Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 12 - Evidence - October 25, 2010
OTTAWA, Monday, October 25, 2010
The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages met this day at 5:02 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: Honourable senators, welcome to the Standing Senate
Committee on Official Languages. My name is Senator Maria Chaput, from Manitoba,
and I am the Chair of the Committee. Before I introduce the witnesses before us
today, I invite the members of the committee to introduce themselves, beginning
on my left.
Senator Seidman: I am Senator Judith Seidman, from Montreal, Quebec.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis, from Quebec City.
Senator Brazeau: I am Senator Patrick Brazeau, from Quebec.
Senator Losier-Cool: Senator Rose-Marie Losier-Cool, from New
Senator Tardif: Senator Claudette Tardif, from Alberta.
Senator Fraser: I am Senator Joan Fraser, from Montreal.
The Chair: The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages will
continue its study on English-speaking communities in Quebec and is pleased to
welcome two representatives of YES Montreal, Mr. John Aylen, President; and Ms.
Iris Unger, Executive Director.
The mission of Youth Employment Services, YES Montreal, is to provide
English-language support services in Montreal to help individuals find
employment and start businesses.
The committee looks forward to hearing more about this organization. Mr.
Aylen, please proceed with your presentation, which will be followed by
John Aylen, President, YES Montreal (Youth Employment Services): Our
presentation will be in four parts. I will talk to you a little bit about who we
are and our observations and perceptions. Ms. Unger will talk about the issues
and positive elements and will provide an overview of our recommendations to the
YES Montreal has been in existence for 15 years. We were started by a group
of volunteers made up of business people, educators and community leaders, of
which I was one. We were concerned by the exodus of educated young people from
Quebec, and we recognized that the key to youth retention was through
employment. Currently we see over 3,800 clients and have more than 14,000 visits
to the centre each year. We have a full-time staff of 18 people, and we are
located in downtown Montreal. We offer more than 400 workshops and have more
than 700 volunteers who sit on our boards and committees and act as mentors and
presenters at workshops and conferences. We have a strong partnership with the
universities, including McGill and Concordia, as well as with the business,
corporate, non-profit and artists sectors.
It is worth noting that we spearhead a coalition of other non-profits who
provide English-language employment services in Quebec. This is the Employment
Services Roundtable. The table was set up 10 years ago when the transfer of
responsibility for employment was shifted from the federal to the provincial
A brief profile of our clients shows that 87 per cent are English-speaking; 9
per cent are French-speaking; 4 per cent speak a language other than English or
French as their mother tongue; 36 per cent come from other countries; 37 per
cent identify themselves as a member of a visible minority; 65 per cent have
university degrees — 16 per cent at the master's or PhD level; and 26 per cent
have a CEGEP trade school or high school degree.
In 2009-10, we served 3,875 clients. Approximately 2,500 of them were clients
looking for employment and approximately 925 were entrepreneurship clients
looking to start businesses; 486 were artists whom we helped to monetize their
art so that it could be transferred from an interest into a profession.
We have prepared packages to provide further information to the committee; we
invite you to consult them, of course.
In general terms, we believe there is a gap between what the English-speaking
community is getting and what it needs. As a consequence, English speakers are
disadvantaged. It takes them longer to find jobs, and they are limited in the
number of jobs that are available to them. It is harder for them to start
businesses and succeed. They are more often underemployed. They are at a higher
risk for leaving the province and the country. There is also a false perception
that the anglophone population is wealthy and privileged. More specifically, the
English-speaking community is at a disadvantage in Montreal and in Quebec in
terms of economic development opportunities, employment and entrepreneurship for
a variety of reasons.
Retention is an issue in Quebec, especially for new Quebecers and young
people. The transfer payments from the federal government for employment
programs through Emploi-Québec are not meeting the needs of the English-
Funding for non-profits from governments is unstable, with high
administrative costs. Funding to organizations is fragmented and uncoordinated.
In an attempt to centralize services, the government has set up government
agencies and para-government agencies such as CLDs and CJEs. These do not meet
the needs of the minority communities in Montreal and in Quebec.
There is no strategic plan for English-speaking communities around economic
development issues within federal and provincial governments, and they are often
working at cross-purposes. Government consultations and planning takes place at
the provincial and municipal levels, with few representatives from the
What are the goals or objectives when we speak of employment or
self-employment, and how do these goals and objectives impact the future of the
Every study and all the research that has been done, whether it is with youth
or new arrivals, or the population in general, employment is always the number
one issue that determines where one chooses to settle. When YES was founded 15
years ago, it was in response to the flow of young, educated Montrealers who
could not find opportunities here and were leaving. Today we are seeing young
people coming here through choice from elsewhere, looking to put roots down,
earn money and contribute to our economy.
We believe that the YES mission has shifted our approach from stopping the
brain drain to helping drive the brain gain. Finding meaningful employment and
supporting self-employment for those wishing to stay in Quebec is fundamental to
the future of the province and the country.
