Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Official Languages

Issue 6 - Evidence - Meeting of May 5, 2014

OTTAWA, Monday, May 5, 2014

The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages met this day, at 5:01 p.m., to continue its study on the impacts of recent changes to the immigration system on official language minority communities.

Senator Claudette Tardif (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: Honourable senators, I call this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages to order.

I am Senator Claudette Tardif from Alberta, and I am the chair of this committee. I would ask senators to introduce themselves, starting on my left, please.

Senator Mockler: Percy Mockler from New Brunswick.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis from Quebec City.

Senator Rivard: Michel Rivard from Quebec.

Senator McIntyre: Paul McIntyre from New Brunswick.

Senator Charette-Poulin: Marie Charette-Poulin from northern Ontario. Welcome, Ms. Lalonde.

Senator Chaput: I am Maria Chaput, senator from Manitoba. Welcome, madam.

The Chair: We are continuing our study of the impact of recent changes to the immigration system on official language minority communities. Our witness today is Jocelyne Lalonde, Executive Director of the National Secretariat of the Consortium national de formation en santé (CNFS) and of the Association des universités de la francophonie canadienne (AUFC). She represents two associations. Ms. Lalonde, you have the floor. Senators will ask their questions after the presentation.

Jocelyne Lalonde, Executive Director, National Secretariat, Consortium national de formation en santé and Association des universités de la francophonie canadienne: Thank you very much. Good afternoon, Madam Chair, honourable senators and participants here present. First, I would like to thank you for your invitation to the Association des universités de la francophonie canadienne and the Consortium national de formation en santé, the two organizations of which I am executive director.

Following a few brief remarks on AUFC and CNFS, I will address some important points. I will remind you of a few facts related to the essential role our post-secondary education institutions play in the francophone communities with respect to the economy and immigration, particularly the economic integration of immigrants. I will also outline for you the measures we would like adopted to ensure the training and employability of immigrants and international students. Then I will close with a few recommendations.

AUFC is an association of 14 francophone and bilingual universities in 7 provinces outside Quebec. The programs offered at those institutions help improve French-language learning, instruction and research at the university level and enhance the vitality and outreach of the francophone minority communities.

CNFS is an organization of 11 university and college institutions that offer French-language study programs in various health disciplines and 6 regional partners that facilitate access to those training programs.

The nature of the immigration reform and its impact may be described as follows.

At the Ministerial Conference on the Canadian Francophonie in fall 2013, Ronald Bisson and Matthieu Brennan presented the findings of their analysis of the impact of the future Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

One of their main findings concerns the role that post-secondary education plays in immigration. More specifically, bilingual francophone and anglophone employers, the provinces and territories and the post-secondary education institutions of the Canadian francophonie will be driving forces in mobilizing efforts to increase the number of francophone immigrants settling in the communities. We are very much aware of the essential role that our post-secondary institutions must play.

However, it is difficult to anticipate all the consequences of the immigration reform, particularly for the role played by Canadian employers and businesses that are in the midst of those changes and need labour. It is important to take the necessary measures to ensure that the immigration reform is a success.

The member colleges and universities of AUFC and CNFS are in favour of and are already facilitating the socio-economic integration of francophone immigrants. They are making increasing efforts to improve the offer of French-language programs and services for immigrants and foreign students. All these institutions provide information and training and offer activities and services designed to help immigrants integrate into their new living environment while affording them a francophone cultural experience. Post-secondary education institutions are the driving force behind training that leads to employability and occupational integration. They also play a crucial economic role in their communities as they have close relationships with businesses and employers. It has been recommended as part of the immigration reform that our post-secondary education institutions play a prominent role in language and cultural training. That training enhances employability in Canada and helps guide and train candidates before they leave for Canada. This training must also be offered to foreign students who are in the process of becoming our future labour force. The support services that our colleges and universities provide to foreign students must be expanded so that they can better meet their needs.

