Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 2 - Evidence - Meeting of October 24, 2011
OTTAWA, Monday, October 24, 2011
The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages met today at 5 p.m. to
study the application of the Official Languages Act and of the regulations and
directives made under it, and in particular to examine the use of the Internet,
new media and social media and the respect for Canadians' language rights.
Senator Maria Chaput (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Honourable Senators, I see that we have quorum, and I
declare the meeting open.
Welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages. I am Senator
Maria Chaput from Manitoba, chair of the committee. Before introducing the
witnesses who are appearing today, I would like to invite the members of the
committee here today to introduce themselves, starting from my left.
Senator Champagne: Andrée Champagne from Quebec.
Senator Mockler: Percy Mockler, New Brunswick.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis, Quebec.
Senator Tardif: Claudette Tardif from Alberta.
The Chair: Thank you. Today we have with us the Commissioner of
Official Languages, Graham Fraser, who is appearing to give us his views on
various official languages issues. One of the things Mr. Fraser will present is
the key conclusions from the last two annual reports on official languages
published by the Office of the Commissioner.
The commissioner's appearance is also an excellent opportunity for senators
to ask him questions about three subjects of particular interest to the
committee in the coming months: first, the use of the internet, new media and
social media and the respect for Canadians' language rights; second, Air
Canada's obligations under the Official Languages Act; and third, the
obligations of CBC/Radio-Canada under the Official Languages Act and certain
specific aspects of the Broadcasting Act.
Mr. Fraser, on behalf of the committee members, I would like to thank you for
taking the time to present your reports and answer our questions.
With you today are four senior officials from the Office of the Commissioner:
Ghislaine Charlebois, Assistant Commissioner, Compliance Assurance Branch; Lise
Cloutier, Assistant Commissioner, Corporate Management; Johane Tremblay, General
Counsel, Legal Affairs Branch; and Robin Cantin, Director, Strategic
Communications and Production.
Mr. Commissioner, I would now invite you to take the floor and the senators
will follow with questions.
Graham Fraser, Commissioner of Official Languages, Office of the
Commissioner of Official Languages: Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, honourable senators and members of the
Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages.
I would like to thank you for inviting me to speak about Volume II of my
2009-10 annual report, my 2010-11 annual report, the audits of service delivery
in English and French to Air Canada passengers and social media.
The second volume of my 2009-10 annual report, which I tabled in Parliament
in November 2010, dealt with the dealt with federal institutions' compliance
with the OLA. It analysed the performance of 16 federal institutions and
provided an account of the complaints received by the OCOL.
Federal institutions' 2009-10 ratings were generally disappointing.
The report concluded that too many Canadians still could not get services
from the federal government in the official language of their choice; federal
employees could not always work in the official language of their choice; and
official language communities were not receiving the support they needed. What
was being asked of federal institutions last year was realistic and it still is.
My 2010-11 annual report, entitled Leadership, Action, Results, that I
tabled in Parliament last Tuesday, was published in one volume. I have tabled
this report within the context of federal government expenditure review.
Departments are being asked to find ways to reduce their expenditures by 5 or
10 per cent, and some departments are making significant cuts outside of the
Strategic and Operating Review.
This financial restructuring could have repercussions on the ability of
institutions to fulfil their official languages obligations. I am not saying
that official languages are being targeted specifically, but there is a risk
that they will be affected.
The government must consider the potential consequences for official
languages communities. If each institution, independently, makes cuts to
official languages programs, the cumulative effect will be much greater than 5
per cent or 10 per cent.
Part VII of the Official Languages Act includes federal institutions'
obligation to support English-speaking communities in Quebec and French-speaking
communities in the rest of Canada, and to promote linguistic duality in Canadian
This part of the act is one of the primary tools for fostering Canada's
The Government of Canada still has not made it clear that full and proactive
compliance with the act is a priority. The federal government has adopted a
narrow interpretation of its responsibilities under Part VII. For example, the
decision to eliminate the mandatory long-form census questionnaire was made
without taking into account its impact on official languages communities.
Last month, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research eliminated the
initiative on Official Language Minority Communities. The CIHR are the specific
subject of a report card in this year's annual report, and the initiative that
has just been cancelled earned them an A for Part VII.
For a federal institution to make this kind of decision without consulting or
evaluating the potential impact on official language communities is a disturbing
sign, especially at a time when federal institutions are preparing for budget
It is important to keep in mind that Canada is stronger, both economically
and socially, when linguistic majorities and minorities support each other and
contribute to the advancement of Canadian society.
The federal government still has not announced its intentions on the renewal
of the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality, which expires in 2013.
Strong leadership on the part of the federal government would enable federal
institutions to better understand their obligations under the act.
Canadian Heritage has developed a useful guide to help institutions fulfil
their Part VII responsibilities, but the fact remains that no central agency has
the authority under the act to develop policies or guidelines for promoting
English and French.
This is a significant shortcoming. Federal institutions are all interpreting
their Part VII obligations differently. I believe the time has come for the
government to amend the Official Languages Act. The amendment would give the
Treasury Board the legal authority to monitor the application of Part VII
through policies and directives, and, if needed, regulations.
My 2010-11 annual report also presents an analysis of selected federal
institutions' compliance with the Official Languages Act. This year, we
evaluated institutions that provide significant funds to Canadians and volunteer
organizations. In general, the 13 federal institutions evaluated this year
achieved fairly satisfactory results. However, the active offer of service in
person remains problematic for several of these institutions.
With respect to Part VII, several institutions obtained good results.
Generally, institutions that succeeded were open to dialogue with minority
communities and took the necessary measures to understand their needs.
More often than not, those who underperformed did not plan, execute or
understand their obligations adequately.
In 2010-11, my office received 1,116 complaints, of which 981 were considered
admissible. Three federal institutions were subject to an audit this year:
Environment Canada, Service Canada and National Defence.
These institutions seem determined to act on my office's findings, and I have
confidence in the commitment shown by their senior managers and employees. We
will follow up as appropriate to ensure that this is, in fact, the case.
Fulfilling official languages obligations requires leadership from senior
management, knowledge and understanding of the Official Languages Act, a
willingness to plan and coordinate programs and services and following up on
them in an effective manner. Above all, they have to be ready to apply the act.
This is nothing new. It is simply a question of putting words into action.
The 2009-10 and 2010-11 annual reports are available on the Office of the
Commissioner of Official Languages' Web site.
The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages conducted an audit of
Air Canada from April 2010 to January 2011. The purpose of the audit was to
evaluate services provided in both official languages on board flights on
designated bilingual routes. The audit also examined services provided in
airports where Air Canada has language obligations and the services provided by
Air Canada call centres.
