Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Official Languages

Issue 4 - Evidence - Meeting of November 21, 2011

OTTAWA, Monday, November 21, 2011

The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages met this day at 5:02 p.m. to examine the use of the Internet, new media and social media and the respect for Canadians' language rights.

Senator Maria Chaput (Chair) is in the chair.


The Chair: Honourable senators, I call the meeting to order.

I would like to welcome you to the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages. I am Senator Maria Chaput from Manitoba, and I am chair of the committee.

Before introducing the witnesses who are appearing today, I would like to invite the committee members to introduce themselves, starting on my left with the deputy chair.

Senator Champagne: Good afternoon. Andrée Champagne from Quebec.

Senator Poirier: Rose-May Poirier from New Brunswick.

Senator Nolin: Pierre Claude Nolin from Quebec.

Senator Losier-Cool: Rose-Marie Losier-Cool from Acadia.

Senator Tardif: Claudette Tardif from Alberta.

The Chair: Thank you. The committee is continuing its study on the use of the Internet, new media and social media, and the respect for Canadians' language rights. Today, the committee is hearing from three researchers who have assessed the Web's potential to stimulate the engagement of the minority francophone communities and who, in 2007, presented their research report entitled, Le Web comme outil pour le renforcement de la gouvernance des communautés francophones minoritaires. That report was presented to the Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities.

It is our pleasure to welcome Professors Guy Chiasson, Jean Quirion and Marc Charron. Gentlemen, thank you for agreeing to appear before the committee today. Committee members are anxious to hear what you have to say about your research report, and, following your presentation, senators will continue with questions.

Guy Chiasson, Researcher, as an individual: Thank you. For reasons of efficiency, as we do not have a lot of time, I will speak first and then my colleagues can continue.

First, I would like to thank you for the invitation. It is a pleasure to see the committee is interested in our work. This is a good opportunity, and I hope a full discussion will follow.

The purpose of our research was to answer a question that initially concerned the political use of the Web by minority francophone communities in Canada. That question comes to us, on the one hand, from the imposing literature on new information and communication technologies. A number of authors of that literature feel that the Web has strong potential to renew democracy.

The Web, at least in its 2.0 version, enables multiple interactions among various users and appears to afford a new public space for individuals, where they can debate the rules of living together without any intermediaries.

Pierre Lévy, an author often cited in this field, has used the word ``cyberdemocracy'' to put a name on that potential. We must exercise some caution, but the fact remains that the Web could potentially be one of the places where modern democracy is expressed. I would add that the potential of the Web is particularly promising in the case of minority communities, such as the francophones of Canada, who, by definition, do not have control of the dominant democratic institutions. Thus it becomes interesting to ask whether and how Canada's francophone communities use the Web's democratic potential.

In 2007, when we began our study, we were compelled to note that there were no studies on the political use of the Web. There were a few studies on the Web in francophone communities, but they did not specifically address the political aspect. So there was a void that had to be filled. Despite the proliferation of studies on cyberdemocracy, we were unable at the time to identify any that had a connection to this theme. We therefore thought it would be interesting to focus on that and to try to see to what extent francophone communities were exploiting the Web's potential for political renewal.

In our study, we identified a sample of six websites put online by prominent organizations in the New Brunswick and Ontario francophone communities. To determine whether there were any significant differences between the two communities, we considered comparable organizations, that is to say the Société des Acadiens et des Acadiennes du Nouveau-Brunswick, the Mouvement Acadien des Communautés en Santé du Nouveau-Brunswick and the Université de Moncton, for New Brunswick, and, as comparables, we selected the sites of the Assemblée des francophones de l'Ontario, the Association francophone des municipalités de l'Ontario and the University of Ottawa.

To analyze those sites, we developed a methodology based on studies conducted in other contexts. We distinguished two different areas where we could detect the Web's potential. First, we observed the Web more as a mirror, that is to say as a reflection of a set of discourses about the francophone community. From that perspective, we wondered how the organizations presented their community: did they present it as a nation, as an interest group or something in between?

Second, we analyzed the Web as a forum. The idea here was to determine the extent to which the sites of the francophone organizations use the opportunities for debate that Web 2.0 offers. Do they use the tools that allow and facilitate interaction between organizations and users, for example, of blogs, chat rooms and other tools? Or, on the contrary, do those sites function as what may be called a promotional showcase? They merely present the image of the organization without necessarily allowing more significant interaction.

We also looked at hyperlinks in order to determine to what extent the francophone organizations are networked online. We conducted an initial study based on those categories in 2007 and carried out the exercise again in the winter of 2011 to see whether there had been any developments.

Now I can present our results to you. First, we found certain differences between Ontario and New Brunswick. Some New Brunswick sites, in particular that of the University of Moncton, my alma mater, generally do not hesitate to use the term ``society'' to designate the francophone community of New Brunswick, whereas references to Ontario's French-speaking community are much less strong.

However, these differences in the use of the Web as a mirror, the first aspect that we wanted to observe, must not be allowed to obscure any significant continuities among the six websites. In all cases, we noted relatively few traces of any obvious willingness to use the Web as a tool to promote debate. Apart from the somewhat necessary posting of e-mail addresses of the organization and webmaster, we noted very few tools that would permit feedback between the organization and Web users. That does not mean that the sites of those organizations are merely promotional showcases, as one might think.

Indeed, sites like that of the SAANB use the Web from a political perspective, by, for example, posting briefs submitted to public commissions or encouraging users to take part in debates. However, the fact remains that these are methods associated with more conventional means of political action, that is to say that they did not thoroughly exploit the potential specific to the Web, the potential generally associated with the idea of a Web 2.0 or the potential based on strong interaction with users.

In conclusion, based on this brief presentation of results, our study enabled us to demonstrate that the organizations of the francophone community that we studied were using the Web's potential for democratic renewal in quite a marginal way. At least to date, those organizations appear to have hesitated to embed their political practice in the Web. The Web's deliberative potential thus remains underexploited.

However, although we can imagine that that potential is being exploited more effectively by other organizations, we limited ourselves to a sample of six organizations that seemed to be resolutely engaged in actual practice and for which it was much more difficult to transfer their activities to the Web. Thank you very much.

The Chair: Would one of you two have something to add to his presentation? No? The first question will be asked by Senator Poirier.

Senator Poirier: I would like to go back to the 2007 report that you prepared. If I understand correctly, you went through the exercise again in 2011?