Canada has just adopted a new five-year international education strategy the primary objective of which is to double the number of international students in Canada by 2022. Although the government is aware that it will have to cooperate with all stakeholders in the education and research community to achieve that, our institutions are already playing a leading role. In addition to that impact, international students at our institutions are clearly ideal candidates for immigrating to Canada and settling in the francophone minority communities since they hold Canadian credentials and are proficient in both official languages, and most have relevant work experience. The demographic profile of the student population of our member institutions has thus changed considerably over the years and is now highly diversified.

For example, international students represent 18 per cent of the total student body at the Université de Moncton and 15 per cent of that of the Université de Saint-Boniface. The support services offered must therefore be suited to the needs of their immigrant student clientele, which has highly varied language skills and comes from diverse cultures. These few facts, as well as what the post-secondary institutions are currently offering in the immigration sector, have convinced AUFC and CNFS officers to establish the Alliance des établissements postsecondaires de la francophonie canadienne.

The alliance represents the universities of the Canadian francophonie that are interested in immigration, as well as their partners. Its aim is to reinforce immigrant and student training initiatives of all kinds. Its purpose is to work in partnership to offer an expanded range of training and related services to French-language immigrants in the francophone communities and to international students. This new alliance consolidates the actions of the colleges and universities of the Canadian francophonie, promotes immigration and the sharing of innovative models and is an effective vehicle for approaching the Canadian government.

Post-secondary institutions have proposed to the Canadian government a series of measures designed to improve employment-focused programs and to increase the number of foreign students in Canada. The measures we propose are based on the expertise and models our colleges and universities are currently using. These measures are also designed to guarantee the availability of and access to French-language training programs for immigrants, wherever they are, before they depart for or arrive in Canada. The proposed measures include the following: increasing the number of language training programs for immigrants and foreign students so that they are accessible and meet Canadian standards; increasing the number of employment-focused programs in colleges and universities to improve the job skills of immigrants and foreign students by forming closer relationships with employers; ensuring that training and employability best practices and approaches are shared; increasing the number of immigrants from the foreign students group and offering them employability programs; and, lastly, increasing the availability and accessibility of French-language orientation services for immigrants and foreign students. All these measures are based on our institutions' capacity and training expertise.

Our two main recommendations are as follows. First, we would like your committee to recommend that the capacity and infrastructure of our colleges and universities be reinforced for the purpose of developing and implementing more services and instruments to take in and provide better support for international students and to ensure that they can fully adopt the French language and culture.

Second, we would like your committee to recommend that the Government of Canada support and fund the measures proposed by the Alliance des établissements postsecondaires de la francophonie canadienne. The purpose of those measures, which I have just presented to you, is for the educational institutions of the Canadian francophonie to offer programs and services for immigrants, foreign students and employers. In that way, we will be able to ensure that economic immigration meets the need for a highly skilled bilingual labour force.

Once again, thank you for inviting us to appear here today. We will be pleased to answer your questions.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms. Lalonde. I would like to ask Senator Fortin-Duplessis to ask the first question. Senator McIntyre will follow.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Thank you very much, Madam Chair. Welcome, Ms. Lalonde. I very much appreciated your presentation and I will have a few brief questions.

Based on your experience, what percentage of international students stay in Canada after completing their education?

Ms. Lalonde: I would be able to say the exact percentage. It also depends on the university or college where international students come to study in Canada. I can tell you, however, that one of the reasons for many students who come from African countries — many of our international students come from African countries — is often so they can perhaps immigrate to Canada after their studies.

International students are currently permitted to work 20 hours a week in Canada while they are studying. We want to ensure that these students can get a job in their field and gradually integrate with the aid of a job if they decide to stay in Canada.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: They are entitled to work 20 hours in their field.

What factors encourage international students to stay in Canada after their studies?

Ms. Lalonde: That is related somewhat to the services we would like to be able to put in place. Universities and colleges currently promote and recruit students to come and study at their university or college. However, integration is less of an issue. It is in connection with this aspect that we would like to offer students certain services so that they know more about immigration opportunities in Canada and can get training and assistance so that they can get to know our francophone communities better and can integrate more easily if they wish.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Are you seeing a higher retention rate among immigrants who have previously entered Canada as students? Is it easier for them than for other immigrants whose education is complete and who are trying to integrate into francophone minority communities in Canada?

