Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 7 - Evidence - Meeting of September 13, 2010 (morning)
QUEBEC CITY, Monday, September 13, 2010
The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages met this day at 9:25 a.m.
to study the application of the Official Languages Act and of the regulations
and directives made under it. (Topic: The English-speaking communities in
Senator Maria Chaput (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Honourable senators, dear guests, welcome to the Standing
Senate Committee on Official Languages. I am Senator Maria Chaput from Manitoba
and I am the chair of this committee. I am joined this morning in Quebec City by
several members of the committee, and I would like to invite them to introduce
I will begin on my far right.
Senator Champagne: Good morning, my name is Senator Champagne.
Senator Seidman: I am Senator Judith Seidman.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Good morning. I am delighted to be here with
you today. My name is Senator Fortin- Duplessis. I was also a federal member of
Parliament for nine years.
Senator De Bané: I am Senator Pierre De Bané. I grew up and lived in
Quebec City for many years. I am very moved to be here. I started as a Member of
Parliament for Matapédia—Matane, in the Gaspé Peninsula. Now I am a senator
representing the region of Bécancour in Quebec. I am very happy to
be here and to listen to what you will say about the situation of the
English-speaking community, your aspirations and your challenges. Thank you very
much for being here to meet with us.
Senator Fraser: I am Senator Joan Fraser from Montreal. I have been in
the Senate for the past 12 years, almost exactly. Before that, I spent many
years as a journalist in Montreal and in that capacity was extremely interested
in the situation of the English-speaking community of Quebec. I still am. I am
glad to come back to this committee for this study.
Senator Dawson: I am Senator Dennis Dawson, born and raised in Quebec
City. I was the official tourist guide this morning on the bus, bringing
senators out from the suburbs, being Louis-Hébert, where I had the pleasure of
being the member of Parliament for many years, until Madam Duplessis retired me
It is a pleasure to be here. I am sure that my colleagues will appreciate not
only the hearings but the atmosphere of the setting here at Morrin College. I
think it will help improve their knowledge of Quebec with its history as well as
The Chair: Several months ago, the committee decided that it was
necessary to conduct a study on English-speaking minority communities. The
Official Languages Act states that the Government of Canada is committed to
enhancing the vitality of the English linguistic minority communities in Canada
and supporting and assisting their development. One of the mandates of this
committee is to study and to report on the application of the act.
In spring 2010, the committee agreed to travel to Quebec's English-speaking
communities in order to explore the various areas affecting the development and
vitality of anglophone minority communities. At that time, the committee decided
to begin this study and travel to Quebec before the Senate resumed sitting on
It is a pleasure to be in Quebec City this morning. We will also travel to
Sherbrooke and Montreal. The objective is to conduct a comprehensive study of
Quebec's English-speaking communities and to explore various areas affecting
their development and vitality, such as community development, education, youth,
arts and culture, and health care.
I take this opportunity to share with you the three objectives that the
committee identified for this study.
The first objective is to provide an overview of the situation of
English-speaking communities in Quebec by examining various aspects affecting
their development. The second one is to define the issues specific to English-
speaking communities in Quebec and identify corrective measures deemed necessary
for their development. The final objective is to make recommendations to the
federal government to support the development and enhance the vitality of
English-speaking minority communities.
To start the public hearings, I would like to welcome the Quebec Community
Groups Network. The committee invited QCGN to address the committee before it
hears from the first witness scheduled to start very soon.
Please note, honourable senators, that the QCGN will deliver introductory
remarks and that there is no opportunity for questions at this time.
I invite Ms. Linda Leith, President of the QCGN, who is accompanied by Sylvia
Martin-Laforge, Executive Director, to address the committee.
I would also like to welcome Mr. Jean-Sébastien Gignac, who will be the first
witness after we have had the presentation from the Quebec Community Groups
Linda Leith, President, Quebec Community Groups Network: Good morning,
members of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages.
The English-speaking community of Quebec is delighted to welcome you here
this week. We have visited your committee in Ottawa many times in the last few
years and are pleased to finally welcome you to our home. We are especially
pleased that you have come to talk to us about the application of the Official
Languages Act and of the regulations and directives that affect our community,
one of Canada's two official language minority communities. This is a topic dear
to our hearts.
Your visit and your study of the realities of English-speaking communities in
Quebec is critical at this juncture as you will be influencing federal policy
towards the English-speaking minority of Quebec while the replacement to the
Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality is being formulated. We are pleased that
your study focuses on the development and vitality of our communities and on a
number of aspects we consider essential, such as community development,
education, youth, arts and culture, and health.
Nearly 1 million Canadians call Quebec home whose first official language
spoken is English. We are an integral, inseparable part of Quebec's heritage,
working alongside our French-speaking neighbours to fish our waters, farm our
land, work our mines, build our cities and trade our products throughout Canada
and the United States and across the world. Those of us who live in Quebec today
represent lineage woven into the fabric of Quebec's history and heritage. From
the Irish community that helped build the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Québec here
in Quebec City to the Black community of Quebec that traces its roots back 300
years, English-speaking Quebecers have laboured beside fellow French-speaking
citizens to build this wonderful society. English-speaking Quebecers continue to
make their mark in fields as varied as medicine, science, technology,
architecture, the arts, finance and the aerospace industry. Just take a look at
the long list of English-speaking Quebecers who are among the laureates of the
Prix du Québec, the most prestigious awards attributed by the Government of
Quebec in all fields of culture and science.
The English-speaking community of Quebec understands that enhancing the
vitality and supporting the development of Canada's English linguistic minority
community is a challenge for the Government of Canada. The government is
mandated by the Official Languages Act of 1988 to take positive measures to
enhance "the vitality of the English and French linguistic minority communities
in Canada," support their development, and do so in a way that respects the
jurisdiction and powers of the provinces. The inherent tension in dealing with
Canada's English linguistic minority communities, which are entirely located
within Quebec, should be apparent.
From a practical point of view, this tension plays out in the provision of
services and support to our community from the federal government in provincial
areas of jurisdiction, or where federal and provincial powers and
responsibilities are shared. The federal practice of devolving the delivery of
services and programs to other stakeholders, including the Quebec government,
has not been accompanied by clearly defined language clauses to safeguard the
interests of our official language minority community. We believe that federal
money carries with it all the responsibilities afforded the Government of Canada
under law. To accept otherwise permits the government to simply transfer funds
and walk away from their obligations to the official language minority
communities. To appreciate the impact of this practice of devolving program
delivery to Quebec, we ask you please to listen while you are here to the
challenges that members of our community have in accessing employment and
economic development services in their official language.
We would like the committee to understand the need for a proactive
consultation process that will allow federal institutions to consider our
communities' needs and interests in their decision making; the need for
increased levels of cooperation between the federal government and provincial
government regarding the "full implementation" of Part VII of the Official
Languages Act; the need for equality of status and use of French and English in
federal government offices in Quebec; as well as the need to link service
delivery to community development. This is one of the reasons the QCGN is wholly
supportive of Senator Chaput's private member's bill, since it bridges Parts IV
and VII of the Official Languages Act.
We also believe that official language minority communities should have much
greater voice in the intergovernmental arrangements that affect them, as in the
Canada-Quebec agreement on minority language education. Surely, 100 per cent of
federal money transferred to Quebec for the benefit of our community must be
used for that purpose in a completely transparent process from allocation to
You will also note that our community cannot benefit from renewal strategies
provided to francophone minority communities through program funding provided by
Citizenship and Immigration Canada. This is because of the Canada-Quebec accord,
which was fashioned after the 1978 Cullen-Couture agreement. Immigration in
Quebec provides the province with new means to preserve its demographic
importance in Canada and to ensure the integration of immigrants in a manner
that respects the distinct identity of Quebec. It has never been used by the
government of Quebec as a way to renew its English-speaking communities, many of
which, as you will see, are slowly disappearing under demographic and other
Recent initiatives by Citizenship and Immigration Canada are finding ways the
department can support our community in a modest way through research funding
tied to studying diversity. These initiatives have been brought to your
attention in a brief prepared by Professor Michèle Vatz-Laaroussi. What we
actually need, though, is equitable support along the lines of that enjoyed by
our francophone counterparts.
I bring this to your attention to highlight the fact that there are
ramifications felt by our community when the Governments of Canada and Quebec
enter into bilateral agreements. Even when federal funding is specifically
provided for the benefit of the community — in education, for example — there
are no mechanisms in place to ensure transparency on where and how the funds are
spent once they are transferred to Quebec. We very often find ourselves caught
in the middle of the Canada-Quebec relationship, not a comfortable position, as
you can imagine.
Moreover, support to our community provided from federal funding through the
province is not institutionalized, with the result that we are particularly
vulnerable to the political whims of the parties in power.
With the exception of some individual successes, the English-speaking
community has not integrated collectively into Quebec's self-identity. Members
of our community represent less than 2 per cent of Quebec's civil service
employees and only 7.6 per cent in the federal core public administration region
of Quebec. We are under-represented in the trades and unions. We are the subject
of stubbornly persistent stereotypes that paint us as rich, white, pampered and
coddled. We are none of these things. Twenty per cent of English-speaking
Quebecers are also members of a visible minority, making us the most diverse of
all Canada's official language minority communities. Like most minorities, we
suffer from social, economic and political exclusion. This is especially true on
the Island of Montreal, from members of our community who are visible minorities
and, in a more general sense, off the Island of Montreal where our community
experiences higher levels of unemployment, under-employment and elevated poverty
rates in comparison with the majority.
Central to understanding the English-speaking community of Quebec within the
context of Canada's official language architecture is that we do not approach
the central value of language from the perspective of survival and protection
but from the concerns of community vitality and sustainability. Furthermore, we
live in an architecture that was not designed to support our community and which
is not inhabited by many people who understand us. Finally, we occupy a
particularly challenging political space, sitting at the nexus of the
National policy and programs must be designed with these realities in mind in
order to address our unique character and circumstances. We urge you to consider
this need in the conduct of your study and particularly when you hear from those
charged with formulating these policies and programs within the Government of
Please ask yourselves: Do they understand the realities I have recounted
here? Have they re-imagined our official language architecture in a way that
truly fulfils the letter and spirit of the Government of Canada's commitment to
enhancing the vitality and supporting the development of its English linguistic
This week you will hear from our community leaders, many dedicated volunteers
who work diligently on behalf of the English-speaking community of Quebec.
Please listen to the challenges they face, supporting what one writer recently
referred to as the "invisible minority." Hear how our youth feel excluded from
a society in which we try so hard to integrate. Understand the sacrifice made by
parents and students to remain bonded to their English-speaking communities. See
the contribution we make to Quebec and to Canada, and listen to our successes.
Thank you for coming here this week to visit with our community. I look
forward to our time together.
The Chair: I want to thank Ms. Laforge for getting the debate under
way. We will now go to our first witness.
I would like to welcome Mr. Jean-Sébastien Gignac, Executive Director of the
Voice of English-speaking Québec.
Mr. Gignac, the committee thanks you for having accepted this invitation to
appear this morning. As indicated, the committee invites you to make a
presentation of approximately five minutes, after which the members of the
committee will follow with questions.
Jean-Sébastien Gignac, Executive Director, Voice of English-speaking
Québec: Good morning. I would like to thank you all for this opportunity to
represent my community and also some of the challenges that we face as a
linguistic minority community in Quebec City and through the
Voice of English-speaking Québec is a community-based, autonomous, non-profit
organization dedicated to the English-speaking community of Quebec City and
We have a small but dedicated staff of five that is led by a strong board of
directors of 18 community members. We have strong partnership with over 50
organizations from both the French- and English-speaking communities, one of
them being this beautiful cultural centre. We also benefit from a strong
membership of over 1,200 community members.