Mr. Chiasson: Yes.

Senator Poirier: What is the difference between the 2007 report and the one you redid in 2011? In 2007, few government agencies were using social media such as Facebook and Twitter. However, in 2011, we note that they are using them more and more.

Is there something that was being done differently and that appears in the 2011 report? If so, can you tell us?

Jean Quirion, Researcher, as an individual: I will answer that question. In fact, between 2007 and 2011, we observed very few differences. We would have thought that Web 2.0 had made its entrance, but we did not see that from Facebook and Twitter.

We essentially noted the same presence on the Internet, sometimes a bit more reinforced but nothing significant, for both the Ontario and New Brunswick organizations. I would remind you that we are not talking about federal institutions; there is nothing governmental in this since these are organizations that represent the official language minority communities.

Senator Poirier: Why do you believe the situation has not change that much?

Mr. Quirion: I will be honest with you: I do not really know, and perhaps my colleagues have opinions on the subject. We did not study that part in particular. With the quite sharp uptake of Web 2.0 between 2007 and 2011, we could have thought we were looking for indicators of that use of the social media.

The fact that we did not find any is what we can confirm. The reasons for that, however, are more unclear.

Marc Charron, Researcher, as an individual: I think that is surprising. Logically, we would have expected those organizations to exploit social media such as Facebook and Twitter quite well, particularly in the international political context of that year. In the first part of 2011, there was a lot of talk about social networks. We saw during the Arab Spring, for example, how important that was.

Without being able to draw a parallel between the two situations, we were bombarded that year by proof that social media had been used as tools for political mobilization. And we realized that was quite modest in that case. Updates were done, but beyond occasional updates to the websites in general, we can say that the Web remains underexploited, just as it was a few years ago.

Senator Poirier: Do you intend to continue your research to find the answers?

Mr. Chiasson: I was going to answer the first question and say that this could be done using the example of the Arab Spring that Marc mentioned, although he is not an expert.

We can often see that one of the characteristics of these events is that they go beyond any capacity for control. In addition, public institutions and established organizations are often a step or two behind on this. Considering the sample we selected, these are institutions that have been around for some time, that are well established and, as I said, well established in actual practice.

We could have taken a slightly different sample. We could quite readily think of websites in New Brunswick that are younger and more established on the Web. I would say that, by definition, social networks are things that institutions lag slightly behind.

So if we had to continue the exercise, it might perhaps be interesting to examine the whole situation to determine whether the potential of Web 2.0 could be better exploited elsewhere.

Senator Poirier: Thank you. And if you find any additional information, do not be afraid to share it with the committee.

Senator Nolin: At the end of your testimony, you mentioned the lack of information available on the sites of those institutions. I remember searching the University of Ottawa site a few years ago. I was looking for a professor and I was never able to find him.

In your opinion, should institutions develop the intranet technique for keeping their discussions within an intimate network rather than open the network to the general public? I know that some sites invite members to connect and that opens up a completely new field.

Mr. Chiasson: I am going to let my University of Ottawa colleagues comment on their own site.

However, I would say that there was really a difference in our sample between the university sites and the other sites in the way they were constituted. There is clearly a certain professionalization of the university sites, that is to say that we saw they had budgets and that there was a steadier hand.

However, at the same time, we also got the impression that those sites were less deliberative and open. The other sites were probably built from less imposing resources. However, in a way, those sites viewed themselves more as an instrument of the public interest, even though they did not exploit their full potential.

I would say that, on the one hand, the university sites are highly decentralized; there are a lot of groups at universities that post things on them. I know, for example, that, for my university, on the website, I work at a research centre and we have a page on the site. And the university controls a lot of the terms and conditions. We would have liked to collaborate with those who read us so that we could have mechanisms a little more like those we are talking about. And the university either did not have the technical resources or, in any case, told us that that was not possible.

Senator Nolin: Perhaps it is more technical. Is there not a fear of sharing identifying information? Perhaps professors want to retain some privacy and do not want people to know they are professors at the University of Ottawa.

Mr. Quirion: The site should be a little more friendly, but I believe that, on the whole, there is a fundamental difference between the university sites, and our study focuses on only six sites.

Senator Nolin: And they are really institutions.

Mr. Quirion: Yes. The difference between the university institutions and the associations is that the associations try to attract attention, to mobilize, to make people discuss issues.

For a number of years now, the universities have been following a marketing and recruitment logic; image is policed to a greater degree. Somewhat as my colleague was saying, that is done by the communications department, which will not happen at an association. Perhaps that is why we find fewer traces on the university sites of a desire to participate. However, I would point out that, in our study on the university sites, we limited ourselves to values stated and the university's mission. These are enormous sites that sometimes contain tens of thousands of pages, which is why it is difficult to find professors. We did not evaluate all that. That was beyond our scope. We focused on the institutional pages that presented the university.

Mr. Charron: It should be added that the universities, in Moncton, Ottawa and elsewhere in the country, have been following a logic of commercialization of their image for a number of years. It also has to be considered that these universities are increasingly trying to project a global and international presence. The University of Ottawa, to name only one, has made major efforts in recent years to put that idea out there. For our research, we looked at those sites both as mirrors and as forums. As a mirror, the University of Ottawa and the Université de Moncton are trying to project themselves as world-class universities, and thus as universities that are of interest to researchers and students from around the world, not necessarily turning toward specific linguistic communities, such as the Université de Moncton, which originally served the Acadian community. No, even the Université de Moncton is projecting itself onto the world stage as a high-calibre university. For Acadians, yes, but also for other Canadians and francophones around the world. Twenty years ago, perhaps we would have seen slightly different university sites — if there had been any — when the universities here were focused more on the local market.

Senator Nolin: Do you think the Web in Canada has influenced the vitality of francophone culture? Is it a tool that we have adequately mastered? We know that the Americans have not even thought of it; I think they did so at first. Do you think we have used that tool's potential? I am going beyond your study.

Mr. Charron: I would tend to say yes. It would no doubt be interesting to go and see what it has been possible to do with the Web and its many forms over a number of years. Perhaps we should go and see sites that have focused on other target publics than the ones we studied four or five years ago. That is what we would have to look at if we had to make the observation that, in a minority francophone situation in Canada, the Web's potential is visible on a particular type of site that aims at a particular type of target public.