Ms. Lalonde: The major difference is that international students receive their training in Canada. That training is like the training of all Canadians who study at our universities and colleges. There is no evaluation of credentials that they have earned in another country, which is often the case of immigrants who arrive or who want to live in Canada.

Senator McIntyre: Ms. Lalonde, thank you for being here with us today.

In addition to being executive director of two organizations representing francophone post-secondary institutions, I see you are also a member of the National Community Table on francophone Immigration.

Ms. Lalonde: Yes.

Senator McIntyre: Last week we were privileged to have with us Mr. Diallo, President of that National Table. Tell us a little about it. How do you view its role? Is there a connection between your work as executive director of your two organizations and the National Table?

Ms. Lalonde: Absolutely. I have been part of the National Table since its inception. I represent one of the two national organizations at that organization. One of the very important purposes of the National Table is to work to enable immigrants to use all our French-language services before they even arrive in Canada so that they can really integrate into our minority communities. To do that, we need the assistance of other organizations, in addition to the universities and colleges of the Canadian francophonie. We need to have the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne around the table, as well as reception services for arriving immigrants. We need the services of the Regroupement de développement économique du Canada because we have to work with employers.

We are developing a national strategic plan to ensure that immigrants who come to Canada are really able to integrate economically, to live with their families in our francophone communities and to become prominent citizens of those communities. To do that, we must work together, and the action plan we are putting in place takes into account all aspects of immigrant integration right up to employment.

Senator McIntyre: If I am not mistaken, all those players, the federal government, provincial governments, municipalities, employers, educational institutions, universities of the Canadian francophonie and community organizations, must work together; that is to say that they must work as a group, not individually, to facilitate immigrant recruitment, selection, intake, settlement and retention.

Ms. Lalonde: Exactly.

Senator McIntyre: And if I correctly you understood, it is therefore necessary — and I think you just said so — to establish a joint national strategy acknowledging immigration as a long-term factor, or rather a factor for the continued existence of the official language minority communities. Is that correct?

Ms. Lalonde: It is exactly correct. We are individually unable to put a system in place that would meet immigrants' needs. Each of us must use our strengths, the services we offer, and see how we can provide a continuum of service to enable immigrants to integrate into our communities. This is essential if we are to preserve the vitality of our francophone communities. A large number of anglophone immigrants are currently entering and settling in Canada, and, if we do not work to ensure francophone immigration, the number of francophones living in minority communities will decline in a very short period of time.

Senator Chaput: Ms. Lalonde, you mentioned international recruitment. You said how good it was for francophone communities across Canada that students can come and study at our universities and colleges and, at the same time, work 20 hours a week if they wish. They can integrate into the community and earn Canadian credentials, and then it is easier for those students to get a job if they want to stay in Canada. Is that correct?

Ms. Lalonde: That is exactly correct.

Senator Chaput: You also discussed language training for immigrants, training that could be provided by our colleges or universities in the Canadian francophonie, as well as training for immigrants to attract them or to enable them to meet the needs of our employers. Is that correct?

Ms. Lalonde: Exactly.

Senator Chaput: That implies a knowledge of employment needs. So what would be required is a kind of partnership among employers, universities and colleges. Is that correct?

Ms. Lalonde: That is exactly correct.

First, I will answer the question on language training. The colleges and universities currently offer several language training programs. We have begun to set up an online portal available to anyone wishing to consult available information on language training at our colleges and universities. It is important to continue offering this training, which must be available in all the provinces. Some provinces currently have greater access to language training than others.

Second, there is also training in English. We know that unilingual francophone immigrants will not find it easy to enter the labour market because they also have to be able to speak English. It is important for us to give those immigrants the opportunity to learn English, but at our colleges and universities, in an environment in which they can also integrate into our communities from a cultural standpoint.