I will briefly introduce the local English-speaking community. We are talking
of over roughly 12,000 community members that represent just under 2 per cent of
the population of this region.
We benefit from many key institutions and organizations considering the small
size of our community. We have a hospital, a health and social service centre,
many English high schools and elementary schools. We also have a CEGEP. As I
mentioned before, more than 60 community organizations serve the English
An important element to keep in mind is that every five years 25 per cent of
our community population is renewed through newcomers. It is very important to
understand that element of our community. The key to the dynamism and success of
this community is what we call the Quebec City Way, which is a community
philosophy I will briefly introduce to you.
We are proud of being a small, dynamic, integrated but not assimilated
linguistic minority. We have to think outside the box. What worked yesterday
will not necessarily work tomorrow. We have strong partnerships with English-
and French-speaking key stakeholders in our region. We believe that strong
institutions will lead to a strong community, and we benefit from a strong
culture of community involvement.
I will give you some of the challenges that we face as a community. First,
when it comes to our youth, we have a massive out-migration of our kids. One
reason is that we have limited education opportunities in English in this
region. We also have a low level of French writing proficiency. These two
elements lead to other challenges. Our kids have a negative perception of their
capacity to be competitive in the French-first job market. They also have a
negative perception of the growing importance of bilingualism in this job
I will turn now to our seniors. We have almost no services or activities in
English for the 50-to-65 age group, and they suffer from social isolation.
Individuals in the 65-plus population sometimes have limited language skills,
and this causes difficulties with long-term care facilities. Also, because we do
not necessarily have an English sector in this region, the geographical
dispersion causes social isolation as well.
Some of our community challenges include an aging population. We have limited
cultural and recreational services in English. Our community organizations are
almost systematically under-financed or not financed at all, which jeopardizes
their existence and also puts extra pressure on the foundations that are serving
our communities, such as the Citadel Foundation.
Overall, our community simply does not receive the same quality or variety of
services as our French counterparts. We have limited access to services in
English in many governmental departments, especially at the provincial level.
Most youth services are only available in French in this region. Just to give an
example, the only CEGEP that does not have an amphitheatre in this region in the
I mentioned earlier that newcomers are really important to the renewal and
dynamism of this community. English- speaking and allophone newcomers also face
key challenges, such as linguistic barriers, social isolation, employability
struggles, and a significant lack of information on available English services.
That being said, I would like to take a minute to highlight the dynamism of
this region when we face such challenges. Newcomers are really important to our
region. We realized that they were facing key challenges and we did not have
enough services for them. Instead of just knocking on the federal door, we went
to the city and explained this problem, knowing that the actual administration
strongly believes in bilingualism and the integration of English- speaking
newcomers. We have been able to develop the Promotion of Bilingualism and
Newcomers' Integration Project, which we believe could be used as a case study
of what governments and communities should do to enhance the vitality of
linguistic minority communities. This project is supported by the City of
Quebec, by the Department of Canadian Heritage and by the Citadel Foundation,
and we have many partners — the cultural centres, the CEGEPs, the school boards.
The objectives are to facilitate newcomers' integration into the English
speaking-community and larger francophone majority, to develop new services that
directly respond to their needs before and after their arrival, and also to
develop new services to respond to the need of the employers who recruit them,
which is really important. We have a growing number of employers that recruit
English speakers. It is important as a community to offer them a bit more.
I will turn now to areas that we feel require more investment or priority
intervention by the federal government. As I mentioned before, youth have almost
nothing in English, so we feel they should get more employability services; we
should do a better job at promoting the importance of bilingualism in this
region; and they require more training opportunities.
Seniors need more services to help them maintain their autonomy and to offer
them more cultural activities in English in this region, community training and
development opportunities for volunteers, and volunteer-driven community
Finally, I turn to newcomers. We have been doing a better job recently but
still need additional resources to do a better job at integrating the newcomers
and also supporting the employers that recruit them.
These four elements lead to another important challenge, which is the
employability of anglophones in this region. We need to implement economic
development and employability services for the English-speaking community in the
different regions of Quebec, not only here in this region, which is an important
one, but also in the other regions off the island in this province.
With respect to the support we are getting from the Government of Quebec, I
will cover it quickly. We are currently not funded by the provincial government.
We are not necessarily consulted by the provincial government. We feel that the
investments are clearly insufficient in this region.
Earlier, I explained a concept called the Quebec City Way. I think it is the
key reason we have such a good relationship with the French majority. It is a
relationship based on partnership, dialogue and mutual understanding.
Some of the keys to this success relate to 30 years of focusing on
collaboration instead of competition. The English- speaking community is more
and more seen as an asset, not as a threat. There is a growing regional need for
bilingual resources. As I mentioned before, we are integrated but not
assimilated, and we are proud of that.
In conclusion, I would like to present three key elements that I think are
important for our region. Consultations by federal departments and agencies have
to take place with grassroots community organizations in Montreal and also in
the regions. That is why we are thankful for the opportunity we have today.
Because of the demographic situation of our community, we will need major
investment for our senior population, which is a sector that currently lacks
resources or services.
Finally, if we wish to have English-speaking communities outside of Montreal
in this province tomorrow, we will need more youth, newcomers and employability
services in the region off the island in the very near future.
On behalf of the English-speaking community of this region, and on behalf of
the organization, I would like to thank you once again for this wonderful
opportunity to represent my community and discuss some of the challenges that we
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Gignac. We will go to Senator
Fortin-Duplessis for the first question.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Thank you, Madam Chair. Before I put my
question, I would like to explain why the committee is here today.
You may or may not recall a story that appeared either in The Toronto Star
or in The Globe and Mail about a woman whose mother was suffering from
Alzheimer's. She had to look 300 kilometres outside the Toronto area to find a
long-term care facility for her mother.
This story upset me greatly. I thought that it might be a good idea for the
committee to travel across the country to gauge the situation of francophones
outside Quebec and of anglophones in the province of Quebec.
My first question is about health and care facilities for seniors. Quebec
has, I believe, the largest number of seniors in Canada. In Quebec and even in
the Montreal area, there are no spaces in long-term care facilities or care
available for the parents of many of my acquaintances.
Could you tell me a little more about the challenges that seniors and the
disadvantaged in English-speaking communities face?
Mr. Gignac: The challenges in this area are numerous. We are talking
about a small community in our region and I have to say that we are fortunate to
have a seniors' residence that offers bilingual services.
That said, accessibility as such is a problem. Demand is so high that
unfortunately, many seniors will never get a spot in this facility, which goes
by the name of St. Brigid's Home. That is one of the problems.
As far as seniors and health care and social services are concerned, the
general population already has a hard time accessing care. The problem is even
more acute for the anglophone population. The language skills of today's seniors
may not be as sound as those of younger people and as they get older, it is very
difficult for them to explain their health problems or to understand what health
care professionals are advising them to do.
There is also the whole matter of the paperwork that must be completed in
order to access health care or to secure a space in a facility. That is also a
major problem, one that is compounded in part by the fact that many family
members no longer live in the same region as their elderly relatives. Seniors
cannot rely on the immediate support of their family. This further complicates
Whether we are talking about health care, social or other types of services,
the shortage is acute in our region for anglophones as well as allophones.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: I know St. Brigid's Home and I know that the
services are wonderful, but I am sure that there are many people who do not have
Mr. Gignac: That is right. Once you get access to these services, they
are doing a great job. The problem is that a good percentage of our seniors do
not have access to this wonderful institution.
Senator Fraser: I have three brief questions, if that is alright: two
for Mr. Gignac and one for Ms. Leith. I will put all three questions and then
wait for your answers.
Mr. Gignac, you mentioned in your presentation that young people have a
negative perception of the importance of bilingualism in the labour force. I am
a little confused. Are they against bilingualism or is it that they have not
understood the importance of bilingualism?
Second, you talked on several occasions about the need for employability
services. What exactly do you mean by this? Are you talking about training or
about help with creating networks?
Ms. Leith, in your very interesting presentation you made several statements
I would like you to expand upon. I think they may be linked. On page 4 you said:
. . . we live in an architecture that was not designed to support our
community and which is not inhabited by many people who understand us.
A little further on you talked about how your "youth feel excluded from a
society in which we try so hard to integrate." Could you put a little flesh on
those bones for me, please?
Mr. Gignac: Young people truly have a negative perception of the
importance of bilingualism. They do not understand that bilingualism as a much
sought-after asset in our region. Of course, if we look at the Quebec region, we
see that there are fewer bilingual positions than, say, in Montreal. However,
there are so few people who can occupy these positions, who have the
qualifications and who are bilingual. All things considered, being bilingual
improves their prospects for the future. That is what they fail to understand.
Of course, they view their level of French or the quality of their French in
a very negative light. I always tell them that the written French of most
francophones is not necessarily that good. They also need to understand that.
That is where this negative perception comes from. Basically, they think the
grass is greener elsewhere, which is not necessarily the case, in my humble
In terms of employability, we need direct services for young people in such
areas as training, networking, preparing for entering the labour force and
everything connected with entrepreneurship to help them establish a business in
Ms. Leith: Thank you for your question, Senator Fraser.
When I mentioned that we live in an architecture that was not designed to
support our community, what I am referring to here is that the architecture of
official languages is designed around the connection between community and the
fragility of language and, of course, the fragility of the French language
outside of Quebec. The situation within Quebec is entirely different. It is not
a question of the fragility of the English language that challenges us and
causes us difficulties; our difficulties are others. I tried to explain a little
bit about what some of those challenges are. You have heard and will be hearing
much more about those.
The whole setup is, I think, designed more for francophones outside of Quebec
than for anglophones within Quebec. That was the reference there. Ms.
Martin-Laforge may wish to add something in that regard.
On the question of our youth feeling excluded from a society in which we try
so hard to integrate, one of the things we should stress is the extent to which
anglophones within Quebec are bilingual and have made great strides in
integrating into Quebec in the past 50 years, or thereabouts, and that we, as
anglophones, have made great efforts to integrate into Quebec society. There has
been some success and there has been some limited success in that regard. What
is sad and what is challenging to all of us is that so many of the young people
of English Quebec, even though they are bilingual, nonetheless feel that they do
not have the opportunities that they want and that they need within Quebec. They
do feel excluded. They feel discouraged by new language legislation and other
developments. Great efforts have been made, but there are still great
difficulties facing us.
Ms. Martin-Laforge, would you like to add to that?
Sylvia Martin-Laforge, Executive Director, Quebec Community Groups
Network: If I may give you an example around youth and schools, I would say
that during the next week, if you look at the Bill 103 hearings, you will see
that language has become an instrument in Quebec. The francophones want to learn
English to become bilingual and the anglophones want to learn French to become
bilingual. It is a job tool. It is far less related to community and culture
than to something to get a good job.
For an English-speaking community, we introduce more and more French into the
school. It is quite important, of course, but there is a balance there of
keeping an English school with all of the French. The more you have immersion,
the more programs there are in French, which is not unknown to the francophones
outside Quebec. The more you want to increase the level of English instruction
to francophones in the rest of Canada, you have to start to worry about —
— language development within the school. In Quebec, there is no such thing
as language development in an English school. We have not developed programs to
help students learn French while holding on to deep-seated cultural
Senator Seidman: Thank you very much for being here with us today. I
think this is the beginning of a very important process.
My question will begin with your presentation, Mr. Gignac. The Office of the
Commissioner of Official Languages carried out, I think in 2006, a study that
developed vitality indicators for the official language minority communities
across the country. They studied three English-speaking communities in Quebec:
the Eastern Townships, the Lower North Shore and the Quebec City area. They
identified youth as a priority sector for vitality.
