OTTAWA, Monday, November 24, 2014

The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages met this day at 5 p.m. to study Bill S-205, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act (communications with and services to the public).

Senator Claudette Tardif (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: I welcome you all to the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages.

I am Senator Claudette Tardif, from Alberta, the chair of this committee. Before we move to the presentations, I would invite the senators to introduce themselves, starting on my left.

Senator Poirier: Senator Rose-May Poirier, from New Brunswick.

Senator Rivard: Good evening. Senator Michel Rivard, from Quebec.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Good evening. Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis. I am the deputy chair of the committee and a senator from Quebec. Welcome.

Senator Charette-Poulin: Good evening. Senator Marie Poulin, from northern Ontario.

Senator Chaput: Senator Maria Chaput, from Manitoba. Good evening.

The Chair: Today, we are simultaneously examining the two studies we have under way. First, we have Bill S-205, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act (communications with and services to the public). Then we have our study on best practices for language policies and second-language learning.

I am well aware that our two witnesses today deal with French as a first language and not as a second language. I understand, therefore, that they will be focusing more on Bill S-205.

I would like to welcome Ghislaine Pilon, the acting executive director of the Commission nationale des parents francophones and Roger Paul, executive director of the Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones.

I will give the floor first to Ms. Pilon, with Mr. Paul to follow. The senators will then have questions for you.

Ghislaine Pilon, Acting Executive Director, Commission nationale des parents francophones: Distinguished members of the committee, on behalf of the Commission nationale des parents francophones, and in my capacity of acting executive director, I thank you for this invitation. As the representatives of francophone parents who are not only those first responsible for our children’s education but also the beneficiaries of the minority language educational rights granted by section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we are pleased to be with you for your study of Bill S-205 and of the best practices for language policies and second-language learning in a context of linguistic duality or plurality.

Let me tell you about our organization, its network and the voice of francophone parents in minority settings in Canada. The Commission nationale des parents francophones is the national voice of 12 provincial and territorial organizations. The membership is collective in nature, parents’ committees, school boards, individuals and so on. It represents the parents of more than 23,400 children under the age of five attending francophone pre-school services. The commission represents the parents of 150,000 children in 627 francophone schools, of whom 18,000 are in kindergarten, 88,000 are in elementary school and 42,000 are in high school, in minority francophone communities in Canada.

The Commission nationale des parents francophones provides both leadership at national level and support services to the member organizations. This is in order to support parents (in both francophone and exogamous situations) in making informed choices so that they have a greater presence of French in their lives and, as a result, can better guide their children in the development of their identity, language and culture.

The Commission nationale des parents francophones supports Bill S-205. We believe that the bill will have a positive impact through greater recognition of the wide diversity of francophone parents and children in our Canadian francophonie. We know that, in our network, we have francophone parents, parents who have learned French, parents who have brought the language back into their lives, meaning parents from rediscovered generations, parents who are new to Canada, and parents who speak several languages, of which French is one.

There are as many ways to live our lives in French as there are families who give French a major place in their homes, in early childhood services, in their schools, in their communities and in society in general. Many of them are exogamous families: the children have one francophone parent and one parent who speaks English or some other language. The percentage of children in exogamous families went from 64 per cent in 2001 to over 66 per cent in 2006, thereby confirming the marked trend towards a gradual increase in the exogamous rate. The idea that federal authorities would be able to recognize a wider and more inclusive definition of who a francophone is could have a major impact on census data, resulting in a greater recognition of our country’s francophone vitality.

In terms of the welcome and guidance for parents in francophone minority communities in Canada, the question that future parents ask about language, identity and culture often comes up well before the birth of the child or during the first years of early childhood. One of our greatest challenges is to reach parents-to-be or those with young children in order to equip them to be able to make informed choices about the place and the value they will give to French, English and the other languages in their lives.

Equipping the parents also means answering their questions so that they can make informed decisions. Here are some of the questions parents ask and the kinds of answers our parents’ network provides. Must children learn two languages or just one?

A lot of research shows that the brain has the capacity to learn not just one language well, but several. Parents who make the choice for their children to become bilingual want them to know the language of each parent very well. They want them to develop a strong sense of belonging to, and being integrated into, the francophone community without it harming their identity as anglophones and their skills in English. They want them to learn to appreciate the richness of the different cultures; they want them to be fully competent in English and French and to keep that competency for their entire lives; they want them to be able to attend college or university in French and in English; they want them to have access to more choices professionally with an excellent knowledge of French and English; they want them to be able to learn a third language more easily.

Another question that is often asked is: does my child run the risk of becoming confused by learning two languages at the same time? Some parents are often afraid that learning two languages simultaneously will harm their children. Research results indicate that there is no cause for concern because children can easily learn two languages at the same time.

In a francophone minority situation, parents are strongly advised to teach their children French from birth, since it is the language under the greater threat. That is the best way to proceed because it is easier to learn English when you know French first. With exogamous couples, the advice often given to parents who want their children to learn two languages at the same time from birth is to observe the "one parent one language" principle. That is, the francophone parent speaks French and the anglophone parent speaks English. Other parents decide to teach their children one language at a time.