The audit revealed that Air Canada has a structure in place to manage the
various parts of the Official Languages Act and that it has appointed an
official languages champion. It has an official languages policy and action plan
that must be updated, as they do not take into account all the components of
Part IV of the act. It also has a number of means at its disposal for
communicating language obligations to its personnel.
In light of these findings, I have made 12 recommendations to help Air Canada
improve its service delivery to passengers in both official languages.
I am satisfied with the measures and time frames proposed in Air Canada's
action plan for 11 out of the 12 recommendations. The action plan is provided in
Appendix C of the audit. However, I am only partially satisfied with Air
Canada's response to recommendation 11, despite the fact that the recommendation
had been slightly modified to address Air Canada's concerns.
I maintain that full implementation of all recommendations is necessary. That
will enable it to meet its obligations under the act in terms of communications
with and delivery of bilingual services to the public.
I am pleased to see that the committee is looking into the important issue of
social media. Federal institutions' use of social media for internal and
external communications brings new official languages challenges, particularly
because of the instantaneous nature of these tools. Your work will be very
useful in finding solutions to these new challenges.
My office has been exploring these issues for some time. We are currently
working on developing certain principles. We believe that the Official Languages
Act was adopted at a time when the legislator could not have foreseen all the
changes brought about by the rise of so many new technologies. Despite the
challenges associated with advanced technologies, the interpretive principles of
the act must continue to guide us in adopting an approach. One of the most
important principles is clearly the substantive equality of the two official
Federal institutions that have already integrated linguistic duality as a
value will know how to adapt their practices to the Web 2.0 universe: for
example, by using two versions of the same social media, such as a Twitter or
Facebook account in English, and another one in French.
Regarding the regulatory framework, I encourage you to consult the Treasury
Board of Canada Secretariat. It is working on developing guidelines for federal
institutions in their use of social media in the workplace and in communications
with the public.
One final word: Like other agents of Parliament, I am not obliged to meet the
government's deficit reduction action plan. However, like my colleagues, I have
agreed to respect the spirit and intent of the review. I have proposed to
discuss our plans with the parliamentary panel on the funding and oversight of
officers of Parliament, which was established so that parliamentarians could
review the financial proposals of agents of Parliament in a way that would
protect their independence.
However, the panel has not yet been reconstituted, and I am concerned that
its mandate as a pilot project is scheduled to expire in November. I hope I can
count on your support for the idea that this mechanism should become permanent.
Thank you for your attention, and I would now like to take the remaining time
to answer any questions you may have.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Commissioner.
Senator Tardif: Welcome, Mr. Commissioner and members of your team. We
are pleased to receive your reports and to see you here today before the
Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages.
The Official Languages Secretariat was part of the Privy Council in 2003. At
that time, the application of the Official Languages Act was a priority for the
government. There was also an indication of coordination and consistency among
all federal institutions in applying the Official Languages Act.
On April 23, 2006, the secretariat was abolished and a version of it was
transferred to Canadian Heritage. Now that completely changed the dynamic
because there was no longer a central agency looking after official languages
policy within the Government of Canada.
I expressed my concern at that time about this new governance of the Official
Now in your last report, 2010-11, you identified several times the fact that
there was a lack of consistency, a lack of continuity, and a lack of leadership
in the application of the Official Languages Act across all federal
institutions. Some did it very well; others were not aware, particularly when it
comes to Part VII of the Official Languages Act, fostering linguistic duality,
and also the fact that federal institutions are now responsible for ensuring
that positive measures are taken to promote the development of official language
Do you think there is a connection between this lack of coordination, this
lack of leadership, and that this connection stems from the fact that this
governance was transferred to a department, like another department, rather than
keeping it in a central agency like the Privy Council?
Mr. Fraser: Thank you for the question. I admit that in doing our
current analysis I did not make that connection directly, even though at the
time, in the past, I had stated concerns about the transfer. I even stated
concerns in a conversation with the then clerk. One of the images I used when I
talked about it at the time, which was very shortly before I was appointed, is
that when there are directives that come from an office up above, people react
much faster than if it comes from the office next door. Any organization,
particularly in an organization that respects authority, a hierarchy like the
federal government, there is always respect for directives that some from
Without going back and asking for the decision to be reversed, we recommended
that Treasury Board's authority be strengthened, precisely to be able to give
directives to institutions. I personally think that Treasury Board already has
responsibilities and authority in respect of other parts of the act and it would
not be a major amendment to add Part VII to that existing authority. There is
expertise at Treasury Board, there are people who are very familiar with the
act. So that is actually why we made that recommendation.
Senator Tardif: So if I understand correctly, you chose to make a
recommendation to give more power to Treasury Board for overseeing the
implementation of all aspects of the Official Languages Act?
Mr. Fraser: At present, there is no central agency, there is no
department, including Canadian Heritage, that has authority to give directives.
As I said in my statement, there is a guide, an obligation on the part of
institutions to report to Canadian Heritage on their activities in relation to
Part VII, but on the other hand there is no authority to direct. Often, in our
experience, it is institutions; either they think Part VII does not apply to
them, which is wrong, or they know it applies to them but they do not know what
they should do, how to react. At present, neither Treasury Board nor Canadian
heritage has the authority to give directives.
Senator Tardif: If I understand correctly, from 2003 to 2005, a
subcommittee was responsible for implementation. So it was a cabinet committee.
It was the deputy ministers who met to discuss the application of the Official
Languages Act. Now, we have assistant deputy ministers. I think the message
being sent is that the official languages perhaps do not have the priority they
should have. Putting it in a central agency like Treasury Board, in your view,
could help to improve the poor performance of institutions in relation to Part
VII, for example?
Mr. Fraser: That is our hope and it was a recommendation we thought
was very achievable, very concrete. The expertise and authority are there for
other parts of the act. It seemed logical to us to give that authority to
Senator Tardif: Madam Chair, we will have an opportunity to meet with
the minister responsible for the Treasury Board this week. We are eager to hear
his views on your recommendation.
Mr. Fraser: Perhaps Johane might have other aspects to add. I always
like to refer to my legal counsel on matters of law, given that this is the
first time we have made a recommendation to amend the act, but actually it is
quite limited and quite realistic.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: I am always pleased and it is always a
pleasure to meet with you and the people around you.
My first question will relate to Air Canada, and in the second round it will
be about the new media.