I turn to your statement today, which I find really interesting. You say that
every five years 25 per cent of your region's population is renewed by
newcomers. Could you explain that? I would also ask you to pay particular
attention to your conclusion, where you say:
If we wish to have English-speaking communities outside of Montreal in
this province tomorrow, we will need more youth, newcomers and employability
services in the regions off the Island in the near future.
Mr. Gignac: Youth is still a very important component of our
community, but that being said, we have an English CEGEP that offers mostly
pre-university classes. We do not have an English university, so most of our
kids throughout the region are leaving for education reasons. That is not unique
to the English community. You can see that in the French community as well. The
difference is, if you look at the French-speaking majority here, a large
percentage of the youth is leaving before 24, but they are coming back before
35, which we do not see in the English- speaking community. Once they have gone,
we have lost them almost forever, or the big majority of them. That is why
newcomers are so important to our community, because we know we cannot maintain
our numbers only with our youth. Newcomers are really important.
The reason we are getting more than ever is because of the dynamism of the
local economy. We have more and more big employers. A good example is the Parc
technologique du Québec métropolitain that is hiring a lot of people from
outside the region. We are getting newcomers from that. They are coming with
their families and that is one reason we have been able to maintain our numbers
over the last five years.
If you look at the census from 2001 to 2006, it was the first time in over
150 years that the population of the English- speaking community has been stable
in this region. The reason for that is through newcomers.
As for your other question, if you look at the provincial numbers, they take
pride in the fact that they are doing a good job at integrating newcomers. From
a provincial perspective it is true; newcomers are staying in this region. The
problem is that they are staying in Montreal almost exclusively. They are coming
to our region for two or three years and then they move to Montreal. From a
provincial perspective it is not a problem, but from a regional perspective it
is a terrible thing because we are losing our people. We have more services now
than we have ever had. To give you a clear indicator, in the past, in my
organization I had one part-time staff working with newcomers. Now I have one
and a half, so we have more time and resources to take care of them, but we need
so much more than that to really do a good job with the regional integration of
As for our youth, as I said, the idea is not to retain them, not to convince
them not to go elsewhere, because they will. Youth in both the French- and
English-speaking communities will go elsewhere. The job we have is to convince
them that if they decide to come back, they will have employment opportunities
because bilingualism is important in this region and they will have a good
future here if they choose our region.
Senator Seidman: You are definitely working toward my understanding of
this issue because I think it is a critical one. It might feed in a bit to Ms.
Leith. Perhaps she might take this up because it raises the issue of
transparency to which she referred. We are talking about newcomers who perhaps
fall into a ministry responsibility where there is a transfer of power from the
federal government to the province. Is there something concrete you could
propose? What do you suggest we do to help you with this particular problem
facing youth and newcomers?
Mr. Gignac: For newcomers, it is not only about immigrants. We use
"newcomers" as a term because it includes migrants and immigrants. In the last
few years, roughly 65 to 75 per cent of our newcomers are Canadian migrants, not
immigrants. It is very important because it is a big percentage of our clients
and of our newcomers in this region.
As for youth, as I said, the key is employability services. Our kids are
leaving and not coming back, as opposed to their French counterparts, because
they feel they will not get a good job here where they will be able to use their
bilingualism as an asset. We need to better explain to them their opportunities.
We need to help them better prepare for starting their careers in this region,
and we need to support them if they want to be the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
As for the newcomers, in the past this region has done a good job at helping
the person who is hired. We were not doing a good job at also working with the
family. The person who is hired usually creates a social network through his or
her job, which is not necessarily the case for the spouse and the family. We
need to provide more direct services for them, employability services to get a
job and create that network, social networking so they can meet other people who
are facing the same challenges so they do not feel they are alone in the region
facing this problem.
We also see this situation with military families. As you probably know, we
have a military base in this region. It is not too bad for the person who is
part of the Armed Forces; he or she has his or her network, but it is not the
case for the spouse. We need to provide more direct services, helping them to
better prepare before they arrive and once they are here.
Senator Seidman: I appreciate that. It goes some distance to help
clarify what you are referring to especially in terms of newcomers.
I might finish with a question to Ms. Leith about the transparency issue
because I know that is a recurring theme. It is an important one. I would like
to know in a concrete way what she thinks we can do to improve upon that.
Ms. Leith: When I was speaking about transparency, I was speaking
mostly about the education sector. However, in terms of the renewal of the
population and youth, one thing that will give you ideas of what can be done is
the brief that I referred to prepared by Professor Michèle Vatz-Laaroussi. I
think that would be worth your attention and would help provide some of the more
equitable support that the English-speaking communities require.
Senator Seidman: Thank you very much.
Senator De Bané: Mr. Gignac, as you know, our committee has
distributed a press communiqué about our hearings in the province of Quebec this
week. Are there, in this hall, representatives of the media of this region?
Mr. Gignac: I think so.
Senator De Bané: We have only one media group here, which is
Mr. Gignac: Yes, to my knowledge.
Senator De Bané: It is disappointing that the others are not here.
When you say that about 25 per cent of your community is renewed every five
years, are you referring to Canadians from other provinces moving here or new
Mr. Gignac: Roughly 70 per cent are Canadian migrants, mostly people
from outside the province. I do not know the exact percentage. There are people
from other regions of Quebec coming here, but the big majority of the total 70
per cent are Canadian migrants coming here.
Senator De Bané: In your brief, there is a long list of things that
need to be corrected. If you had to choose the two or three priorities that
should be undertaken before anything else, which would you choose?
Mr. Gignac: I think it starts with the newcomers because they are so
crucial to the renewal of our community. Youth is also important and has to be.
We have to do a better job to convince them that our region has a lot to offer
them. The third would be the seniors, because they receive so little. Given the
demographic situation in this province, especially this linguistic community, we
need to do more for them. When I say "we," I mean this local community,
community organizations, as well as the government.
Senator De Bané: One thing you mentioned that I find of great interest
is the idea of twinning programs between the English-speaking and
French-speaking cultures, and social bilingual activities. At the moment, are
there initiatives to bring both groups together so they can know each other and
help each other?
Mr. Gignac: We started the twinning program in April of this year. It
is supported by both Canadian Heritage and the City of Quebec.
Over the past few years we sometimes received more calls from francophones
than anglophones by the fact that we serve the English community. Francophones
are looking for opportunities to improve their English. Taking classes is a good
thing, but we believe that a twinning program where you facilitate activities
between the two linguistic groups creates an interesting atmosphere where people
do not feel the pressure of being in a class, having exams and doing
presentations and being noted on their results. The need was so important for
the French majority, as well as for the English community, especially newcomers,
because most of our community members who have been here for five years are
This was the first project implemented in the last 25 years. It was a big
twinning project to bring together the two communities to help each improve
their second language. There is momentum in this region for everything
bilingual. The francophones want to improve their English because they know it
will help them in the job market. The local community has always been open to
learning French because it is a matter of survival when you represent only 2 per
cent of the population. You cannot afford being unable to talk to 98 per cent of
your neighbours, your colleagues and your potential employers. It is a good
example because there was a clear problem and we developed a concrete solution —
a twinning program to help the two.
Another one is providing both linguistic communities with social and cultural
opportunities so that we use something that is not in the classroom and we give
people opportunities to practice their second language.
Senator De Bané: I fully agree with you that an English-speaking
person who moves to Chicoutimi has to learn French and be able to operate there;
conversely, a French Canadian who goes to Calgary has to learn English. However,
what is very important and is a fundamental characteristic of this country is
that the institutions must be able to cater to both communities. This is why not
only the Official Languages Act but the supreme constitution of the country say
that English and French are the languages of this country. This is the supreme
law of the land. We should draw conclusions.
I pray that we never adopt the Belgian model where they say that a region is
exclusively Flemish, the other French, and that you cannot speak French in the
Flemish region. I hope we never adopt that model. English-speaking people should
feel at home everywhere in this country, particularly in this province.
Incidentally, I find it very regrettable that only CBC is here. Société
Radio-Canada is in this city. It has a large group of journalists. If you read
the law regarding CBC/Société Radio-Canada — this is the law of the land as
adopted by the Parliament of Canada — it says their duty is to cover the global
activities in this country. To say we are not going there, that we will ask CBC
because it is English-speaking, I find the Société Radio-Canada has failed
miserably to cover the whole reality of Quebec.
I have to say that I was quite impressed. Your high-quality brief covered a
broad range of topics. Thank you.
The Chair: Do you have another question, Senator Fraser?
Senator Fraser: It is more of an observation about the press.
Obviously, we would all love to have 50 reporters in the room to cover our
visit. I would like to remind you that the CBC reporter in attendance also said
that she was reporting for Radio-Canada. In light of the cutbacks in recent
years, the French and English CBC networks often share reporting duties here in
Canada and, for the past several years they have done so abroad as well.
I fully agree with the gist of my colleague's comments, but in all fairness,
I also wanted to praise the efforts of Radio-Canada a little.
Senator Dawson: I am not a regular member of this committee, so I am
more sensitive to some things than I would have been had I not been here today.
I refer to your statement where you said:
Furthermore, the federal practice of devolving the delivery of services
and programs to other stakeholders, including the provincial government . .
It is obvious to me that two of the programs to which that applies would be
the Cullen-Couture agreement on immigration and more recently the agreement on
manpower. I think both agreements were quite successful. I am still a strong
supporter of both agreements, but I have come to realize because of that
statement that what happened when we had the agreement on manpower is that an
anglophone Quebecer in Quebec City could go to the Canadian manpower services at
Laurier and say, "I want to be served in English." The minute we transferred
that service to the provincial authority, he could not do that any more because
the provincial government does not have to provide minority- language services
in regions. This is probably not a problem in Montreal, but obviously in regions
and in particular — since we are in Quebec City — in Quebec, there was
collateral damage in that the service which existed before did not exist any
longer. First, it did not exist because they do not have the right that was
inherent when it was a federal law; and, second, there is already a problem when
only 7.6 per cent of federal employees in Quebec are anglophone or bilingual and
only 2 per cent of the provincial bureaucracy is anglophone or basically
bilingual. The result is that you are going to get a lower level of service.
I still believe in these agreements. I do not want to write conclusions that
the rest of the members of this committee will have to live with, but I believe
that in future agreements of this kind — and it should not be a secondary effect
— article 2 should clearly state that in the case of services to minorities,
because it probably applies to francophones in the rest of the country outside
Quebec, this was not the intention of the federal government when they
transferred the power; on the contrary, the transfer was based on trying to help
bring the services closer to the community. Quite clearly, it has a very strong
discriminatory effect on anglophones in Quebec and most likely francophones
across the country.
This devolving of services happens more often in Quebec than in the rest of
the country. Requests are still coming from Quebec, so it is bound to happen in
the future. If it does, I for one think we should make a strong commitment that
there be no collateral damage when these agreements are signed and that the
level of service, which should be increased to start with, is not diminished
when it is transferred to the provinces, particularly Quebec. Quite clearly,
both from a legal standpoint and a rights standpoint, the Quebec government's
services for anglophones are not as strong as one is legally allowed to receive
from the federal government. Even there, you have the right to get it legally,
but this does not mean you will get good services because the numbers sometimes
do not warrant it.
I come back to the fact that I am not a member of this committee, but I
wanted to convey that message.
The Chair: What is your question, senator?
Senator Dawson: My question is for the spokesperson for Voice of
English-Speaking Quebec. Mention was made of the Morrin Centre, a cultural
centre. If we compare Quebec's English-speaking community with the one that
existed a decade ago, it is clear the situation has evolved. There is certainly
more cooperation between the governments and the English-speaking community in
Quebec. In your view, has the situation evolved or regressed?
Mr. Gignac: The situation has certainly improved in many respects. I
have no doubt that I have an easier job today than my predecessor had 10 or 15
years ago, because the francophone majority is more receptive to the minority.