As regards what I call upgrade or remedial training, if there is a specific need for a trade, such as a need for plumbers or electricians, and if a student arrives and the employer requesting that type of skill sees that he lacks knowledge in one area of the trade, the college could work with the employer to put that person in a better position to take the employer's job and to acquire the needed skills lacking in his or her training.

There is another important aspect, in all fields — in health even more than in the trades, I believe — and that is cultural differences and the way we have to work with employers to acquire better knowledge of those cultural differences. We know there are major opportunities for immigrants who have found a job, for them to continue holding their job. In 80 per cent of cases, employers are facing retention problems because there is a lack of knowledge about cultural adjustment. We have one way of doing things and they have another. We have to learn to get to know each other so that we can work more efficiently together.

Senator Chaput: Given the cultural differences, do you think employers feel that this costs more or that immigrants might take more time to learn because they have a lot more to learn?

Ms. Lalonde: I would not necessarily say it will take them more time to learn, but they have to be given the tools they need before entering the labour market. Sometimes that is done while the individuals are on the job. They can be given evening courses to improve their knowledge in a field. That depends directly on labour shortages in the field. If employers see they will have to turn down contracts because they do not have enough employees trained in that field, then I believe they will understand why it is important to make a few more services available to immigrants because that is the only way they can get skilled labour.

Senator Chaput: Are there any success stories anywhere in Canada? Or is this merely in the planning and discussion stage?

Ms. Lalonde: I believe there really are some success stories. None immediately come to mind, but I can tell you that economic immigration is now a fact.

In certain jobs, it is very easy to say that we are immediately giving jobs to immigrants arriving in Canada, one or two days after they get here, but that is not true in all situations. In many cases, good upgrade or remedial training will be necessary for those individuals to find jobs. Economic integration is all well and good, but we have to introduce programs that will support it.

Senator Rivard: Thank you for coming, Ms. Lalonde. I see here that your Association des universités de la francophonie canadienne represents 14 institutions in 7 Canadian provinces. Quebec naturally does not belong to your association.

Ms. Lalonde: No.

Senator Rivard: I would like to speak with you about a problem we learned about last week. An agreement is in place in Canada to take in as many university students as possible and to conduct exchanges. The chair of our committee is also chair of the Canada-France Interparliamentary Association, and it is my pleasure to be its vice-chair.

We have met some French deputies and senators who are horrified to see that, for lack of adequate funding, Quebec has decided not to allow fees to rise in Quebec so that they can compare with those of other Canadian provinces.

Universities were lacking additional funding and, in a way, took their revenge on foreign students, and therefore French students. Let us draw a comparison. A student who lives in Quebec pays a certain amount and a Canadian student pays approximately 50 per cent more, but foreign students pay three or four times more.

In your opinion, when there is a gap between the students of the other provinces and those of a particular province — let us say Ontario or Manitoba — what is the policy on foreign, and thus European, students? Is the amount the same, twice or four times that amount? Can you answer my question?

Ms. Lalonde: There are several parts to your question. First, post-secondary tuition fees have always been much lower in Quebec than in the other provinces. There are also agreements between Quebec and France, as a result of which colleges and universities outside Quebec have always had trouble recruiting French students because of that difference.

Universities outside Quebec would not be able to offer fees as low as those that Quebec offers French students. That is the first point. The second point is that it is the responsibility of each university to set tuition fees for international students. Anglophone enrolment is often a way to obtain additional funding for a university's fees and its proper operation.

Some universities outside Quebec charge much lower fees than others. It is really up to each university to determine the amount. I could not state the percentage because it is an individual matter for each college and university. There is a major difference between universities outside Quebec and those in Quebec as regards France and international students.

Senator Rivard: You said in the first part of your answer that it is difficult for the universities of the seven provinces to compete on fees charged to foreign students, particularly French students, because the cost is lower and not competitive. However, under the recent decision by Quebec universities, fees will be more than $10,000. So that means they will be more competitive. The seven provinces that have francophone or bilingual institutions will be able to attract more students because I believe Quebec is too greedy. Since they have not gotten enough money from Quebec students, the new funding method is like a revenge. They are charging foreign students more. That will make you competitive.