Iris Unger, Executive Director, YES Montreal (Youth Employment Services):
We did a report four years ago with Jack Jedwab looking at the barriers to
employment and self-employment for new arrivals, visible minorities and cultural
communities in Quebec. A list of limitations and barriers included limited
networks; access to language training in both English and French;
entrepreneurship bureaucracy in French only; university students who want to
stay but find themselves with visa issues; accreditation for new immigrants and
support and training, especially in the trades; and access to capital for new
Young people who are making the transition from school to work need a lot of
support to prepare for that transition, whether they are dropouts or graduates.
They are not gaining the skills in the universities or the schools in terms of
career options and choices.
The government has invested a lot in what we refer to, and Mr. Aylen
mentioned, as the "para-government organizations,'' but a lot of people in the
official languages minority communities do not access those services. They go to
their local community organizations.
Uniquely among provinces, Quebec is responsible for selecting its immigrants
and, not surprisingly, the province emphasizes people who speak French and who
are willing and able to integrate into the Quebec nation. However, more than
one-half of all Canadian immigrants come from areas of India, China or countries
nearby, and they are vastly more likely to know English or to be willing to
learn it than French, according to an article in The Globe and Mail of
March 10, 2010.
According to this article, Quebec is the least diverse of Canada's big
provinces and, according to an economist who wrote the article and specializes
in immigrant diversity at the University of Montreal, there is a divide between
immigration policy and integration policy. She states that the province
encourages immigration but then lacks the funding or policy coherent to help new
arrivals integrate into the Quebec economy. This is an important issue because
when new arrivals come to Quebec they are automatically put into welcome centres
where they learn French language and get their initial support, but if someone
comes and has English only there is very little at the starting stage when they
first enter into Quebec to gain supports in English.
There are a few positives. The good news is that there are many people coming
to Quebec who want to stay in Quebec. There is still a strong and very vibrant
English-speaking community that contributes to the economic and cultural well-
being of Quebec and Canada. There is a great volunteer core and Mr. Aylen is an
example of that. The programs through many of the not-for-profits and programs
such as YES are quite successful. We had a Service Canada internship program for
the past four or five years. We have had 88 per cent placement and placed close
to 200 people in jobs. We strongly support that program.
There are many strong partnerships between the community groups and community
groups in the francophone community and the other provinces. As well, many of
the community organizations are good at brokering resources from the government
and, for example, a third of our $1.3 million budget comes from other resources.
The monies that we get from government are able to attract resources through
other foundations, corporations, individuals, as well as many in- kind donations
from lawyers, accountants, marketing gurus and others.
As far as the recommendations, one of the big issues, as we mentioned
earlier, is the devolution of funding from the federal government to the
provincial government around employment issues. We strongly believe that there
needs to be a review of the entente to see whether it is working for the
minority community in Quebec. On many occasions, people have asked to see the
document to find out what the legislation was meant to ensure; it has been about
nine years and that that information has not yet surfaced. There is also
discussion about moving the youth employment strategies to the province. We
strongly recommend a very clear review of that if that takes place because we
also believe that it will not be in the long-term best interests of the minority
We believe that the federal government can play a role in bringing together
the provincial, federal and community partners to develop and plan for programs
around the economic needs of the official languages community.
There needs to be support for those looking for work. Currently there are the
immigration departments, whether federal or provincial, in Quebec there is
economic development through the federal government, and employment and jobs
through the provincial government, and then there is immigration. The different
silos are not working in the best interests and not working together to create a
common objective of helping people actually integrate. We could share a lot of
stories of where we have actually come across huge roadblocks of trying to get
great programs, putting all the pieces together where we were not able to do it
because of the political will and structures.
Para-government organizations are being set up to centralize some of the
community services, whereas the community organizations are the grassroots up
organizations that have volunteers, passion, and are aware of the goals of the
minority communities. These organizations need support. The people looking for
services are not going to the government organizations.
Internship programs, as I mentioned, are extremely successful in helping
integrate people into the communities and into jobs. One of the suggestions is
looking at how corporations can help support the communities by having
incentives, whether having some kind of a charitable incentive to help support
the work being done in the communities. There could be affordable and accessible
French classes for anyone who wants them. If you live in Canada and come to
Quebec, you are not eligible for the subsidized French classes, and many people
coming to Quebec do not have English or French and if you are a new arrival from
another country you are able to get French classes, but it is impossible to get
any kind of subsidized English classes or affordable English classes in Quebec.
A lot of people who come really need both language skills.
Accreditation is an issue for new arrivals as well, and red tape for many of
the entrepreneurs coming and wanting to start small businesses. All the
documentation in Quebec is done in French. Someone coming from another province
or another country who wants to register his or her company, there is really no
incentive because all the forms, documents, help that they can receive are done
at bodies that are not bilingual.
We have a whole wish list of recommendations and suggestions, and we want to
thank you all for having us here today to share them with you.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: First of all, I want to tell you how lovely
it is that you agreed to appear before the committee to give us some insight
into this issue.
After holding hearings in Quebec, we learned that a great many
English-speaking youth were leaving Quebec to either go to school or work in
another province. We were very surprised by that.
We also learned that in remote areas, such as Gaspé, young people were
dropping out of school because of problems with drugs or other substances, and
very often, as a result, they were unable to find jobs and were becoming
dependent on welfare.
I really appreciate what you do. I think you are providing a useful service
to English-speaking students.