Will learning a second language harm the ability to acquire the first language? No; there is no reason to believe that learning French will be harmful in learning English or vice versa. A concept, an idea or a word learned in French is equally well understood in English, and the other way round.

Some parents wonder what they can do to prepare their children for school in French. In francophone minority situations, it is important for parents to introduce their children to French from the youngest possible age. Both francophone and anglophone parents have an important role to play in developing their children’s bilingualism. In our francophone communities, we recognize the importance of a continuum of programs and services in French, starting even before a child is born and continuing all along the path of French-language schooling, up to post-secondary level.

We know that there is a whole range of quality French-language programs and services to meet the needs of pre-schools, daycares, play groups, resource centres, child and family support centres, and so on. Parents have primary responsibility for their children and are their first educators. It is essential for the home, the early childhood services, the school and the francophone community to complement each other. Early childhood professionals are francophone models and play an essential role in children’s development. Particular attention must be paid to the continuity of, and the transitions between, francophone programs and services.

In our francophone communities, we recognize the importance of the early childhood period as a gateway to schooling in French. This is because we know that we must be mindful of children’s overall development in order to smooth their path into attending school in French. It facilitates the transition into French-language schooling. It means that parents are supported as they prepare their children to go to school. It means that the child’s transition needs are met as they prepare for school, especially for exogamous, immigrant and rediscovered-generation families. It reinforces the language, the culture, the identity and the sense of belonging to the francophone community.

We also recognize the importance of the early childhood period in the development of language, identity, culture, and sense of belonging. We know that the first three years determine the lifelong learning path and the ability to learn another language. The choice of the language spoken at home, in the community, and at school is made in the first months after birth, and even before. Well-informed parents who fully understand their rights and the impact of their decisions on the child in terms of language, identity, culture and sense of belonging will make wise choices.

Social contacts influence the spread of language and culture. In the first years, the francophone identity is formed around family practices. The first factor that contributes to children’s sense of identity is the ties that bind them with their parents. When, in everyday life, parents associate important, interesting and reassuring things with French, children build a sense of identity and a sense of affiliation with the language and the culture. The emotional link created between parents, children and French is very important. Particular attention must be paid to the importance of the early childhood period in the development of identity. Parents are their children’s first model for language, identity and culture at home. It is at home where behaviours, attitudes and values are first formed and where traditions are created and continued.

Parents are the first cultural communicators for their children. It is important to be able to guide francophone parents, as well as parents who speak English or another language, so that they can contribute together to the building of their children’s identity. Just as professionals needs resources for their work, parents also need to be supported and guided.

What do we have to do to make sure that our children become bilingual in francophone minority settings? In those settings, there is always a major risk of learning and living one’s life in the language of the majority at the expense of the language of the minority. Research shows that, in francophone minority communities, couples wanting their children to become bilingual must focus on the region’s minority language, French, in this case. Language experiences in various aspects of life can be cultivated to facilitate this step of learning both languages and to encourage the development of a sense of belonging to both cultures. There are schools, early childhood services, the family, and the social and institutional environment. Each of those aspects of life has a specific, complementary role to play in children becoming bilingual.

As an example, the research project entitled "Readiness to learn in minority francophone communities" emphasizes that a quality francophone daycare environment, together with a francophone home environment, has a greater impact on children’s language behaviour and on their skills in mathematics and reading.

How do francophone schools ensure the development of bilingualism? In situations where English dominates, French-speaking schools play a determining role in the way children develop and maintain skills in French, and therefore in the acquisition of high-level bilingualism. French language and culture are an integral part of the students’ life at school, both inside and outside the classroom. French school not only seeks to meet the students’ academic needs, but it also guides them in exploring and developing their francophone heritage.

Parents also wonder whether their children will be able to speak and write good quality English if they go to a francophone school. Once again, research shows that students in minority francophone situations will develop skills in English that are just as good as anglophone students.

What is the social and institutional role in the development of bilingualism? In a francophone minority situation, the reality is that students will often be exposed to English, either as a result of the community’s various anglophone institutions or of anglophone media and commercial and public exposure. Students will therefore develop their skills in English. To encourage the learning of French, francophone environments at home and at school serve as a counterbalance to the strong presence of English in the social and institutional environments,

Parents are the children’s first educators. Parents play a crucial role in the development of bilingualism in children of both pre-school and school age. Fundamentally, for children to become bilingual in a francophone minority situation, parents must make certain choices from the earliest possible age. For that to happen, everything must be in place to effectively welcome and guide the parents.

The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Pilon. I now call upon Mr. Paul to make the second presentation.

Roger Paul, Executive Director, Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones: On behalf of the Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones, and in my role as the executive director, I would like to thank you sincerely for your invitation to join you today. Our organization is proud to appear before the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages as part of its study on Bill S-205 and best practices for language policies and second-language learning in a context of linguistic duality or plurality.

Who are we? The Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones, or FNCSF, represents 28 francophone and Acadian school boards across the country, with the exception of Quebec. It provides advice to various policy-makers and provides educational and administrative input through the Regroupement national des directions générales de l'éducation (RNDGE), which represents the 28 education branches across the country.

Our organization fully supports Bill S-205. We believe that passing this bill will improve the representation of Canadian francophonie, which will enhance the services offered in French and in turn promote the growth and vitality of the francophone and Acadian communities our schools are part of.

