Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 7 - Evidence - Meeting of September 13, 2010 (afternoon)
QUEBEC CITY, Monday, September 13, 2010
The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages met this day at 2:30 p.m.
to study the application of the Official Languages Act and the regulations and
directives made under it. (Topic: the English-speaking communities in Quebec.)
Senator Maria Chaput (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Good afternoon. Welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on
Official Languages. I am Maria Chaput from Manitoba, and I am the chair of this
committee. I am joined this afternoon in Quebec City by several colleagues,
members of the committee, and I invite them to introduce themselves.
Senator Champagne: I am Andrée Champagne, a senator from Quebec. I
have been in the Senate now for five years, after serving nine years in the
House of Commons, and decades in the cultural world, as you have both said to
I did live, for many years, in an anglophone situation with an anglophone
husband. We ended up with two marvellously bilingual children. I am interested
in hearing how you are living in an anglophone situation in the Quebec City
area. Thank you for being with us today.
Senator Seidman: Good afternoon. I am Judith Seidman. I have been in
the Senate for one year and I am grateful to be there and to have this
opportunity. I am an anglophone Montrealer, born and raised there. I look
forward to what you have to say about being an anglophone and the anglophone
situation in the Quebec City area.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: I am Senator Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis. I was
previously the MP for the constituency of Louis-Hébert for nine years. At that
time, I was not using my maiden name and perhaps I met some of you because I
recognize your faces. I am very happy to be here. Next January, I will have two
years since I became senator.
Thank you for appearing before the committee. We are very pleased to welcome
Senator De Bané: I am Senator Pierre De Bané. Before coming to the
Senate I was a member of the House of Commons for Matepédia-Matane. Before
becoming involved in politics I was a professor with the Faculty of Law at Laval
and, of course, I could not but remember one of the most outstanding people that
I met there, Larkin Kerwin.
I am very happy to have the opportunity to meet his son today. As president
of Université Laval and then as president of the National Research Council, he
was one of the most notable personalities that I have ever met. Like my
colleagues, I am very interested in what you have to say about the three
institutions you are representing: the Collège régional Champlain-St. Lawrence
and the Central Québec School Board (CQSB). I am also interested in what you can
tell us about the challenges the English-speaking community will have to face in
the coming years.
Senator Fraser: My name is Joan Fraser. I have been in the Senate for
12 years now. Before that I spent almost my entire career as a journalist in
Montreal. I cannot say that I was born and bred in Montreal, but I went there
for the first time when I was 17, I think, which was more years ago than one
cares to remember. I spent the great bulk of my life there.
Like my colleagues, I am grateful to you for joining us here today. I know
the story you have to tell is important for the study that this committee is
Senator Dawson: For the record, and not for the witnesses, I used to
be a Member of Parliament for Louis-Hébert and I am now a senator for the
Liberal Party. I went to the same school as Stephen Burke 45 years ago. One of
my daughters and my son went to the CEGEP where Jean Robert is the dean. The
Kerwins have been friends of the Dawsons for at least the last 50 years. I can
assure you that Terry Kerwin is almost as nice as his dad, but everyone else in
the family is nicer than he is, so you can imagine that they have a nice family.
I am also glad to have them here. I know much of what they will say because I
have the advantage of being in Quebec City. I can assure you that they are a
good example of le modèle québécois. Some have used the expression today, the
voice of English Quebec, but the Quebec model of doing things has nothing to do
with the rest of the province as far as the relationship goes between
anglophones and francophones. Some of them are strong participants in the return
of la parade de la Saint-Patrick in Quebec City.
The Chair: I now welcome representatives of Champlain Regional
College, Jean Robert, Campus Director of the Campus Champlain St. Lawrence and
Terence Kerwin, Chairman, Board of Governors. As well, I welcome representatives
of the Central Québec School Board, Ronald Corriveau, Director General; and
Stephen Burke, President of the Council of Commissioners.
The committee thanks you for accepting its invitation to appear this
afternoon. This meeting will take place in the form of a round table. Each
organization has been asked to make a presentation of approximately five
minutes. The presentation will be followed by questions.
Honourable senators, I remind you that this meeting is scheduled to end
around four o'clock. I now invite the group who wishes to speak first to take
Stephen Burke, President, Council of Commissioners, Central Québec School
Board: Thank you. The Central Québec School Board is pleased to have this
opportunity to meet with the senate committee on official languages.
I will introduce myself and those who accompany me. We have Jean Robert who,
apart from his duties at the CEGEP level, is also the vice-chair of our school
board; and Ronald Corriveau, who is Director General.
And, like a true Irishman, I am the servant of our school board, though my
title says I am its chair.
We understand that your time is limited, and thus we will try to present our
concerns as succinctly and clearly as possible.
The Central Québec School Board has jurisdiction over 18 schools and one
adult and vocational education centre. Eight of our nine secondary schools have
a student population of less than 500. We have four secondary schools, eight
elementary schools and six schools that offer instruction from kindergarten to
Secondary V. Our largest elementary school serves more than 450 students and the
smallest serves approximately 50 students.
Our board also assumes responsibility for Jimmy Sandy Memorial School located
in Schefferville, and composed entirely of native students. We administer the
school through an agreement with both the federal and provincial governments.
Our enrolment data are rather encouraging. Although we are presently
experiencing a sort of plateau in our numbers, projections from the Ministère de
l'Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport, MELS, tell us that, as of 2012, we should
anticipate a gradual increase in our enrolment numbers until 2019.
Our present enrolment is as follows — of course figures may change as the
official numbers will be accounted for on September 30: kindergarten, 414;
elementary, 2,381; and secondary, 1,776, for a total of 4,571 students.
Being the English school board with the largest territory in the province of
Quebec — 463,495 square kilometres, or more than 30 per cent of the province's
territory — is not without its challenges. Our schools are spread out over a
large geographical area. As well, a number of schools are located in
geographically isolated communities. All of our schools are basically regional
Our Council of Commissioners is presently made up of 17 elected commissioners
and two parent commissioners. We meet monthly, usually on the second Friday of
the month. Thanks to modern technology some of our commissioners from the
regions outside Quebec City — namely Chibougamau, Saguenay, Trois-Rivières,
Shawinigan, La Tuque and Thetford Mines — can participate through our video
conferencing capabilities, thus saving money and possibly their lives. We have
had unfortunate accidents where commissioners driving to Quebec have met with a
moose and probably a couple of deer, so it is a job that requires a strong
As responsible elected officials of the last — I repeat, the last —
English-speaking institution still administered entirely by the English-speaking
community, we have decided to speak to you about a problem that affects our
students, both at the elementary as well as at the high school levels: school
transportation, better known as busing.
Both in the Capitale-Nationale region as well as throughout our vast
territory, many of our students spend almost three hours per day on a school bus
— 90 minutes in the morning and 90 minutes in the afternoon. That is like any
one of us driving to Trois-Rivières and back every day. You can imagine how
difficult such busing conditions can be on the students as well as on their
parents and families.