The English-speaking community is somewhat underutilized in our region. It is an
overlooked asset. That is important to note.
That said, on the one hand, we have employers, the people working in the area
of economic development, who are quite open to us. The provincial government is
still quite unreceptive and there is a still a lot of work to do at that level.
For instance, a newcomer who wants to learn French to improve his employability
will go to Emploi Québec where no one will be able to speak to him in English.
This person does not understand French, wants to take classes to perfect his
language skills and cannot understand what people are saying to him. We are
caught up in a vicious circle. We would like to be able to accompany these
individuals, at least to their initial meetings, to facilitate the contact and
to pass along information about whether or not they have access to these
programs and if so, how they should proceed. There is no one at Emploi Québec
who can answer questions in English. Often, this means that people do not have
access to services or fail to understand why services are unavailable.
Senator Dawson: Clearly, there is a problem at the provincial level.
Are the same problems encountered at the municipal and federal levels?
Mr. Gignac: Things go quite well at the municipal level. The current
administration is quite open to promoting bilingualism and to integrating
English-speaking newcomers. There is a clear improvement on that front.
This is really the first time that Quebec City has committed substantial sums
of money to a program to integrate English-speaking newcomers. The program is
truly geared to anglophones and allophones and not just to all immigrants. It is
really geared to Canadians. It is a clear reflection of changes at the municipal
level. Heritage Canada has a program in place, in addition to providing support
for our main responsibilities. We receive very effective support in this area
from the federal government.
We could be doing more, and there is more to do, but the situation has
improved for us in recent years at the federal and municipal levels.
Senator Champagne: Thank you for your presentations. This is a
positive start to our round of consultations.
I will continue in the same vein as Senator Dawson. We were discussing
employment and the problems in that area. Speaking of newcomers, Ms. Leith
mentioned in her presentation that because of this agreement — because Quebec
never does anything like everyone else does — it is difficult to access
Immigration Canada programs for newcomers.
Last week, I was in Manitoba where an amazing program had been launched to
attract francophone immigrants to the Saint-Boniface area. The focus really
should be, as Ms. Vatz-Laaroussi noted, on attracting anglophone immigrants to
Quebec. The benefits would be significant and it would be important for us.
There is a phrase in your presentation, Ms. Leith, which woke me up. You
spoke about the difference between the problems of French-speaking people
outside of Quebec and what happens here. It is the perspective of survival and
protection, and here it is community vitality and sustainability. It is really
two different worlds. That, to me, was a wake-up call. We should avoid seeing it
in the same way. You certainly made that point clear to me.
I will end with one question that the three of you may want to answer, or try
to answer. It is not an easy one. When we talk about our newcomers, who seem to
be the key, we talk about integration and assimilation. Where do you draw the
Ms. Martin-Laforge: In briefs that the QCGN has presented, both to the
federal government and to the provincial government, we have talked about the
zero-sum game. It is not a zero-sum game. It is about being able to speak one or
the other. Biculturalism is not for everyone, but a piece of you can belong to
both, all the time.
Commissioner Fraser's book talks about situations. I can only speak for
myself but I think there are others like me. Sometimes I think in English, and I
do it all in English; sometimes I think in French, and I do it all in French. I
was telling Senator Fortin-Duplessis that when I become older — and this is
because my cultural references are Mother Goose, and so on —
Even though I speak French fluently, because of my cultural references, I
would like to live in a seniors' residence where I could speak English.
My cultural references are all about Mother Goose. That is an important piece
for Quebec because many of us are in that situation.
Regarding newcomers, youth, and what you both said in the last few minutes,
we probably need more research and analysis on the English-speaking community in
Quebec. As we have said, all of the programs and the policies have been
developed from a perspective of language and that paradigm. In Quebec, it is not
the provincial government that will do research and analysis on the
English-speaking community; that does not happen. They count us one by one, but
they do not analyze us in a way that will help us sustain and renew our
Because this is not part of Bill 101's language planning.
It is the federal government with its various studies in which there must be
investment, research and analysis so that you, the senators and the government,
can come up with programs and policies that are national in scope, because we
are part of Canada. It is a law, a national program, a national policy, but
there must be an application for this community, in one province, that contains
the other linguistic community. It is about the research and analysis capacity.
That would help change and inform all of us.
Ms. Leith: In response to your difficult question about newcomers,
integration and assimilation, part of the response to that is a question of
identity as an English-speaking Quebecer. That is an area in which there is much
work to be done. Some of the areas that we wish to focus on and hope that you
will be focusing on — especially education, youth, arts and culture — are areas
in which it is possible to further the sense of identity of English-speaking
Quebecers as English-speaking Quebecers. I must also add a sense of pride in
that, because that has not always been evident, especially in recent years when
there has been a stigma attached to being an English-speaking Quebecer. This
means that many people are loath to acknowledge that they are anglophones even
when speaking English. Some of these areas in which work needs to be done will
help to create and develop a sense of identity that will mean that it is
possible to integrate without assimilating.
Mr. Gignac: I would like to respond as well. That is both an important
and a tough question. I can use my case as an example.
I am working for the English-speaking community. I am volunteering there and
I have many friends in the English- speaking community. However, my first
language is French and I will never be assimilated into the English community
because of my identity. I am a francophone who can now speak decently in
English, and I am doing a job by representing and defending an important
community for my region.
The same is also true for newcomers in this community. Of course we want them
to integrate into the English- speaking community. However, we will not try to
prevent them from integrating into the French-speaking majority. As I said, how
can we tell them not to talk to 98 per cent of their neighbours or their
colleagues? I guess they will integrate — and they may start to swear in French
once in a while — but they will still be anglophones, English speakers.
Hopefully they will still be part our community and contribute to it.
Finally, I do not totally disagree with what Ms. Martin-Laforge said. It is
important to be able to research and to have more tools on which to build our
actions, but in my region we need services now. We did the research for
newcomers; we did the research for youth. It is important to maintain that
aspect. Our communities are always changing, but it is now time for direct
services in the regions.
Senator Champagne: If one thing could come out of this, we should have
a new slogan, namely, to eradicate the thought "when in Rome, do like Romans
do." If you live in Quebec, speak French. That is what we have to get rid of. I
think the English-speaking community in Quebec, in all parts of the province,
would be much better off.
I raised two kids in the town of St. Lambert, just outside Montreal. There
was French-English, French-English all over. The first day we moved in my
daughter said, "I do not want to live here; they all speak English." Two years
later, everyone was bilingual. I believe in that. When in Quebec, you may speak
both languages. Let us hope that we can find things to give you that push to
help all the others. I thank you for your answers.
The Chair: We have exactly two minutes left. I will allow a very brief
question from Senator Fortin-Duplessis and, if there are 30 seconds remaining,
perhaps I will allow a question from Senator Fraser.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Your organization testified before the
committee in March of 2009. At the time, you noted the lack of transparency in
the way in which funds transferred from the federal government were used for
minority language education. In your opinion, what means or mechanisms could
your partners and friends in Ottawa employ to allow you to monitor the way in
which funds are used to reassure you that you are in fact getting at least your
share of the funding?
Ms. Martin-Laforge: Quebec's English-speaking communities are not
alone in asking the federal government to allow minority communities to be more
involved in federal-provincial education agreements. Francophones outside Quebec
have long been demanding this. Through the consultation process, we need to find
a way to reach all communities so that there is a clear understanding of all of
the activities at issue and the necessary funding can be targeted.
It is a bigger issue than that. I think you mentioned it before. The
francophones of Quebec would follow certain models and you have suggested ways
that we could do it the same way. This is a place where the francophones in
Quebec and the English-speaking community of Quebec could work together to come
up with ideas regarding transparency around those funds.
Senator Fraser: With reference to the departure of people who go away
to seek an education elsewhere, we know that many of them always will, which is
not inherently a bad thing. To your knowledge, has there ever been any
discussion of having a satellite English university campus here in the way that
the Université de Québec has satellite branches in all the regions of Quebec?
Champlain College, at the CEGEP level, has done a pretty good job of that. Has
anyone ever thought about doing that at the university level? You can just give
me a "yes" or "no" or "I do not know" answer and then maybe write to the
committee if you do not have any details.
Mr. Gignac: Yes, in the past we have had many discussions about that.
It is not too long ago that I was still a university student. University
students are looking for different things, not just education in their language.
They are looking for the whole thing. For them, going to Montreal, to Concordia,
or to McGill brings with it a student's life and everything that goes along with
being a student at the university level. We keep serving our kids. We would need
more than a satellite; we would need a real university to make it happen, and
that would be very costly. Obviously, it is not feasible for now, unfortunately.
The Chair: I must end the discussion on that note. I want to thank our
witnesses, Ms. Leith and Ms. Laforge, who initiated the discussion.
Mr. Gignac, thank you for your presentation.
As the Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, I would
like to welcome two organizations from the region of Gaspé. Joining us are
representatives of Vision Gaspé — Percé Now and the Committee for Anglophone
I am Senator Maria Chaput from Manitoba, chair of this committee. I am joined
this morning by several members of the committee, and I invite each of them to
Senator Champagne: I am Senator Champagne, deputy chair of this
committee. I am delighted that we will be hearing from you as we were not able
to travel to your part of the province.
Senator Seidman: I am Senator Seidman, a senator from Montreal, an
anglophone as well. I am sorry that we could not travel to your area. I have
been there and it is quite spectacular. Welcome. We look forward to hearing your
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: My name is Senator Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis.
I served as a federal member of Parliament for nine years.
I am very pleased to be here today. I am a senator from Quebec.
Senator De Bané: I am Senator Pierre De Bané. I was a member of the
House of Commons for the riding of Matane—Matapédia for 16 years. I am very
happy that we will have the opportunity to hear about the aspirations of the
English-speaking community, which for so long has been an important community in
the Gaspé Peninsula.
Senator Fraser: Good morning. I am Joan Fraser. I am a senator from
Montreal. It is a privilege for us to have a chance to hear your input.
Senator Dawson: I am Dennis Dawson. I am a senator from Quebec City. I
was a member of Parliament back in 1970. CASA was represented by Bernie
St-Laurent who is now at CBC. It is a very strong historical institution for the
anglophones of Quebec, and I am anxious to hear from you on where you are today.
The Chair: We will now hear from our next witnesses.
Vision Gaspé — Percé Now is represented by Mr. Gary Briand, Vice-President,
and Ms. Tracey Leotta, Executive Director. The Committee for Anglophone Social
Action is represented by Ronald Mundle, President, and Cathy Brown, Executive
The committee thanks you for having accepted its invitation to appear here
this morning. This meeting will take place in the form of a round table. Each of
you will be asked to make a presentation of five minutes and the members of the
committee will then follow with questions.
Honourable senators, I would like to remind you that at this session we need
to have short questions and good answers, as we must be on schedule.
Please proceed, Mr. Briand.
Gary Briand, Vice-President, Vision Gaspé — Percé Now: Good morning,
everyone. I am appearing today as Vice- President of Vision Gaspé — Percé Now, a
community organization that represents the voices of some 2,300 anglophones in
far Eastern Quebec. With me today is Ms. Tracey Leotta, Executive Director of
Chartered in 2004, our organization has made significant strides in improving
access to medical services for English speakers in our sector. We have also made
a major intervention in our local schools in relation to the problems of
proliferation of drugs and alcohol in our adolescent population.
We have had success in improving English signage at our CSSS Gaspé and we
have initiated exercise programs for seniors and held workshops on the
prevention and control of diabetes.
We have formed English-speaking advocacy groups in the Gaspé and Percé
sectors. We are immeasurably grateful for the funding assistance through CHSSN
for endeavouring to improve the lives of English speakers in our territory.