Many of our students are from exogamous families, so they are not considered francophones at the federal level. Including new admission criteria in the act and requiring that a review take place every time there is a census will lead to a more inclusive definition of francophone, which is a significant step forward, in our opinion. We are very glad that the definition of a francophone will be expanded to mean everyone who can express themselves in French, whether they are a francophile, a first-language francophone, a newcomer or someone for whom French is a second or third language.

Let us now talk about French-language schools versus immersion schools. I would like to mention that my federation is not involved with immersion programs at all.

However, we are very interested in these programs all the same, because they contribute to the development and promotion of linguistic duality in Canada, just as the French-language education system does.

Allow me to provide some clarification about language learning. To quote Pierre Calvé, a former linguistics and education professor at the University of Ottawa: "A language basically serves four purposes: a) to communicate; b) to think, reflect and develop ideas; c) to obtain and store information; d) to forge an identity as a member of a specific human community."

In our view, learning the language both in immersion programs and in French-language schools achieves these four functions of a language, be it a person’s first or second language.

What is the difference between immersion and French-language schools? In addition to making it possible to communicate, think and obtain information, learning a second language in an immersion program helps build a Canadian identity characterized by linguistic and cultural duality.

In French-language schools, language learning occurs in a linguistic, cultural and civic context. In other words, all activities related to teaching the curriculum contribute to the learning of French as a first language, to the sharing of francophone culture, and to the development of civic responsibilities as members of the francophone and Acadian community in Canada.

The cultural approach in teaching in the context of a French-language "civic community school" contributes to and influences the construction of individual and collective cultural identities that are unique to the francophone and Acadian communities that helped create the nation of Canada.

Furthermore, in French-language schools, second-language instruction is essential. Even though English is accessible to everyone since it is the majority language, we believe it is important to teach English as part of the curriculum in French-language schools. This gives our graduates enduring bilingualism.

School boards are able to fulfill their mandate when the language and cultural framework is clearly defined by the department or ministry of education in that province or territory and when this framework is supported by human and financial resources.

For example, in Ontario, the "Aménagement linguistique" policy implemented 10 years ago has encouraged people to take ownership of their language and culture.

New Brunswick has recently implemented a similar policy, and the western provinces have taken steps towards implementing one as well.

We have taken the liberty of providing some recommendations on Bill S-205 and on second-language learning. From a national unity perspective, French-language schools and immersion programs meet separate and complementary needs. Therefore, we believe it is essential to ensure that they are developed and promoted in an enlightened and fair way for all Canadians.

For that reason, in terms of information and promotion, we would like to see the Government of Canada support the steps undertaken to inform Canadian residents, including immigrants, about the French-language education system and immersion programs in the English-language system, as well as on the distinction between the scopes and mandates of these two systems.

We believe that, if Canadians had a better understanding of this distinction, there might be a decrease in the high percentage of students from eligible families who do not attend French-language schools. This approach could help resolve the problem with the capacity of immersion schools to respond to the ever-growing demand and enable French-language schools to fulfill their mission.

My second recommendation is about funding. There is also a fundamental difference in how immersion schools and French-language schools are funded. To that end, we hope that there will be better accountability with respect to education transfer payments from the federal government to the provinces and territories.

Currently, it is almost impossible to know exactly how these amounts are being used. In some provinces and territories, it seems that considerable amounts intended for education in French as a first language were used to develop immersion programs. There is a significant need when it comes to French-language education, and federal contributions set aside for it are essential to deploying a French-language education system.

Our third recommendation is about a continuum. When the time comes to make the important choice of education language, Canadians consider a combination of factors related to accessibility and quality of instruction, among other things. One factor influencing this decision is the possibility of doing post-secondary studies in the language of choice.

To that end, we hope your committee will recommend to the Canadian government that it look into post-secondary teaching in French so that Canadians can choose a school that offers French-as-a-second-language immersion or French-as- a-first-language education, with the assurance that they can continue their studies in French at the post-secondary level. By doing so, we are guaranteeing our country a generation of bilingual young professionals who are able to take on our society’s political, economic and cultural levers.

My fourth recommendation is about a linguistic and cultural framework. Language planning policies or linguistic and cultural frameworks encourage student growth and give French-language school boards the ability to fulfill their mandate. These types of policies should be implemented across the country, not just in New Brunswick or Ontario.

In conclusion, as a national organization whose primary concern is the vitality of francophone and Acadian communities, the Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones recognizes the importance of linguistic duality in this country. As a result, we are eager to see Bill S-205 passed in order to update the Canadian francophonie, to which many francophiles contribute, whether they are Canadian or newcomers.

The additive bilingualism that we recommend is the key to finding harmony between the two founding peoples of our country. We believe that both immersion schools and French-language schools are essential to help anglophones in Canada achieve this bilingualism. Our recommendations above were made with this in mind.

Thank you again for inviting us to appear. I am ready to answer your questions.

The Chair: Thank you very much. We certainly have questions. Let us start with Senator Fortin-Duplessis.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Welcome. Madam Chair, are we asking questions on Bill S-205 only, or can I ask one question on Bill S-205 and a question on the second topic?

The Chair: Yes, you can proceed like that.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Thank you.