Near the bottom of page 5 of your brief, you call for more investment in
internship opportunities, indicating that, as a result of internships, your
organization has been able to place 115 candidates over the last year with 88
per cent retention.
First of all, I want to know how you are faring; what is your success rate?
In 2009 and 2010, your organization served 3,875 people. How many of them were
able to find a job or start a business?
Mr. Aylen: In terms of employment, 89 per cent of our clients found a
job the same year they came to see us. A total of 200 businesses provided
internship opportunities. The success rate among candidates who had completed
internships was in the neighbourhood of 89 per cent or 90 per cent.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: What an incredible success rate; how
Mr. Aylen: I hired a young graphic artist to work in my own business.
She spent a few years working there, and it helped kick-start a very impressive
career. Now she is somewhere else, but she started out with Youth Employment
Services and then came to work for me.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Fantastic. Do any of your clients come from
the regions, or is it only those who go to Montreal to study, either at McGill,
Concordia or Sherbrooke? Do you have any figures on those who come from the
Mr. Aylen: I do not have any figures, but I can tell you that it is
happening a lot more. When youth come to Montreal from areas that do not have
universities nearby, they very often end up coming to see us, either during or
near the end of their studies. Universities and CEGEPs provide little or no
employment support, in terms of either finding a job or starting a business.
Ms. Unger: This year, we launched a new program with the regions, and
we are advertising in every region in Quebec. The program, called Destination
Montreal, is the result of a partnership between the regions and Montreal to
help students who come to Montreal. There has been some advertising for our
organization, and we offer a few workshops for these individuals.
In this, the program's first year, we have had approximately 10 individuals
come and work with these people. We have some figures, but I am not sure how
many are from the regions. But I can get those figures.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: If you could provide that information, it
would help the committee a lot.
Of all the young people you have served who have then been able to find a job
with the provincial or federal government, have you noticed whether being
bilingual improves their chances?
Mr. Aylen: There are very few opportunities for anglophones in the
provincial public service. That is for sure. There a number of reasons for that,
having to do with culture and candidate pools, in other words, where people are
from. But there is very little opportunity at the provincial level.
The Chair: Are you talking about anglophones who can also speak
French, who are bilingual?
Mr. Aylen: I am expressing an opinion.
The Chair: Yes, I understand.
Mr. Aylen: I do not have any figures to back me up, but I would say
that it is not very common for an anglophone who is fluent in French to gain
employment with the province.
The situation is slightly different in the federal government. Of course, the
process to hire someone in the federal public service is a rather lengthy one.
It is common for our clients to find a job before a position opens up with the
I should also mention that the public service has a program where a
representative visits Youth Employment Services every year to explain the hiring
Ms. Unger: A lot of people think that their French skills are not
strong enough to apply for a job in the federal government. A lot of people do
not look for a job with the provincial government. That is not something they
choose to go after. I am not sure why. The federal government tries to attract
people, but the process is slow, and most youth want to start working right
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: In closing, I want to commend you for your
work with these young people. Thank you for answering my questions.
The Chair: Do you have another question, Senator Losier-Cool?
Senator Losier-Cool: Thank you, Madam Chair. When you were describing
the clients you serve, you said that 9 per cent were French-speaking. Why would
francophones seek out your services? Is there no organization that serves them?
Does that limit the services you are able to provide to anglophones?
Mr. Aylen: I find it to be a very telling indicator. In a perfect
world, people would seek out the service they need in any language. We strive to
help youth find employment, start a business or pursue their artistic
aspirations. Our mission is to support youth and provide English-language
services. It is very important to remember that. Our mission is not necessarily
to help English speakers find employment, but to help youth find employment by
providing English- language support, because English is the language we speak.
Senator Losier-Cool: Terrific. Now it is my turn to commend you.
Senator Tardif: Thank you for appearing before the committee, and
thank you for your excellent presentation.
In your fourth recommendation, you call for more consultation between
community groups and the government, as well as within the various government
departments. An Industry Canada official told the committee that her department
was planning to consult with English-speaking entrepreneurs in Quebec this fall.
Do you know whether those consultations have taken place?
Mr. Aylen: I could not say.
Ms. Unger: I think you are referring to a project undertaken by CEDEC
in consultation with entrepreneurs. The project resulted in the same findings as
the study we did four years ago. More English-language support and access to
funding are needed, among other things.
Senator Tardif: I am not sure whether that is the same consultation
that the minister was talking about. Those consultations involved
English-speaking entrepreneurs. We could find out.
Ms. Unger: Industry Canada held consultations last week. Is that what
you are referring to?
Senator Tardif: I am not sure. I will find out whether those are the
You mentioned the need for consultation in your report. In your opinion,
regular consultation between associations, organizations and the various levels
of government is lacking, is that right?
Ms. Unger: I am talking about consultations on employment and
immigration. On the business side, I think Industry Canada and the others do a
good job when it comes to consulting with communities. For the most part, the
gap is between the provinces and the federal government, more specifically, in
terms of immigration and community groups.
I would say the big gap is in between the community groups and the provincial
Senator Tardif: How does that affect your work? Does it have a direct
impact on your work?