However, there are considerable challenges before us. Our first area of
concern is the perpetuation of our culture. As descendents of Jersey, Scottish
and Irish immigrants, we value our traditions. However, nowhere can we find
funds to permit us to expose our youth to this rich cultural heritage. Music,
drama and choral work receive very little or limited funding.
As you know, royalty fees for performances are considerable. We need access
to seed money to energize our community through cultural endeavours. Such events
provide the glue to a community's past and play an immeasurable part in
transmitting a people's history to the young of our community. A way must be
found for the English minority in Quebec to access funds for cultural pursuits.
A second area of urgency is the mental health issue for English speakers. We
need to harness persons in a team approach to present workshops to young and old
alike. While the first initiative is a preventive one, another related real
concern is the inability of local professional interveners to deal with a
patient's mental health problems in the patient's mother tongue. All too often,
Gaspesians are found on a waiting list for two years while their mental well-
being deteriorates before the local health authorities find a referral to the
far-off facilities in Montreal or Quebec.
In addition, the mental health problem is not addressed in our local schools.
Lacking the qualified resources, the schools either ignore or gloss over mental
health issues. Can we not find a solution to the lack of services?
Concomitant as a community concern is the all-prevalent tendency to abandon
all formal education before achieving a high school diploma. A staggering 56 per
cent of our total population does not have a minimal high school diploma. No
agency has conducted a study as to the why. Vision needs support to address this
We have concern, too, for our numerous seniors of advanced years. They live
as elderly couples, or either widows or widowers, with very little social
intervention. Their children and grandchildren inhabit the faraway big cities of
Canada, thousands of kilometres from Gaspé. The result to the aged is that they
have no caregivers, no one to transport them to a medical rendezvous and no one
to communicate with.
Vision needs to put in place a structure to overcome our seniors' isolation.
The various government departments need to communicate with a view to disposing
funds to allow Vision to tackle this persistent common problem.
We need caregivers for the elderly. While we have access to many persons
prepared to give time to caregiving and home visits, these persons need
training. The elderly, in their turn, need to be convinced of the benefits that
accrue from caregiving. Short training sessions in the act of home care
visitation need to be conducted in our area.
Our final point relates to the changing demographics in the Gaspé-Percé
sector. Our English-speaking population finds 32 per cent of its citizens 65
years or older. About 27 per cent of the local population falls between the ages
of 25 and 44. Our birth rate is consistently low. Who will succeed us? Our homes
and land will be unoccupied, yet amid this depopulation of our area, Quebec
directs all new immigrants to areas near the large urban centres.
Here in the Gaspé, we have the marvellous opportunity for biculturalism. Our
institutions are largely integrated. While we grant that Quebec obliges all
immigrants to follow school instruction in French, many new immigrants relish an
opportunity to improve or master their English.
Gaspé could provide them with the ideal milieu because our ancestors have
lived a similar experience. Is there not a means for Ottawa to encourage Quebec
to look at Eastern Quebec as an ideal place to welcome new immigrants? Let us
collectively abandon the tunnel vision approach to immigration.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is our presentation this day. We thank you for
the opportunity to speak with you. Ms. Tracey Leotta or I will be pleased to
respond to your questions.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Briand.
Mr. Mundle, we cannot see you on the screen. However, if you can hear me,
then we can proceed with your presentation.
Since there appear to be technical difficulties, we will proceed with
questions to Mr. Briand and Ms. Leotta.
Senator Seidman: Thank you for your heartfelt presentation. It is
greatly appreciated and I wish to elicit more information from you.
In our previous session, we talked about concerns in the context of Canada's
official languages. It was said that we do not really approach the central value
of language from the perspective of survival and protection, but from concerns
of community vitality and sustainability. I would like to touch on that a bit
While we are not concerned with English language survival per se because it
is the majority language in Canada, perhaps it is more profound than that.
Perhaps you are concerned with the survival of the community itself. Could you
provide your thoughts in that regard?
Mr. Briand: As I pointed out, we have an aging population. Our youth
have moved, by and large, to the big cities and there is no replacement for the
people we are losing.
I have spoken of a need for Quebec to focus on Eastern Quebec as a place for
immigrants to settle. We can travel all over the Gaspé, as far as Rimouski,
before finding a new immigrant. They simply do not come to the Gaspé — not
because they are uninterested, but largely because Quebec does not give any
credence to our efforts and our need to repopulate Gaspé, the eastern end.
Senator Seidman: You said that the Government of Quebec does not give
credence to your needs. What can the Government of Canada do to help with your
Mr. Briand: Since immigration represents largely 99 per cent, as I
understand it — and I am not a constitutional authority responsible for
immigration to Quebec — I do believe that Ottawa must play some role in
discussions with Quebec to encourage Quebec to look beyond middle Quebec to
settle new Canadians. They need a push from our federal institutions. That is
what I am saying.
Senator Seidman: I appreciate that very much. I do not know if you
were able to listen earlier when we talked about the unintended consequences of
agreements that were made between the federal government and the provincial
governments. However, perhaps we are seeing once again, as Senator Dawson so
wisely put it, those very effects. Thank you, sir.
The Chair: I am told that the sound is now functioning. Before
proceeding with questions from senators, I would like to ask Mr. Mundle to make
his presentation. I believe that Mr. Mundle and Ms. Brown are with us.
Ronald Mundle, President, Committee for Anglophone Social Action:
Ronald Mundle will make the presentation and Cathy Brown will be here to answer
questions if need be. First, I would like you to know that we were having
Good morning, honourable senators. It is with great pleasure that we have
accepted your invitation to reflect on how the Government of Canada can enhance
the vitality of the English-speaking minority communities in Quebec and Canada
by supporting and assisting in their development.
I am President of CASA, the Committee for Anglophone Social Action located in
the Gaspé region of Quebec. CASA is the oldest regional association in Quebec,
founded in 1975. Our organization is led by volunteers representing communities
from Matapédia to the town of Gaspé, a distance of 400 kilometres. CASA designs
and develops programs in collaboration with many public, para-public, non-profit
and business organizations. We strive to ensure that the English-speaking
communities of the Gaspé coast receive adequate services and information to
assist and support local organizations and institutions that are vital to the
sustainability and development of the community.
In 2006, the number of individuals residing on the Gaspé coast having English
as their first official language totalled 8,570, or 12.4 per cent of the area's
total population. The English-speaking community has a long history and presence
in the Gaspé and has contributed to the region's vitality for several
Despite socio-economic and demographic challenges specific to this official
language minority group, English- speaking Gaspesians are adapting to today's
realities and wish to remain a vital part of the vitality of the region. They
have a strong desire to work with the French-speaking majority in order to
cultivate new opportunities and contribute to the sustainability and the
development of the Gaspé coast.
Over the years, both anglophones and francophones have been able to work
together and collaborate effectively and efficiently. In order for this to
continue in the future, CASA has targeted the youth of our region as one of our
major beneficiaries. In addition to facing challenges that are similar to their
francophone counterparts, our younger generation faces specific and systemic
challenges that require targeted support. Therefore, there needs to be continued
and consistent financial support to ensure that our future as a community is
An astonishing 61 per cent of anglophones who graduate from Quebec
universities move to other parts of Canada. The categories most likely to remain
are those who have not successfully completed their academic requirements. Rule
of thumb: The more educated you are, the more likely you are to leave — the
Interestingly, a recent study showed that 6 per cent of those who graduate
and who are bilingual obtain the better jobs and 8 per cent of those receive a
higher salary than those who are not bilingual. As a community, we already know
this and we place value on languages as an asset in the labour market.
The Gaspé coast is an asset to both the province of Quebec and Canada.
National Geographic recently labelled it the third best tourist destination
in the world. The Bay of Gaspé is the second largest natural harbour in the
world. These elements provide the basis for developing and improving
infrastructure such as roads, railways and marine facilities for the tourism
industry. Visitors to our area will come and continue to do so, provided they
have good access routes and are warmly welcomed by people who can communicate
with them in their own language.
We know that one of the largest sources of tourism for our country is our
neighbour to the south, the United States. Additional funding for
second-language training for workers in the tourism industry is required to meet
the fast- growing needs in this area.
In various areas of our recurring funding, we have noticed that some areas
have been effective. If CASA is to serve this vast region effectively, we ask
that you take a close look at the demographic area that we need to cover. Our
communities cannot continue to receive funds and allocations based on
half-century-old research. If capacity building is to continue and we are to
serve the Gaspé coast, the needs must be met on new and existing research. We
need only to realize that our hard earned tax dollars must stay in our province
and be returned to our regions to service and build our communities.
CASA would like to thank DEC and Service Canada for the funding that we have
thus far received in regards to the "Road Map." These initiatives based on the
priorities identified in the "Road Map" have been of great assistance in
injecting new momentum in our communities. However, there seems to be a flaw in
that some regions have not been able to participate successfully in the programs
due to information not being disseminated properly. Anglophone community
organizations need to be better informed through improved communication
I thank you very much. I look forward to any questions that may be directed
to me or Ms. Cathy Brown.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Mundle.
Honourable senators, I would like to remind you that the witnesses we see on
the screen represent the group Vision Gaspé — Percé Now. We do not have a video
feed for the other group, Committee for Anglophone Social Action. We can hear
their voice but we cannot see them. It is a bit like seeing God. You hear God
but you cannot see him.
Honourable senators, I will call first on Senator Fortin-Duplessis.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Thank you very much, Madam Chair. My
question has to do with the exodus of young people. Those with the best marks
and the most education are the first to leave the Gaspé region. You also spoke
about young people with drug and alcohol problems. I know that this problem is
prevalent throughout the province of Quebec. The situation is pretty much the
same in every region. I would like to know whether young persons who drop out of
school also leave the Gaspé region in search of employment elsewhere, or whether
they remain in the area.
Tracey Leotta, Executive Director, Vision Gaspé — Percé Now:
Generally, they are the young people who will choose to stay in the region
rather than leave.
The Chair: Do you have anything to add to this question, Mr. Mundle or
Mr. Briand: I concur with Tracey Leotta's response. The children who
drop out before graduating from high school tend to remain in our region. They
fall on the welfare rolls. They take menial, seasonal jobs and lead unproductive
Mr. Mundle: I have to agree with Mr. Briand and Tracey Leotta. Those
people who do not leave the area have a tendency to remain here and take up
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: What can we do to help you help these young
Mr. Briand: I would like to volunteer an answer. I feel that the
dropout phenomenon in high school is such a huge problem that we can only answer
it by giving it a massive study. We have to do research as to why, particularly
boys, quit before achieving a high school diploma. I believe that this can be
done through the funding agencies. We need an intervener on our behalf.
Ms. Leotta: In addition to a study looking at why young people drop
out, we also need to look at why the education system is failing so many young
people. I think the study would need to incorporate both because obviously
something is happening within the education system. It is not responding well to
the needs of our young students.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Thank you for your answers. I will turn the
floor over to other senators so that they too can ask you some questions.
Senator Fraser: I have a couple of questions. The first is just
factual. Mr. Briand referred to 2,300 anglophones in far Eastern Quebec and Mr.
Mundle referred to 8,570 individuals residing on the Gaspé coast having English
as their first official language. Does the 8,570 include the 2,300, or can we
add those together to get a total over 10,000?
I will go on to my more substantive concern at this point, which has to do
with the dropout rate.
Mr. Briand, I think I heard you say that 56 per cent of your population does
not have a high school diploma. I am wondering whether the dropout rate was
higher in the past when the fishing industry flourished and when there were more
jobs available that did not need a high school diploma, whether the dropout rate
has remained stable or whether the dropout rate is now greater than it was in
previous generations. Parallel to this, what is there in the way of employment
possibilities for young people, with or without a high school diploma, in the
region of Gaspé?