Here are figures that paint a clear picture. Only 55 per cent of our buses
serving the Capitale-Nationale have a departure time later than 7 a.m. All the
others are on the road before 7 a.m., yet none of our elementary schools begin
classes before 8:18 a.m. In some of our regions, the buses leave at 6:30 a.m.
for school beginning at 8 a.m. Oddly enough, the sujet à la mode right now in
Quebec is school success and bringing down the dropout rate — la persévérance
scolaire — yet I do not think that three hours on a bus will make students enjoy
their schooling years.
I would bet that, au contraire, that experience will leave them with mixed
feelings about school. So much time spent on the bus has consequences on the
time left for homework, family activities, sports and other cultural activities
and, important at a young age, sleep.
We have tried on a number of occasions to obtain more funding from the
Government of Quebec but have not been successful. We know that there are
parents whose children are entitled to attend our schools but who decide to
forsake their right because of the enormous effort asked of them and their
children. This issue definitely has an impact on our English community and on
its very survival.
It is our firm belief that if our students are entitled to an education in
the English system, then they should also have a right to a reasonable busing
schedule. We do not see how three hours per day can be considered reasonable. If
it is in the power of the standing committee to help us lessen this time on the
bus, then we respectfully ask you to act quickly, or at least to tell us where
to knock at the federal government.
If need be, we can provide you with data, on a per region basis, of the time
spent on the bus per student. We know the cost of additional buses, and we are
more than willing to do our homework on this issue, but we need to know if there
is a chance for success. Our parents are extremely understanding. They accept
the situation as the cost for an education in English for their children.
Frankly, we admire them for their determination and we do not want to create
false hopes. We need concrete help, and that is why we are here. Our community
will not survive without its schools.
Ronald Corriveau, our Director General, will speak on an issue more of an
administrative nature, but also of major importance for our schools.
Ronald Corriveau, Director General, Central Québec School Board: Thank
you very much. Referring to the geographic area of our board already described
by Mr. Burke, I want to identify a particular problem that we must tackle every
school year. Complementary Educational Services receives an allocation for
special needs students, which we share equitably with our schools in each
region. This allocation too often results in regions receiving only a small
percentage to be used to hire qualified personnel such as a psychologists and
speech and language pathologists, as well as resource teachers.
How does one attract professionals, let alone professionals who can
communicate in English, when the posting is for a 20-per-cent, or maybe a
40-per-cent position? A solution in the past has been to send a student, and
often the parents, to Quebec City at the expense of the board and the
inconvenience of the family. I believe we owe the families who continue to send
their students to our schools reliable services within their own community.
We also deal with six other health and social services other than the Jeffery
Hale Community Centre, which serves the Quebec City region. The logistics
involved are often more than our complementary services can handle. We end up
receiving mediocre services for the students in our schools outside the Quebec
If we expect the schools located in the vast region of our school board to
receive proper complementary services in English, we need the resources that
will attract the necessary qualified personnel.
Mr. Burke: These are but two issues that we feel need to be addressed
if the English-language communities that we cater to are to flourish in La Belle
The CQSB Council of Commissioners thanks you for allowing us to appear before
you this afternoon. We are looking forward to your comments and hope to hear
your possible solutions.
Jean Robert, Campus Director, Campus Champlain St. Lawrence, Champlain
Regional College: It is indeed a pleasure and privilege for Mr. Kerwin and
myself to be given the opportunity to meet with you today. Almost 30 years ago I
had the honour of serving as a parliamentary page at the Senate. For two years,
I listened to hundreds of debates — sometimes into the early hours of the
morning — filed thousands of documents and served hundreds, probably thousands,
of glasses of water.
Honourable senators, make yourselves comfortable. I hope you have no supper
plans — it is payback time.
In my office at the college I have two pieces of memorabilia that I
particularly cherish. The first is a signed photo of me with Senator Renaude
Lapointe, then Speaker of the Senate, and Prime Minister Trudeau. The second is
a card — in fact, I have the card with me — that had the Latin mural
inscriptions found in the office of the Speaker of the Senate.
In many ways, my career and education have been guided by some of these
inscriptions: sapere aude; dare to be prudent and wise. This meeting is
probably the first opportunity I have had to thank our senators sincerely for
their wisdom, compassion and tireless contribution to making our country so
special. My years at the Senate gave me the opportunity to see firsthand how
important the Senate was and is for our society. Once again, I thank you.
Now about our college: Our coat of arms reads Hic Majorum Virtus; here
lie the virtues of our ancestors. Our ancestors believed in the future of
English education in Quebec. Under the leadership of Dr. Larkin Kerwin — one of
our country's most respected scientists, rector of Laval University and father
of Terry — Tom O'Grady, Marianna O'Gallagher whom many of you know, and many
more, our college was founded in 1958. In 2008, we proudly celebrated our
We were founded as a high school and classical college. For a short period of
time, we were housed on the campus of Laval University. For senators who
graduated from Laval, we were in Pavillon Casault, the Grand Séminaire. We then
moved to a beautiful new building in Sainte-Foy. We had wonderful classrooms, an
auditorium, gymnasium and outdoor playing fields. The birth of the CEGEP system,
however, resulted in the closing of St. Lawrence as a classical college, and we
moved to a new location — for people from Quebec, Laurier Bowling Lanes.
Our college had beautiful hardware floors. Of course, there were little Xs
and Ys on the floor. A few years later, after the bowling lanes, we moved to our
present campus. We are part of Champlain Regional College. We have three
campuses in the province; one in Lennoxville, one in Saint-Lambert and one here
in Quebec City. Saint-Lambert has about 3,000 students, Lennoxville has about
1,000 students, and we have about 1,000 students.
As a side note, about 65 per cent of our students come to us from French high
schools and the rest come to us from English high schools. It is important to
have St. Lawrence for francophone students but certainly for anglophone students
Originally we were to have a building of 92,000 square feet. At the time, the
government said that was too much for the English community and it was brought
down to 72,000. Of course, compared to the bowling alley, who could complain? At
least we had a college.
Our college now — and that is something that is close to my heart — has no
auditorium, no playing fields, a gymnasium that is not within regulation, and we
have 11 parking places for 1,000 students. We have no land, no campus, and when
we have a student production such as a play, we have to move to our basement
cafeteria, disconnect the vending machines and, voîla, we have our play. Our
student actors can literally break a leg as they move the stands from the gym
downstairs to the cafeteria.
There is not a single francophone CEGEP in Quebec City that would accept this
situation or these conditions, and, I submit to you, nor should we. With your
help and that of the federal government, we will be able to move away from being
the poor cousins.