Mr. Aylen: Yes, because the objectives of a government-provided
service are not always compatible with those of our services. Citizenship and
Immigration Canada has one objective, Emploi Québec has another and, Industry
Canada has another still. We work with clients whose main objective is to find a
job or start a business. Those two objectives are not always compatible.
Ms. Unger: For example, the main mission of Emploi-Québec is to help
people get off the government subsidies — to get them off Employment Insurance
or get them off welfare and get them jobs. Our mission is to get a young
university graduate into the workforce. Emploi-Québec's mission is not
specifically to help the English-speaking community. It is, "Here is the person.
Make sure they do not end up on Employment Insurance or welfare.''
We find ourselves in that dichotomy, because funding can be quite unstable.
Emploi-Québec's basic objectives and priorities include welfare recipients and
people in receipt of Employment Insurance. Perhaps, if there is no income, then
they will provide money to the organizations that will help them.
As Mr. Aylen said, you end up trying to piece together different kinds of
funding. I always say I feel that because we have such diverse funding, our
organization is a good model for the government should look at because we are
actually leveraging provincial, federal, corporations and foundations. We do
that with the goal of moving the individual forward. As I mentioned, we do end
up in situations, for example, with the new immigrants arriving who need to
obtain language skills. We go to the province and try to get help. It is
difficult to get French training for a person who comes here with English
skills. It is difficult to get that person French training because he or she is
not eligible. It is the same problem for a person living in Quebec who maybe
went to high school here and did not get proper French. That person is welcome
to learn French but is not eligible for subsidized French classes.
We keep running into little barriers — well, not little, but immense barriers
— of trying to manage the systems around the people, where it should be the
other way around.
Senator Tardif: What could we do to remove those barriers?
Ms. Unger: One solution would be discussions with the provincial and
federal partners around the specific issue. We need to discuss the issue that
economic development, employment, entrepreneurship and immigration are
interrelated issues for the English-speaking community. At some point, we need
to sit down and state the goals and the best interests of the individuals. We
must do this if we want to keep anglophone youth and anglophone new arrivals in
Quebec. We really need to look at some structures that are in place that are
creating handicaps and barriers and causing people to leave.
It is very frustrating working at Youth Employment Services where we see
4,000 people who want to stay in Montreal. People love Montreal and Quebec, and
they want to stay, and we can do just so much to help them, but there has to be
the will on all parties, whether political, social, education and immigration,
to make that happen.
Senator Fraser: I remember when YES was set up a long time ago. You
have come a long way. It is fascinating to see. I am particularly interested in
the availability or otherwise of services in English from governments in general
and in particular, obviously, where the federal government has a role, either
directly or through funding of provincial programs.
On the entrepreneurship difficulties, getting documentation, guides, and
whatnot in English, is that because of Bill 101 and the rule that the Government
of Quebec deals with businesses in French?
Ms. Unger: That is part of the issue, and that is another example. If
you have more than 50 employees, everything has to be done in French. Even as a
not-for-profit organization, we have had issues with the Office québécois de la
langue française. We had a placement agency where if people had jobs, we could
put them on the website and match them with our clients, but we put it up in
whatever language the person sent the job description to us.
Senator Fraser: They would not like that.
Ms. Unger: No, but we were a cultural community and money did not
exchange hands. They called some of the companies to ensure that the money was
not exchanging hands.
Senator Fraser: That is what they exist to do, is it not?
On the matter of the entente and employment programs that are administered by
Emploi-Québec, did I understand you correctly that you have not been able to see
the text of the entente?
Ms. Unger: We do not have a copy of it, and I know that in other
consultations people have asked for information about the entente, so I do not
Senator Fraser: How can this be? This is a federal-provincial
agreement for the spending of taxpayers' money. Do we have it? We do not have
The Chair: No.
Senator Fraser: That is a scandal. We will see if we can find it. You
do not know whether there is a clause in the entente saying there should be
services for the minority language community.
Ms. Unger: Hearsay has said that.
Senator Fraser: Hearsay has said that there is; but, in fact, the way
Emploi-Québec works, there are not services in English.
Ms. Unger: They do fund our organization. As Mr. Aylen mentioned, they
fund several organizations.
Senator Fraser: They provide services indirectly.
Ms. Unger: They fund organizations that provide English language
services. I believe that they are outsourcing some of the high risk. For people
with disabilities, they will fund a non-profit organization that deals with
disabilities. It is true when we say that our youth are at risk of leaving the
province. We do not receive money to help the English- speaking community; we
receive money because it helps with youth retention. Again, these youth have no
money and are unemployed because they are coming out of school; and
Emploi-Québec will not give us money to help people in school. They will not
give us money to help underemployed people. There is a whole list of criteria
regarding who is eligible for our services. We are supposed to be helping people
who have no money or are at risk of becoming unemployed or on welfare.
Senator Fraser: They will not help to fund French language classes for
anyone except immigrants.
Ms. Unger: Or new arrivals. We were just in discussion with them
because we had applied for a particular program to help new immigrants in
English. It was interesting that we were accepted. I was surprised because it
was through the Quebec Ministry of Immigration. We were shocked that they
accepted it but then a day later I received a call from them to say they were
sorry that they could not give us the money. They said that perhaps we could do
a francization portion for our new arrivals. We said that we were open to that
idea for French classes, but it turned out they could not give francization
monies to an organization that provides English language services. That is an
example of some of the bureaucracy that I referred to earlier.