Senator Nolin: Mr. Chiasson, I am citing words from your presentation: ``strong potential for democratic renewal.'' Wow! I have no problem with that, but how? I view that with my French Canadian character: are we making maximum use of this strong potential for democratic renewal?

Mr. Chiasson: The words are not necessarily mine. That is to say that those words are accurate, yes; that is not exonerate myself. That is an observation we found in the literature. I mentioned cyberdemocracy. There are fans of the Web who see modern democracy as being exercised through the Web. And I have a problem with that; I am not ready to follow those people that far. In fact, the essence of modern democracy is representation. It is the fact that decision-making is done through representatives, whereas we could rid ourselves of that intermediary in a way, and the Web would become an agora in the Athenian sense of the term. Moreover, I am not the one who invented that expression.

The argument is that the technology is there; that is to say that we can have direct links with people on the Web; we can debate with people elsewhere without going through an intermediary. So from that perspective, a lot of work has focused on how the anti-globalization movements have used the Web as a means for mobilization and democratization.

There is a difference between the technological potential to do that and the social reality of the thing itself, that is to say if people want, have the means and are still going to do it. The aim our study was not to sanction the idea that we were in a new democracy and that it was the end of the old democracy. It was to say that there is potential here that we can exploit or not, that minorities are exploiting to a certain point. It interested us to see to what extent. We found that interesting because, since minorities, somewhat by definition, have no control over representative institutions, there may be a place for them that is conducive to that. Based on our sample, we saw that they hadn't appropriated that place.

Mr. Quirion: Ten years ago, we relied to a large degree on institutions to gather information, for advice. In the past few years, particularly since Web 2.0, we have turned much more to the community, to our neighbours, to everyone else's opinions. For example, not long ago, if we wanted to choose a restaurant, we relied on a newspaper review or some kind of book. Now we go and see what they say on TripAdvisor or other group sites such as that.

For the study we conducted, we turned to institutions to which we tended to turn for advice a few years ago. One may well believe that the communities themselves will be creating those networks to discuss among themselves, and eventually with the institutions, or that perhaps they are already doing that — we did not study that. That was not the purpose of our study, but perhaps we would find a partial answer to our question there, Senator Nolin.

The Chair: When you talk about the communities that will take over the network, have you considered the issue of accessibility? Do those communities across Canada have access to this network?

Mr. Chiasson: Access in the sense that people are connected or not?

The Chair: Yes.

Mr. Chiasson: There is a literature on that subject, and it is indeed important for fair access. We did not study that. We took the sites as we found them online. We did not develop methods to find, for example, the percentage of people in the francophone communities who are connected and those who are not.

The Chair: You did not go that far?

Mr. Chiasson: No.

The Chair: I suppose that finances did not permit it?

Mr. Chiasson: Finances, time and skills as well.

Senator De Bané: You talked about the system of parliamentary representation that we have in which people elect a representative. Four years later, people have an opportunity to express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

However, are we not merely seeing the logical extension of things in a number of years; the fact is that this Internet system will more often enable people to express themselves after the fact, after four or five years. You do not think that, given the logic of all these instruments, they will speak out more often than every four or five years?

Mr. Chiasson: In fact, I believe that is part of something bigger. Some of my political scientist colleagues will say there is a crisis of trust in institutions, that is to say that, for all kinds of reasons associated with changes in our societies in particular, the public is not satisfied with giving its elected representatives carte blanche every four years; it wants to participate a little more directly, and that manifests itself in all kinds of ways. The institutions acknowledge that as well by establishing forums, places for consultation, as a result of which users are encouraged to participate, and so on.

I believe that, from that perspective, there is a more general context in which there is a demand for this idea that the population will not give its elected representatives a mandate or a blank cheque. There is also the learning aspect; that is to say that, to become a good citizen, you have to practise being a citizen. I believe the Web is one of the citizenship areas where one can learn to participate and debate, very often in the absence of any strict control.

So from that standpoint, I believe it is indeed a place that is consistent with that perspective.

Mr. Charron: A certain democratization, if you will, is occurring via the Internet, but it may be that that democratization is first being achieved quantitatively rather than qualitatively. Cyberdemocracy as we have observed it — we are not necessarily talking about the term as it is used by certain researchers, as Guy says, who are quite enthusiastic about the idea of cyberdemocracy, but what we observed is that there are democratic bodies, but that in itself does not necessarily mean greater democracy. Democratization is not necessarily occurring in a quantitative way where citizens have the impression that their voices are being heard to a greater degree. They may demonstrate it more often, but that does not necessarily result in better democracy. I am drawing a distinction between the qualitative and the quantitative with regard to cyberdemocracy as we were able to observe it.

Senator Tardif: As a former university professor and researcher, I must say I am very interested in your choice of research topic. The study of the Web as a tool for reinforcing the governance of the minority francophone communities touches on a number of points of interest to the francophone community across the country. The entire issue of governance is very important for the francophone communities. You told us about the results of your studies in 2007 and 2011. Can you tell us more about the reason for this choice of research topic, why you selected it? Could we conclude that the official language minority communities may not be able to make themselves heard on the new platforms?

Mr. Chiasson: In any case, as far as I am concerned, no. We began the study when I was on a sabbatical in New Brunswick. Since, being in Moncton, I was immersed in the issue, I wanted to work on the minority francophone community at that time. I called upon my colleagues, who unfortunately are not minority francophones, but who are specialists on Web-related issues and so on. An opportunity presented itself. We are very happy to be working together, but I do not think there were any presuppositions. It was an opportunity, as I said, an open door to work together.

I would be more of the opposite view; that is to say that I believe it is a tool. At the outset, the idea was to try to see whether it was a tool that was available to the francophone communities to the extent they did not have control of institutions, of the majority public arena. It was in that perspective. Given our sample selection, perhaps we did not aim at the right targets; perhaps we did not look at where that is done most, but I would say we at least showed that there was work to do in that area.

Senator Tardif: If you had to do it over — and I believe you told Senator Poirier that that was perhaps not what you were considering, but perhaps I misunderstood — what would be your target for obtaining the information, as you say, that you perhaps did not get?

Mr. Chiasson: All the much younger sites. You no doubt know some, as I do. I am more familiar with the Acadian ones than those from Ontario. There is whole class of new media, some of which are very much linked to Facebook and Twitter, which are highly decentralized information sites, which align somewhat with the idea that content is decentralized, and there is therefore no single person who defines content. I imagine those would be our potential targets. Perhaps we could make a different effort to find good targets this time.