We recently submitted an ambitious request to the Ministère de l'Éducation,
du Loisir et du Sport for additional space. Our project included a new
gymnasium, additional library space and an auditorium. The amphitheatre project
is something that our college and our English community dearly needs. We
received letters of support from all segments of our community. As a leader of
the English community, we have identified this project as a priority. We have
also received signs that all levels of government will help us with this
Our community will flourish if we can give members the opportunity to express
themselves. Our amphitheatre project offers our community that opportunity.
We will continue to remind our government that although we are a minority, we
are vital members of Quebec City society.
In spite of the concerns I have voiced, I am extremely proud of the role
Champlain Regional College at St. Lawrence has played in our community. Many
leaders of our country and our community have graduated from St. Lawrence.
Terence Kerwin, Chairman, Board of Governors, Campus Champlain St.
Lawrence, Champlain Regional College: I thank Jean for this exposé.
The Kerwin family has been involved with, and dedicated to, the community
ever since we got off the boat, I suppose. However, the two premises on which
St. Lawrence has been successful, as part of Champlain College and as an
important college here in Quebec, remain valid, and have remained valid for the
50 years that the college has been in existence and since it joined the
Champlain network of colleges in the 1970s.
The first premise is that the English-speaking community in Quebec City has a
lot to say, not only in the management of its own affairs, but in the management
of the affairs of the province and the nation.
The second premise is that participants and members of this community can do
this if they are educated here. It is important that they be educated here. When
you meet our representatives in Lennoxville you will hear that it is important
that they be educated in the Sherbrooke area and in Saint-Lambert as well. The
work over the last 50 years of people who are dedicated to the community has
made its mark. The four people here are active. You will meet Louis Hanrahan,
who is director general of the Jeffery Hale Hospital and Richard Walling,
perhaps, in the course of your work, who runs the community centres associated
with the Jeffery Hale Hospital. You will meet, perhaps, Lawrence Cannon, who is
well-known to most of you, if not all of you, who presently works in Ottawa. It
is important that they be able to do it from here. To be able to do that, it
must be done with more than good wishes and encouragement. It must be done with
bricks and mortar and infrastructure.
We work hard with our provincial counterparts to ensure there is support for
a lot of academics that goes on, but we need more than that. We need the grit
and sweat of members of the community and the support we believe is possible
from our counterparts in Quebec and in Ottawa.
In presenting these things to you today we want to make all the more
sensitive to you that we need your help from time to time.
Mr. Robert: In spite of this need — and a building is just a building
— we do some wonderful things. One of the last projects we were involved in with
the federal government was to maintain health services to anglophones.
We have over 30 students who are training to be personal care attendants.
They spend summers working with our seniors, and it is a wonderful project for
our students as well as for the seniors.
I will share this story that one of the nursing supervisors told me. A
student who finished her shift on a hot summer day — and in the hospital it was
95 degrees — went home, had a bite to eat and came back. The supervisor asked
her why she came back. She said I think my patient is in her last days or
minutes, and I do not want her to die alone.
If there is anything we have done as a college, if we can have those
examples, then we have done some wonderful things.
I want to thank Senator Dawson for being a good friend to St. Lawrence. He
mentioned he did not study at St. Lawrence. I have a theory that aliens
kidnapped him during the night, but he did send us two of his children, and we
are thankful for that. Once again, thank you very much.
Senator Dawson: Timing is everything. First of all, thank you. Mr.
Robert is not in a conflict of interest. My two children have left St. Lawrence,
so he is not sucking up to me because they are still there and I am not sucking
up to him because they are still there.
I have a few questions about the numbers, and it applies to both groups. You
gave numbers about elementary to secondary and secondary to CEGEP. What
percentage of your elementary students will go to anglophone secondary schools?
I know 40 per cent of your students come from the English community, but what
percentage or how many of your graduating secondary students go to Champlain-St.
Mr. Corriveau: I can answer the first part and maybe Mr. Robert will
help. From the elementary level, we have about six or seven elementary schools
in the Quebec City region, so I will answer for the Quebec City region. We have
three high schools they can attend. On an average lately of 110, 120 and 130
students per year, over 100 will attend our schools. We have a high percentage.
Those that do not, more often than not, will go to French private school. That
is the answer right now for that group. For high school going to CEGEP, Mr.
Mr. Robert: Again, the majority of the graduates from Quebec High
School, St. Patrick's and Dollard-des-Ormeaux come to St. Lawrence.
One of our difficulties is that we have a maximum number of students that we
are allowed to accept, le devis scolaire. The government has established a
number for all CEGEPs that we are bound by. In our case, it is 830 students. So,
you can imagine that if tomorrow morning 20 of the anglophone students said, we
would like there to be "X" program at St. Lawrence — we would like a new
program opened at St. Lawrence — that would be fine, but I would still have that
maximum number, which for us makes little sense because we have the room. We can
fit more students into our building, but we are caught with that maximum number.
As many times as we have been able, we have told people at the ministry that
we are in a different situation in Quebec City. People choose to come to
Champlain-St. Lawrence. The anglophones come because it is their college, but
the francophones come, I am convinced, to be better members of the francophone
community. They have that advantage of studying in English. In real life, in the
corridors, most of the discussions are in French. Even the students coming to us
from anglophone schools often speak French at home, so that is our challenge. We
are lucky we have the francophone entity that makes it possible for us to give
the services we give. If we had only 40 per cent, say 200-some students, it
would be difficult.
Senator Dawson: To assure my colleagues, I was not taken by an alien
spaceship and that is not why I am weird in Ottawa. I was one of those students
who finished at the time when they created CEGEP and I finished at CEGEP
Limoilou. My strange behaviour has nothing to do with aliens and having been
taken away in a spaceship. I do not care what Stephen Burke says; it is not
Mr. Burke: To add a more political note to the answer of our director
general, one of our priorities is French, French being taught in our schools. It
is important because we have parents, unfortunately, even in the English
community, who decide to use the best of both worlds. Maybe for an individual or
a family, it might be an excellent solution.
Someone deciding to send their child to elementary school or to secondary
school, but not to both, is not an acceptable solution to us. We accept it
because we live in a democratic country, one of the most beautiful countries in
the world, if not the most beautiful of them all.
However, having said that, the quality of the French language is a priority
for us. Last week, I did an interview for FM93 and I said that I was lucky to
have a French Canadian mother. But, in Quebec City, most Irish people's French
is excellent. It is something specific to Quebec City. That does not mean that
we want to put our children in a strictly francophone system.
We cannot fight against stereotypes or claims that our system could undermine
a young student's performance in a French-speaking environment, or prevent him
For us it is important. We try to keep students in our system, and we
constantly work on the quality of our French. In June 2009, we were the best
school board in the province of Quebec for the four main subjects: mathematics,
languages, history and sciences. Of course, the busing situation is always
If there is a francophone school near me, I will go there to preserve my
community and my culture. So that is not what we need.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: My question is for Mr. Burke. You mentioned
the school transportation issue. As a former teacher, I think it is absolutely
ridiculous for a child to spend 90 minutes on a bus to get to school; it is
unacceptable. Have you noticed an increase in dropout rates because of
This morning, we had a videoconference with some people from Gaspésie, and
Marc Deslauriers said the dropout rate was high in Gaspésie because of drug and
alcohol use. But, in your case, the reason would be never-ending bus rides.