Senator Fraser: It is a vicious circle. The provincial public service
does not provide French language training for its employees or for new hires?
Ms. Unger: I cannot answer that; I am not sure.
Senator Fraser: I do not think they do, but that is beyond your remit.
On page 3 of your presentation, you referred to the well-known perception
that the anglophone population is wealthy and privileged. Do you find in your
dealings with governments that there is any acute sense that first, the
English-speaking community in Quebec exists and is legitimate — a loaded
question; and second, that it has any problems as a community? Is it just that
we are all still rich and living on top of the Westmount mountain?
Ms. Unger: That is a very loaded and very tough question.
Senator Fraser: I have to ask it.
Mr. Aylen: It is a perception in Quebec as a whole and certainly in
the francophone majority of Quebec that the English community is not in any
peril that is important to them. I would argue that regardless of the linguistic
group, attracting and keeping the best minds in the place where we live is
crucial for our country, our province and our city of Montreal.
Ms. Unger: One of our board members is a headhunter for major
corporations. He said that he has difficulty attracting people to Quebec because
of some of the legislation in respect of schools, language laws and other
issues. I do not remember all of it but he listed a range of issues expressed by
people when making the decision on whether to move to Quebec.
Senator Fraser: I should say at this time for the record that I am a
long-standing supporter of the concept that Quebec has a special role to play,
including a special legislative responsibility, for the protection of the French
language and culture in North America. I do not dispute that at all. It is
striking sometimes that there seems to be an absence of recognition that there
are folks for whom this has consequences that have not been recognized.
The Chair: Senator Fraser, would you like the committee to obtain the
Senator Fraser: Yes, certainly. Do you know if this secret entente is
up for renewal soon?
Ms. Unger: I asked that question of someone recently who said that it
is likely a permanent situation.
Senator Fraser: We need to explore this if we could. Thank you.
Senator Brazeau: This is very interesting and informative. Having
advocated for more than 10 years for the needs of minorities when dealing with
different levels of government, I certainly appreciate some of the challenges
that you face.
You mentioned funding. Do you receive any direct funding from the Province of
Quebec? If so, how does that compare to the federal funding that you receive?
Ms. Unger: Our provincial funding is through Emploi-Québec. It is
probably less than one quarter of our funding. I do not know if you are aware
that if you receive a larger percentage of your money from the provincial
government, then you become a provincial government legislated organization,
pretty much under Emploi-Québec. To a point, your are considered as outsourced
to the not-for-profit but if you receive more than a certain percentage of your
funding from Emploi-Québec, then you become a provincially mandated
organization. Ours falls below that certain percentage. I would say that about
one quarter of our funding is provincial.
Senator Brazeau: You mentioned in your presentation that you are
experiencing a lack of resources from the federal government to meet the needs
of some of your clients. How do jurisdictional issues between the federal and
provincial governments come into play in terms of the funding that you receive,
or lack thereof?
Ms. Unger: From our perspective, certain needs in the community are
not being met because much of the funding comes through based on the
requirements of the funding body. The English-speaking community needs various
services and stable funding is required to provide those services. As I
mentioned, Emploi-Quebéc's real mission is to address welfare and unemployment
issues. Our mission is to reduce the brain drain, which could be people on
welfare and unemployment but also people who are university graduates or people
who are underemployed. We find ourselves struggling between what we truly need
to provide and what is truly needed and being provided by the government. The
greater issue is trying to manoeuvre between the needs of the community and the
requirements of the funders, which are not always in sync, whether provincial or
The other problem is that much of the funding is project based, which creates
very unstable situations. You might obtain a one-year funding project, which is
fabulous, works and responds to the needs, but the next year arrives and because
you cannot incorporate it into your core funding, you have to come up with
another new and creative project, despite the good results you had with what you
were doing. That is another balancing act.
Senator Brazeau: I understand that as well. You talked about the
importance of trying to bring the different partners — provincial, federal and
other potential stakeholders — to the table. What steps have you taken to try to
make that happen? What response have you received if it has been negative?
Ms. Unger: We have had individual meetings with Emploi-Québec. We sit
on many consultation tables but they are independent and not interrelated. I
would have to think about whether I have ever been at a table where both
provincial and federal partners were present. During the 10 years that I have
been at YES Montreal, I am not sure that has happened. Perhaps after I sleep on
it tonight I will remember. For example, I was at a meeting about three years
ago where they tried to bring in the different funders for community groups. The
person who came from Emploi- Québec was not bilingual, which was a real problem.
Most of the staff and people at YES Montreal are bilingual and pride themselves
on having many partnerships in the French communities. Going to consultations
with smaller organizations, such as the Jamaican Association or a Southeast
Asian women's organization, it is quite painful to see them struggle, which
causes them to disengage.
The real issue is that many of the community organizations that are doing
wonderful work disengage from the process, especially at the provincial level,
because of the language issue; and there really is not the will to work with
Senator Brazeau: How do we make that happen?