Ms. Lalonde: That should be the case. We will see how Quebec's new premier implements what he promised during his election campaign and we will see in two or three years whether that has a significant impact on universities outside Quebec.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Senator Rivard, for asking those important questions following our trip to France.

Senator Charette-Poulin: Ms. Lalonde, I believe you partly answered my question in responding to my colleague Senator Chaput. In your first recommendation, you mentioned intake structures in community colleges. I would have liked to hear a description of your perception of the structures needed by immigrant students at community colleges.

Ms. Lalonde: Students or immigrants?

Senator Charette-Poulin: Immigrant students.

Ms. Lalonde: Students who decide to come and study in Canada will often decide while they are training to apply to stay in Canada. We must ensure that, upon their arrival at the college or university, they can take part in activities that will assist them in integrating into the francophone community.

We work with the community to enable those students to enjoy experiences in the francophone communities where they study.

If students decide to work 20 hours a week in the labour market, we have to be able to work with them — and this does not happen automatically — to try to find them a job related to their training, not just a job that is completely outside their field of study. We would like them to be able to integrate much more easily once they have completed their training.

These individuals could also be twinned with other people who work in the same jobs as they do, if work terms are part of their training, which could help them integrate more easily. These are all kinds of services that could facilitate integration following their training.

Senator Charette-Poulin: Ms. Lalonde, since funding of our colleges is a provincial jurisdiction in Canada, do you think any additional federal funding can be provided for this kind of reinforcement?

Ms. Lalonde: Yes, because we believe that Immigration Canada, which is responsible for immigration to our francophone minority communities, understands the importance of international students as a source of immigration for our communities.

It is very important for them to be able to support our universities and colleges in this regard, not in recruitment and promotion, because that is the role of our universities. Immigration Canada has a role to play for the Canadian francophonie in promoting the integration of international students wishing to stay in Canada.

Senator Charette-Poulin: Still in the same vein, Ms. Lalonde, I am thinking of Collège Boréal, for example, in northern Ontario. If memory serves me, a very large percentage of students find jobs after completing their studies. It seems to me that it is between—

Ms. Lalonde: At least 98 per cent.

Senator Charette-Poulin: Approximately 98 per cent. That is a college that operates very well. They already have programs at the college itself. Is it reasonable to say that that is an integrated program, that immigrant students do not feel isolated but instead are involved in programs to promote relations with employers, integration into the francophone community and part-time work, programs that are really in effect while they are studying or on work terms during their studies? Would it be feasible to suggest in your recommendations to the federal government, even though this would be funding from the Department of Immigration, that it be possible and acceptable to the department that funding be allocated to an integrated program?

Ms. Lalonde: Absolutely. We are talking about being able to use what we already have in our colleges and about increasing services intended for that specific clientele.

Services are already in place for our clientele, for students from northern Ontario, at Collège Boréal, whose international students could benefit. Some specific services should also be established to meet their needs because their needs are different from those of francophone students.

Senator Mockler: You explained it clearly, and your experience precedes you, Ms. Lalonde. The challenge for our communities is to try to retain and integrate people in our communities. One example of integration would be to create a community of interest among immigrant students so that they can stay in the region. The major challenge, particularly for the small provinces, is really the aging of the population.

Ms. Lalonde: Absolutely.

Senator Mockler: Students and parents do not stay in those small provinces that they come from. Instead they go to Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary and other places.

Do foreign students come here mainly to train in economics or social science?

Ms. Lalonde: It is often those two fields that attract them. The training they receive in Canada is very well perceived internationally. For those who decide to return to their countries, this training affords them excellent job opportunities.

On the other hand, it is important that we help those who decide to stay with us to get to know our communities. I am not prepared to say that all international students are aware of the reality of our minority communities and what we have experienced since Confederation. These people need to get to know us better so they can understand how important it is to continue working with us and to improve minority communities' capabilities. They have no notion of that when they arrive.