I listened carefully to your two briefs. Ms. Pilon, you mentioned the importance of parents. In order to learn French, parents have to make some effort. That stays with me and I feel that it is a good recommendation. The proposal in Bill S-205 is to consider qualitative criteria such as institutional vitality and the particular characteristics of the community in the determination of significant demand. Could you give us some examples of communities that would benefit from having criteria of that kind included in the determination for them?

Ms. Pilon: For us, it is very important that services be provided from the moment a child is born. If we have that advantage in regions where numbers warrant, of course, it gives parents the chance to become involved because they are able to call on health services, financial services, or whatever, and to live in French. That example lets children understand that they can live in French, even in a minority situation.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: My second question is about second-language learning. Many studies show that learning a second language is beneficial in a number of ways. Could you tell us specifically about the economic and social advantages of knowing both of Canada’s official languages? Give us the simplest examples.

Ms. Pilon: One example is with children from exogamous families, where one parent is francophone and the other speaks English; it may be another language, but it is mostly English. Linguistic duality is alive and well not only outside the home, but inside it as well. Those children speak French to the parent who speaks French and English to the parent who speaks English. The brains of those children are already stimulated and research shows that they learn differently. For children like that, learning a third language is very easy compared to a child who speaks only one language. In economic terms, when that child grows up, he or she will have many more professional opportunities later, more options of schools to attend, and more options because of globalization. We see that as important: our children have two languages already, so a third language is a bonus.

Does that answer your question?

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Yes, I knew that. The fact that a person is perfectly bilingual certainly opens many more doors in life.

Ms. Pilon: They also see the world differently. They are not afraid when they hear a third language that they do not understand. Our kids are used to knowing more than two languages, and that is a good thing.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Especially in the west; you see it less in the east.

Ms. Pilon: Yes, it often happens in the west.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Mr. Paul, you mentioned that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages submitted a report on programs for teaching French as a second language in Canada. One of the committee’s recommendations was that the Government of Canada require better accountability for the transfer payments for education that are made to the provinces and territories:

Currently, it is almost impossible to know exactly how these amounts are used. In some provinces and territories, it seems that considerable amounts intended for education in French as a first language were used to develop immersion programs, and vice versa.

When we held hearings in Quebec to find out how anglophones in Quebec were being treated, they provided us with testimony that blew us away — Senator Chaput was there. It showed us just how concerned anglophones were about knowing how federal government money — money intended for education in English for young anglophones living in a francophone majority in Quebec — was being spent.

Could you explain to the committee the importance of knowing precisely where the funds are invested? Do you have a way to do that? How does it happen? In this case, we are talking about the francophone side, of course.

Mr. Paul: Yes, perhaps this is from the francophone side, but I think it also applies to the anglophone side in Quebec. It is just as much a concern on one side as on the other, because accountability is a concern for all provinces.

You do not need me to tell you that the federal government assists the provinces and territories in minority language education. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately — it is not a debate; it is a reality — education is under provincial or territorial jurisdiction. That means that sums of money can be sent to the provinces and territories under the terms of certain memoranda of understanding. However, the MOUs are written in quite broad terms, meaning that not every "i" is dotted or every "t" crossed, or that all the details are spelled out. At that level, it may be fine.

When the decision is made to spend money and allocate it to first-language French education programs, it does not mean French as a second language. Our French-language school board in the Yukon will be before the Supreme Court of Canada in January. They won at the first trial and lost at appeal; now they are before the Supreme Court. One of the Yukon’s arguments was to paint a picture — a fairly clear one, in our view — of the money set aside for first-language French education that actually went to immersion. That is why this went to court: they asked questions and brought in the deputy minister to try to explain where the money had gone. At first sight, one might suspect that, if it is true for the Yukon, it might also be true elsewhere; one might also wonder why it happens. I feel that it may happen, because the accounting is not rigorous enough. We understand that education is under provincial and territorial jurisdiction. But, at the same time, if the funds come from the federal government, I feel that the federal government should be able to get more specifics on the expenditures.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Your recommendation to the federal government would therefore be to do the appropriate checking, I imagine. Would you go that far?

Mr. Paul: The Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones has already done that through the appropriate committee. We were invited there, several months ago, and we made the same recommendation, because we stand by it. Our school boards will soon be going to ask for the information, from the federal government first. If the federal government cannot find the information, school boards will be asking the provinces and territories for it. It does not mean that we will get it, but we are going to ask.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Very good. Madam Chair, I imagine that there will be a second round, so please put my name down.

Senator Charette-Poulin: Ms. Pilon, Mr. Paul, your presentations were extremely interesting. Ms. Pilon, I consider it important that you brought up the matter of the census. In your reply to my colleague, you correctly specified "where numbers warrant". Could you remind us what the limits of the definition of francophone are at the moment, according to the Statistics Canada census?

Ms. Pilon: That is a question that would require a long answer. Basically, we do not really know where our francophones are. The short census does not indicate that, so we do not know. This is greatly limiting. When we established our schools — I am not sure if you know how it happened — we repatriated a group of parents who spoke French, be it the father or mother, by telling them that we would like to open a school. Where the numbers warranted, depending on the region, with 15 or 20 people, we were able to open a kindergarten school in the first year. The school grew over time because it became popular.