Could you tell me your opinion?
Mr. Burke: An opinion indeed, since I have no real or verifiable data.
First, let me point out that our school board has one of the highest graduation
rates in Quebec, a rate of over 79 per cent compared to 68 per cent in the
province of Quebec. From this perspective, we are very satisfied with the
Parents who decide to send their children to an English-speaking school are
actively involved parents who believe in the community and who believe in our
excellent education system. Others, spongers that they are, take advantage of
our services when it suits them and walk away when the services no longer suit
them. There are even worse cases than that and it is appalling. Some are even
highly placed in the community.
We live in a magnificent country and democracy gives us great freedom. We
know that we have excellent teachers and administrators who give more than what
is asked of them. When I said that to Hugo Langlois at FM93, I was not ashamed
to say it. We have an expression that says it well:
"to go beyond the call of duty." Our teachers and our administrators do
that every day at the elementary and secondary level, and I am sure that Mr.
Robert can speak at the CEGEP level.
However, for the elementary and secondary level, it is vital that these
people realize that this is our system. We stick to it, and so if we can figure
out the busing situation, maybe they will not start thinking about —
"Enough is enough. Our children have spent enough time on the bus. We will
send them to a comprehensive or private school." Fortunately, 90 per cent of
the cases are not like that. We might lose 10 students per year, but that is 10
students too many.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Mr. Robert talked about the lack of
infrastructure in a CEGEP where there is no auditorium for the students to
rehearse in. I think that is ludicrous and it does not make any sense.
Mr. Robert: That honestly breaks my heart. We have a room with 50
seats, like a movie theatre, that we use as our auditorium. I have 1,000
students. As Céline mentioned earlier, our teachers are so involved that they
even help to move the chairs back and forth.
Under these circumstances, it is difficult for us to convince a student in
the process of choosing a CEGEP, to come to our school. We want drama and film
to take centre stage in our CEGEP since it is the only school that puts on plays
in both French and English. The same goes for our improvisation groups.
Last year, our francophone improvisation group won the award even though we
are an English-speaking CEGEP. There are some interesting things going on that
would not necessarily be deemed normal by any other institution.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Two of my nieces studied in your CEGEP and
now they both have high-level jobs in the federal public service. We are very
proud of what you taught them.
The Chair: I have another question to follow up on Senator
Fortin-Duplessis' questions. Mr. Burke, you said: "If we can get the bus system
Are you thinking of any solutions in particular?
Mr. Burke: I asked the administrators this morning to tell me what our
deficit in transport was.
Our current deficit in transport is plus or minus $100,000 in total. If we
want to diminish, only in the Capitale- Nationale, Quebec City, the transport
time to, let us say, an hour going and an hour coming — two hours a day — we
need 10 buses. That increase will cost about half a million dollars, $450,000,
because a bus costs us about $45,000. In the Saguenay, where there is an
important problem, we will need two buses, so that is about $100,000.
We are talking $500,000 or $600,000. Our school board came into being as a
result of —
— the abolition of denominational school boards and the creation of
linguistic boards. When we were with the so- called francophone Catholic school
boards, the busing situation was certainly different. Senator Dawson was already
chair of CECQ. He was the youngest chair in the history of the Commission des
écoles catholiques du Québec.
That changed everything because we found ourselves organizing transportation
for all our students. Some saved time and some lost time. In the first years,
the Central Québec School Board spent an additional $300,000 to make sure travel
time did not exceed three hours.
After putting some pressure on the Quebec government, we received roughly
$150,000 more. Government officials tell us that budgets are limited.
For us it will take probably $500,000 to $600,000 for kids to be less than
two hours per day on a bus.
The last thing we want to do is create expectations for our parents, who are
so patient and understanding. We hope our presence at this committee will be
perceived by them as an attempt, but we have not told them that we will change
things, but they would appreciate that change, too.
That is about the amount of money we would need, and if we took away $500,000
to $600,000 from our budget, we would harm the quality of their education.
Senator De Bané: I recently asked a Walloon friend why he was so
hesitant to learn Flemish, the other official language of his country. He told
me that it was a very difficult language to learn and, in addition, the only
other country in the world to use it was Holland.
He also told me that we were lucky in Canada to have two of the most
beautiful languages in the world. He said: "I assume that everyone in your
country speaks both languages. You really are incredibly lucky." That is when I
realized that we were a bunch of idiots. That is ridiculous. Do we realize what
it means to have two of the two most beautiful languages and how lucky we are to
be next to the richest market in the whole world?
Let us go back to your responsibilities.
Do you know when the next round of negotiations between the Canadian
government and the province about language minority education and official
languages will begin?
Mr. Corriveau: Are you referring to the Canada-Québec Entente?
Senator De Bané: Exactly, and there are two aspects to it: second
language and the official language in a minority situation.
Mr. Corriveau: My understanding, in working with Leo La France, is
they recently signed a new entente for 2009-14, if I am not mistaken, so this
agreement is recent.
Senator De Bané: I see.
Second, are you satisfied with the consultation mechanisms provided for in
the education agreements?
Mr. Robert: My first reaction is that I have been fortunate to work
with Mr. La France, as Mr. Corriveau mentioned, but it is only a question of
personality. I am lucky that I have a relationship with him, but I cannot say
that I know that much or that our college has received that much encouragement.
My fellow citizens from Montreal may be upset here, but I believe sometimes
that a lot of that money is going to Montreal and not here, and we are not that
far away. When I go to the beautiful auditorium at Dawson College, I remind
myself that we have absolutely nothing, let alone the auditorium they have. I
understand that there are more anglophones in Montreal than in Quebec City, but
we also have needs — cultural needs, theatre and drama — and we have no theatre
in the city for anglophone players.
The Quebec Art Company plays in the bottom of a church. There is absolutely
nothing, and they are a professional group. There are a number of things we do
not have, and I know that there are four or five theatre groups in Montreal.
When I invite a theatre group from Montreal to put on a play, I have to
apologize; they will do so in the cafeteria. I feel that sometimes the money for
minority rights or groups stops at the other end of Highway 20.
Mr. Kerwin: I am sorry, but I would like to finish answering in order
to give another perspective.
Champlain Regional College has close to 5,000 students, which puts it in the
same order of magnitude as John Abbott College and Vanier College in Montreal.
Of course, the number is not as large as Dawson, which has 50 per cent more
students, but among the six CEGEPs in the province, Champlain holds its own,
along with Heritage College in Gatineau. However, it is 5,000 students, and in
part, because we do not have all the attention of Montreal and Montreal
newspapers, we have to fight harder. This situation would not be tolerated
anywhere else or in a French CEGEP of 5,000 students.