Senator Mockler: What must be done if we want to promote retention and integration? The Consortium national de formation en santé plays an important role. I recently saw the face of the Université de Moncton with the arrival of its new president, who is a native of Saint-Boniface. I am told that more new students seem to be going into economics and social science disciplines, although a number of students opt for the health sector.

However, we know that the two founding peoples will be in the minority in Canada by 2040 or 2050. Canada is a very welcoming immigration country, and I support it in that respect. However, certain warnings are in order.

Do you think that, if we want to promote retention, we should require citizenship applicants 14 to 18 and 55 to 64 years of age to have adequate knowledge of one of the official languages? Our communities of interest should consider this issue if we want an equitable linguistic presence in our communities, particularly in the small provinces.

Ms. Lalonde: You are entirely right. The new economic immigration act establishes certain criteria and a points system for each of those criteria to determine who should be entitled to immigrate to Canada. One of those criteria is language. The individual must speak English or French. That is a very good thing because reference is made to French in this new act, which is currently in force.

The important thing is to see whether our francophone immigrants can work in a bilingual environment and are able to speak English. That is why we think we have to offer them language training in English as well. It will make them more employable.

We were also talking about a strategic plan for francophone communities. A lot of energy will be needed to ensure that francophone communities can attract the necessary number of immigrants to maintain the percentage of francophones outside Quebec. We will have to work with employers to show them the value that a bilingual labour force adds. It is the employers who will have to hire these new immigrants. We must work closely with all employers and show them the value that a bilingual labour force adds for Canada and for their business.

Senator Mockler: We remember that Yvon Fontaine, former president of the Université de Moncton, was also president and executive director of the francophone universities of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, a position he held for some time.

Ms. Lalonde: Yes.

Senator Mockler: My question concerns Mr. Fontaine's presence. I often say that, in our communities, if we want to influence those on the outside, we have to have our own people on the outside promoting our communities socially and economically.

Has Mr. Fontaine's presence encouraged more foreign students to attend our universities?

Ms. Lalonde: Mr. Fontaine was president of the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie for at least four years. His presence helped make our francophone minority communities known around the francophone world.

Our communities must show leadership in order to make themselves known internationally. What we are also doing at the Association des universités de la francophonie canadienne is representing our universities internationally — and our colleges in the next six to eight months — so that people know they offer high-quality programs and that we are working together to make it possible for international students to come here. That fact is not known everywhere or by all universities. Quebec occupies an important place in many countries of the Francophonie. We must always work to make ourselves better known.

So my answer is, yes, that was a very good thing.

The Chair: Ms. Lalonde, with your permission, I would like to ask some questions that are not in the same vein as those of Senator Mockler concerning a comment that you made during your presentation.

You said it was difficult to determine the impact of the recent changes to the immigration system on employers and post-secondary institutions. Do you believe those changes add more requirements for employers or post-secondary institutions? I believe I heard your answer as you responded to other senators, but I would nevertheless like to hear you clarify that point once again to determine what you meant by that.

Ms. Lalonde: What is very clear in the new act is the importance of a form of immigration based on our economy. This is economic immigration. When we say economic immigration, we are talking about the importance of an immigrant in relation to an employer's need for a specific type of labour. A very important role is assigned to post-secondary education as a result of this new act and of this new form of immigration that will be coming to Canada. In many cases, people cannot simply leave their countries and come and take up a job without undergoing remedial training and without cultural integration and adaptation courses for the employer. That is definitely a major change.

The other major change concerns the employer. How can we ensure that an employer in Alberta, Manitoba or Saskatchewan can find a person who is able to speak French? Will it be important for employers that immigrants are able to speak French? This work represents a challenge, and we will have to work very hard to maintain the number of immigrants.