Ms. Unger: I do not know; it is a huge question. More federal money
for more translations would be helpful. Perhaps they could do a translation of
the entente with the provincial partners. I spoke to a woman in the francophone
community who heads up a coalition of employment organizations. I spoke to her
about the entente a couple of days ago and I asked if it is up for renewal and
her understanding is that it is a permanent situation.
Concerning the youth employment strategies, whenever there is a transfer
payment to the province it should be looked at in terms of the impact on the
English-speaking community in Quebec. During our one-on-one meetings with the
people from Emploi-Québec, we have seen a will to work with English-speaking
community. I think some of the political issues are creating that barrier.
Senator Seidman: We have not done a lot on the economic development
issue, so it is very nice to have the opportunity to discuss this subject.
At page 3 of your presentation, under the messages that you would like us to
hear, you say that it takes English speakers longer to find jobs and it is
harder for them to start businesses and succeed. You write:
In an attempt to centralize services, the government has set up
government agencies and para-government agencies such as CLDs and CJEs.
These do not meet the needs of the minority communities in Montreal or in
Could you tell me what CLDs and CJEs are, please?
Ms. Unger: Thank you so much for asking this question because it is a
real issue. I have been doing community development work for a long time. It is
exciting work as we operate at the grassroots level. We work with volunteers who
are passionate about their work.
A few years ago, the government felt that it was important to centralize some
of these services so they created para- government organizations. The CLDs are
the Centres Locaux de Developpement. The centres, funded mostly through the
federal government, I believe, help people start small businesses.
The CJEs are Carrefours Jeunesse-emploi, which are the youth centres. The
youth centres receive funding from the provincial government. I will refer to
the CJEs because I think they provide a similar service to YES. There are
centres in each region of Quebec. The problem is that the anglophone community —
and I have spoken to people in the regions — do not access these organizations
for a variety of reasons including the staff may not be bilingual or they do not
have the connection. For example, people will come to YES because of the
network; people will know people who refer them and we have the networks in the
universities. Many of these para-government organizations are like your Manpower
offices. The community connection does not exist.
Although these organizations in some cases are doing great work with the
francophone community, I am not sure they are meeting the needs of the
English-speaking community. I am not sure it would work even if they brought in
bilingual and francophone staff because they do not have the link to the
community, the volunteers, the community centres, the schools and the
institutions, et cetera. The community groups have that network and link unlike
the para- government organizations. They have some now for the youth, the
Carrefours Jeunesse, CJEs. The CLDs are for economic development, and then there
is the Centres locaux d'emplois, which are the Emploi-Québec offices.
Senator Seidman: Are the CLDs federal or provincial?
Senator De Bané: I would like to confirm what was just stated. Those
are francophone organizations.
Senator Seidman: They are francophone organizations.
Senator De Bané: Exactly, and this is why, as Ms. Unger said, they are
not there to cater to the needs of the English- speaking community.
Ms. Unger: When we were doing a project and we went to our MNA in our
area he said the minister is very fond of the Carrefours Jeunesse and that is
where he is putting all the money. We tried to make the argument that it does
not meet the needs of the anglophone communities. I thought it was unique to
Montreal but other partners in the regions have told us they also have the
Carrefours Jeunesse and their communities are not accessing services there
Senator Seidman: They just do not have the networks then and are not
geared to service the anglophone community.
Ms. Unger: Exactly, but the resources are going there and it is
unfortunate that the English-speaking community is still going to the community
groups and the community groups are not getting the resources. I sat at a table
a few months ago where we were doing consulting and there was someone from a
Carrefour Jeunesse who said they did not provide much in the way of English
services, they send all their clients to YES. My feeling is that is great except
we are not getting the resources and we get referrals from the Carrefours
Jeunesse all over the city of Montreal and from the SAJE, which is another
para-government organization. The community groups are not getting the resources
to do the work they really need to do.
Senator Seidman: Are these provincial resources?
Ms. Unger: Provincial para-government organizations mostly. The CLD I
suspect gets money through the federal government to the province.
Senator Seidman: In that case, if these do not work and do not meet
the needs of the anglo-minority communities in Montreal, Quebec, would what is
your recommendation to solve that problem.
Ms. Unger: It depends on which issue. If you are looking at youth
resources, having organizations like YES set up in different parts of the
province and coming from the community so that having the community leaders help
set up those organizations. We have a proposal into the CDE Quebec to work with
our regional partners to look at how that could be done realistically. It has to
come from the community, but we get calls from many of the regional partners
asking how we set up YES, can we give them materials, and we are feeling the
tide moving. There is a need for the regions to have similar of resources in
Senator Seidman: Could I go then to item number 7. That has been
helpful. I am appreciative of your response on that.
In number 7 you say there is no strategic plan for ES community around
economic development issues within federal and provincial governments, and they
are often working at cross purposes. You briefly touched on that but could you
develop that point? I think it is pretty critical if there is no strategic plan
around economic development.
Ms. Unger: As I mentioned, economic development is employment and it
is entrepreneurship. It is the cultural communities and it is the new arrivals
and youth and, as I said, you end up caught between the different departments.
You cannot really take the individual and ask what does this individual need.