With respect to Air Canada, you assessed the services offered by Air Canada,
and as well you made 12 recommendations. Also, I am quoting you because in an
interview with the Canadian Press, you said that a very clear protocol was
needed so that employees would know that, even if they are not bilingual, there
was a bilingual colleague next to them, that there was a way to do things if
someone wanted service in French.
I would like to tell you about something that happened to me. I was coming
back to Canada through Vancouver; I had a Vancouver to Ottawa connection. So we
have to take our luggage, go through security, wait, line up to go to a counter
and ask for our boarding pass. There were only two people at the counter and
there were a lot of us. There was also no one there for business class. When the
woman realized that I was francophone, she offered to get a francophone for me,
but I would have missed the plane. I only had 10 minutes. It was impossible to
wait to get services in French. So I spoke in English, but not in perfect
English like yours.
How is it that you did not include a recommendation that all Air Canada
employees had to be not perfectly bilingual, but understand the second official
Mr. Fraser: It was from recognizing the difficulty there is in hiring
even in the federal government. It is hard to demand it for the public service
or other institutions subject to the act.
I have often been asked whether it should not have been mandatory for anyone
employed by the federal government to be bilingual. I have always answered that
as long as there is access to good, equitable language training across Canada,
the federal government will have a duty to provide its employees with language
The same thing applies for Air Canada. Air Canada was required to take over
the responsibilities as employer of 4,000 employees of the Canadian airline
based in the West. That meant that they absorbed 4,000 unilingual employees who
were essentially hired by force, given the nature of the merger. That meant that
it was even harder for Air Canada to make sure that there are enough bilingual
In our audit we discovered that the capacity exists. Fifty per cent of
employees on designated bilingual flights are in fact bilingual. If half the
personnel on a flight are bilingual, it is very easy to say: Do you want to wait
a minute? I am going to get one of my colleagues. And make sure that passengers
are served in the language of their choice. It is harder in percentage terms for
ground services. I think it is 25 per cent of ground employees. So given the
need to hire employees in regions of the country where the bilingualism rate is
fairly low, it would not have been realistic on my part, given the conflicts I
have had in the past with Air Canada about things I consider to be completely
doable, to imagine that they would have been able to accept that kind of
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: For the ones who are in contact with the
public, the front line, the ones who are on the ground, the ones who deal with
people, you could perhaps ask them to go from 25 to 50 per cent for bilingual
Mr. Fraser: You know, the rule has always been that the institution
should be able to provide the service and not that all employees are required to
be bilingual. Sometimes there are situations like the one you experienced in
Vancouver, where you had to make a choice between a service and you flight. I
understand the decision you made very well. It is unfortunate. It made me think
a little of an answer that members of an organization in a minority community
got from a department in the region, which was: ``Do you want to speak to
someone bilingual or do you want to speak to someone who is familiar with the
case?'' People should not have to choose between the service and bilingualism.
You should not have to make a choice between catching your flight and getting a
service in both languages.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: I have one final question about Air Canada.
You may not be obliged to answer, but I would like you to explain to us why,
year after year, Air Canada is one of the three institutions against which the
most complaints are made to your office.
Mr. Fraser: I always ask myself the same question, given that we have
fairly regular contact. I think the experience of this audit was very useful for
us, and, I hope, for management as well. When I presented the preliminary
results of the audit, we saw that the management was genuinely surprised by the
results we had found on the ground. Just to give you an example, Air Canada put
a lot of effort and resources into ensuring that travellers going to the Olympic
Games in Vancouver were served in the language of their choice. It was a great
Personally, I hoped this would be a step forward and would bear fruit in
future. But what we learned from the 150 interviews we conducted in the course
of the audit is that the employees thought it was solely for the Olympic Games,
and afterward they went back to their old habits. They thought that active
offer, for example, was just for the Olympic Games. You will understand that
senior management was also somewhat surprised by this information, and they
said, ``We never said that, that was never a message sent to employees''; but
that was the employees' understanding.
I observed that there were several aspects of communication on which
employees were not aware of the actual nature of the duties. So I think the
audit process was very useful. I think it opened our eyes and I also think it
was useful for Air Canada management.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Thank you. I will have more questions in the
Senator Champagne: Mr. Commissioner, ladies and gentleman, thank you
for being here today.
Before getting to the point I want to address, I am going to follow up from
Senator Fortin-Duplessis and offer my two cents' worth on Air Canada.
Do you think that a Quebec or francophone woman who does not speak a word of
English would be hired by Air Canada as a flight attendant, for example? Because
they hire anglophones who do not speak a word of French. Would a francophone who
had all the qualifications and all the knowledge but who did not speak a word of
English have a chance of getting a job?
Mr. Fraser: Well, I have never asked the question.
Senator Champagne: I have no copyright in the question.
Mr. Fraser: Some would answer by pointing out that the question
answers itself. I have no answer. I do not speak for Air Canada, so I can only
speculate like yourself.
Senator Champagne: Contrary to what Senator Fortin-Duplessis said, I
had an exceptional experience when I arrived at customs in Vancouver. I had
filled out the little form on the French side without even thinking about it.
And when they saw that, they went to get me someone, a young woman who spoke
impeccable French, and she told me she had spent two months in Arvida or
There is the problem with these designated bilingual flights. I recently went
to Regina; so I went from Montreal to Toronto and Toronto to Regina. For the
second leg, it was not a bilingual flight. Finding someone who spoke two words
of French, hello or thank you, could not be done. Should not all flights be
bilingual in Canada? That is a question. We will come back to it because we have
to come back to Air Canada.
Your report, Mr. Commissioner, you say you table it within the context of the
federal government expenditure review. And you say ``some departments are making
significant cuts outside of the Strategic and Operating Review.'' And you say:
``If each institution independently makes cuts to official languages programs,
the cumulative effect will be much greater than 5 or 10 per cent.''
When the document was released, what we heard on the radio was: ``The
Commissioner thinks the government is going to make major cuts to official
I was delighted when I heard you interviewed a few minutes later, and say,
``Obviously, that is hypothetical, because we do not know where the cuts will be
made.'' And so obviously you softened the outcome a bit.
Mr. Fraser: I am not the one who softened the outcome; that was others
who may have misinterpreted what I had said. I have to be very clear on this.
Just to reiterate or clarify, I am very aware that every department should go
through this budget constraint exercise. But I have two fears. The first, as I
stated it, is the cumulative effect if the programs that affect the communities
are eliminated by all departments. You can say that 5 per cent everywhere is 5
per cent, but if Health Canada cuts a program that affects a community, and if
Canadian Heritage cuts one too, that community is going to have a reduction in
several programs that affect it, when no one intended to target that community.