The other point is that it has been going on since 1970 when we moved out of
the Wolfe Avenue college into a bowling alley and then to this building, which
was good but did not have all the things necessary for a vibrant community to be
able to generate the wealth of citizens it needs to carry on.
It has been going on for some time, and it is not for lack of legitimacy in
size in the province. It is there.
Senator De Bané: Mr. Corriveau, I think you want to add something.
Mr. Corriveau: Yes, please. Along the same line, but I will stick with
education, as you know there are eight other English school boards in the
province, of which the nine directors general meet regularly throughout the
school year. It is always a task to ensure that when something is organized, we
raise a hand and say, Do not forget, we are in Quebec City; or Do not forget, we
are in the Eastern Townships.
An example is professional development for our teachers. Years ago, almost
everyone had to go to Montreal because that is where it was. If there is one
thing I can say since Mr. La France has come to his position, he has been
working and is aware of that issue. More and more, we have PD sessions and other
events in the Quebec City region, but we always have to be present and we always
have to raise our hand and say, Do not forget; oh, yes, that is true; and so on.
Senator De Bané: What do you think if our committee, in our report to
the government, recommends that school boards be involved in the negotiations
with the two governments; not of course as a full member between the two
superior levels of government but that school boards be actively consulted
during those negotiations between the two levels of government? What do you
think if we include that in our report?
Mr. Burke: I was a public servant for the Quebec government for 35
years. I was very involved in the federal- provincial relations. In Quebec, the
Executive Council Act does not allow a municipality to enter into negotiations
with the federal government. It would be great to watch a debate like that on
TV, but it would probably not produce any results. I agree with your idea.
Senator De Bané: Mr. Burke, I completely agree with the fact that a
provincial entity cannot negotiate with another level of government. I was
actually talking about consultations.
I mean to be involved not in the negotiation but to be consulted during the
negotiation, et cetera.
No one can stop you from consulting the Canadian government, but you just
Mr. Burke: Perhaps not, but, as a public servant in the Quebec
government, I can tell you that we have to be careful. We are a school board and
we do not want to turn Quebec officials into our enemies. But, if you ask us to
get involved, that would be a whole different story.
I think it would have to come from the federal government because otherwise —
this is my experience as a civil servant — it will be something that will be
Senator De Bané: I am well aware of the sensitive nature of the issue,
but it would be about making a contribution.
Mr. Burke: I completely agree.
Senator De Bané: In the same vein — and this is my last question — do
you think there is sufficient transparency in the way that the Government of
Quebec uses the funds transferred to it by the Canadian government for minority
language education and second language instruction? Is there transparency or do
you have the foggiest idea what they do with those millions they receive?
Mr. Robert: I can speak for my college. We do not know where all the
Senator De Bané: No one knows.
Mr. Robert: However, the other problem is, before the Canada-Québec
Entente, before any money comes to the college, the provincial government has to
agree that this project is a good one — for example, my auditorium. The federal
government is ready to help, there is no question about it, but only if it is
seen as a priority for the provincial government. It may be a priority for us,
and the federal government may understand that priority because of our minority
situation in Quebec, but whether the province will see the same thing is another
matter because. If they saw the same thing, I probably would not be here talking
to you about a gymnasium with mattresses on the walls because it is too small
for our activities.
It is a difficult situation. The provincial government has to support us so
that the federal government can support us. It is hard sometimes to understand.
I am told about these millions and millions of dollars. I am saying, my little
project is nothing so why is it so complicated and complex? To answer your
question, I do not know where all the money is. I am told and I hear about these
unbelievable amounts of money, but I have not seen them in my school.
Mr. Corriveau: Again, because the table that I sit at with the
directors general of the nine English school boards is not at the same level,
and I hope I am not looking as if I am trying to protect Mr. La France here, but
as to one of your first questions, he has consulted with our board during our
meetings with the nine directors general. Before the signing of the last
entente, we had a chance to give our two cents' worth, if you want, but no more
than that. We did not do anything further than that.
As far as the monies are concerned, again I think it is a question of who is
in place and so on. This is the third assistant deputy minister I have worked
with and I have been around enough to know that this one is transparent. I have
never known so well where money for education — the education money — comes
from, where it is and how much I can benefit from it, because of the
directors-general table I think. However, again, you are right that we never
knew, and we made a point at the directors-general table to find out where these
monies were and what value was in it for our school boards.
Senator De Bané: As you know, Mr. Corriveau, because of the size of
the English-speaking community in Quebec, Quebec is by far the recipient of the
largest amount of transfers for education; for the second official language and
minority, et cetera. Quebec is by far the largest recipient of those federal
Senator Fraser: There are two areas I want to explore, and I hope it
will not take too long: first with the Central Québec School Board and then with
Champlain Regional College. On the matter of buses, I want to be sure I
understand now. You said you have a $100,000 deficit, and I was not sure what
you meant by "deficit." Is that money that you are spending now, so you are in
debt? How does that work?
Mr. Burke: We cannot be in debt because that is not allowed by the
school board, but it is money that we could use elsewhere that we are putting
Senator Fraser: The various formulas would give you $100,000 less if
you were following them.
Mr. Burke: I do not have the exact figures, but eight or nine years
ago we put in for $300,000, and we have been able to obtain some money
successfully from the government, and now we are about $100,000 $115,000 and
$120,000. That is what we are putting in, and we call that our deficit because
we are putting in money that we could be giving to other services. However, if
we wanted to reduce busing time, we would need about $500,000 to $600,000.
Senator Fraser: If, by some happy combination of circumstances, the
$600,000 were made available, perhaps by a beneficent federal government, for
you to buy the buses, could you afford to drive them? You would need all the
drivers, and would have to do the maintenance and whatnot. How does that work?
Mr. Burke: The $45,000 includes the bus and the operation of the bus
because we do not buy the buses. We have contracts with transportation
Senator Fraser: That cost is per year. That is annual cost. That is
not a capital cost.
Mr. Burke: No, that is not a capital cost. You are right. Are we
getting closer to the money? Thank you.
Senator Fraser: I am not the Finance Minister of either level of
government. It is not that I think you do not deserve the money. It is hard to
think of a more compelling case than the one you outlined, and in terms of
trying to attack dropout rates, this case makes a lot of sense. If students are
15 years old and spending three hours a day on a bus and they could get a job as
a gas jockey — anyway, I think I understand that now.
Champlain, what happened to your beautiful building in Sainte-Foy? Who
decided that you should leave it, why, and what was it used for after that?
Mr. Kerwin: The building at the time needed a loan to turn it over
from the St. Lawrence Corporation College that existed to the CEGEP that it had
become. St. Lawrence was for a short time part of Sainte-Foy CEGEP, later part
of Vanier College, and then eventually it joined the Champlain network. The
minister at the time refused to endorse the loan for the college, and turned the
college over to the provincial authority. It eventually became École nationale
d'administration publique for many years.
