to right amend legislation or regulations, or change provincial structures.

But we are basically hitting a wall right now. It is easy for officials to say that education is a provincial matter. If we were just any old school board we would not turn to federal government officials. The federal government will have to show political will if it wants to play an active role in this area.

That will be the most difficult task we will need to accomplish before our June Summit. If the federal government does not help us create a permanent secretariat or mechanism, even though it does not invest a lot in education — it has to be said that, when it comes to the francophone minority, only about 5 per cent of its budget comes from the federal government — a major player will be missing.

I think it will be easier for us to bring on board the majority albeit not all of the provinces than it will be right now to convince Ottawa to also get involved.

In 2002-2003, the federal government spent about $90 million on education for French as a first language in a minority situation, out of a total of about $1.5 billion for all francophone school boards. The federal budget for francophones living outside of Quebec — excluding immersion and Quebec anglophones — varies between five and six per cent of the equivalent of our total budgets.

Senator Murray: Do the provinces fund —

Mr. Charbonneau: Most of the time, the provinces fund us like they fund the English school boards — although, in my opinion, it is more expensive — and have given our thirty or so school boards about $1.5 billion.

The Chair: In that case, should we believe the editorials or some recent headlines which claim that the money spent by federal government on bilingualism produces few results and that it is a waste of money?

Mr. Charbonneau: No, it is not a waste of money. I believe that even if we do not always know where the money is spent, we do spend it effectively.

The Chair: So you think the money is spent effectively?

Mr. Charbonneau: It is not much, but it is well invested. If we look at the implementation of school board management, there were agreements with each province for additional funds to set up the school boards. Those funds were well invested. If we look at all of the school and community centre projects, the federal government is contributing to these projects, and that is also well invested.

At other times, however, for example, if we look at teaching materials, we suspect that most of the subsidies that should be going to French as a first language are being undoubtedly used to develop material for immersion that is being subsequently passed on to us. We are not certain that money has been well invested. But we have examples of where it has been successful.

The Chairman: Your clientele and the immersion clientele are not the same?

Mr. Charbonneau: No. But most of the time, the ministries that are responsible for the immersion program are also responsible for our teaching materials. With the exception of Nova Scotia and British Columbia, the ministries develop our teaching materials. And I suspect that they use part of our budget for immersion. But I do not have proof, because we do not have that information officially.

The Chairman: I have some questions for you. I must admit that I had an earlier discussion with Mr. Charbonneau and Mr. Gallant, who is not here today. Sometimes, it is a good idea to meet witnesses ahead of time, to delve more deeply into issues. But I am not hiding that fact, I am declaring any potential conflict that may arise.

The committee that I represent, along with the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure and the clerk, attempted to call the Council of Ministers of Education before this inquiry. The spokesperson said no. We asked again, and they said no. We tried to get an appearance by the Minister of Canadian Heritage, who is responsible for many of these programs, for negotiating these agreements, and again we were told that these days, it was a sensitive issue. We are not sure that we want to appear before your committee to discuss these matters. As for you, you are telling me that you talk to these people, you talk to the Council of Ministers, you have met the chair, who is the Quebec Minister of Education.

Mr. Charbonneau: Actually not; we met with the bureaucratic side of the Council of Ministers of Education, the director general, in December. We have spoken with Mr. Reid's office, but formally, unfortunately, we have not met with the council. Traditionally, the council does not have any guests. Sometimes it creates a committee to hear from groups; we are going to contact it again at that time. To date, we have not been successful in meeting the full council.

Ms. Chevalier: To highlight that, since last August, we have been asking for a meeting with the Minister of Canadian Heritage, and we are always referred to people other than the Minister.

The Chairman: Is there a reason for that?

Ms. Chevalier: She is too busy. I find it very regrettable that we are unable to meet with the official spokespersons for school boards at the national level, especially considering the federal government's responsibility with respect to the francophone minority.

The Chairman: Have you told the honorable Mauril Bélanger that?

Ms. Chevalier: We have not told him that, because we just received the last refusal this week.

The Chairman: Personally, and my colleagues can speak for themselves, I am scandalized by this attitude. There are problems, challenges, negligence, it is about bringing our people back, a situation that has been going on since the adoption of the first Official Languages Act. There was the second act, the Charter was implemented, and I am truly appalled to see the level of indifference that seems to have seeped into the government, at several levels.

Obligations exist under the Chapter and the Official Languages Act, and people are being made to wait. There are delays in negotiating the protocol agreements. Not only are there delays, but quite often the people who are the most affected are not even authorized to participate in the debate.

That leads me to my next question. Do you think that it is your right, under the Charter and everything that stems from it — court decisions — to participate in the federal-provincial negotiations on education in a francophone minority environment?

Ms. Chevalier: I would say that it is our right and that the entire system would benefit from our participation. That way, the energy would be used to work towards a common goal, instead of continuing to lack transparency and accountability, as was mentioned earlier. In the end, the children in the school setting are paying for all this negligence and friction that exist within the various levels of government. That is very unfortunate. The children do not know what they are missing. They are simply living with the shortcomings. The realty is that these children, when they grow up and realize that the English schools are nicer and have more to offer, say that that is where they might want to go. At the end of the day, where will our linguistic duality be in ten years? That is the major concern.