Mr. Quirion: Perhaps I can continue. In the classes of sites that we had established for the work, there were institutions on the one hand and provincial associations on the other. We focused on those two because it was easier to establish points of comparison between French-speaking Ontario and Acadia. We dropped the third component, which was local initiatives, and that is the item we have been talking about since earlier, those initiatives that come from the grassroots level or from anywhere, from groups or individuals who will advocate for rights. For example, we found a site in Toronto for young gays and lesbians in that city who were taking their place on the Web and trying to mobilize. As it was difficult to find equivalents between the two provinces for that kind of site or demonstration, we set it aside, but, as a result, we concealed all that as well. So I think that if we continued, we would no doubt touch on that stratum, which has now been set aside.

Mr. Charron: We turned toward references that were not — and today are even much less so — references for the circulation of ideas, of information on the Web. That is for sure. In that case, there would be a lot of work to be done in that area because what we targeted were references in the conventional sense of the term.

Senator Tardif: How did you define the word ``governance'' in the terms of your study?

Mr. Chiasson: In fact, the notion of governance in political science is increasingly intended as an addition to government, and it identifies forms of power that are more decentralized, where you cannot identify a centre of power, but rather a polycentric power, in the sense that it is shared by a number of stakeholders. It is in that broad sense of the idea of power that we can potentially see that power in the francophone communities is dispersed and that it is therefore the result of areas of collaboration among a diversity of places. It is in that perspective that we used the term ``governance''.

Senator Losier-Cool: I am now speaking to the researchers, to the academics, to Internet service users. What is your assessment of the best way we can use the Internet to advance the minority language cause? Because the work of the committee here is really to monitor Part VII of the Official Languages Act, the emancipation and vitality of the minorities. How could you evaluate the Internet from that point of view?

Mr. Chiasson: I will go ahead because I am the least qualified to answer. In fact, I am a bad example; I use the Web very poorly. I learned a great deal about the Web by conducting the study, but I am not a young techie, if I can use that term. I will leave it to my colleagues to answer, but I think there is currently a whole effervescence that has to be understood — these are the realities we talked about earlier. We saw from our study that, in the most established institutions, those that are virtually official mouthpieces of the francophone communities, there is little Web use.

I believe those organizations have a great deal to learn about websites from a much younger, much less institutionalized generation that experiments with a lot of things. Those organizations have to learn; they may be a few steps behind and are more in reaction mode.

I believe that is partly because they know little about how to use it — and I am not blaming anyone here. These are organizations that have been built in another way and they must learn to use the potential of the Web a little more. That implies knowing how it works and how to use all its potential. They have remained within a fairly conventional image. The Web is a place where content is made available, as it would have been in a pamphlet, whereas, for organizations that are mouthpieces of the community, I believe it is better to exploit that potential and that it is probably useful to go and see those who, ironically, have more experience because they are younger.

Mr. Quirion: You have put the question to a number of types of people. I am going to answer in two capacities.

Senator Losier-Cool: I wanted to know everything.

Mr. Quirion: I am going to answer as a professor and as a father of three teenagers.

Senator Losier-Cool: I was going to ask you the question.

Mr. Quirion: In both cases, I deal with young people. In terminology, the field in which I teach and conduct research, specialized texts contain terminology, terms relating to fields. For students, the generation we now have at the university, texts exist only if they are electronic, more or less. Reference documents should be accessible in electronic format, otherwise they are probably obsolete and the information they contain is probably not up-to-date.

In view of that kind of reflex, the customary verification in terminology, for example, is to try to find an English term and its French equivalent. You may be familiar with Termium, the terminology database. I train people who I dare hope will add to Termium later on. To validate uses, we turn to the Internet and try to determine whether there are any geographical variations, for example, between a Canadian and European usage, or nationally, between Quebec, Ontario and Acadian usages. So, outside the Web, there is no salvation or representation.

As a father of three teenagers, virtually the same is true. My three teenagers look for their information on the Internet. If it is not on the Internet, it probably does not exist, is marginal or is not worth being interested in. They look for information in the language in which it is available, that is to say in French first, or else in English. If they are interested in music and there are few French-language sites of francophone singers, they will find other sites in English for that. In conclusion, I would answer: presence on the Internet.

Senator Losier-Cool: And techno-pedagogy as well. If your teenagers automatically go onto the Internet, they have to know how to find something. Teachers have to —

Mr. Quirion: They have to know that in order to transmit it, yes.

Senator Losier-Cool: Another question: Were you able to evaluate the federal government's websites? Do you use them?

Mr. Quirion: I can talk about them to the extent that they are a very rich source of information for terminology purposes. Software has been developed under the Action Plan for Official Languages at the Language Technologies Research Centre on the other side of the river. I am thinking of a product like WeBiText, which will take all the documents on the ``'' websites, search for an English term and find the corresponding French sentence in which the term is translated. The results presented to users will include all ``'' Web pages. This is invaluable to language workers, be they translators, terminologists, writers, revisers or undoubtedly interpreters as well.

Mr. Charron: Without wanting to avoid the question, I believe it should first be put to the representatives of the cultural sectors of each of the major linguistic minorities in the country. Those people would undoubtedly be able to provide more interesting answers to that difficult but essential question.

I view the matter more as a professor. In my field, I am currently working with a lot of publishers in Latin America. I am interested in the place of Spanish in Latin America relative to a Spanish that is more international, normative and necessarily oriented toward a Spanish that was first defined in Spain, and what we can observe is that, at independent publishing houses, the Web has been an incredible tool for disseminating Latin American literary culture.

The fact that, in literature courses or Spanish-to-French translation courses, we are able to appreciate this literature by young emerging Latin American authors, it is essentially thanks to the blogs of an incalculable number of small independent publishing firms in Latin America, without which it would be virtually impossible for us here to know them.

I believe that the emancipation of this country's francophone linguistic minorities, on the one hand, must also take the form of a dialogue with francophone communities elsewhere in the world. I believe that may be the first way for it to happen; and it seems to me that things may be more interesting if the Web is first used as a tool for cultural emancipation through dialogue with other equivalent linguistic groups elsewhere in the francophone world. As Guy said, it may necessarily be from young people and cultural stakeholders that we will get interesting answers.