Where numbers warrant is a concept we have had a little difficulty with because we are building our schools and filling them. You could ask Mr. Paul; the new schools being built are filled before they even open. Francophones are out there somewhere, but the census does not tell us how many. There is also the fact that individuals completing the census may not indicate that they are francophone or that they speak both languages. So they are counted as anglophone or francophone half the time. Where numbers warrant, this is a very difficult reality for the parents.

Senator Charette-Poulin: So there is a lack of clarity about the very definition and the location.

Ms. Pilon: Absolutely.

Senator Charette-Poulin: Thank you. It is extremely important for Bill S-205.

Mr. Paul, I would like to ask you a question about best practices regarding language policies and second-language learning. Those of us who are not educators are learning how the brain works. I particularly liked the analysis you quoted from Pierre Calvé, from the University of Ottawa. As we know, there are different approaches to second-language teaching. As an association, you group all the French-language school boards. What is the preferred age for second-language learning? What is the best way to ensure that a child speaks both languages well starting at a young age? Could you provide us with a summary of the comments and research of your own teachers?

Mr. Paul: It varies from province to province, obviously, since, as I mentioned, education comes under provincial and territorial jurisdiction. However, I can say that in Ontario, in terms of age, second-language learning is done as early as possible because we know that children are like sponges. They have an incredible capacity for learning.

I travelled to Europe and visited a few countries to speak with other schools when I was a school principal. Take Luxemburg, for example. There, they are not worrying about one, two or three languages; they are dealing with four or five languages. These eight- or nine-year-olds understand four or five languages. Why are we having trouble with just two? I have a lot of difficulty with that. A number of schools, private schools, among others, brag today that their schools provide education in three languages: Spanish, English and French.

In response to your question, more specifically about second-language learning, when children are about eight or nine years of age, they are ready to learn this second language. Going back to the reason the Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones exists, we really want to focus on francization — French has practically become our second language.

When children arrive at the school, because they are in a very English, very anglophone, very minority area, we must try to frenchify them, as soon as they enter the school. In the end, the children learn English, but they do not speak French. However, they are francophones, and this is the world upside down. If the child learns English and does not speak French, when will the child learn the second language? First, the question in this case becomes: when will the child learn the first language? That is what we are trying to say about the interpretation of section 23.

Although we are told that this begins in primary school — and again, the definition varies from one province to another — we are finding that the interpretation of section 23 handles francophones and anglophones in an unequal manner. When young anglophones arrive at school, they do not need to be anglicized. They already speak their language well. So when they learn French, they are going to learn it at seven, eight, nine or ten years of age — in immersion, as I said earlier. However, francophones face a double challenge. The first challenge is that they have to master French — and "master" here is a big word — let us say instead that they have the ability to speak French when they arrive at school. The second challenge is the allocation of resources for learning the first language. Then, I have to smile when we talk about second-language learning for francophones. Yes, they need to try to master it, but when they get to school, the children have a certain mastery of the second language already.

Senator Poirier: Thank you both for your presentations. I have one question for each of you. Ms. Pilon, you spoke in your presentation about parents. Often, one is francophone and the other is anglophone, and they quite often choose to favour one language instead of starting to have the child learn both languages from birth. I had a bit of that experience. I am from a French-speaking family; my mother understood very little English, but we were in an anglophone area where there was no French school. So, for us, it was a challenge when it came to parent-teacher interactions, and from the perspective of the parents’ involvement at home when the children needed help with their schoolwork. That was a challenge that we had to face.

Now, my daughter is married to an anglophone; she has three children who learned both languages from birth and who go to a French school. The problem is still there, but it is slightly different. In her case, the father speaks English and says that he cannot get more involved with school, with the parent-teacher relationship, in school activities, or if the mother is not there to help with homework, and things like that.

Is that something you see frequently? Are there any solutions to help families who are in this situation, so that both parents, whether they choose to put their child in a French or English school, can benefit from the school’s support? Is that something you see?

Ms. Pilon: Yes, that is something that exists. We cannot forget that one of the two parents speaks English when the child attends French school and vice versa. What we are doing as the Commission nationale des parents francophones is that we are trying to create tools to equip the anglophone parent to help his or her child to read. We are starting in early childhood. It is essential for us that we take care of one- or two-year-old children, and that we try to create tools designed with educators so that the parent can read in French to the child and so that the parent promotes French. Most of our schools now help anglophone parents.

As far as I know, in the province, they are accepted, they come into the school; they are generally asked not to speak too much English, but they can usually speak to the teacher in English, unless the teacher only speaks French.

That said, this is a problem, especially when the mother is anglophone, because she wants to be even more involved in her child’s education. However, she cannot be. The schools are open on the anglophone side of things. I am sure that Mr. Paul will agree with me that things are much more open than they were 20 years ago, when people were limited when it came to the second language.

Senator Poirier: Mr. Paul, you mentioned that 50 per cent of people could attend French-language schools and they do not. Are they mostly francophones from families where one parent is anglophone?

Mr. Paul: Of that 50 per cent, many are from exogamous families or from families where the parents have lost their language. We are trying to see what it involves when we talk about rights holders.