That is a whole big bundle of issues, but any way you can address them, I am
sure we would all be grateful for the information.
Mr. Briand: You asked three questions. I will respond to the first.
I believe the 8,000 figure quoted by Mr. Mundle includes the 2,300 in Eastern
Quebec of whom I spoke. Our global anglophone population is roughly 8,000 and
some, as Mr. Mundle indicated.
With regard to the dropout question, there has been an alarming increase in
the dropout rate since 1999. Before that, many people did not go to high school.
However, in the 1990s high school became more popular, and in the early 1990s it
was rare to find a student drop out of high school. To answer the question
succinctly: Yes, our dropout rate has increased dramatically since roughly 2000.
You asked about jobs. If the people who drop out of high school in grade 9 or
10 do find work, it is seasonal; it is related to fish processing. The fisheries
are pretty well dead, but fish processing is still quite a large, lucrative
trade in the Gaspé sector. They find jobs in that domain or in the service
industry part time, but they do not find long-lasting, well-paid, secure jobs.
I hope that answers your question, senator.
Senator Fraser: When you were talking about seasonal,
less-than-well-paid work, were you talking only about those opportunities being
available for dropouts, or is that in fact the employment universe available for
all young people in the region?
Mr. Briand: It is pretty well the universal condition.
Senator Dawson: I mentioned before that I remember CASA was created in
1975. From an historical perspective, when CASA was created 30-odd years ago,
there was a sense of urgency at that time. Could you give us an historical
comparison of how things have evolved, both on the North Shore as well as in the
First, factually speaking, you gave us the numbers as they are now. How do
they compare to the situation 25 to 30 years ago? How do the services compare to
how they were 25 or 30 years ago?
Mr. Briand: I would like to respond because I was one of the three
original founders of CASA.
We began meeting in 1973 and the organization was chartered in 1975. At that
time, the total population of the Gaspésie, if you began at Sainte-Flavie, near
Rimouski, and ran a loop all around the coast, was 123,000. Of that 123,000, our
anglophone-first-language population was 13,800 people. Now it is 8,000.
However, the total population of the Gaspésie has diminished to 96,000 people,
so there has been a massive depopulation of the Gaspésie.
This has rescinded somewhat in last three years, particularly in the Gaspé
sector, where new industry has attracted people. In fact, in the town of Gaspé
the population has increased, but over the whole of Gaspésie our population is
still considerably down from what it was in 1975.
I hope that helps to answer the question you posed.
Senator Dawson: That brings me to an additional question and comment.
I also asked how the services compare to when the need for CASA was determined,
in 1973 to 1975, and how the services are being provided today.
This leads me into a bit of a conflict of interest. I am chair of the
Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications. We did a report on
digital Canada, a plan for a digital society, saying that Canada is lagging
behind the rest of the word in the digital society. There are not only the
technical problems of this morning but, more important, servicing problems,
recognizing that we are a big country and that we have regional disparities. We
need to use digital tools that exist today, from video services to all of the
Internet services, but we are lagging behind. The problems we are having today
represent a good example.
Teleconferences such as the one we are having today are a normal thing to do
in a country as large as Canada, but we are lagging behind so much that we do
have technical problems. More important, when there are service problems for the
anglophone community on the north shore of Gaspé, we could compensate by having
digital services because we are in 2010 and the tools exist. However, we as a
government — and all governments because this is not a partisan issue — have
been neglecting the modernization of these tools. The website is called Plan for
a Digital Canada.
Mr. Briand: I would like to respond to Senator Dawson's last query
because I ignored it in my original response. Have the services improved since
CASA was founded? Decidedly, yes.
Here is a prime example: In 1975 we had one CBC television outlet in the
Gaspésie in English. It was CBC North. Through the efforts of CASA and with the
cooperation of the CBC, we managed to get CBC full service from Montreal.
Television service has exploded in the Gaspé; there is no problem there.
More recently now are telephones and cellphones. There is but a small sector
of the Gaspé between Gaspé and Murdochville that is not receiving cellular
service, but that is to be regulated.
Other areas have improved vastly. Access to medicare, medical services in the
Gaspésie, has improved vastly for anglophones. Categorically, yes. Services in
terms of information to the citizens in English, delivered now through
Communication Québec, the federal services, are very well done. I congratulate
them for that.
All in all, Senator Dawson, there has been a 100 per cent improvement in
Mr. Mundle: As you know, we have experienced great difficulties with
video conferencing and also with our telephone lines here in New Carlisle.
However, in answer to your question about CASA, it has grown since 1975, over
the last 35 years. It is amazing what we have done and what we are trying to do
with what we have. CASA has grown and will continue to grow because we are
developing and working on a new strategic plan to meet the needs of our
Senator Champagne: I was happy to hear you both say that there has
been improvement on some of the points you have been talking about. In listening
to both of you, the problems were with education: kids getting out of school too
early, health services, social services for youth and for seniors, and
immigration. All those things are done with federal money but distributed by the
If you are telling me that large steps have been made and we have improved
the situation, I am pleased. However, as you said earlier, Mr. Briand, I have
the feeling that you want us to put more pressure on the provincial government
for more transparency in order to know where that money is going, and also to
encourage them to send a little more your way. The same thing applies for
newcomers; hopefully you will have a new group of anglophones becoming
bilingual, new people in the Gaspé Peninsula. Do you still want us to push the
Quebec government to give you a little more?
Mr. Briand: Leverage; that is what we need.
Senator Seidman: Mr. Mundle, I posed my question to Mr. Briand before
you came on line. I noticed that at the end of your presentation you say that
some regions have not been able to successfully participate in the programs due
to information not properly disseminated, and that the anglophone community
organizations need to be better informed to improve communication channels. You
are referring to DEC, Développement économique Canada, and Service Canada for
funding with the roadmap. Could you please give us some more detail on that? I
would like to know about the lack of communication and how we can better that,
Cathy Brown, Executive Director, Committee for Anglophone Social Action:
Good morning. In response to that question, as Executive Director of CASA, I do
a lot of networking with my fellow executive directors throughout the province
of Quebec. CASA has been fortunate, as Mr. Mundle mentioned, in accepting funds
through Développement économique Canada and Service Canada. However, when I
spoke to the executive directors of other regional associations, they did not
seem to be informed of the programs. Through conversations with them, I was
guided and we shared ideas on how to access this money.
Also, after personally speaking to Service Canada and DEC, it was concluded
that not all the information has been sent down the tube in an orderly fashion.
I believe some work could be done to improve that situation.
Senator Seidman: When you say not all the information is sent down the
tube in an orderly fashion, could you be more specific? We are trying to get
some concrete input so we can make a difference. This is a very important week's
undertaking and I would like to know in a concrete way what you mean by that.
Ms. Brown: When we applied for funds under Développement économique
Canada and when I spoke with our agent in the regional office, he specifically
told us that our project probably did fit into the criteria under the roadmap. I
am positive that not everyone who runs a not-for-profit organization is aware of
which programs fall under which department in the roadmap.
For example, C.A.M.I., the Council for Anglophone Magdalen Islanders, were
not aware they could go after DEC to get money, which falls under linguistic
minorities and is specifically set aside under the roadmap.
I do not know whether by communiqués or more emails from our regional
offices, but I believe more communication should be sent down from the federal
departments in our regions to the local non-profit organizations who may want to
apply for some of these funds under the roadmap.
Senator Seidman: Thank you. That is helpful.
The Chair: I would like to thank the four witnesses who were with us
today. If you feel that you have other issues or information you would like to
share with the committee, we would appreciate it if you could send that
information to our clerk, anything else that you wish the committee to be aware
I would like to welcome our next group of witness. I am Senator Maria Chaput
from Manitoba and I am the chair of this committee. I am joined this morning by
several members of the committee, and I invite them to introduce themselves.
Senator Champagne: I am Senator Champagne. I reside in Montérégie. I
was a member of Parliament for nine years, from 1984 to 1993. I have been in the
Senate for five years. I am delighted to be listening to you today and I hope
that we will be helpful.
Senator Seidman: My name is Judith Seidman. I am a new senator from
Montreal, an anglophone, and I am very interested in what you have to say to us
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: I am Senator Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis. I
live in a suburb of Quebec City. My Senate district is Rougemont. I was also a
federal member of Parliament for nine years.
Senator De Bané: My name is Pierre De Bané. I am a senator from
Quebec. Before becoming a senator, I was a member of Parliament for the riding
of Matapédia—Matane, opposite the North Shore. I am very much interested in
hearing about the challenges facing our English-speaking community on the North
Senator Fraser: My name is Joan Fraser. Like Senator Seidman, I am an
English Montrealer. Before I came to the Senate 12 years ago, I spent most of my
career as a journalist in Montreal. I am really looking forward to hearing what
you have to tell us this morning.
Senator Dawson: My name is Dennis Dawson. I am a senator from Quebec
City. I was a member of Parliament for Quebec City 30 years ago. I am happy to
be here to hear your explanation about where the anglophone community of the
North Shore is in 2010.
The Chair: I would now like to welcome two organizations from the
Lower North Shore region joining us via videoconference, the North Shore
Community Association and the Coasters' Association.
The North Shore Community Association is represented by Marc Deslauriers,
Chair; and Jody Lessard, Coordinator. The Coasters' Association is represented
by Anthony Dumas, President; Cornella Maurice, Executive Director; and Kimberly
Buffitt, Health and Social Services Development Agent.
The committee thanks you for having accepted its invitation to appear this
morning. This meeting will take place in the form of a round table. Each of you
will be asked to make a presentation of approximately five minutes and then
members of the committee will follow with questions.
Marc Deslauriers, Chair, North Shore Community Association: Thank you,
The North Shore Community Association was established in 2000, and its
mandate is to represent the interests of the English-speaking population on the
North Shore. There is a small difference here: Geographically, our North Shore
stops at Havre-Saint-Pierre. The Coasters' Association territory is all of the
Lower North Shore. We also include Fermont. For those who know where Fermont is,
that is the same as travelling from Baie-Comeau to Montreal, only we do it from
Baie-Comeau to Fermont. That gives you roughly the size of the territory we
There are roughly 1,560 anglophones residing in the NSCA's territory compared
to approximately 89,000 francophones. The objectives we try to attain are to
develop and maintain a knowledge base about the English-speaking community of
the North Shore; increase access and knowledge of services and resources for the
English-speaking community within the region; increase a sense of cohesion and
participation in the English-speaking community; support and showcase the
English-speaking community and its heritage and culture; and strengthen
communication and visibility within the English-speaking community.
The organizational strength we have is the longevity of the staff and board,
which leads to a stable representation and comprehension of the communities. The
multiple and various tasks, responsibilities and initiatives of the staff and
board are a typical strength of more remote or smaller communities. In other
words, we wear many hats.
Recent developments in health and social services are increasing the services
and information available to some of the demographics that have the most need.
We also work in great collaboration with the Coasters' Association. There is
mobilization of the senior communities and high engagement of the senior
population in our eastern sector, which would be the Sept-Îles, Mingan area.
In terms of community strengths, Baie-Comeau is fairly integrated, vibrant
and reciprocal with the linguistic majority. The eastern sector is vibrant and
culturally and linguistically distinct. There are opportunities and there is a
willingness to collaborate in almost every sector: heritage and culture, human
resources, health and social services, youth, seniors, tourism, and so on. There
is strong cohesion around community hubs, churches, schools, seniors' groups and
Our needs include having greater access to programs and services offered in
our own language, from federal- provincial departments, agencies and other
organizations. Community outreach is essential in each region of the North
Shore. That will allow them to develop a more knowledgeable base of English
resources and provide them with an opportunity to build a sense of belonging
within their communities.