Senator Losier-Cool: You are telling me this is a tendency that these communities should keep in mind.

Mr. Charron: Yes.

Senator Losier-Cool: Get away from the Web in order to expand.

Mr. Charron: I would be curious to see, for example, if you invited Franco-Ontarian publishers here. I was at the Salon du livre last weekend, and I saw a lot of small publishers there, not just the big ones. There are small publishers and they can develop essentially because they network with a number of other houses and readers around the world.

They are no longer necessarily limited to their geographic space. We might be surprised to learn that small firms such as Oie de Cravan — which is a publishing house here in Ontario that publishes a lot of poetry, where that is available, on the Web — have found perhaps all or the majority of their readers outside French-speaking Ontario. They may be in France or elsewhere in francophone Europe. And that probably is not the result of distribution among European libraries, but it may perhaps have happened first through the Web. I think it might be interesting to go and see the cultural stakeholders.

Senator Champagne: When you started your presentation, Mr. Chiasson, I was very surprised to hear that interaction on those websites amounted to just sharing ideas and opinions, and that there were no debates.

And, obviously, if you go onto a university's search sites, for example, I very much doubt that the university has a place where you can respond to someone's blog or really share ideas. Ultimately, I went from surprised to disappointed. I really thought that the Internet and social media would facilitate the political participation of communities, including minority communities.

Why do people not go onto them more frequently? Is it because a site is hard to access? I am not talking about being connected, but rather about finding where, on a university site, for example, one can really ask a question and find an answer. Is the reason that those sites have not yet learned how to advertise themselves? People do not know that they exist and therefore do not use them. I would like it if, at some point, there could really be a public francophone space on the Web. Am I dreaming?

Mr. Chiasson: Just to clarify one point in connection to that, in our study, we had no way to evaluate the debate that had taken place concerning those websites. The only way we had was to evaluate the available tools that facilitated the matter. The finding that there was little debate in fact showed that little had been planned in that regard. And the idea that the organizations projected an image of themselves or showed themselves off through their websites was similar to what I earlier called a ``promotional showcase,'' thus something quite different from a public space.

I do not know whether you are dreaming. I believe those organizations are obviously facing a major challenge. As I said earlier, their role was conceived at a time when the social media and the Web were not very important. The way of viewing their role, of submitting a brief to a public commission, the way of mobilizing their people, did not involve that. One can imagine that some learning will eventually be done. I believe it is not out of the question that there will be a kind of public space on the Web, more sooner than we may think. But there is no sign that will be the case.

Senator Champagne: I understand that the universities are not taking any specific action to facilitate all that. But I believe in francophone associations, groups and federations, for example, whether in New Brunswick, the west or across Canada, even in Quebec, but outside Quebec, those living in a minority setting — it seems to me there must be a way for those people to communicate among themselves, to communicate with people who might be interested in knowing more about what is being done and what is being accomplished. You have teenagers; I have grandchildren who are going to CEGEP, and I see these young people with iPhones and all kinds of technologies. How can we encourage them to go and see what is being done in francophone groups outside Quebec's francophone majority?

I believe that interaction, debate, is really the way to spur them on a little so they participate. Do you have any suggestions? Should the government do something? There must be a list. While watching Radio-Canada, for example, people will debate Le Club des ex; they will e-mail two or three brief lines, but what can be done to interest people, to sharpen their appetite? Do you have any suggestions for us that we could make to the government in order to move things along?

Mr. Chiasson: As Mr. Quirion said earlier, the francophone pages have to meet the real needs of potential users. So, in that sense, you are right. Having a list is of interest to no one, at least not the clientele we want to reach, the young generation of teenagers today. I am always surprised to see how incapable my students are of doing just one thing. Taking a course and doing nothing else seems a mystery to them.

Whatever the case may be, I believe it is not attractive enough to have organizations that have Web pages that provide us with information. For them, there has to be user engagement. And I believe that is part of the culture of both the Web and the young generations, that is to say that you have to capture their interest through some kind of participation.

Senator Champagne: That may be in the social media, for example, someone who says he has found a very interesting site; that encourages people to go and visit it. Perhaps that is what has to be done.

Mr. Chiasson: And you should preferably inform the person through social media. Talking to him no longer counts.

Senator Champagne: You tell him, but you tell him in writing.

Senator Nolin: By tweeting.

Senator Segal: I apologize to the witnesses for arriving late. I missed a good part of your presentations.

If we examine the world of the francophone minority communities, not only in Canada but around the world, we have certain key instruments, and TV5 is one of them. And all the major countries in the francophone world have invested to ensure the broadcast of TV5. When I was in Africa, in Tanzania, I was able to watch TV5 which broadcast news from Quebec. I think it is a very important instrument.

In your opinion, are there any instruments in which the governments of certain provinces could invest to improve access to French-language sources for those wishing to conduct their research in French?

Are there any instruments that could be suggested as being instruments of a certain value? I believe the biggest danger for the francophone fact in the world as a whole is that, in Canada, the young in Quebec or elsewhere might decide that everything interesting is in English, not French.

That is the major danger we have to avoid at this time. Governments can act together and use an instrument, a way of doing things, as has been done with TV5; if you can help us for your report, that will help us be done with this.

Mr. Chiasson: One of the things that struck me when we tried to see whether there was any literature on the francophonie and the Web was that there were a number of texts that focused on how the Web was being used as a tool to strengthen the diasporas, the Haitians who are in the United States and who use the Web. We are no longer following a logic in which we have an immigrant who leaves one place, settles and rebuilds his life in another place. Instead we have people who manage to stay connected to things that happen in their home country. In an international francophone perspective, we could also conceive of the Web as a tool for building stronger relationships beyond borders.

The second point somewhat concerns your examples. The logic of the major broadcasters increasingly focuses on integration of the various media. As a result, every television network now has a website. I believe something has to be reviewed in this area; that is to say that the tools developed to respond to a particular need, and those you mentioned are very useful, but they must be combined with innovations around them. Moreover, the current market increasingly requires this.

Senator Tardif: Is there a French-language Google? That was Senator Segal's question.

Senator Segal: Is there a Google or another search engine available in French? We have it in French?

Mr. Quirion: You can limit your search to French pages on Google or other search engines. You can also limit it by domain, such as .ca or .fr. That is done.

Senator Segal: I imagine not all of Google's English content is translated on the French pages.