So that was somewhat the fear I had and I continue to have. And I raised that
question with the ministers, and they told me: ``Rest assured that this is not
our intention, we are going to be careful.'' And I said: it is fine to have
intentions, but I am still going to raise this concern publicly. As I am now
The other aspect that concerns me is the danger of decisions that are going
to have more impact than we can anticipate at present. I am thinking of the
decision made in 1995 to eliminate the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean.
The thinking at the time was in terms of fairness because Royal Roads Military
College had been eliminated, so to be fair the equivalent institution in Quebec
had to be eliminated.
The problem is that this affected the language capacity of the Canadian Armed
Forces, it affected officer training and it affected recruitment of
francophones. Even with the reinstatement of the Collège militaire royal de
Saint-Jean as a Cégep, now, there is still a long way to go for it to become the
university again that it was in the past.
When I talked to the management of the Canadian Armed Forces after the
decision by former Minister Gordon O'Connor to recreate the Collège militaire
royal de Saint-Jean as a Cégep, they told me they did intend to continue and
recreate an institution at the university level.
But in a way, it is a decade of military training in French that has been
lost, and so in a way, I am feeling once bitten and twice shy about the danger
in this exercise.
Senator Champagne: I would say though that the present government, if
only in the case of the military college, has still made an effort to restore
things and I feel a bit uneasy about what you are saying: they are going to
intentionally cut things that affect the —
Mr. Fraser: No, on the contrary, I have never said and I am careful to
say specifically that I am not saying that these programs are targeted.
Senator Champagne: But hypothetically, that is what you said.
Mr. Fraser: My fear is that, individually, institutions will make
decisions that would have a cumulative effect. At the centre, at Treasury Board,
when the ministers meet to look at all these proposals, there is no awareness
that the cumulative effect may be more dangerous than the individual effects,
and they will say: Oh, good, if Health Canada does that, a choice has to be made
to make sure that the burden everybody would have to bear fairly is not placed
unduly on the shoulders of official language minority communities.
Senator Champagne: At some points, before the time, you have almost,
if I may say so, accusations. For example, you say: ``The federal government has
still not renewed its Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality.''
It expires in 2013. This is not yet 2015, when you could say: it expired two
years ago and nothing has been done. This is 2011, but you are already making
the accusation that they are not going to do it. That disturbs me and worries me
a lot. I quote: ``. . . has still not renewed.'' ``Still not.'' This is 2011. It
does not expire until 2013.
Mr. Fraser: I note your concerns, but this is a fact, no commitment
has yet been announced. The government is thinking about it and looking at how
they are going to proceed.
Senator Champagne: It is not unusual for the roadmap not to be renewed
yet. This is 2011. It still has a year and a half to go, this roadmap.
Mr. Fraser: I thought it wise to point out the importance of the
program and the importance of reassuring the communities that are concerned,
particularly in the present circumstances.
Senator Champagne: The big bad government will surely renew the
roadmap. Thank you.
Senator De Bané: Mr. Commissioner, thank you very much for being with
us. I am looking particularly at your recommendations concerning the shadows on
the Canadian television landscape.
For the moment I would like to limit my questions to the French network of
the public broadcasting corporation, Radio-Canada.
The first shadow that strikes me, that bothers me and upsets me, is that one
of the fundamental objectives of the CBC's French service is, to use the
expression in the Broadcasting Act, to develop an awareness of values shared by
francophones and Anglophones. On that point, no, there is no development of an
awareness of shared values. That goes so far that all sorts of stratagems are
used to avoid referring to English.
On the weekend, during a program that was broadcast on Saturday afternoon,
every time one of the guests on Radio-Canada, on the French-language radio, was
unable to find the French expression to translate his thought, he used an
English expression and said, ``As we say in Latin.'' The fact that it is other
Canadians, no, he had to say that. But this was a guest taking part in the
Even more serious, on a daily program, the celebrity host, also sheepish and
not very proud about being unable to express his thought in French, used English
expressions. And each time, what did he say? ``As we say in Chinese.''
I have written to Radio-Canada several times to inform them that it is
unthinkable that when it comes to one of the official languages, enshrined in
the supreme law of the land, someone would refer to that language by saying ``As
we say in Chinese.''
It was so blatant on the part of this celebrity host that he used the
expression several minutes, several times in the same program.
I am going very quickly on this subject. I sent letter after letter after
letter each time I observed this kind of situation, every day. Finally, I
received a letter from the general manager of the French radio service of the
CBC. This is what he told me, roughly, and I paraphrase: Mr. De Bané, calm down.
You are talking to us about something we are perfectly aware of. It has gone on
for several years, stop getting worked up because he says ``as we say in
I told him: Sir, I can already hear the wailing from the French side if every
time someone talked about French on the CBC they said, ``As we say in Mongolian
or Chechen or some other exotic language.'' But that was his attitude: ``It is
no big deal! Settle down! Nobody's perfect.''
We have got to the point that we are incapable of accepting that there are
others besides ourselves, whether in Quebec or in the rest of Canada, so our
committee spent months studying the situation of English Quebecers, here at the
committee where you are or visiting Quebec for a week, to hear all the leaders
of the anglophone community, artists, writers, academics.
Not one word, not one word on Radio-Canada radio in Quebec. Of course not, it
is about the English. We do not do that here.
And I think it is a shame that things are this way. And obviously, by talking
only about Quebec francophones, they totally ignore francophones living outside
Quebec, to the point that the chair of Canadian studies at the Université de
Moncton published a report saying: ``The National is Canada and
Téléjournal is Quebec.'' And in that report, they say that the CBC covers
Acadian society a lot more than the Radio-Canada does. This is a very long way
from the objective that was intended through these two networks for expressing
Canada. Once in French, the next time in English.
I would like to hear your thoughts on this subject. It is a subject that
concerns me a lot.
Mr. Fraser: I have a lot of respect for the work you have done on this
subject. I read a draft of a paper you prepared. I apologize for not replying,
it came in the middle of tabling the annual report.
Senator De Bané: I do not expect you to answer me. We can talk about
Mr. Fraser: Let me highlight a few points you raised. You mentioned
several times that when those expressions are used, ``as we say in Latin, as we
say in Chinese,'' it is because they were having trouble finding the expression
in French. And they were embarrassed by their inability to do that. I think that
has to do with a certain linguistic unease that is making itself felt in Quebec
at present. We are seeing it at present with the debate, if we can put it that
way, around the demographic projections regarding the percentage of people who
speak French as their mother tongue on the island of Montreal, in 2031, when it
is said that, according to projections, French may be in the minority.