There is a positive aspect, however. Together with the Community Table on Immigration and the Immigration and Citizenship Canada committee, a strategic plan will be put in place under which we will be able to work together toward the ultimate goal of achieving a rate of 4.4 per cent francophone immigration over the next few years. A lot of work remains to be done, and support will be needed at every level in order to get there. We can develop programs to assist immigrants before they arrive in their host country to assess their skills from a training standpoint. We can offer immigrants upgrade training before they arrive. We can provide them with information on our francophone communities since we can now deliver information through the portals so that they can get to know our communities. However, all this work will have to be supported by the federal government so that we can achieve our objective.

The Chair: Do you think that international student recruitment is changing direction? I was previously involved in international student recruitment. Students were often recruited because it could enrich the community or because students came to Canada to experience life in another country for a year for their personal enrichment. Now, if I am correct, when universities or colleges recruit internationally, they do so to retain students as immigrants?

Ms. Lalonde: Not necessarily. Universities and colleges currently recruit in order to enable international students to study in Canada, to complete one-year internships or to complete their entire training in French in order to permit research exchanges as has always been done.

A lot more international students are being admitted to our universities. We already know that many of them have previously decided to stay in Canada. We know they are a source of immigration. Consequently, universities and colleges could provide support by offering integration services to these people who want to stay in Canada. That is not currently the case. Consequently, this does not alter the vision of international studies, but, for our francophone minority communities and those who so wish, we could offer services that would help achieve a higher degree of integration.

The Chair: Thank you for answering those questions, Ms. Lalonde. Now I will move on to the second round and give the floor to Senator Fortin-Duplessis, who will be followed by Senator Chaput.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Ms. Lalonde, in view of the upcoming implementation of the expression of interest system, do you believe that more international students will make use of that system to immigrate to Canada?

Ms. Lalonde: We hope this system can contribute to francophone immigration. However, the system must meet needs, and it is not yet in place. We are already reviewing certain recommendations to ensure they are consistent with the needs of francophone communities. The criterion of 20 hours of work per week in Canada is part of the points system designed to improve immigrants' ability to make the list. We hope that, as a result of the government's efforts and this expression of interest, more international students will want to immigrate. However, employers will have to understand the importance of international students in relation to this expression of interest because they are the ones who will choose the people they need for their labour force from this immigrant database.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Do the member educational institutions of your association intend to promote this expression of interest system to encourage international students to stay in Canada?

Ms. Lalonde: Universities and colleges have no legal right to give international students a lot of information on their immigration opportunities. That is why we are requesting government funding in order to hire immigration consultants. International students could be offered a 1-800 line that would give them access to an immigration consultant who would inform them on these matters, including the expression of interest system.

Senator Chaput: Generally speaking, international students who earn their credentials in Canada are proficient in both official languages, are they not? They generally have good knowledge of English and French.

Ms. Lalonde: Not automatically.

Senator Chaput: No, but do they have more knowledge than someone who arrives in Canada and does not speak either official language?

Ms. Lalonde: I would say so. For example, a number of international students who arrive at the Université de Saint-Boniface in Manitoba do their training in French but also take English courses. If their training takes two or three years, they will then have the time to acquire second-language skills.

Senator Chaput: I ask that question because I am trying to put myself in an employer's shoes. For example, take Manitoba, an anglophone majority province. There are economic needs and a range of immigrant students looking for work, as well as immigrants who are also arriving and looking for work.

If I am not mistaken, the act will require immigrants to speak one of the official languages.

Ms. Lalonde: Yes.

Senator Chaput: So some immigrants arrive in Manitoba and only speak French. An employer will generally find it hard to hire immigrants who do not speak English, even if we want to encourage the employer and promote this, because they are mainly anglophones. However, university students who are completing their studies at the Université de Saint-Boniface and who are able to communicate very well in one language and fairly well in the other would stand a better chance of meeting the employer's needs if the knowledge they have acquired matched the employer's needs.

Ms. Lalonde: You are absolutely right. In the case of francophone immigrants who live in Africa or Morocco and would like come to Canada, it would be important to see how they could learn English as a second language before arriving in the country, if they want to be employable when they arrive in Canada.