Mr. Charron: On Google, you can limit the results to a particular language.

Senator Segal: That is it.

Mr. Quirion: It is possible to do that.

Senator Champagne: We should definitely not ask Google to translate for us.

Senator Tardif: I understand that you can obtain information by asking the question whether it is in French on Google. But not all the information on Google is in French?

Mr. Quirion: No.

Senator Segal: The reason I ask the question is that, in the history of Canada, there have always been partnerships between the federal government and the National Film Board and the CBC.

To facilitate productions in French and to have better quality, should we still seek out partnerships between the federal government and for-profit companies to encourage French-language content and to make it available to our young people in Canada and elsewhere? That is the question I am asking you.

Mr. Quirion: Your question is quite broad and points back at the answer I gave the senator earlier. I believe the French presence is definitely a fundamental factor. And if a federal policy promoted the availability of all kinds of content in French, I believe that would probably already be a major step. As for citizen participation, that will come, and I am convinced that our young people will embrace their keyboards.

The Chair: An additional question on partnerships that the federal government could have with others. Are young people not also very interested in the cultural sectors? Those would be partnerships with the cultural field, with artists and in the world of sports. Perhaps there are an unlimited number of partnerships that Canada could build to ensure that French-language content interests young people.

Mr. Quirion: Indeed.

Senator De Bané: The world we live in has no borders. Thanks to the Web, I can watch a program I want to see in other countries and at a time that suits me. In Canada, it is surprising to see how little people know one another from one region to another. Someone from Ontario knows what is going on in Ontario but very little about what is going on elsewhere.

For example, if you disregard Quebec journalists who are assigned to Parliament Hill in Ottawa, with the exception of Radio-Canada journalists, no media have a full-time journalist anywhere in Canada, either in Toronto or in Vancouver.

Everyone is in his or her province and no one is outside. Occasionally they will dispatch someone somewhere, but not on a full-time basis. However, a number of them have journalists in New York, Los Angeles, Rio, Moscow, Paris and London. Not in the other Canadian provinces.

If we want this francophone population, which represents two to three per cent of speakers here in North America, all those regions have to communicate. And they are not talking to each other. Radio-Canada has stations across Canada, but with programs that cover local events. You will not see coverage of what is going on in the francophone communities across Canada on the network.

In addition, the Université de Moncton has published a very important report on the subject in which it states that there are two news broadcasts: The National for Canada and Le Téléjournal for Quebec. And when you talk to a francophone Quebecker about what is going on in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver or Acadia, he is unaware.

Are any of the researchers or colleagues on your team interested in this kind of question? Because, ultimately, the Web and the Internet merely reflect the content of the newspapers, radio and television. When I listen to the radio, I see that they repeat what they have read in the morning paper. That is what they do.

That is where the journalists who report the news are; they are in the conventional media, and that is passed on to the Internet, radio and television, but the guy who talks to me has a copy of La Presse in front of him and tells me what he is reading in it.

I ask you to what extent do we have a system in place that actually enables us to cover all that. I know that the people of Winnipeg, Edmonton, Acadia, Toronto, Windsor and Sudbury have a local Radio-Canada station that tells them what is going on locally. But I am in Ottawa, Montreal or Quebec City, and I never hear about that.

Mr. Chiasson: On the one hand, as I have not studied the matter, it seems to me as an ordinary citizen that radio has been more successful than television in this regard. I occasionally watch Samuel Chiasson's program on the Moncton station. This is a bit anecdotal, but I believe that, on radio, perhaps as a result of the medium we are dealing with, the Francophone presence outside Quebec, to use an expression that is no longer used that much, is greater in Quebec. Obviously, in another sense, you are entirely right: francophones in Acadia know perfectly well what is going on in Montreal. There is no problem about that; we have no concerns in that regard.

You are indeed right to the extent that the electronic forms that we have added, the way we have integrated them, very often reflect this phenomenon; they do not have any more journalists in Winnipeg or Edmonton even though they have a website associated with the television network. But I believe that radio has done better in this regard. I do not know exactly why.

Mr. Charron: Perhaps we should see whether the situation has changed over a number of generations. Was there traditionally a bigger appetite in Quebec, for example, for what happened in Acadia or elsewhere in the Canadian francophone community 25, 30 or 50 years ago than there is now? It should be determined whether the question necessarily arises in relation to linguistic boundaries; could people in parts of the Maritimes feel somewhat abandoned by the major national English-language media, that the people in Toronto or Vancouver have no idea what is going on in Prince Edward Island, Corner Brook or Newfoundland?

First, we should see whether it is really a linguistic question and then, yes, it is true, these new media are a reflection, first, of genuine needs, as Jean said earlier. If there is a need, that will exist. Someone will see to do it. It is sad, and that may not be a very optimistic observation, but if people do not inquire or do not have tools in order to inquire or take an interest in what is going across the country, within a single linguistic community, you have to ask yourself why. That is perhaps, first, because people essentially do not feel the need. We are dealing with something other than the way we use the tools. These may even be more central questions.

Senator De Bané: That is the argument of Céline Galipeau, who reads the news on Le Téléjournal. When she was in Moncton, we told her: ``You rarely talk about us on our Téléjournal.'' She answered: ``Quebecers are not interested in what goes on in the rest of Canada.'' Ultimately, it is the story of the chicken and the egg: since Radio-Canada does not talk about the other regions of Canada, people say Quebecers are not interested in it, and that is why they say very little about it. According to the study I recently cited by the chair of Canadian studies at the Université de Moncton, they say that CBC provides three times more coverage of Acadian society than Radio-Canada. And when I look at how Radio-Canada deploys its journalists, I see it has more journalists in Quebec than the CBC has in Ontario. They have all their staff there, and that is why I never hear about the other French communities. I would like it if, at some point, you could put me in touch with your colleagues or if you yourself were interested in looking into that subject.

Mr. Chiasson: This is a bit anecdotal, but last summer there was an interesting debate on the matter. There was quite good coverage of the August 15 celebrations in Acadia. Radio-Canada focused on the fact that it was Radio-Canada's anniversary, and Radio-Canada played an important role in the celebration and presentation of Acadia. Reaction in Acadia was strong and lively, and Éric Forgues, in particular, at the Université de Moncton, who does a lot of work on the francophone communities, said that Radio-Canada had taken advantage of the situation and, to a degree, used the Acadian community as a foil for Radio-Canada, whereas Radio-Canada had not always been as present in the region as one might have wished, even though it had to be acknowledged that the fact it had a regional office in Moncton was extremely important.