It was Jack Jedwab who recently did a demographic analysis, saying there is
no language called the allophone language. There is no minority on the
ascendance, no growing minority that is going to speak an allophone language.
There is a number of linguistic minorities who participate in Quebec life where
the public language is French, but that concern or apprehension or fear, which
is very sincere, is part of a linguistic unease that we are seeing coming back
to the foreground at present, and that I think is related to other phenomena in
Quebec society at present.
To come back to your subject about Radio-Canada, once I asked myself: are you
concerned about the decline of French in Quebec? And I replied that I did not
want to launch a debate on hypothetical projections by demographers at the
language spoken at home in 2031, but if we were closing down the program Tout
le monde en parle because nobody was watching, because everybody was
watching English television on Sunday night, I would be concerned about that
kind of threat. But it is not true. Tout le monde en parle is threatened
by its French-language competitor. Arithmetically, we cannot take in 40,000
newcomers to Quebec every year and maintain the same percentage of people who
speak French at home or who have French as their mother tongue. It is
mathematically impossible. Quebec's strength is that it is a welcoming society.
In 40 years we have seen the transformation of Quebec into a modern society,
a welcoming society. But with other transformations on the sociopolitical
landscape where there have been all sorts of upheavals occurring on the
political stage. Any upheaval represents other changes and generates
insecurities. Linguistic insecurity in Quebec is expressed differently and you
have put your finger on a certain element of that insecurity regarding the
coverage of events inside and outside Quebec.
I was very interested in the figure you mentioned, but I have no comment, as
Commissioner, on that.
Senator De Bané: Mr. Commissioner, I do not disagree with your
thoughts, I share them. But that does not explain why the hearings of our
parliamentary committee on the situation of Quebec anglophones who are a
minority was totally, absolutely totally ignored, both our hearings in Ottawa
and around the province. It was Radio-Canada's duty, if it wanted to be faithful
to the mission assigned to it, to echo our hearings. You will notice that every
time it talks about the Canadian government, it is always through the prism of
conflicts, of obligations going unmet, and so on. Always! But it has never tried
to show how that might be positive.
The image I see of Canada when I watch Radio-Canada is of a very distant
land. If the news is about another region of Canada, it will always come at the
end of the line after all the other news.
The Chair: Do you have another question?
Senator De Bané: I am talking with the commissioner and that allows
the speaker to answer us. If you want me to put it in terms of a question, I
will do that.
Is it reasonable, for the 25 per cent of people outside Quebec whose mother
tongue is French, or who are anglophones who speak and understand French, for
that 25 per cent never to hear anything about their region and never to see
anything except Quebec covered on Radio-Canada? And in the same vein, the four
million Quebecers who are unilingual French cannot tune in to the CBC to find
out what is going on in Canada because Radio-Canada devotes a minute if not
insignificant amount percentage of its programming to that.
Do you think that is reasonable?
Mr. Fraser: We are in court with Radio-Canada which claims we have no
jurisdiction in this regard. We think otherwise. I have never argued that our
jurisdiction covered their journalistic decisions, it covers their obligations
as a crown corporation. The legal dispute relates to their obligation to
official language minority communities, and more specifically the impact of
budget cuts on a radio station.
When I left journalism, I decided that I would deny myself the privilege of
being a journalism critic, but I would tell the senator that next year, the
CBC's licence will be before the CRTC. It is appropriate to hold this kind of
debate before the CRTC. Even though I will not stop myself from sharing my
opinions in private, that is outside my present mandate.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Commissioner. Senator Mockler has the floor.
Senator Mockler: I would like to thank the commissioner for the work
he has done across the country, even though I do not always agree with his
comments. However, I have to tell you sincerely, sir, that the people I meet,
particularly in New Brunswick, among other places — in fact, this week,
francophone leaders came to see me and told me they are pleased with the
development of the roadmap.
You told Senator Champagne that the federal government had still not renewed
its roadmap for linguistic duality, which expired in 2003. So why did you insert
that in what you presented to us? I would like you to explain that to me.
Mr. Fraser: I made those statements to remind the government and
parliamentarians of the importance of the work that I hope is being done within
the government on evaluating what has worked well. I would wait for a rigorous
analysis to eliminate what did not work and to inform the people responsible
that I am trying to monitor this matter as closely as possible. It was perhaps a
clumsy way on my part of saying that I am waiting to see the next step for
I know there are people working on it. As well, the House committee will be
studying the present roadmap to make recommendations, I assume, regarding
renewal. It was my way of saying that I am trying to monitor it closely. We
think it is very important.
Senator Tardif: The roadmap covers the stage from 2008 to 2013. Is it
usual, Mr. Commissioner, that at about halfway or a little more, in the process
of preparing the new roadmap or the continuation of a roadmap, that we would be
at the stage of evaluating to see what worked, in consultation with the other
departments and the official language communities?
Would it be reasonable or usual to think that the government would be at that
stage in the present roadmap? Is that what is done?
Mr. Fraser: It is what happened with the predecessor of the roadmap, a
plan that ran from 2003 to 2008. At the halfway point, a public report was
released about the money that had been spent, the results achieved or not
achieved. It was possible for my predecessor to take that document and say
publicly: these are the results, where we are at the halfway point. That has not
been the case for me to date, but I would be very happy to go through that kind
When officials from Canadian Heritage appeared before the House of Commons
standing committee, they said there would be a document, but they were very
close-mouthed as to when it would be published. I had the impression that the
decision had not been made.
Senator Tardif: I wondered whether this was the perspective from which
you made your comments, you saying there had been no consultation and no report,
and that at first glance you were not optimistic as to when we would see a new
Mr. Fraser: If a report had been published at the halfway point, I
would not have put it that way.
Senator Mockler: Has your office asked for a progress report on the
Mr. Fraser: We have asked for assurances that the roadmap will be
Senator Mockler: Have you asked for a halfway point report?
Mr. Fraser: Not specifically.
Senator Mockler: You say that the Government of Canada has not always
said loud and clear that proactive and complete compliance with the act is a
priority. Could you explain that for us?
Mr. Fraser: I am still waiting for a speech, a tour, a series of
statements that should follow up on the statements made not in the last Throne
speech, but in the Throne speech before that, in which it was stated that
linguistic duality was a Canadian value.
I see the government's frequent assertions of diversity, multiculturalism and
integration of newcomers in its policies. That point was even asserted in the
throne speech. The Prime Minister said in Australia that Canada was born in
French. So I expect to see the recognition and assertion expressed with the same
energy and determination for promoting English and French and that the
importance of the official language minority communities to linguistic duality
will be recognized.