You spoke about the case in the Yukon that will be heard before the Supreme Court on January 21. I would have two points with respect to that. First, there is the issue of infrastructure and schools. The other is the right to admit students. If we cannot find more than one out of two children who are entitled to education in French, at least give us the choice to admit students whose parents are immigrants or who are from exogamous families, or even who are francophiles.

My wife, for example, was the principal of a school in the east end of Ottawa. The school went from kindergarten to grade six and had about 800 students. Of that 800, about 200 students were not entitled. We really want to interpret section 23 in a very limited way. For years, Ontario has recognized that it is up to the school board to make the choice to admit to its schools the students it feels will contribute to the francophone community.

It is undeniable that only one student out of two has the right, for all kinds of reasons. There was a reason why I alluded earlier to the difference between a French-language school and an immersion school, which is basically an English-language school. However, the parent is not aware of that. Some parents come and want their child to be fully bilingual. Another child, who has not quite mastered French, will be directed by his or her parents to an immersion school in the hope that the child will learn French. There are all kinds of myths about the mandate of French-language schools and of immersion schools.

My daughter’s husband is a teacher and came out of the immersion system. Things went very well for him, and he is perfectly bilingual. There are all kinds of immersion programs. Some parents decide to send their child to an immersion school with the expectation that the child will become perfectly bilingual.

I was the director of a school board and had a 35-year career in teaching. When we are talking about sustainable bilingualism, the individuals who are perfectly bilingual are the ones who went through French-language schools, without exception. It is from that perspective that I am talking about second-language learning. That is why we recommended to your committee to try to explain the mandate of the French-language school. Learning French as a first language is in its mandate.

English is learned from a young age. For those of you from communities outside Quebec, if I asked you if you knew anyone who lives outside Quebec and has not spoken English for a few years, I do not think you would say that there were many.

So it is a question of learning the second language, the myth between immersion schools and French-language schools, and the number of children who are entitled but who are not in our schools. I think we can make a direct connection between the decision to send a student to another type of school and the fact that the student will learn English.

Senator Rivard: My question is for Mr. Paul. I am going back to your presentation. Senator Fortin-Duplessis raised part of the issue. I would like to make sure that I understand it properly. You were talking about the funding of immersion schools and French schools. In your speech, you say that, using the example of certain provinces or territories, it appears that considerable amounts intended for education in French as a first language has been put toward developing immersion programs.

You used to be a teacher. When you use the word "appears," are you stating it or saying that it would seem to be the case?

I am not a permanent member of this committee, but I was four or five years ago, and I remember this statement being made by francophones from the Yukon.

In your opinion, is this happening again in the Yukon, or are other provinces making the same mistake? Am I to understand that, by using the word "appears," you are saying that you think or that it is evident, and that you have proof that other provinces are playing the same game, that is receiving money from the federal government and using it for things other than what it was intended for?

Mr. Paul: Your question is a legitimate one. It "appears" because we have proof for the Yukon. The idea is that if one territory does this and we cannot know how the money was spent, it is easy to do the math, which is what we did.

Do we have proof that this is being done somewhere other than the Yukon? We did not even have proof that the Yukon was doing this until we forced them to open their books. I use the word "appears" in that sense.

Senator Rivard: That is what I thought, but I am pleased that you could confirm it.

I would like to talk about Bill S-205. Do you know whether some federal offices that were previously required to provide services in both official languages in certain communities have lost that designation? If so, could you please name a few of them and tell us what impact it had on those communities?

Mr. Paul: I remember that this happened in New Brunswick. A number of offices opened their doors to try to provide so-called bilingual services, but they no longer exist.

Another example is president of the Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones, who was responsible for relations on Prince Edward Island to try to promote agriculture and related services in French. His position was abolished, and he was not replaced.

There are a few examples like that, but I do not have a full list with me.

Ms. Pilon: I live in Mississauga, a city with a fairly large francophone population, yet there is nowhere in Mississauga where I can get a passport in French. It does not exist. I would have to go to Sudbury or Etobicoke. I find the situation highly disappointing.

Mississauga has three French-language elementary schools and a secondary school with 1,000 students. However, we cannot get services in French for passports. I find this situation very sad. It was just a comment because this reality affects me personally.

Senator Rivard: But the former mayor, who was the best known, is from Quebec. I had the opportunity to work with her for a few years in the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. She was very francophile.

Ms. Pilon: Yes, but it comes under federal jurisdiction, not city hall.

Senator Rivard: My other question does not have an underlying purpose; I am asking it simply for information purposes. How are your two organizations funded? Does the funding come from the province, the federal government, or is it a volunteer organization?

You have two very well-structured organizations that do a good job of representing the community. I am not asking you what your budget is or what people are paid, but where your funding comes from.

Ms. Pilon: It is very easy in my case. Canadian Heritage provides us with $212,000 in funding annually. The envelope comes from the federal government, since we are a federal association.

We received a million and some dollars from the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development a few years ago. We created a round table on early childhood and did a lot to promote French in early childhood. We have a national vision of what francophone parents, the rights-holders with children who attend French school, should do to ensure the vitality of our francophone and Acadian communities.