Mr. Charron: You are right, senator; that is a situation I deplore, as you do. It makes me smile when you say there are media in Quebec that have journalists everywhere — Le Devoir, to name one. You always feel that, in Le Devoir, you can get daily reports on what is going on culturally in Paris and in many cities of the world, but it is quite difficult to find out what is going on culturally in Toronto, for example — and lord knows there are things going on in Toronto.

That is a situation. I deplore it as much as you do, except that, realistically, I do not see anything on the horizon that will necessarily change for the better over the next few years.

Senator Nolin: It strikes a chord with me when you say: the demand is not there, so we do not do it — the federal institutions, among others. Would we not have a proactive role to play in promoting demand? I just searched on my iPad, and lord knows the Government of Canada is doing an enormous promotion of the War of 1812, the commemoration of its 200th anniversary. You seem to find that funny. Do you have a particular interest?

That is Canadian Heritage's responsibility, and a lot of money will be invested in the commemoration, and fortunately history plays an important role in the way our institutions were formed and shaped. That war is a fundamental event in our history. I wanted to see whether the department had decided to use the media to reach what I consider an important public, youth, but not at all.

Should we recommend that the government first organize it and do it, as it is capable of doing: regulating and ensuring that the departments stimulate demand for the information to which my colleague just referred, rather than wait passively until it is requested?

I understand that is not the purpose of your research, but that is somewhat related to your answers from earlier. Digital content. If we are not making it because no one is asking for it, perhaps we should stimulate demand for it.

Mr. Chiasson: My earlier remark was more about more how to do it. We can decide to be proactive, yes, but if we do it in a format that is incompatible with what people are looking for, it will go nowhere.

The issue of the War of 1812 makes me smile because I have a historian colleague who is an expert on military history, and we have been discussing this topic for some time now, but, to draw a parallel, if we do that in a conventional museological way, as it is sometimes done in federal institutions, not very interactively, it definitely will not meet a need. You have to be creative.

Senator Nolin: That is correct.

Mr. Chiasson: Especially for a war that dates back 200 years.

Senator Nolin: That prevented us from being Americans today — a minor historical detail.

Mr. Chiasson: That does not seem important for someone who does not see it immediately in a format.

Senator Mockler: This morning, I passed by Rivière-du-Loup and there was talk about the election of an alderman. They said that only 22 per cent of people had gone to vote. Journalists were talking about a total lack of interest and wondered whether a social media campaign would have encouraged young people to vote.

The other topic addressed was the social media. No so long ago, in both Quebec and Acadia, you could easily hear comments such as, ``Ça va shooter dans l'goal,'' ``C'est un lit avec des springs,'' or ``Yes, on va vers un touchdown.'' I recently had the opportunity to speak with the leaders of major international businesses in my region. They told me about the difficulty involved in maintaining high-quality French among young people, particularly in the social media.

Did you examine that? What could we do to maintain the quality of French in the social media? Do you have any comments?

Mr. Chiasson: Municipal elections, those are my roots. That is my primary field. I would say that we can see a decline in the voter turn-out rate, at the municipal level and in other areas. There has been a decline. In fact, I joke with my students when I tell them that the other levels of government are in the process of falling to the municipal voter turnout rate. You can view that as a depoliticization, a loss of interest in civic affairs. Some people support that idea. It is a turning inward. You watch television and take little interest in what goes on in the public sphere.

I have an interpretation, which is the one you seem to support, and that is that this may be a sign that politicization comes about through other means than the traditional vote for a large portion of the population that does not feel that well represented, particularly young people, women and so on. Very often, they do not feel represented in elections because they see candidates who are neither young nor women, in particular. So there is that aspect. In other words, what interpretation does one make of it? Is it a sign that people are turning inward, into their private space, or is it a sign that there are other places where issues are being expressed?

Mr. Quirion: Senator Mockler, I understand what you are saying about terminology. I believe that one of the very important factors in maintaining high-quality language, as it pertains to terminology, is the ability to quickly offer French terms when English terms arise. For example, in a terminology course that I am giving at the University of Ottawa, we try to solve individual terminology problems. I have joined with the university's linguistic services department to detect words that are currently causing them headaches. Unfortunately, that is related to social media. ``To tweet'' becomes ``twitter'' in French. This causes some discomfort at a university that is trying to project its francophone image. They would like to have something else to say besides ``twitter''. They do not like associations such as: ``Le recteur twitte.'' Here we see that there is much more behind this than terms; there is linguistic pride as well, an image that we project.

Senator Mockler: That is true.

Mr. Quirion: I was surprised to see that my class — about 40 students — has a great deal of difficulty considering the question because, for them, ``twitter'' has become an accepted usage. Why fight it? I cite that example to show that it is important to disseminate French terminology quickly.

I am thinking, for example, of a measure that has been put in place by the Office québécois de la langue française. It is a telephone system or emergency line for journalists who have to write an article and who, as their deadline approaches, would like to use something other than an English term. It is a kind of red phone where they can at least get a proposed French term, even if they have to put the English term in parenthesis next to it. If there was one resource that could be put at the disposal of young people, language workers, it would undoubtedly be this kind of immediate creation and dissemination of French terminology.

Senator Mockler: Using the social media?

Mr. Quirion: In particular. Because it is these users who will quickly spread the news. If we get stuck with these terms at the outset, we have no chance.

Senator Mockler: What do your students say about that?

Mr. Quirion: In what respect, in particular?

Senator Mockler: About usage?

Mr. Quirion: They are very much aware of that. Most of them are trying first and foremost, for the moment — perhaps it is their age — to align themselves with the movement they sense, but others want to francize their future workplace. I teach francophones, those who are in the B.A. program in English-to-French translation. These people will ultimately be francization agents in their environments, ensuring the quality of communications in French in their workplace, whether it be in a private company, the federal government or somewhere else.

Senator Nolin: We have some good examples, such as ``courriel'' and ``pourriel'', words that are created here. Even the French are surprised that we use them. They use the word ``mail.''

Why abdicate when we could use our own Canadian language?

Mr. Charron: Earlier I was quite pessimistic or, in any case, at least realistic. I am saying that I am absolutely optimistic about this, contrary to what we hear around us about the quality of young francophones' language. The question has often been put to me because I work in a field where the French language is the raw material.