My comment is not limited to this government, but there seem to be measures
being taken for minority communities, and I mention this in the preface to my
annual report, so the majority does not realize it. Take the roadmap as an
example. When it was announced in 2008, there were no figures in the
February-March 2008 budget. There was an appendix saying renewal of the action
plan with the amount to follow. The roadmap was announced at the end of June,
when Parliament had recessed. The news was reported widely in the minority
communities, but got virtually no coverage in the majority press, in either
French or English. You will be surprised to know how many very politicized
people, people who are very involved in public life and up to date, do not know
about the existence of the roadmap or the fact that this government spends $1.1
billion on linguistic duality and the development of official language minority
communities. From one government to the next, I came to the conclusion that they
are afraid that if the majority realized that so many things are being done for
minorities, a wave of anger would undoubtedly flow across the country. We see
general support in opinion polls for linguistic duality in Canada.
Senator Mockler: Absolutely.
Mr. Fraser: We are no longer where we were 40 years ago. It is no
longer an issue that divides Canadians.
I think it is time to assert the policies loud and clear, policies the
government should be proud of, for promoting English and French and for
developing official language minority communities. That is why I wrote that
Senator Mockler: I have four other points to raise, but I am going to
limit myself to one.
Mr. Fraser: I do not know whether I can provide as exhaustive an
explanation for each sentence.
Senator Mockler: They are questions that will be asked.
Having been minister responsible for the francophone and implementation of
the official languages, I can tell you that we worked across the country and
found that the roadmap was welcomed. As well, on Wednesday, I had the
opportunity to meet with francophone leaders from the country, from both Quebec
and other regions, and in particular the Acadian and francophone community
What struck me and still bothers me is that, on page 3 of your French
statement, you say they have to act in good faith. Are there people in the
government who do not act in good faith in administering the official languages?
Are there people who object? The official languages and the linguistic duality
of Canada, these are unifying factors that demonstrate Canada's strength, both
for our small urban and rural communities and at the international level. I
would like you to explain to me what you mean by ``act in good faith.''
Mr. Fraser: In fact, it was meant as encouragement, to keep on in the
same direction. I have never thought they were acting in bad faith. I am struck
by the number of allies we have in the departments. One of the underlying themes
is the unequal capacity of a department to meet its obligations in the act.
When I am asked how, overall, to proceed in relation to official languages, I
reply that some do it well and others do it less well. It is the unevenness that
I find striking. That is why we recommended that authority be given to a central
agency and clear directives be given, for greater consistency. Obviously, there
has to be trust and there has to be good faith. But we are not trying to
insinuate that there is not good faith.
Senator Mockler: I was asked the question this weekend, in my region,
and I said I would put it to you. Mr. Commissioner, feel free not to answer.
There is often talk about social media. In your opinion, could social media
become an assimilation mechanism? How can we ensure that they do not?
Mr. Fraser: You are touching on a very important point. The question
is how the government and federal institutions can adapt to these instantaneous
social media, both for their strength and for the danger they represent.
Microsoft has developed programs in Welsh. I think the Nunavut government is
working with Apple to develop programs in Inuktitut. In my opinion, the media
represent a great opportunity to develop new communication networks among.
In British Columbia, I saw a classroom where secondary students were taking a
physics course on line and things were being demonstrated on screen that I have
in fact never understood, regardless of the language. The class was in Victoria,
and francophone students were attending it in Vancouver, Campbell River and a
host of other schools that did not have the opportunity to have a grade 11
physics teacher. Through this method of communication, it was possible to give
the class to all grade 11 students in the small schools all across British
The new media, the new technology, is a tool. It can be used to homogenize,
to assimilate, but also to differentiate, to create new communication links and
make information accessible for people who would never have had contact with the
I attended the opening of the Community Learning Centre in the
Îles-de-la-Madeleine. For the opening ceremony, they linked with another
learning centre on the lower North Shore that had been open for a year and a
half or two years. With that very isolated community, they were able to be in
contact with museums around the world. They even organized a conversation with
astronauts. Seeing this amazing thing, this teacher in Rivière-Saint-Paul in the
lower North Shore, what she could do with the young people and new media to
break down the barriers of isolation, made me think that with imagination, the
new media are a source of creativity, a source of development for communities.
Obviously, if they are misused, if they are not used with imagination, of all
the young people are left to their own devices to search for all the sites they
want to find, they could find themselves on sites in English.
The Chair: Honourable senators, we are going to move on to the second
round. I have four senators who have asked to speak. I would ask my colleagues
to kindly keep to one fairly short question and try to have the question and
answer stay within five minutes.
The commissioner has graciously agreed to be with us until 7 p.m. So five
minutes per senator, question and answer.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Why did the Franco-communauté virtuelle
program end in March 2008?
Mr. Fraser: I have no answer.
Robin Cantin, Director, Strategic Communications and Production, Office of
the Commissioner of Official Languages:
The Franco-communauté virtuelle program ended in 2008 by a decision of
Canadian Heritage that followed an evaluation of the program objectives.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: That means they had not achieved their
objectives, is that it? They did not succeed in that regard?
Mr. Cantin: That would be an excellent question for Canadian Heritage.
Obviously, we cannot speak for them.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Do you intend to study the question of the
use of the official languages on the Internet again?
Mr. Fraser: The question of the new media is one of the questions we
will be putting considerable thought into how to study. We have been involved in
some discussions. We organized a discussion day, but again, I am going to ask
Mr. Cantin to talk in more detail about what we have done and what we are
Mr. Cantin: The studies we did in 1999, 2002 and 2005 were relatively
ambitious. Like the study you are preparing to undertake. In fact, your powers
are very impressive and very broad.
At that time, we had addressed various aspects of official languages on the
Internet, but we had tried to stick to the impact of the federal government, the
federal public service, on the English-French balance on the Internet. That is
still relatively our focus, essentially the 15 million pages in French and 15
million pages in English that the federal government makes available to the
Canadian and international public, and its communications with the public by the
Internet continue. Our efforts are still relatively focused on the relationship
between the Internet and the federal government.
Something that attracted our attention a great deal in recent years is the
guidelines for social media that Treasury Board has already published for the
internal use of social media, internal to the federal public service, wikis and
that sort of thing, and we hope, will soon be published for external use of
social media, that is, how the federal public service communicates with Canadian
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: A moment ago, my colleague asked you whether
there was a danger of assimilation. You talked about how important it is now
because teachers can work over the Internet and there are connections being
made. You said that young people may often find themselves on anglophone sites.