Senator Fraser: That is a nice building.
Mr. Kerwin: It is a nice building and is now used for the school
board. That is now downtown, I understand.
Senator Fraser: It was basically a provincial government decision?
Mr. Kerwin: Yes.
Senator Fraser: Was it the decision of the provincial government to
send you off to a bowling alley?
Mr. Kerwin: It was supposed to be a temporary facility for a year or
two years. It lasted seven or eight years. In fact, there were generations of
students that went through that facility, including myself, but it made us cozy.
However, we did not have access to anything. We were bused out. Any activity
that had more than 30 or 40 people, we had to find the room somewhere else in
Mr. Robert: To add, when we moved into the building we presently
occupy, it was a rental, and the idea was that it would become an office
building. The future of anglophone education — would there be a need for a CEGEP
— we are still debating. They rebuilt the building; it was owned by a private
company, Bellecour Construction, but they thought one day they would turn it
into an office building. The way it was conceived and built was with the idea of
it someday becoming an office building. It was built with the projection of 300
and 400 students at the time; we now have 1,000.
Senator Fraser: How much money are you looking for? It sounds
perfectly justifiable to me, but how much money will your project cost?
Mr. Robert: The total price of the new project with the auditorium and
the gym and so on is about $12 million. The program for the amphitheatre only is
approximately $6 million. Our original project was 3,800 square metres. The
government said they will consider 1,000 square metres but nothing more, so if I
get anything, it will be the amphitheatre. Again, the provincial government has
said, only if the federal government helps and only if we can find $1 million.
Senator Fraser: Are you allowed to have private fundraising?
Mr. Robert: Yes, we will through our alumni.
Senator Seidman: This meeting has been interesting. We started this
morning and this is only the beginning of our hearings. I think an enormous
amount of time has been spent on education. We heard a lot of talk this morning
from other witnesses in the regions about the problems with education. We all
know that education is essentially in the mandate of provincial governments, so
I think it is symptomatic of a larger, perhaps more challenging issue, which I
want to talk about ultimately. However, I want to go back and explore the three
concrete problems you brought to us, and we do appreciate that information.
Senator Fraser has tried to explore the busing issue. I want to understand
the reasoning behind the three hours, which is abominable. I have a
five-year-old grandson, and the idea that he might sit on a bus for three hours
commuting on a daily basis is horrific in my mind.
I am trying to understand why buses are on the road for so long. Does this
mean you have too few buses? Are the schools spaced too far apart so buses have
long runs? A child gets on at the beginning of the run, and the longest time the
child sits on the bus is 90 minutes; is that correct?
Mr. Burke: That is one of the reasons. Our schools are regional. In
some areas, if they are lucky to live close to the school, their transportation
will not be so long; but if they are at the outskirts of the territory, of
course they will be on that bus for a long time. They have a right to go to
school, but the school does not go to them.
Three hours is about 20 per cent of our clientele, maybe a little less than
20 per cent. They are not all on the bus three hours, but not many are less than
two hours. We will go back to the Government of Quebec because we are waiting to
gather our data and to be sure, but we are not fibbing when we say three hours.
Some students are on the bus three hours; many of them are between two and three
hours; and not many are less than an hour for sure.
Senator Seidman: That is an hour each way, meaning two hours a day; is
Mr. Burke: Yes, and most of our parents will agree with that. If they
go from three hours to two hours, it is considerable. It is because of the
distance and the fact that we have only one particular school and they have to
get to that school.
Senator Seidman: The schools are spread out.
Mr. Burke: Yes.
Senator Seidman: That is helpful. Thank you.
I want to pursue the special needs, and we have not touched on that area yet.
It is disconcerting that you do not have the kind of resources you need for
special needs students and that they may have to travel enormous distances at
great expense and inconvenience to their families. I am trying to understand
that issue as well. Can you please help me on what the problem is there?
Mr. Corriveau: When we are given the allotments for special needs,
again the idea is that maybe we have a school, for example, in La Tuque, with
"X" number of students, and we receive allotments in that way, so the school
might be given a 20 per cent position for a psychologist, if you want. The
problem is that if we put out a posting for a 20 per cent job in La Tuque for a
psychologist, who will take that job? That is our dilemma. In our case, we have
a little percentage there, a little percentage in Jonquière and another little
percentage in Thetford Mines. That is our difficulty.
For our speech pathologist, for example — we have some here in Quebec — some
have offices and accommodate us that way. That is the only way we can do it
Senator Seidman: Clearly, you cannot have one teacher make the round
of these schools. The area is too great, so you cannot have 20 per cent, 20 per
cent and whatever to make up a full position. What is the solution, then, to
Mr. Corriveau: That is the difficulty of these small regions. Again,
should I say we need a 100 per cent psychologist in these areas? Of course, for
the small schools we hire for, that situation will not happen. We try as much as
possible to have the 20 per cent or 30 per cent attached to something else that
a professional can do; perhaps they can work in the greater part of the city and
so on, but that is not always the case.
When we fill that position, more often than not, the person does not speak
English, so that becomes another problem. It is not only the small percentage of
time but it is to be able to find the person who will communicate in English
with our students. It is extremely difficult. We try our best to fill the
position. Sometimes we use the idea of having someone who has, let us say, 20
per cent in one area accumulate days and then go for a month at a time, or
whatever the case may be. It is trying to do the best we can with these
Senator Seidman: Thank you very much. Of course, the physical plant is
remarkable, and I think you have explained that well so I do not need to
continue along that line, but I want to move to these unintended effects of
transfer agreements with no strings attached, so to speak. Do you think there
should be more accountability in transfer payments? The federal government gives
monies to the provinces for education. Do you think that the federal government
should play a larger role in how that money is spent and that there should be
perhaps some kind of delineation of how that money ought to be spent?
Mr. Kerwin: I have a comment. Although many of these millions of
dollars seem to move across under the auspices of education, certainly for
minorities in number, the institute and the bricks and the mortar that benefit
are used for reasons far beyond education. A small community cannot have a Tara
Hall to listen to its community and for other functions. The community centres
around the local schools and colleges. When we need something new, it starts
with the colleges, and then it draws with it the expectation that this is
It started with something other than education, or not only education, and
education is a big part of it. Education is of provincial jurisdiction; that is
clear. If the federal government reserves money in support of minorities, then I
think the nuance has to be understood that the money is for more than education.
It is in support of these communities. If the money is to be only for education
and if the numbers are to be trimmed on the basis of education norms, then we
have been cheated. The nuance has to be clarified as to how that is done. I
leave it to experts such as honourable senators to figure out how to do that,
but we have to work harder at that, that is for sure.