YES is a really good example because we are able to take that individual and
say here is a new arrival who needs English classes, support to get a job, a
mentor or maybe the new arrival wants to start a small business. This is sort of
like in Disneyworld, but we would be able to do all that with the person coming
to one place and being able to help that person remain in Quebec and be
successful. How do you do that? You have to untangle some of the issues whether
federal or provincial. I do not know if it is good news or bad news, but when we
deal with provincial jurisdictions they are having issues as well. The
Emploi-Québec and Ministry of Immigration have their issues as to where their
jurisdiction ends when someone arrives. New arrivals come and they want a job,
but the Ministry of Immigration wants them to go through the francization
training programs first. It is not just federal or provincial; there are also
interprovincial issues. Did that help at all?
Senator Seidman: Yes, you certainly developed it a bit more. I wonder,
again, if there is some recommendation that you have that would push this along.
Ms. Unger: If we looked at the entente, and if it came down to the
political will it may have to be done on a pilot project basis between the
The health sector has a model in place that seems to be working. They have
sat down at the table and some resources have been put aside that can be used,
even though it is a provincial jurisdiction, with some federal involvement, and
even with the table being small.
I do not know whether it has to happen on a pilot project level, with a small
group of people who have the will to make it happen, or whether it has to happen
on a political level.
Senator Seidman: Maybe it has to be both.
You have certainly given us a list of recommendations. However, in order to
know how we can help you, if you had two big items that would really make a
difference, what would they be?
Ms. Unger: It would definitely be the entente issue. That would be
number one, seeing from a political level what the provincial government's
responsibility is to the English-speaking community concerning employment. We
would know how much money there is and how much is supposed to be allocated.
That would be my number one issue. It is probably the undercurrent of our whole
Maybe the strategic plan is to sit down with people who have the will, having
the right people at the table and coming up with the strategic plan of what is
in the best interest of the English-speaking community around economic
development, employment, entrepreneurship and cultural communities, and coming
up with that plan moving forward.
Senator Seidman: That is really good. I appreciate your comments.
Senator Fraser: This goes back to Senator Seidman's first question and
the whole concept of trying to build resources in the regions outside of
Montreal. It is not easy in Montreal, necessarily, but outside it is much
When we visited Quebec, we saw some very impressive examples of work being
done by the Community Learning Centres, which have had federal seed money. Have
you worked with those centres? Do you think that is a model that could be built
upon to establish things like YES in the regions?
Ms. Unger: The Community Learning Centres are great resources. We
partner with them. We did a project two years ago at Dawson College in Montreal.
It was geared for people between 16 and 20 years of age. We had a screen up of
all the regions that wanted to participate. It was a youth conference. They all
got to do presentations on their region. It was interesting because there were
people in Montreal who were interested in going to some of the regions. Some of
the people were not even aware that there were CEGEPs in Gaspé. It was really a
two-way street, and that was the goal, for people to see opportunities.
Young people are extremely mobile. We are living in a global economy. There
is the computer. There are opportunities in the regions for people to have
successful businesses, and there are so many ways with technology to be able to
set things up.
I do not know if necessarily it would be through the CLCs. They are great
organizations and they have a role to play in bringing partners together, but
they are just one of the groups that could be instrumental in making some of
Senator De Bané: Ms. Unger, I agree in theory with your recommendation
to Senator Seidman. In practice, I respectfully, unfortunately, disagree with
you. You are right to say if the two governments could agree on something where
those problems could be tackled, that would be the solution, except that I have
been here long enough to know that that, unfortunately, it will not happen.
I will give you just one example. A few years ago, the federal government
said to the provinces that it would transfer additional billions of dollars on
the condition that the provinces establish databases for their health programs.
The databases were to help make the health care system work more efficiently by
comparing with the other provinces' medical programs practices.
The federal government transferred billions of dollars. Have you ever heard
that they put those databases in place to be able to compare the health programs
of the different provinces? No.
All those programs are done in secret, as you say, and the federal government
essentially is a banker that transfers money. That is all. The biggest program
of all of them is called equalization. The definition of that one is the
unconditional transfer of funds to the provincial treasuries. It is
unconditional. If Quebec wants to open embassies with it, they can do it and
nobody will say a word.
The programs, to which you refer, as you say, are done in secret. They are
vague. The federal government is not set up to ask for performance; no, there is
none of that. This is a great tragedy. Ottawa is very good at writing cheques
and that is all. They transfer money and that is it. It is really unacceptable.
I want to ask a few questions about the federal government. How do you rate
the way that the federal government complies with its obligations toward the
English-speaking communities of Quebec? Let us talk about that one.
Ms. Unger: We do agree on the other issue as well. We are not in
disagreement with you.
It depends on which department. I would not generalize. I can only speak to
the departments with whom we work.
We work with Canadian Heritage quite well, and they are sensitive to the
issues; obviously, that is their mission and mandate.
Canada Economic Development as well has been a great supporter of YES for the
past 10 years, at least, so I think they understand it. We ran into an issue two
years ago about our funding. A minister at the federal level decided to stop
funding all not-for-profits, and we were caught up in that net. We had to spend
a good six or eight months educating the particular people in power at the time,
that it was really important to the English-speaking community. Luckily, Graham
Fraser was implicated in that discussion. It goes from department to department.