We were to offer a wide range of services in French at early childhood and family centres, but since this falls under provincial jurisdiction and, in Ontario, the cities look after early childhood, it became very difficult and there was obviously much more volunteer work. Last year, I volunteered for six months to ensure that the association would survive. If there are no more francophone parents, I do not think there will be any more children who will decide to go to French school, and that will be difficult. I am sorry, but that is how we see it.

Mr. Paul: I would add that, no, your question is not tendentious; it is public. We spoke to you earlier about the Fédération culturelle canadienne-française, the Fédération de la jeunesse canadienne-française, and the Association canadienne d’éducation de langue française. The vast majority of these organizations, if not almost all organizations like ours, receive basic funding from Canadian Heritage. However, for us, at the Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires, we have 28 school boards, which means that the 28 school boards contribute to our work.

However, I would also say that we play a fairly important role beyond the operational funding we receive. We are funded for projects. For example, the Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires coordinates a tripartite committee. The committee is made up of one francophone representative from each provincial and territorial ministry of education, and it meets twice a year to discuss education. We meet with Canadian Heritage, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and community organizations at the same table; so there is funding for that.

We also receive funding to organize a national round table on French-language education that brings together 12 pan-Canadian organizations that discuss education. We also organize a summit on education every five years, and the money that funds these various projects comes from Canadian Heritage. I would say that the funding situation is about half and half: 50 per cent of our funding comes from the school boards, and 50 per cent comes from Canadian Heritage.

Senator Rivard: Thank you very much. That was very informative.

Senator Chaput: My questions follow on those of my colleagues, so they will not be very long.

Ms. Pilon and Mr. Paul, I would like to tell you just how much I appreciated your presentations. Thank you.

My first question, Ms. Pilon, follows on what Senator Poirier asked about welcoming anglophone parents into our education system.

Your members now receive in the schools families where one parent only speaks English. I think I saw a page on your website that provided a guide in French and English for French-language schools across Canada to give them some ideas about how to welcome parents who do not speak French and to put them at ease, because we know that they are very uncomfortable. Of the ideas and suggestions in the guide, I think it was also explained that parents could, for example, initially attend meetings only in English, for the ones who do not speak French. That would make them comfortable so that they could attend other meetings, knowing very well that these schools do not have money for translation.

Were you the one who created that guide?

Ms. Pilon: We worked with the provinces to find ways to bring parents into the schools, even if they are anglophone. If one parent wants to be on the parent committee — this is a group we hope parents will get involved with — and the parent only speaks English, many school boards will pair the parent with another parent who can translate. Eventually, this parent wants to learn French.

Some schools have created French courses for parents who want to learn French to better support their children. It is easier for those parents because the child is just learning French at a young age, and it is easier to speak to a two- or three-year-old child in French than an adolescent in high school.

They are good partners for us because they have chosen the French school, even though they are anglophone. We take care of them, try to equip them so they can come and work or help in the schools, or volunteer to accompany the children on trips.

Senator Chaput: Could you please give us another example of what you mean by "equipping parents"? I read the guide that I found on your website. I even made copies and handed them out when I attended meetings in Manitoba. Congratulations.

Mr. Paul, my question concerns best practices for language policies and second-language learning.

We would all like Canadians who want and choose to speak both of Canada’s official languages to be able to do so very well. In your experience, your travels and everything you have done, what is really the best practice in terms of language policies and second-language learning? Would what works very well, like English in French schools, apply for French in an English school? I would like to hear what you have to say about this. What do you think would be an important practice?

Mr. Paul: If I may, for information, I would like to tell you about a guide that the Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires put together for anglophone parents. It is titled I’m with you! And can be found on our website. We give this guide to new parents entering our system so that they can, first of all, understand the added value of the school, but also so they can see that, even if they do not speak the language, there are plenty of services that we can provide to support them, especially for the second parent of an exogamous family.

That parent sometimes feels a little isolated, feels that he or she is unable to contribute, but we explain in this guide what that parent’s contribution can be and how he or she can get involved.

With respect to language planning policies, I referred to immersion, but let us talk about people who did well in an immersion program. Why did they do well? Because they spent half their day in French. Why do ours, in the French-language boards, do well? Because they spend three-quarters of their life in English.

I am exaggerating, but as soon as they leave the building, the children hear English. They are immersed in English on the outside. We do not need to include English in our system because it is there already. However, in our schools, we need to make sure that they speak English well. They know the rudiments of the English language, but do they speak it well? Not necessarily. On the other hand, in a French immersion school, we need to spend much more time in order to gain a mastery of French because children do not learn it outside the school.

Language planning policies do not solely focus on second language learning. They focus more on language planning, which New Brunswick has just developed, as Ontario did ten years ago. What is a language planning policy? English-speaking public workers who worked for the Ontario Ministry of Education asked or tried to explain what francophones wanted.


What do the French want? What do the French need?


Then, as soon as I said:


"Well, you know, we have a policy."


…English-speakers were thinking "You have a policy." Does that not mean that the government is behind it? When a government is the one developing the policy and it says, like in New Brunswick and Ontario, loud and clear that it believes in French-language education, that puts it in a whole different light.

That is what we are trying to do now in Manitoba. The groundwork is now being laid in Manitoba for developing a language and culture policy framework. Whatever the policy is called, can the government provide a document to show that it supports French-language education just as much as English-language education, not only with words, but also in writing?