Mr. Robert: When we look at the francophone CEGEPs in the province, we
always talk about regional CEGEPs. Regional CEGEPs are well taken care of by the
provincial government because they are recognized as being the hub of culture,
the hub of activity, of athletics of education, of professional development. We
are in a sense a CEGEP en région where in Quebec we are a CEGEP en région for
the anglophone community, and that is the status I want to have, in a sense.
Help us because we are the hub of culture, athletics and education here in
Quebec City, the anglophone section.
Senator Seidman: Anyone else? I thank you for that. I think that is
helpful, and perhaps that is the nuance to which you refer.
Mr. Kerwin: Yes.
Senator Fraser: May I have my supplementary question? It follows more
or less; it is not as vague a supplementary as I thought it might be.
It has to do with relations with the government. I will sneak in two
questions here, but I will put them both together. First, perhaps you can tell
me if my recollection is correct. Way back when the federal government started
contributing to minority language education, maybe before all of you were born
but I was around, my recollection is that the Government of Quebec said, in
effect, Look, we already provide this education. We will take the money because
we can use the money, and if you are giving out money, but we already provide
the education, so we do not have to give you an accounting for what we already
do, whereas the money you are sending to the other provinces in most cases is
for new programs and facilities and you are entitled to an accounting for that.
I may be wrong, but I want to know if my recollection is correct.
On the subject of government relations, you all have spoken highly of Mr. La
France, whom I do not know, but he sounds like a really great guy. However,
should the whole system be dependent on personal relations with one great guy,
or are there things that can be done to improve the system so it does not have
to be so dependent on one human being who might be promoted to some other
ministry, and then what will you do?
Mr. Corriveau: I can comment on Mr. La France. I think he is a great
guy because he has not done everything himself. He has provided, as I used the
word previously, transparency; he has formed committees. The directors- general
table I referred to a couple of times now knows and understands where this money
comes from and what it is about. There is a subcommittee that supports this
committee, and there are other organizations across the province with people in
the know. That is where I think the good guy comes from; it is not a one-man
show any more.
Senator Fraser: He set up the system?
Mr. Corriveau: Definitely.
Mr. Robert: I agree in that he was probably one of the first to come
and visit my college. I phoned him and talked about my needs, and he said, Next
time I am in Quebec City, I will come to your college.
It was out of the blue and I was happy to have him come because it is then an
easier sell for me because it is what it is when people come into the building.
I think there is a lot of work we can do with the provincial government to
remind them of our role and what I mentioned a little earlier; that we have an
important role in Quebec society. The CEGEPs are going through a difficult time
right now where people are questioning whether francophones should be allowed to
come to our CEGEPs. That question comes up every so often, and every time it
comes up I say, "This cannot be." It comes up more often where people feel
that francophones and allophones should not chose an anglophone CEGEP. When we
are in that type of debate and are trying to ask for an auditorium, it becomes a
little tricky because there are people in the government who truly believe that
we are more of a nuisance than anything.
Senator Fraser: My question about the original justification for the
lack of transparency, am I completely confused about that justification? Is my
recollection all wrong?
Mr. Burke: I would rather not comment on that question. My opinion is
the political side of the school board. This man deals with administration as
well as government. I like the invitation of Senator De Bané. Maybe the
political sides of the school boards, if we are still alive in the next three
years because there is talk about the future of school trustees in this
province, should be involved in the negotiation process. Again, my experience as
civil servant is that there will be many difficulties for us to do that.
The Chair: I would like to mention that we will be welcoming Mr. La
France tomorrow. You will have the opportunity to ask your questions then.
Senator Champagne: I will try to make sense of the notes I took during
I find it hard to believe that a school like yours does not have a theatre,
an auditorium. I find it equally hard to believe that you were told one day:
Pack up and ship out to a bowling alley. However, you are not the only ones.
I would like to remind you that the Conservatoire de musique et d'arts
dramatiques in Montreal was moved from the beautiful Cormier building to a
warehouse. Another music conservatory and institute of dramatic arts had to wait
seven years to get a small concert hall. So I tell myself that perhaps all is
When I was responsible for youth in the government, post-secondary education
was an important issue for the federal government, and I believe it still is.
The Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology did a recent study,
which seemed to go on forever, on how to help young people to attend
post-secondary school and not drop out. Very few Quebeckers took part in that
committee. Whether francophone or anglophone, people came from everywhere. One
of the questions raised was on how to help Indians on reserves to get a
How is it that we are currently talking about building an amphitheatre in
Quebec City of $400 million or more? And Mr. Robert, how many millions did you
say were needed to build yours?
Mr. Robert: The whole project is $12 million, but the amphitheatre is
Senator Champagne: As I said earlier, we must go back to a one-third,
one-third, one-third formula. The funding would come from the federal,
provincial and municipal levels of government, from the school and from the
private sector; $12 million is not $400 million. We are not asking the whole
country to pay $400 million.
Has this option been considered? You are saying that, for the federal
government to consider releasing funds, Quebec has to be interested. And the
Quebec government is telling you that, for it to be interested, the federal
government has to provide funding. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
What are we going to do?
Mr. Robert: At the moment, we are lucky that the federal government
has shown interest. I had the opportunity to go to Ottawa twice to meet with
officials from Canadian Heritage. At least, that is an option. So we now have to
wait for an answer from the department.
As I said, the department cut my project down from $12 million to $5 or $6
million. So I have already lost a significant chunk. But at least I have $6
As I said earlier, we go back to the same thing. If I have that money, it is
not as bad and I will accept it; at least I have something. It is true that we
are a small CEGEP, but we get to a point where we tell ourselves that it is
This weekend, I went to Limoilou CEGEP, in Charlesbourg. They have a
fantastic campus. They do not have more students than us, but they have an
artificial soccer field, a running track and an amazing auditorium. And the
CEGEP is the same size as ours!
Senator Champagne: Are you saying that it is because your CEGEP is
Mr. Robert: I can tell you that it is a lot more difficult. It is a
lot more difficult for us as an English-speaking CEGEP to get the necessary
funding for our mission, which is a rather important mission here in Quebec.
Senator Champagne: Madam Chair, I would like to add something, if I
You said that 40 per cent of the students who come to your college come
originally from French high schools, or is it the other way around?
Mr. Robert: Approximately 65 per cent of our students come to us from
Senator Champagne: If they can make entry exams, obviously they are
close to being bilingual from the French schools; are they?
Mr. Robert: The majority of students come to us from programs where
they have anglais enrichi aux écoles internationals; where their parents
travelled, where English was important. I have 400 students that we refused this
year that wanted that opportunity but could not get it. Typically, the
francophone students that are at St. Lawrence are often gifted and have always
been fortunate because they have been able to go into programs where English was
important, so yes, we do have la crème de la crème in that area.
Senator Champagne: A sign of that was primary and secondary school in
French and then they went to Dawson in English.