How can we inform them and offer them job opportunities? The employer will want someone who can speak both languages for his clientele.

Senator Chaput: Yes, in general.

Ms. Lalonde: The important thing will be to promote this matter of English so that they can work in bilingual settings.

Senator Chaput: At the outset, you discussed a report that was published, and you mentioned one of the two authors, Mr. Bisson, I believe.

Ms. Lalonde: Yes.

Senator Chaput: That was with regard to the impact of the future immigration act.

Ms. Lalonde: Yes.

Senator Chaput: I presume that means the impact on the official language minority communities.

Ms. Lalonde: Absolutely.

Senator Chaput: The impact referred to in that report must include both positive and negative aspects. Are there any aspects addressed in this report that you did not mention or that the committee should know about? We have to prepare a report too.

Ms. Lalonde: I would be pleased to send you the report because it could be of use to you in your consultations. It clearly describes the new act, its positive effects and the challenges it represents for the francophone community.

The Chair: I believe we have it, and Mr. Brennan presented the report.

Ms. Lalonde: It is the same report.

Senator Chaput: Is it the same report?

Ms. Lalonde: Yes.

Senator Mockler: I briefly want to go back to integration because that is the major challenge for retention in our community. We used to have the RIC, the Rural Immigration Centre. That was a pilot project that took shape in Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Manitoba. It expanded within the department. I believe there are factors that people have forgotten to mention and share with international students, to tell them more, for example, about agriculture, forestry, mining and fisheries, where there are opportunities.

Are the universities of the Canadian francophonie inclusive enough to inform international students about fields where compensation is very high, particularly compared with other countries?

Based on your experience, what more can we do to make these sectors stand out enough to convince international students to come here and stay in the rural regions?

If we look at agriculture in Eastern Canada — and in Western Canada — the immigrants who tend to stay here are Dutch. The others go elsewhere.

Ms. Lalonde: When the universities in the Atlantic region recruit and promote their universities, they probably give those details to the universities and students with which they deal in the francophone countries.

For example, there are recruitment missions across Africa and in all francophone countries. These are surely points that are raised when students are recruited.

Economics is the field of many students who come and study in our communities. Consequently, many come and study administration. It is really a field that attracts international students.

It seems important to establish relations with certain countries and universities for which agriculture is an important field. Last June, we went to Brazil and subsequently had teleconferences and signed accords and agreements with Brazilian universities. The Université de Moncton signed an agreement with them. Some of those universities were very much involved in forestry and agriculture.

I cannot offer any more of an answer to your question, but that is how we can express our needs as easily as possible.

The Chair: Under the new youth mobility agreement, students will be able to do co-op terms. They will be able to stay in the country for 12 months and acquire work experience. Is your association responsible for organizing co-op terms for international students? Is there a demand? Are you doing any?

Ms. Lalonde: The universities and colleges manage the co-op terms, not the association. The association handles co-op terms and student mobility between our universities and universities in Quebec. Consequently, we have a student mobility program at that level.

The Chair: Are you aware of what the universities and colleges are doing about co-op terms? Are they working with international students to find work with employers?

Ms. Lalonde: Definitely. If some of their students want to do co-op terms in other countries, the opportunities are there. We have contacts so that these people can go and do co-op terms at other universities and vice versa. These agreements are signed between the faculties of the universities to permit co-op terms.

Senator Chaput: Is there an available database where universities and colleges can obtain information on jobs that are open and available in Canada?

Ms. Lalonde: There is not necessarily a national database. However, the Cité collégiale, for example, a college in Ontario, works very closely with employers in its community, as does Collège Boréal in southern Ontario and in the north. Consequently, this relationship usually makes it possible to develop programs that meet employer needs. There may be one, but I am not aware of any such national database.

The Chair: Ms. Lalonde, on behalf of the members of the committee, I want to thank you for being here this evening, for your excellent presentation and for all the work you are doing as executive director of two very important organizations for the francophonie.

I also want to thank my colleagues for their pertinent questions.

(The committee adjourned.)