Mr. Charbonneau: Moreover, case law clearly states that francophones alone can make decisions on these education-related matters pertaining to language and culture. The only modern structure out there, with the exception of New Brunswick where they have duality, is the French school boards.

It is another example demonstrating that, when we asked for our education acts, we did not foresee that. We left all of the teaching material and curriculum responsibilities in the hand of the ministries. In fact, we could leave them there, but we should at least have the right to say if we want them or not, if we agree or not. The Charter clearly stipulated that a homogeneous structure was necessary. An office of French education in a bilingual ministry cannot outline our needs for us.

The Chair: Clearly, the election process can cause delays in the negotiation of these agreements, but I do not think that the election process is a major reason in itself. Why is it taking so long to renew these agreements? Can you explain to us? The Council of Ministers is not gong to come and tell us why, and I do not know if the Minister of Canadian Heritage will tell us why.

Mr. Charbonneau: The ministers changed — there were three different ones in a short period of time. The provinces do not agree among themselves, because they do not want a plan, what we call the Dion Plan, but is separate from the protocol. They — the representatives of the provincial ministries of education — say that our budgets have not been indexed for years and they are right. They say the $209 million in the Dion Plan should be used to index the budgets under the protocol.

The federal government cannot agree to that, because the Action Plan calls for an accountability framework and bilateral flexibility that the protocol cannot allow.

The other aspect is that, historically speaking, budget envelops for one province or another come from a tradition that dates back to the 1970's where funding was on a per capita basis. The first protocols included an additional $125 in funding for a French student. That gave provinces that already had French schools more money than provinces that did not. The small provinces say that the traditional funding basis must be changed and that it would be better to follow the Action Plan for Official Languages Act on a bilateral basis, to meet our real needs, rather than to rely on what existed in the past.

At the same time, it is clear that the federal government does not want to impose many conditions. Their motto is "Don't rock the boat," do not make any waves. They want to negotiate the simplest way possible, with as few people as possible involved. At present, for the past three months — at least up until last week — the provinces have not been able to agree among themselves.

A big mistake was made. Ms. Scherrer, when she was Minister of Canadian Heritage, I believe it was a day or two before the election, signed a letter that integrated the provinces into the Dion Plan protocol. Quite frankly, I do not think she had the time to read the letter, but there is a commitment for Canadian Heritage to proceed that way. I think Ms. Frulla is trying to undo that, but she must be having trouble, because the written word lives on.

When we learnt that such a commitment had been made, which went completely against everything that we had asked for, we raised our objections, as did all of the groups. I think that some of the difficulties are also linked to that.

Ms. Chevalier: Indeed, we were not consulted on that point either before the letter appeared. It was done without our knowledge.

The Chairman: So I ask you this: Do you think that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives you an inalienable right to participate in the negotiations between the federal government and the provinces?

Mr. Charbonneau: Unless each province gives us a separate Ministry of Education in French, yes.

The Chairman: Do you have any other questions?

Senator Comeau: Just one question. When we were out West last year, we learned that Saskatchewan was a specific case and faced specific difficulties with respect to access to information from the provincial government. Is the case still particularly difficult, or am I mistaken?

Mr. Charbonneau: Are you asking if it is still difficult everywhere?

Senator Comeau: Saskatchewan was a particularly difficult case.

Mr. Charbonneau: There is also New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island for the Ontario protocol agreement and not for the Dion Plan agreement. There are no problems in Manitoba, but there are a few in Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Alberta.

In New Brunswick, the education agreement is negotiated by the Department of Intergovernmental Affairs. The consultation on the action plan lasts about 35 minutes a year.

Senator Comeau: That is incredible.

Senator Léger: You have answered all of my questions. You have said that the protocol is not transparent and you have given us a concrete example.

Mr. Charbonneau: All I can say is that it is not going well.

Senator Léger: Coming from New Brunswick, you are opening a door for me. You say that it is not working?

Mr. Charbonneau: We have good schools, but it could be better. In the context of federal-provincial relations, it is clear that everything is so hush-hush that we think it is not working. I truly believe that we should be part of the negotiations.

Senator Léger: Do you mean that you are not in New Brunswick?

Mr. Charbonneau: What I mean is that when there are negotiations between the federal and provincial governments, we are not involved and we do not know what happens.

I would like to quote the actual wording of the 2002-2003 Protocol.

The Chairman: Please do.

Mr. Charbonneau: It reads as follows:

Similarly, each provincial/territorial government agrees to consult, when deemed necessary, with interested associations and groups about its educational programs provided for in this Protocol. When possible, these consultations will be held annually and may be conducted jointly by the federal and provincial/territorial governments.

It says: "When deemed necessary."

Senator Léger: It also says: "... maybe..."

Ms. Chevalier: "When possible..."

Mr. Charbonneau: That is a lot like "where numbers warrant."

The Chairman: And in English, it is the difference between "may" and "shall."

Since there are no further questions, we will conclude this part of our meeting. I want to sincerely thank you, Ms. Chevalier and Mr. Charbonneau, for your presentation and your honesty. You have our best wishes for the future.

We are going to adjourn this part of the meeting, but we are going to continue immediately in camera to discuss our status report. I would ask everyone who is not a senator and our staff to leave the room. We do, however, need interpretation.

The committee adjourned.


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