The assimilation of young people is of considerable concern to me. We would not
want to see that. We would want them to retain French very well, even if they
are able to speak English.
I would like to hear your opinion on that a little, even though you answered
my colleague. There is a real danger.
Mr. Fraser: In terms of assimilation, I think we have to look at the
question from a different angle and ask how the community is doing in terms of
vitality. What are the cultural and linguistic resources needed so the
linguistic community can develop? What pressures are there on the community?
What are its institutions? What linguistic space is there for this community? Is
French a public language or just a language used in the home or in certain more
private institutions? If we look at the evolution of French in Quebec, there has
been a very impressive trajectory since the 50 or 60 years ago when French
became the public language of Quebec.
That is not necessarily the case for some official language minority
communities. Francophone communities outside Quebec, where the institutions are
weaker, space is more limited, and we have to remember that French schools were
abolished in some provinces for almost a century and were restored only since
the Charter in 1982. We have seen the impact of these schools on the quality of
the French spoken in communities in the West.
I have never believed that people can decide all of a sudden, overnight, to
abandon their language and culture. It is a longer and sometimes tragic process.
I think that when we think about assimilation, we have to look at the factors in
a community's vitality.
Senator Tardif: Before asking my question, Mr. Commissioner, I would
just like to make a comment about the exchange between Senator Mockler and you.
It was said that the government is acting in good faith. However, it is
achieving poor results; some federal institutions are achieving poor results.
Who is responsible? What has to be done to find solutions to this problem, ``as
we would say in English''?
Someone has to take ownership of the problem. Someone has to take ownership
for the poor results and the poor performance.
And personally, I completely agree that it is the responsibility of the
government at the highest level of leadership. That is the comment I wanted to
make and I will now move on to my question.
I agree with you, Mr. Commissioner, that budget cuts by a number of
departments would have a disastrous effect on official language communities.
Do you think, Mr. Commissioner, that these departments should have
responsibility for consulting the official language communities before putting
those cuts into effect, to see what the impacts would be on the vitality of the
communities? And all in compliance with section 41 of the Official Languages Act
talking about positive measures.
Mr. Fraser: I think it is very important, and in fact it is often the
lack of consultation that is pointed to when certain decisions are criticized.
When I raised the question of consultation with senior officials in the
context of the Strategic and Operating Review program, they told me: ``You know,
Mr. Commissioner, all that is part of the budget process, confidential process,
so cabinet confidence applies.'' It is hard to consult about something that is
going to be a cabinet confidence.
That is another reason why I thought, in spite of my confidence that people
are acting in good faith and are sincere when they tell us they are going to
take official languages questions into consideration when they make the final
decisions, that it would be good to raise this concern in public. That is why I
mentioned it at my press conference last week and my statement today.
Senator Tardif: Making these decisions in secret, would that not
violate the government's obligations under the Official Languages Act, by Part
VII, where people have to be sure there is no negative impact and attention is
paid to the development of the official language communities? Cutting a program
when it harms the development of the official languages communities is a
violation, do you not agree?
Mr. Fraser: The difficulty, I think, is when we are facing a decision
of the government in contrast to a decision of an institution. That is in fact
why, when we did our investigation into the decision to abolish the long form
census questionnaire, the institutions were not involved, so we could not say
that the institutions had not complied with their obligations, it was a cabinet
So we can say there is an inherent contradiction in the fact that the
government — But the government continues to be bound to honour its obligations,
even with budget constraints, definitely. But for the obligation to consult,
when there is a conflict with the process which is a secret process of preparing
a budget, I am less certain. I do not know whether Johane might have any
Johane Tremblay, General Counsel, Legal Affairs Branch, Office of the
Commissioner of Official Languages: I would just like to add to the
commissioner's reply by saying that federal institutions certainly have an
obligation to take into account the impact of the decisions they have to make on
the development of official language minority communities. And in a situation
where it could have a negative impact, they have an obligation to consider
measures to mitigate the negative impact of the decisions.
That responsibility derives from the interpretation of Part VII that each
federal institution must abide by, and accordingly the government also has an
obligation, a similar responsibility.
Is it an obligation to consult in all cases? Not necessarily, but an
obligation to do an impact analysis, certainly.
Senator Champagne: One short comment first, before addressing another
I agree with the grievances voiced by my colleague Senator De Bané, who is
upset about the poverty of the vocabulary of some SRC presenters, on both radio
and television. There is not one of them at present who seems to want to pick up
the torch from René Lecavalier and have a significant impact of the quality of
the French spoken in our hearths and homes.
What makes me tear my hair out is the dangerous liaisons. The ``quatre
z'autres concurrents'', the ``cinq z'athlètes'', you hear them all the time. I
get — Well.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: The ``si j'aurais'' too.
Senator Champagne: The ``si'' with the ``-rait'' you still hear that a
I would like to know, Mr. Commissioner, what you think about Bill C-17. Are
the provisions clear enough to ensure that the language rights of the travelling
public are preserved in the event that there is a reorganization at Air Canada?
The bill was just introduced on October 17, but you have surely had to look it
Mr. Fraser: To start by answering your first comment, I am convinced
that my French teachers are spinning in their graves at the idea that I have
made it to the commissioner's office. So I hesitate to comment on other people's
On Bill C-17, yes, and I think it is a step in the right direction. It is
somewhat different from other bills introduced by the government earlier in
response to a request from a member, which was shared with the members of the
House committee and the people from Transport.
We had written down our concerns and expectations in detail regarding some
elements of the bill, such as language of work, which have not been touched. At
present, we have received over 400 complaints relating to language of work at an
Air Canada subsidiary. I think that is the main flaw we see at present. We are
doing an in-depth analysis of the situation that we will share in greater detail
when the bill is examined in committee.
Senator De Bané: Mr. Commissioner, you were one of the people who did
the most penetrating analyses about Quebec. We were talking just now about the
concern for the English language. I am sure you know the famous words spoken by
Jacques Parizeau when he was asked the following question by an anglophone
journalist: ``What is this ambiguous relationship that Quebec francophones have
with English?'' and Mr. Parizeau replied: ``When we have independence, I can
tell you, I am going to give anyone who does not learn English, and quick, a
good kick up the backside.'' I will end that aside because you are surely
familiar with Mr. Parizeau's reply.
The other subject that pains me greatly, and that does not meet the
objectives assigned in the legislation enacted by the Parliament of Canada for
Radio-Canada, is to see the extent to which the corporation fails to cover
French communities throughout Canada on its network.