We deal with the Immigration Department as well. We are in negotiations now
for funding to help with some of the new immigrants to provide some services. If
we are looking specifically at employment issues, unfortunately, as you
mentioned, it is provincial jurisdiction. I agree that there is not much that
can be done. On the federal level, speaking to the organizations that we work
with, the will is there. As I said, in some cases it is the individuals. When
there is a change in the minister, we sometimes need to educate that person and
his or her department in the issues concerning English-speaking Quebecers.
Senator De Bané: When we were in Montreal, we talked with several
organizations that represented the community. The message I got was about the
obligation that the federal government has in Part VII of the Official Languages
Act to help communities of both official languages that are in minority
positions to be dynamic, vibrant, et cetera.
By and large, the federal government is not shouldering its fair share in
Quebec for the English-speaking community. As someone told us, the English
language itself is not in danger in Quebec, but the community is in a difficult
situation. The message was that the federal government is not doing what it
should do, except, as you say, writing cheques to the provincial government.
Then, the provincial government, as you said, very diplomatically, is not giving
fair attention to the English-speaking community.
Your 18 recommendations, in my opinion, are too numerous. It would be better
to have the committee focus on a few of them. I gave you my opinion about
agreements. Unfortunately I have seen too many where the federal government is
not wearing its pants, as the saying goes, and saying, "This is it. Those are
the rules.'' We never do that.
Does the federal government consult systematically with the English-speaking
community in Quebec?
Ms. Unger: From our perspective, I would say probably not and probably
not as much as they should. As I said, it is probably an education thing
throughout the different departments.
Senator De Bané: To educate the federal government?
Ms. Unger: About the bill.
Senator De Bané: Thank you.
Senator Losier-Cool: At the end of a committee meeting, almost
everything has been covered, but I still have a question. Our committee's role
is to oversee the application of the Official Languages Act. Senator De Bané
talked about that, as did Senator Seidman. Under Part VII of the Official
Languages Act, the federal government must take steps now to ensure the
development of official language minority communities. I live in such a
community in another province, and I follow that file very closely.
I believe you all said that the government is not doing its job on that
front. Education agreements were signed, in my province and others, and those
budgets ended up going to repairing roads and purchasing heavy machinery.
Do you know whether the official languages commissioner received any
complaints about the fact that the agreements were not respected or consulted?
That is part of the Official Languages Act.
Ms. Unger: I do not think so. It is hard for organizations that
received funding from Emploi Québec to then turn around and bite the hand that
The province is the sole source of funding for a number of organizations.
Most non-profit organizations that provide employment services are provincially
funded. That is a problem.
Senator Losier-Cool: Having experienced it first-hand, I completely
agree. I would say that the Official Languages Act is not in line with the
government's political will. Political will is fragile. It is not the same for
It is always necessary to oversee the application of the Official Languages
Act, and I am glad that the committee has undertaken this study. We will discuss
it with the official languages commissioner.
Congratulations on the good work you are doing.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: On your wonderful website, I saw that YES
Quebec was awarding grants of $1,000 to English- speaking artists. What a very
important initiative; you are to be commended for that.
What role do you think governments should play in promoting and supporting
culture for anglophones in Quebec?
Ms. Unger: Those $1,000 grants are also awarded to French-speaking
I appreciate your question because we used to have a partnership with the
Fondation du maire de Montréal. When that funding came to an end, our board of
directors made the decision to take $1,000 from its budget to carry on the
initiative. We did not have the necessary resources, but we managed by calling
on foundations and the public for help.
The same goes in terms of providing assistance to job seekers. It requires
support, project funding and so on. A lot of people come from other countries
and provinces because they think Quebec is very culture-oriented. It is home to
such multimedia companies as UbiSoft, for example. That is why we began helping
people who wanted to find employment or start a small business. Government
grants of $1,000 could really help to kick-start many an artist's career.
Artists receive very little support in Quebec to build a career.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Indeed, we noticed that English-speaking
artists were the poor second cousin, so to speak. When we went to Montreal, we
saw that English-speaking artists were having a lot of trouble. French-speaking
ones, as well, for that matter.
Ms. Unger: A great many people come from other countries and provinces
because they see Montreal as a cultural hub.
Mr. Aylen: The mayor and many others in Montreal have realized that
the city is a beacon for creative people. That is vital to the economic
development of the city and the province, and there are many examples of that,
Cirque du Soleil, among others. Generally speaking, culture and music are very
important for the city of Montreal because those products are very often
exported and thus contribute to economic development.
Ms. Unger: A lot of people come to Montreal to work in the arts.
In the brochures we have, there is an article on youth who come to Montreal
in the hope of joining a music group or Cirque du Soleil, only to find out that
it is not as easy as they had thought. It often has to do with language. They
work for 1-800-GOT-JUNK. It even shows the photo of an artist who works there.
We are finding that to be the case for many youth.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Thank you, Madam Chair. We did not talk
The Chair: Ms. Unger, we need to know if there is a name for the
agreement or entente that you have been talking about. What is the name of that
agreement, so that we can get the information?
Ms. Unger: I can try to find that out tomorrow.
The Chair: Could you send it to the clerk?
Ms. Unger: Yes.
The Chair: Thank you for coming before our committee and answering our
questions. It has been greatly appreciated.
(The committee adjourned.)