We need to promote community involvement in the youth sector that will
support community development; enhance community life through cultural and
social events; increase access to English-language arts and culture; preserve
and create awareness of the anglophone heritage and culture. There is also an
ongoing need for English- language health and social services and for the
linguistic minority to be aware of what they can and should have access to.
Our desired outcome is to build beneficial partnerships among member groups,
government departments and organizations on the North Shore through increased
accessibility to English resources in the sectors of culture, heritage,
education, youth, and health and social services; to develop a mobilized
community with members playing active roles that will be beneficial for the
English community; and to have a more coherent, active and visible English-
speaking community presence on the North Shore.
That is pretty much what the North Shore Community Association is about.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Deslauriers.
Anthony Dumas, President, Coasters' Association: Good morning,
senators and our fellow North Shore Community Association. I am pleased to have
the opportunity to present to you today. It is a great way to mark the
twenty-second anniversary of the Coasters' Association. We were formed in 1988.
The Coasters' Association is a non-profit community organization located on
the Lower North Shore of Quebec, 360 kilometres of rugged and almost roadless
terrain from Kegaska to Blanc-Sablon, right to the Labrador border, with a total
population of between 5,000 to 6,000, depending on the season, and 14 isolated
communities. The Coasters' Association developed a board of directors from five
municipalities in the region and is also designated to represent youth, seniors
and the disabled as a priority group.
The vision of the Coasters' Association is to improve the quality of life on
Quebec's Lower North Shore by creating and supporting community development and
community leadership. The key message is that for a little over two decades, the
Coasters' Association has worked on official language issues for
English-speaking members. Now, as the challenge has become more and more
demanding, we are working on behalf of the entire population — the anglophone,
francophone and Aboriginal minority communities in the region — as we are
dealing with similar issues.
The most important of these issues is isolation, most notably the lack of
road access to the outside world, and most importantly amongst our own
communities. A representative of the Coasters' Association can fly to Beijing
cheaper than to Montreal, and that is inside our own province.
The isolation factor limits access to available programs and services,
resulting in weak infrastructure, a lack of resources and high costs for
everything from transportation, to food, to supplies, and to opportunities for
our youth in education, recreation and employment. We need roads, which is
probably the first time you have heard such a request from an official language
It is the feeling of many people on the Lower North Shore that we are
penalized for our language. As I have mentioned more than once, the Lower North
Shore is 85 per cent English and today we have nothing. If you look at Jacques
Cartier passing Blanc-Sablon in 1534, today we are in 2010 and we are still
aboard a boat.
We have to stop the exodus from our communities. In 2003 the moratorium on
cod fishing resulted in 50 per cent of the population leaving the region for
seasonal work. When I say "leaving the region," I mean leaving the province of
Quebec because they can work everywhere else in Canada except in their own
province. Many of the youth are leaving forever. Our quality of life, job
opportunities and capacity to support our social economy and community rely on
An alternative to the fishery has been slow to develop. While we have
recently made progress in developing a non- timber forestry resource, the wild
berry industry, and in upgrading a small harbour facility with the assistance of
the federal government, we have also been denied support for telecommunications
in the form of high-speed Internet. Still today on the coast, some communities
do not even have the basic CBC TV station.
One step forward and one step back will not help us stop the exodus. Our very
existence as an official language minority community is by no means guaranteed
two decades from now.
We are also challenged in our ability to effectively engage with the world
beyond the Lower North Shore. A half-day meeting off the coast takes at least
three days of travel, unless it is in the winter and we have a lot of snow. With
global warming, last winter we had no snow and we could not travel between one
community and another. That is the first time that has ever happened. Those
people who are capable of representing us and who are available to make sure
that the situation on the Lower North Shore receives the same consideration at
the regional, provincial and federal levels are stretched to the limit.
Without the capacity to engage, it is much more difficult to build on our
achievements and to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. To
assist in overcoming the challenges of isolation, exodus and effective
engagement, we believe the federal government should be taking more positive
measures to enable the English- speaking communities of Quebec to take advantage
of opportunities and to maximize the development potential of their communities.
We believe we should receive more core and longer-term project funding to enable
to us to more effectively engage on behalf of our communities.
We believe the federal government should take the necessary steps to ensure
that the remote communities of the Lower North Shore receive fair treatment, in
particular adjustments to criteria that often prove a barrier to assistance,
despite some of the benefits in being designated an official language minority.
We believe the federal government should take the necessary actions to pressure
the provincial government to complete Route 138 to better serve the English
minority community of Quebec.
The Coasters' Association believes that the power in partnerships has proven
time and time again that we can carry our weight in confronting the daily
challenges, but we also require planned, long-term and equitable contributions
from the federal government to help make the difference and achieve more in a
shorter time frame by paving a much smoother road for us.
Your presence here today has inspired us, and we thank you. The Coasters'
Association is well positioned to achieve great things in the years ahead with
your support. Together we can move forward and make a difference.
I conclude by extending an invitation to you to visit the beautiful coast of
the Lower North Shore in the near future. Thank you very much.
The Chair: The first question will be asked by Senator
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Thank you, Madam Chair. Thank you for your
two briefs. I have two questions for both groups.
My first question is as follows: Are health care services available in
English in your region?
Secondly, are there spaces available in seniors' residences for
English-speaking seniors in your community?
Kimberly Buffitt, Health and Social Services Development Agent, Coasters'
Association: It depends on the services. Some of the nurses in our remote
villages will speak English at the clinics. However, for most of our services —
we call them extra-regional services — we have to travel outside of the
territory; for example, if you have cancer or if you are pregnant. A woman has
to leave here a month before she is due and travel from, say, Sept-Îles or
Quebec City to have her baby. This creates two layers of health and social
services. When people leave the territory for these services, they have extreme
difficulties in accessing services in their language, from first-line services
at reception to right up on the floor.
We have many examples of this. A report was done on regional services in the
Gaspé, Baie-Comeau and the Magdalen Islands. It outlined key points in accessing
service when we are off territory. This leads to the issue of airports when
travelling. You have to understand that many of these people are seniors who are
leaving the territory for the first time. Many of them do not have a high level
of education. One person from La Tabatière called our office and said, "I am
putting my 75-year-old father on a plane to go to Quebec City. He cannot read or
speak French, and they are expecting him to get to the hospital in Quebec
City." It creates a huge problem. Because of budgets from the Ministry of
Health, many of them are not allowed escort, someone to accompany them. This
creates a considerable number of problems in our territory.
Cornella Maurice, Executive Director, Coasters' Association: I would
like to touch on what Ms. Buffitt said. We also have other issues in health, one
of the main issues being the translation of documents. That is a major problem
in the Lower North Shore. As the president mentioned, 85 per cent of our
clientele are anglophones, and we do lack many programs and services. We do not
have access to the same programs and services as they have in urban areas. Even
with health programs, we are not receiving the services properly in our own
I will not to go into too much depth with regard to seniors, since those
issues were mentioned. Seniors on the Lower North Shore would like to have home
care services provided by their families, but they cannot. They have to have
different people working with them, which is difficult to obtain. If seniors
were to have their own families working with them, we would not lose so many of
our people, resulting in the exodus of our population. We have parents who leave
for four to six months out of the year, leaving the seniors to fend for
themselves as well as to take care of their grandchildren or nephews and nieces.
There are quite a few issues on the table with regard to seniors.
Ms. Buffitt: With regard to seniors, there are long waiting lists for
care and to be put in homes. They are left in their own home, so they are
relying on the home care system. There are homes only in Harrington Harbour and
Blanc- Sablon. We have seen couples who have been married for 60 years, where
the husband had to be placed in Blanc- Sablon and the wife in Harrington
Harbour. They will probably not see each other again because of the distance and
the lack of roads; they cannot travel back and forth, which is traumatizing for
For the disabled population there are no homes at all, so they are put in
Baie-Comeau or Sept-Îles. We have cases where the child no longer speaks English
and they cannot communicate with their parents. There is a case where the
daughter has been in care so long in Sept-Îles that she no longer speaks
English, so they have to have a translator to speak to their daughter.
Mr. Dumas: Also, people on the Lower North Shore have low incomes. I
have seen that some people who move to the centre have to get a divorce. They
have been married 60 years, but in order to survive and maintain an income, they
have to formally divorce. I do not find that right. We are trying to achieve
better services for our seniors, but we are putting a lot of barriers in their
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Thank you very much. I am deeply moved by
the situation that you are describing to me. It is truly sad to see elderly
couples placed in different facilities and not able to be together anymore.
Living apart is difficult for them. Thank you very much for your honest answers.
Senator Fraser: I have a couple of questions. The first is just a
reminder because even though, with the honourable exception of our chair, we are
all senators from Quebec, we are all senators from Southern Quebec. Can you just
remind us of the distances we are talking about? How far is it to Harrington
Harbour? It is a long, long way, but how many kilometres are we talking about?
Mr. Dumas: From Blanc-Sablon to Harrington Harbour is about 250
Ms. Buffitt: Because we have no roads — Harrington Harbour, for
instance, is on an island — we have to take a plane, say, from Blanc-Sablon to
Chevery. The plane ticket is around $800 return. We then have to a take a boat
from Chevery to get to the island of Harrington Harbour. If the weather is bad,
then we take a helicopter to the island. Some days we cannot get there at all.
One example is a gentleman whose daughter was very sick with an infection in
her blood. The ice was breaking up at the time. Two men went into a boat with
flashlights and had to push the ice out of the way to get their daughter to the
airport in Chevery, where a medevac plane could evacuate her to Quebec City.
That, to my mind, is not access.
Senator Fraser: No, not at all.
My second question has to do with accessibility to education. I would assume
that each community would have a primary school — tell me if I am wrong about
that — but what about high school? After high school, what about CEGEP in
English for the residents of the North Shore?
Ms. Buffitt: The villages do all have elementary schools. Some schools
only have six children. In the more rural communities, such as Kegaska and
Mutton Bay, at the age of 14 they have to leave home and they are put in a
residence until they graduate at Secondary 5. Then our youth have to leave the
territory to go out to school. Most of them, because of the high cost of
transport, which is not recognized for loans and bursaries, cannot come home
often. A plane ticket to Montreal costs $1,800. Even if you are getting the
maximum bursary, you are looking at $4,000 in plane tickets.
Mr. Dumas: Also, the problem for our youth is that the Lower North
Shore is 85 per cent English. The youth who leave the Lower North Shore to learn
a trade have difficulty getting into the workforce.
There is an issue with the CCQ policy in Quebec — I am not saying it is not
separatist — for an English student on the coast. I have two sons: One has two
trades and the other has one. Today neither one can receive a CCQ card. In the
Lower North Shore, all the workers move outside the province. They can work from
Vancouver to Newfoundland, but not in Quebec.
We have a project at La Romaine. The school board has invested a lot of money
with employment and immigration to train our youth to work at La Romaine. Up to
today we have significantly less than 1 per cent of the workers in the La
Romaine hydro project. If we have 6 people working out of 1,000, that is good.
Senator Fraser: What is the CCQ?
Mr. Dumas: The CCQ is the construction commission of Quebec.
Ms. Buffitt: That is the organization that issues the cards that
enables one to work.
Senator Fraser: I wanted that on the record because our proceedings
are public. This way more people than are here today will be able to consult
I will ask the question that Senator Seidman keeps asking, which is a core
question. Given these extraordinary problems that you face, what can the federal
government do to help?
Mr. Dumas: We are Canadian. The Lower North Shore always votes 99.9
per cent against separation.