Certainly, Radio-Canada has chains across Canada that broadcast regional news
to each community. But it never allows everybody to see it. And when everybody
can see, as happened on the 50th anniversary of Radio-Canada in Winnipeg, they
heard Céline Galipeau, who read Le Téléjournal from that city and told
young Manitobans she interviewed: ``Frankly, why learn French here? You are not
in Quebec and I am giving you the Quebec point of view. Quebecers think that you
are wasting your time.''
That happened while we are in the middle of a renaissance, a development of
the French fact in St. Boniface, with a college that has become a university. In
other words, it is this way of not talking to one another that goes on inside
A francophone from another province sent me word to tell me that on
Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, while thousands of celebrations were being held in
French communities in Canada, the only thing they could see on Radio-Canada was
the Saint-Jean show at Parc Maisonneuve in Montreal. It seemed that everything
going on across Canada could not be mentioned on the network. It can be talked
about in the regional programming only.
What I do not understand is that apart from Parliament Hill in Ottawa, there
are no full-time Quebec journalists in the other provinces, or in Toronto or
Vancouver or Calgary. The only network that has several hundred journalists
across Canada is Radio-Canada. And everything that happens in francophone
communities across Canada seems to be absolutely off limits, out of bounds, in
the eyes of Radio-Canada. That is not right.
It was a great nationalist Canon Lionel Groulx, whose doctoral studies in
Paris were paid for by Franco-Ontarians, who wrote in his French-Canadian school
What the people of Quebec have never understood is that the French
communities outside Quebec are the first line of defence and if they fall,
Quebec will fall next.
Do you agree with this ignoring of the activities of francophone communities
in the other provinces which means that ultimately, Quebecers are not aware of
their existence and their dynamism? Do you agree that this does not fulfil one
of the important missions of Radio-Canada?
Mr. Fraser: Madam Chair, I am not in a good position to criticize
Radio-Canada's programming. One thing I can tell you, however, is that Frédéric
Arnould, a Radio-Canada correspondent in Vancouver, is working very hard. When I
was in Vancouver, I knew I was being interviewed by a very serious journalist.
Also do not forget the extraordinary work done by the journalists on local
and regional Radio-Canada programs. They are unifiers who play an important
role, who are social animators on some programs. I have not studied the coverage
of Téléjournal. That is why I am hesitant to state an opinion on the
I think it is very important that francophones be able to see themselves
reflected on the radio and television. But I am not in a position to agree or
otherwise with Senator De Bané's analysis of the situation. It would be
anecdotal on my part.
Senator Mockler: With everything that has been said, we can agree on
the fact that we will not always agree.
That said, if we look at the modern history of Canada and its prime
ministers, we can say that our present Prime Minister was a unilingual
anglophone and he is now bilingual.
Mr. Fraser: He is not unilingual at all. He is very bilingual.
Senator Mockler: When he started, he immediately learned the second
language. And today, whether he is in Acadia or in Canada, he always starts his
press conferences in French. He does the same in the United States, President
Obama can testify to it. That represents the Canadian image well. It is laudable
and I can tell you that in Canada, everybody talks about it.
I would like to point out that the Prime Minister starts all his press
conferences in French.
If you have comments, I would be glad to hear them; if not, I have one last
question. Does your office want to play a bigger role in social media?
You brought it to our attention that we have a role to play, but how could
your office play a bigger role in relation to social media, to alleviate the
concerns about assimilation or knowledge of the language of Molière?
Mr. Fraser: When I tabled my first annual report, I made a comment
that I have repeated many times since: I said how exemplary the public conduct
of the Prime Minister in terms of official bilingualism was. He starts his
speeches in French and he starts his statements in French. He does it outside
Canada, at G8 meetings, for example, and even outside meetings. He did it in
Australia, for example.
When he was first starting out as Prime Minister, six years ago now, the fact
that he did this generated some comment. But now, it is taken for granted. I
have noticed recently that when a public demonstration of duality is successful,
it becomes invisible.
I am going to give you another example: the state funeral of Jack Layton. In
my opinion, it was a national ceremony that was very respectful of both official
languages. Nobody talked about it. It was a controversial ceremony; some people
said it was too politicized and there were speakers who embarrassed the Prime
Minister and the Governor General by being too political. Others replied that he
had the soul of a politician.
But no one mentioned the fact that the ceremony was entirely respectful of
both official languages. In my opinion, it was a great success as a national
ceremony. I am not talking about individuals or the content of the speeches by
the people who gave eulogies.
What is sometimes frustrating for people who work in this field is that when
there is a success, it becomes invisible; the Prime Minister's actions are an
example of that.
That is why I am sometimes a bit frustrated about the Vancouver Olympic Games
In terms of language, the Olympic Games were, in my opinion, with a few
exceptions, a great success. I was able to register in French and to register
for events that were announced in French. But there was one big exception: the
opening ceremonies, which cast a shadow over a great success.
When people say that linguistic duality at the Olympic Games was terrible, my
answer is they were not, and I was there. I think there were small problems here
and there and there were not bilingual volunteers everywhere. When the bilingual
volunteers were concentrated where francophones were more likely to be, there
were fewer bilingual volunteers elsewhere. The city could not be transformed
into a bilingual city overnight. The success therefore became invisible and it
was the failure that was visible.
To get back to the question of social media, it concerns us and we are in a
difficult situation when it comes to venturing too far into it because our own
system is very fragile. This is what has delayed our ability to play a leading
role ourselves in the new media.
It is apparent, however, that we are trying to remedy the situation. As well,
we are monitoring it very closely and we are going to make as strategic
decisions as possible in terms of the most effective possible way to be involved
in this area that is going to determine the future of the language landscape and
In a way, some elements are very positive. One of the reasons why the number
of complaints is declining is that it was possible, with the telephone system,
for the government to direct people to employees who could answer them in
French. It is therefore easier to systematically organize a technology to
connect francophones or anglophones rather than necessarily organizing staff at
a specific counter.
Senator Champagne: Mr. Commissioner, if you see us with our bags
ready, you must not think it is from lack of interest in what you have to tell
us. It is because we have been summoned to a special caucus meeting in the
Parliament building at 7:00 p.m.
Mr. Fraser: I had to apologize for talking too much in answering your
The Chair: I would like to remind you that we have another meeting
this Thursday. We will be hearing from the President of the Treasury Board.
Mr. Commissioner, I would like to thank you very sincerely on behalf of all
the senators for being available and being so open. I had concerns as a
Franco-Manitoban about what the impact might be of the cuts by federal
departments on the roadmap. The discussion was very healthy and open on the part
of the senators and yourself.
Thank you, Mr. Commissioner, until next time.
(The committee adjourned.)