Is there an interest in learning a third or a fourth language in your
Mr. Robert: There is a keen interest. We offer all our students the
opportunity to take Spanish or German. In our case, it is limited to Spanish and
German, but we have hundreds of students every semester who take an additional
language as a complementary course. We have about 35 students who come to us
each semester from Mexico, so it introduces our students to the language. In a
small college like St. Lawrence, when we see someone in the building, a small
group of students from Mexico, we know they are from another country, so it
encourages our students. They hear the language, so the languages are
encouraged. We have exchange programs, as I said, with Mexico, so we have a
number of students who take a third language.
An interesting thing is that a strong majority of our students are taking
français langue maternelle. They are not at St. Lawrence taking français langue
séconde. We have strong high-level French courses. To take French in the CEGEP
system, there is Course 103, which is the maximum level that one takes in French
as a second language. At St. Lawrence, 65 per cent to 70 per cent of our
students take a course that we put together above the level of Course 103. When
the students finished it, we said they did more than Course 103 so we will count
Course 103. That is a phenomenon of Quebec City, maybe not a phenomenon in
Montreal. Usually, the 35 per cent or 40 per cent of students that come from
English schools often went to Quebec High School or St. Patrick's and took
French mother tongue, so we have a strong cohort of bilingual students.
Senator Champagne: Our kids are as smart as those Swiss kids. They
complete high school and know how to speak four languages: French, English,
Italian and German.
Mr. Kerwin: There has been an evolution in Quebec City, which you are
aware of, in that many of these students are born and raised into mixed
families. Their parents are not French and not English; they are both. My mother
was French Canadian in part, and I married a French Canadian. My children went
to French school, and they joined the St. Lawrence system. They are not among
those who came through the English system and went to St. Lawrence. However, one
would be hard pressed to find people who would say the Kerwins are not Irish in
There is a mix there, and the students and their parents feel at home not
only in English; they feel at home in French as well. To them, going to St.
Lawrence and going from French to English is going from home to home. They do
not take on the prejudices that society imposes on the camps of anglophones and
francophones elsewhere in the province.
Senator Champagne: Is it still difficult in Quebec City for
anglophones to identify themselves as an anglophone Quebecers? Does an identity
problem exist there?
Mr. Kerwin: Come to our St. Patrick's Day parade.
Senator Champagne: You are not trying to tell me that an Irishman is
an Englishman now.
Mr. Kerwin: No, but people are at ease in identifying with their
communities here. They are comfortable with that identity here in Quebec. There
is a mix in the school here that the numbers do not necessarily demonstrate.
Senator Dawson: I was not intending on opening this can of worms, but
Mr. Kerwin brought up the fact that because anglophone Quebecers in Quebec
decide to send their kids to elementary school and secondary school in French,
they take away their right to send their kids to an English school. Because they
are trying to be good citizens and trying to be integrated, they lose a right,
as it is not transferable from one generation to another. That is a big issue,
Course 103; we can get it.
We have a responsibility as senators. I was not there, but we accepted an
amendment that was asked for by the Government of Quebec; one that amended the
Constitution to say we were going from Catholic school boards to
anglophone-francophone school boards.
This morning, collateral damage was brought up by the Quebec Community Groups
Network dealing with immigration and jobs. Once Canada transferred that
requirement to the provinces, anglophones lost their right to be served in
English, which was not the intention of the federal or provincial governments,
but the collateral damage was done. Anglophones now do not have the right to be
served in the language of their choice, which they have in the rest of the
Collateral damage in this case, when we, the Senate of Canada, decided to
accept the request of the Government of Quebec to abolish the Catholic school
boards and create a linguistic school board meant that the anglophone school
board existed, and that is part of the busing problem. Before then, busing was
used for a large number of people.
I was chair of a school board in Quebec before then. Reality was changed, and
it was not intentional, but it meant that students that were able to travel
collectively with francophones in buses from different communities now had to
have services provided to them only by the English school board, and the
students had to pay for it. Before then, we would have had cross-subsidization
between the anglophones and francophones for transportation.
That was not the intention of the Senate or the House of Commons when they
provided the right to amend the Constitution, but the collateral damage is our
responsibility. Even though the issue is a provincial one, we did not ask them
at that time to guarantee that they would not have any of these "collateral
Even though we do not have a judicial responsibility towards the community
colleges, we made that decision and we probably should have looked at it a
second time and made provisions to be sure that there was no collateral damage.
As for the building, my son graduated from Champlain-St. Lawrence College and
the ceremony took place in the gymnasium. It was nice, and I am happy that he
graduated. I had doubts for many years, and Mr. Robert encouraged me every once
in a while by saying, He will finish; if you could finish, he can finish.
It was embarrassing because an undersized gymnasium is not the place to have
a graduation ceremony. At least there were no bowling alleys.
Collateral damage of that constitutional decision means that our committee
has a responsibility in our report — again, I am not a regular member of this
committee so I am sure you are always careful about your reports — of telling
the federal government, as Senator De Bané said. When we go back to the table to
negotiate, remember that collateral damages occurred by a gesture made in good
faith and had the effect that Mr. Burke must find ways to finance more buses
because we, in Ottawa, decided that this request was justified.
I want to be sure that even though we recognize our constitutional limits,
this meeting is an opportunity to be heard. They are talking to us and we should
talk to the government.
That was not really a question, I understand, but I put in my two cents'
worth. What do you think of what I said?
Mr. Burke: It is music to my ears, Senator Dawson.
The Chair: I would like to ask the last question and get some more
information about the amphitheatre project that you are talking about.
You have said:
We have also received signs that all levels of government will help us
with this project.
Where are you at with your strategic plan or your business plan? Have you
found support with the different levels of government, both the federal and
provincial? Have you started thinking about your fundraising campaign?
Mr. Robert: We have been working on it for a year. We submitted the
financial framework two weeks ago. We first received the letter from the
department stating that our application is for a $12-million project. They said
that they could only provide funding for 1,000 square metres, but that we asked
for an area of 3,800 square metres.
After that, I said that our priority and the priority of the English-speaking
community was the amphitheatre. So I submitted a project to the department in
which 40 per cent of the money would come from the provincial government and 45
per cent from the federal government. The remaining funding could come from the
alumni or organizations in the area since it really is a project for the
The Chair: Are the various levels of government aware of this
project's importance for the vitality, pride, development and progress of a
minority community like yours? Are we repeating this message regularly enough so
that they understand?
Mr. Robert: We are trying to repeat it as much as possible. But some
consider it to be a luxury. Sometimes they will tell us that it is possible to
go to another school and rent an available room.
Canadian Heritage did, however, show great interest in our project. They
understand the importance of having this kind of project in a community. The
fact that Dawson College has an amphitheatre shows how open they are, which is
crucial for our community.
The Chair: I do not think there are any other questions.
I want to thank the four witnesses for your presentations and answers. It was
appreciated, and we will surely discuss everything at more length back in
Honourable senators, there will be a meeting with the members of the board of
directors in the library at 4:15 p.m. We will return here for the next hearings
(The committee adjourned)