In the classroom, what I am observing in 2011 is no less interesting, no less lively today than it was when I started teaching university 12 years ago. On the contrary.

We hear ambient comments on the quality of French, which is declining among young people, particularly as a result of new technologies. I would say that that is not necessarily what I see on the ground. Some will say I am privileged in that I teach people who are in the language field; I understand that and I can qualify it.

What I am also seeing is what was referred to earlier: young francophones who are in constant communication with other francophones elsewhere in the world. That is what is important in my opinion, and to the extent that our francophones here are in direct communication with other francophones elsewhere in the world through the social media, they have no choice but to understand each other if they want to speak to each other.

One may well think that the more francophones in the world communicate with each other, the more they will be able to agree on a common terminology that will enable them to communicate effectively. On that question, it seems to me that we should be more optimistic than pessimistic.

Mr. Quirion: It seems you are familiar with Termium; so much the better. Termium is one of the institutions we referred to a little earlier and one we still turn to. We may previously have used it more readily.

Today, thanks to Web 2.0, we can consult parallel terminology bases supplied by other people in our language. This is an interlinguistic and plurilinguistic phenomenon. There are enthusiastic people who are passionately interested in a field and who want to contribute by adding French equivalents as a hobby.

Senator Nolin: A kind of wiki?

Mr. Quirion: Exactly. We have the option of disseminating terminology or picking up on ideas that would not previously have caught on, but that spring into use among this group of enthusiastic people.

I will conclude with a very interesting example. A colleague of mine conducted a survey on Breton in Wikipedia. This is interesting because, as you may know, in France, after imposing French at the national level for a number of centuries in order to consolidate the nation, the French realized that they were gradually killing off regional languages, including Breton.

In an effort to save that language, the government of Brittany established a Breton terminology to accompany school textbooks right up to university, but no such terminology was subsequently proposed in specialized scientific or other fields; it does not exist.

At Wikipedia, collaborators in specialized fields must use a terminology to describe their ideas and propose it. Then other Breton users join in, and it is not only the content that is discussed, but also the terminology that is being established by consensus among users.

To my mind, this is a very good example of what Web 2.0 can contribute to the spread of knowledge and, here particularly, to the creation and dissemination of a terminology that is the subject of a consensus among users, in addition to what government initiatives could do.

Senator Mockler: I have a brief question on which we could begin a debate. Earlier we talked about the Moncton region. Back home, we can use a terminology to understand each other more clearly, and I am going to let Senator Poirier give her comments. But we definitely want to use Chiac terminology because some popular terms from the region are still used.

Is there a danger that what we are currently seeing could result in the assimilation of the minority regions outside Quebec? Could this become an instrument of assimilation?

Mr. Chiasson: In the sense that Chiac would disappear?

Senator Mockler: No, I was talking about French-language social media.

Mr. Charron: No, I would tend to be just as optimistic as I was earlier. There is a sentence from the Quebec essayist, André Belleau, that has always struck me. He said that we need to speak French but that we need French in order to speak. I understood from that that it is, first of all, a question of need. If we need to express ourselves, we do so in the language that we have and we do not have any other. In many cases, people have no other languages in which to express themselves than the one they have.

From that point, I believe that some efforts may seem purely artificial in certain cases if their first purpose is not to meet to a primary need.

Senator Champagne: I wanted to make a brief comment about Termium. I subscribed to it for a number of years, and when the roadmap came out four years ago, Termium became a tool that everyone could access without having to pay for a subscription.

That was one of the things I was especially pleased about in what was contained in the roadmap that Minister Moore presented. As was already said, perhaps some people are not familiar with Termium and, after listening to this program, will want to access it and see what they can do with Termium.

Senator Losier-Cool: I will not go back over all the terminology of the French. I must say that even France, our mother country, saddens me at times.

Mr. Chiasson: Yes, a lot.

Senator Losier-Cool: It is fashionable to play English music or to use English words, but that is part of a future debate. I would like to return to our agenda concerning the study of the use of the Internet and the social media.

The Treasury Board Secretariat is considering the possibility of regulating the guidelines. In your opinion, is it possible to regulate the guidelines that could be used for new media in a manner that would be consistent with Canada's linguistic rights and would meet the needs of the francophone communities?

Should that be regulated? In other words, could you tell the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages whether, depending on the recommendations in your upcoming report, the Treasury Board should consider establishing clear and specific guidelines as in the Official Languages Act?

Mr. Chiasson: In the governments' toolboxes, we often have two types of tools. Obviously there are regulations, in which standards are defined, and they can subsequently be enforced through all kinds of means.

There are also incentive tools, and I believe we definitely need regulation, on the one hand, because that is often what makes social media a powerful tool in the case of emerging democracies: they very often escape regulation.

For countries that are used to having firmly implanted regulations, I would be tempted to say that, yes, regulation is necessary, but that it must especially be accompanied by the other part of the toolbox, that is to say incentive measures that support the things you want to do and that enable you to think of creative forms of support in that regard. I do not know what was in the draft regulations, but trying to regulate that much content and that many ways of doing things on the Web, such as establishing policies to prevent hateful content, for example, seems absolutely essential to me.

Senator Nolin: That is fundamental. Those regulations will be proposed and there will be a period of consultation.

Senator Losier-Cool: There is also the issue of Internet access throughout the official language minority communities. If we want the social media to be tools for community development, the communities have to have access to them.

Mr. Chiasson: That is a major regional development issue, which increasingly concerns the rural communities, which are the ones that are the least connected. And those communities view this as a kind of obligation; that is to say that, if we want to attract businesses, ensure the vitality of our communities and stem the exodus of young people, this becomes a kind of solution. In that sense, it tends to move through other channels, but it does in fact become an issue.

The Chair: Honourable senators, as you have no more questions, I would like, on your behalf, to thank our witnesses, who have so patiently answered the questions put to them. Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming to meet with us.

Honourable senators, I would like to remind you that we will make an exception to our general practice and start the meeting at 4:30 p.m. to accommodate the witnesses' schedules. Next week we will have a long meeting and may possibly finish around 7 p.m. The first witnesses will be from the CEFRIO, concerning the use of the Internet. In the second part of the meeting, we will be hearing from Air Canada. Thank you.

(The committee adjourned.)