This is our last hope. The Lower North Shore wants the federal government to
sit down with the provincial government and to put a new face on the language
issue on the Lower North Shore. Why is the Lower North Shore not developing? Why
are Lower North Shore workers not on the job? We feel — and I feel personally —
that we have been held hostage for too many years. When I say that, my heart
This is in the minds of, I would say, 90 to 95 per cent of the people on the
Lower North Shore. We want to work and we want to be a part of Quebec and
Canada, but we are the Third World of the whole group. We have been knocking on
the province's door for many years, but they are not responding.
Therefore, this morning we ask senators to sit down with the provincial
government and help us become equal to everyone else in Quebec. Our aim is to
live in our communities and speak the language that we speak.
Ms. Buffitt: I think that Mr. Dumas is stating that the Lower North
Shore struggles with basic things like drinkable water. Our villages do not have
drinking water, sewage systems or access to certain medical care, fire trucks
and ambulance services. We are struggling just to get the basics. When you look
at other programs, there are so many challenges.
Ms. Maurice: On a positive note, the Coasters' Association has been in
existence for 22 years, since 1988, and it has made a difference with the
federal government investing in certain programs and services. Without us, I do
not know where they would be today, and we are very proud of that. However, I do
think that there is a need for more core and long-term funding for projects to
bring more programs and services to the Lower North Shore to help our youth,
seniors, disabled population, you name it.
Right now we have the provincial government on board for five years to set up
the wild berry industry, and Quebec is on board for 10 years in relation to
healthy living. Many positive things are happening on the Lower North Shore
because of the Coasters' Association.
We took Canadian Heritage's money of $197,000 and brought it to over $1
million now. We are doing great, but we need more help. There are things that
just stop because they are programs that go for only a year or two and can no
longer be renewed. We just get the community mobilized and things up and moving,
and people are so happy and proud of what is happening, and then it stops. This
is what I think the federal government can really help us with. When they give
support, the provincial government looks at what they can do to come on board,
and vice versa.
We just had a meeting on September 2, so it is good that we are having this
session with you now. We hooked up all across the coast for the first time ever.
We had provincial, federal and other organizations ready to commit to help us.
Twenty two years later we still witness the exodus of our people. We must
find ways — no matter if it is in education, health, or setting up industries —
to bring them back or at least keep them there. Language is an issue, as is
transportation. We have many issues. We have a long way to go, but your help in
small ways will make a difference now. I hope, after today, that it will make a
big difference for us.
Mr. Dumas: A person came to the office on Friday. She just started a
business and enrolled in the CSST program for her employees. She is completely
English, and her husband is 100 per cent English. The response they received is
that the enrolment form in Quebec is only in French and they do not have an
English form. We had to find someone to translate for them in order to fill out
their form. It is not right that, today, a Quebec government still does not
respond to the English community.
Senator Fraser: Mr. Deslauriers, do you have anything to add to that?
Mr. Deslauriers: I would like to add something that has not been
mentioned, and that is in regard to the socio- economics of this area. We, on
the North Shore, have large companies — such as Alcoa, Allouette and others —
that hire a great percentage of our workers and pay them very well. There is not
a culture of small industry here; it is multi- national companies.
The general population has diminished from over 110,000 to about 91,000 over
the past 15 years. It is as a result of the exodus of the youth, our retirees
leaving for personal reasons, and also for health problems that they cannot get
resolved here. We are working in partnership with the CSSS. It is going very
well. We are also working in collaboration with the Coasters' Association and
the CSSS in all areas of the North Shore. It is coming along. It takes time, but
we are getting it.
If the federal government feels that they can intervene, they should maybe
look at giving our youth a chance to come back to the area, to help us develop a
culture of small businesses here. Then the area would not depend only on one
industry or one employer. The Lower North Shore suffers from that greatly
because of the fishery. It is their major industry. Other industries are
looking, budding, and they will happen, but right now we are still at the same
We need economic incentives to help establish small businesses, not
wall-to-wall programs such as what Développment économique Canada offers, but
more flexible programs to help people and youth install themselves in small
business. This would help the area greatly and would bring about a change of
ways, not only for the English population but for the general population.
We need to be integrated in that community also. We do not feel that we are
not, but many people within our area here in Baie-Comeau are bilingual. In
Sept-Îles it is another more distinct problem, but we have services, although
not all that we need. It is the socio-economic problem that we need to address.
Mr. Dumas: An example of a Développment économique Canada program is
that we find that the criteria for the programs in Quebec do not meet the
criteria of the Lower North Shore. The Lower North Shore is made up of fishing
communities. The Labrador coast also has ACOA under the same program, but with
We know that Baie-Comeau, Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier and Havre-Saint-Pierre
are all mining towns. The Lower North Shore is isolated. We do not have the same
criteria, and we would like to see if there is flexibility because we have the
same situation as Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in the fishery and
even tourism. We debated that a few years ago under the same program, and still
today we need that flexibility.
Senator Champagne: My question came to me while Ms. Maurice was
talking about how basic the services are in your area. You were deploring the
lack of social and cultural events. Of course language is often a problem, but
where there was not a problem — and you will allow me to remind you — was with
music. I would like to take you back four or five years ago, when three
musicians arrived and went from Havre-Saint-Pierre all the way through
Sept-Îsle, Chevery, Blanc-Sablonand Harrington Lake. They went by ship, plane
and chopper and played classical music in schools for all kinds of people there
— of course they threw in something like the theme from The Simpsons as
I remember that it was a very popular event in that time. This was organized
by a man called George Zukerman, who plays bassoon, and I think he had a
flautist and someone on keyboard with him. The reason I know this very well is
because the man on keyboard was my husband. I heard so much about that trip that
went from Blanc-Sablon to Chevery, across the river where there was no bridge
and they had to take a plane, and so on. I have a very good picture through my
husband's eyes of what you live with constantly.
As I said, this tour was organized by George Zukerman, but it was paid for by
the Canada Council for the Arts, and the musicians' guild also gave a lot of
money. Finally, after the elections at the provincial level, Jean Charest
decided that he would not let us use $10,000 on the endeavour.
You must not have that type of event very often. I do not know whether this
is something that you remember, or is that something you would encourage? It is
a different type of event — no language barriers — but certainly it is a very
interesting occasion and opportunity for your residents.
Ms. Buffitt: It still takes place today. Geordie Productions does a
theatre every year here for our youth. They travel from school to school and
they do the whole gamut of going into the villages and putting on theatre and
music. It is very well enjoyed by our community.
I think Ms. Maurice and I both referred to the CLSCs in the territory funded
through Canadian Heritage. This and the fact that we are here today have opened
up those windows for arts and exchange and other things that our kids have never
had a chance to experience before because we do not have access to museums and
things like that. Through videoconferencing and other mediums, now we can see
different parts of the world.
Senator Champagne: If I had known you would be here today I would have
brought the picture of a little boy of about seven or eight years of age blowing
into a bassoon. You should have seen his eyes.
Jody Lessard, Coordinator, North Shore Community Association: I am the
program coordinator of the North Shore Community Association and I am looking at
the time constraint here. I am not sure if we are respecting the schedule,
because we did say 12:45.
I would like to add to what the Coasters' Association has said. The service
is offered through Geordie, and Geordie actually comes to the North Shore and
then piggybacks that down to the Lower North Shore.
That is the only English performance that our schools have, once a year.
Geordie does that. Other than that, our youth do not have exposure to English
I will ask Mr. Deslauriers, also a commissioner of the Eastern Shores School
Board, to elaborate a little more on the educational needs of our youth.
I wanted to talk a bit about the health and social services needs here on the
North Shore. We have been working for a year and a half in collaboration with
the Community Health and Social Services Network out of Quebec City to set up a
network partnership initiative. We are doing a lot of collaborative work with
the Coasters' Association and with our local health and social services centres.
Our situation on the North Shore is that we do have first-line services.
However, the issue is that we do not have the services in English. Our
anglophones cannot access those services in their mother tongue. We must
assimilate into the francophone community. We would request a simple document, a
flyer, or some sort promotional health campaign that can be delivered to our
schools in English or that can be picked up at the local CLSC to have reception
and referral in English. These are some of the basic needs we would like to have
because we do have the right to receive our health and social services in
English. We are working in partnership with health institutions and other
regional associations, like the Coasters' Association, to make these services
The senior population is another area that we have focused on over the last
two years through different assessments, surveys and projects. I will note the
same thing as Ms. Maurice has said about a one-year project. It stops there, and
then we have to seek funding elsewhere in order to continue to support the
community and the senior population.
In Sept-Îles, seniors represent over 22 per cent of the anglophone
population. We work very hard to mobilize the community, and they are mobilized.
They have addressed their concerns and needs, and a lot of it is focused on
health and social services. They have the opportunity to have a social
gathering, to get out, to break the isolation, but there is no English day
centre. If they want to integrate into the senior population, they would have to
go into the centre de jour where the services are all French. They need to have
their own day service centre. We are working hard on that, but we are finding it
very difficult to seek the financial resources. Maybe the government can better
inform us about the different services and funding pockets available in order to
make these services more accessible to that target population. We have a high
engagement of seniors in Sept-Îles with many needs, focusing on health and
I will now let Mr. Deslauriers comment about the education and youth sectors.
Mr. Deslauriers: Because of our isolation, kids can go to college
here, or CEGEP, in French for one year or two, but higher education is something
they cannot attain or strive for here. Once a child or young adult leaves here,
he or she rarely comes back. When they do, it is with great fanfare: These
people come back with diplomas to a family that is almost completely
constituted. We need to be able to have them attain higher levels of education
inside one of the communities on the North Shore, be it Sept-Îles or
Baie-Comeau, through an arm of a university, either in Rimouski, Chicoutimi or
McGill, but that the services be dispensed in English to give us a chance. We
have a vibrant community and need to maintain it because it is dying. We are not
dead yet — we are still kicking — but I do not think I will be able to kick very
hard at 94. What I am telling you is that we need to move on something and move
The Chair: We started late, which is the reason why I am extending the
meeting for a few more minutes. I will take one last question from Senator
Senator Seidman: I am sure that there is no question that I speak for
us all here in listening to you: This is so heartfelt. What you are expressing
is really very serious and significant. You clearly have many challenges that
you have outlined to us in the broad categories of youth, health and social
services, community renewal and economic development. I think repetition might
be a good thing here if we could try to focus just a bit.
Let us go back to the question that Senator Fraser asked which, as she said,
has been my question at the very end with each witness that we have seen this
morning. If you had to identify two of the main challenges and concrete
suggestions you could make to us to help you, what would they be?
Mr. Deslauriers: I think that the most important thing is to continue
community development. If we do not work on community development, our
communities will die out. That is the first tier.
The second is education. We need to be able to educate our youth and focus
more on our youth and retain them here longer. With community development and
better education for these people, maybe — just maybe — more business
opportunities will help them stay here, found their families here and grow old
here. This is what I think are the two main objectives for this area.
Mr. Dumas: I will add community development and the exodus of our
youth to that.
The number one priority on the Lower North Shore is community development in
some way, such as new enterprises, and we need access to deliver our products.
When you see a bottle of beer cheaper than a bottled drink or a glass of milk,
it is a problem. In Quebec, all liquor is controlled by the SAQ, Société des
alcools du Québec. They have the same price for a case of beer in Montreal as in
Blanc-Sablon. A quart of milk in Montreal is half the price of a quart of milk
in Blanc-Sablon. Tell me, what is the difference?
We need road access to deliver our cod. Why are they buying codfish from
Russian and Norwegian boats in Montreal and Quebec and not from the Lower North
Shore? We have the highest quality fish and it is sold in Japan, China and the
United States, but not in Quebec.
Our priorities are our youth, seniors and roads.
The Chair: We have come to the end of this meeting. I would like to
thank you for your presentations and participation, and also for sharing with
this committee not only your ideas but your challenges. Rest assured that it has
not fallen on deaf ears.
(The committee adjourned.)