When you have a policy, you feel much more supported by the government. That is why we would like all the provinces and territories to have governmental policies under which English speakers, who are the majority, say loud and clear that they believe in learning and in the rights of francophones, that they believe in it so much that they have developed a policy.

Senator Chaput: In terms of sustainable bilingualism, you talked about universities. It is important for students to continue their studies in the second language that they learned to be able to remain bilingual, correct?

Mr. Paul: Thank you for the question. It has been only 15 years since French-language school boards have started having a strong presence across the country. It took us a decade to set ourselves up and have a structure. We now have our infrastructure, which is not perfect, our human resources, which are not perfect either, but things are moving forward.

We must therefore address the linguistic insecurity of young people. First, some young people think that they are not able to continue their post-secondary studies in French, while others think there are no post-secondary institutions in which to do so. So the problem is twofold.

First, we are losing our students because only 50 per cent of those who are eligible end up in our schools. I gave you some statistics just now about one out of every two students only, but I am going to give you one more number that is much more, or just as, alarming. If we were able to keep elementary school students enrolled in our French-language high schools, we would double the number of francophones in our schools across the country.

Why are we not keeping our students? First, it is because parents say that the children have learned enough French and that the time has come for them to learn English. That is a fallacy, given the different types of schools.

Second, when parents or students realize that they have to think about their future, they think there is no future in French, because there are no post-secondary institutions. That hurts us. We want the best for our children. If there are no francophone universities or colleges, of course, in theory we would quickly turn to English, which would be better, that is normal. There is a reason why there are all sorts of demands for the creation of francophone universities and colleges in Ontario. Without going into too much detail, we need only look at what happened with the University of Ottawa. At first, it was a French-language university for francophones. From being a Franco-Ontarian university, it became a bilingual university, and now it is a university open to the world.

In the first year at University of Ottawa, you can take courses in French. If there were universities like the University of Ottawa across the country, we would at least have the first-year courses offered in French. However, we are far from having universities like that across the country. In the past, when students graduated from high school, their parents told them that it was enough, but today you do not get anywhere with a high school diploma. You need to have post-secondary education, but where do our francophone communities find post-secondary education?

The Chair: Quickly, a second question from Senator Fortin-Duplessis.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: A number of stakeholders, including the Commissioner of Official Languages, have pointed out that having opportunities to practice the second language outside the classroom and to interact with people in the other language group are essential for the retention of language. You talked about that and said it was important.

My three questions are about the Erasmus program, which, as you might know, is a program that promotes exchanges and dialogue between European university students. It is a very popular program over there, which has become a real cultural phenomenon.

What do you think about the exchange programs available in Canada right now? What recommendations would you make to improve those programs? In your view, would a Canadian program similar to Erasmus be an effective way to promote exchanges and dialogue between post-secondary students?

Mr. Paul: Absolutely. First, in terms of exchange programs for Canadians in Canada, there are some through ACELF that send young people to different parts of Canada so that they can see how things work in regions outside their province. The young people come back all the richer from those exchanges, happy to have rubbed shoulders with other young people.

Exchanges are another way to promote French and English, as well as to help young people realize how rich we are to have two official languages in our country.

If Canada can have exchanges to help young people become more open to the world, I think our country and our young people will come out stronger. Exchanges between Canadian students and those from other countries reinforce and add value to linguistic duality. This shows that French is not a dead language, after all. It is a language that is very much alive, a language spoken by millions and millions of people. This also shows our francophones and Quebeckers that they are not alone, that they are not isolated on their small island.

University exchanges are the next step we are working on. In terms of people coming here because they want to study in our country or if our young people want to study in other countries, being immersed not only in a new language but also in a new culture is an extraordinary asset. Those types of exchanges need to be supported.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Can I ask one last question?

The Chair: Quickly, senator.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: The witnesses before us came here specifically to talk about learning a second language. I know I should not ask the question, but how do you think the provincial governments will react if we made some pretty strong recommendations and we insisted on the learning of second languages in Quebec, either in Quebec with anglophones or in other provinces with francophones?

Since you are more in touch with the provincial governments, do you think they will tell you that this does not fall under their jurisdiction?

Mr. Paul: I will give you a very practical answer. We try to defend ourselves against governments that attempt to interpret section 23 in a very limiting way. Would it be useful for the francophonie in Canada to receive messages from the federal government? Of course, some will agree and some will not.

But if four attorneys general decide to intervene in the Yukon case, they are not going to intervene in favour of a more liberal, broader interpretation of section 23.

The federal government should perhaps send some messages to the provinces, but education will always fall under provincial and territorial jurisdiction. This does not mean that people have no opinions or that they do not value linguistic duality. I will say this: I would not hesitate to send some messages that some will appreciate and others not so much.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Thank you very much.

The Chair: Thank you very much. On behalf of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, I would like to thank you for your excellent presentations. Thank you for taking the time to appear before the committee today. There is no doubt that your two organizations contribute enormously to maintaining and developing the French fact, the institutional vitality of our official language communities and our francophone minority communities. Thank you for the work that you do.

Mr. Paul: Thank you for having us. Thank you for your questions that, at the end of the day, are just as important as the report.

The Chair: Thank you for being so generous in your answers.

(The committee adjourned.)

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