THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON OFFICIAL LANGUAGES
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: 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
What do the French want? What do the
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
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
The Chair: Quickly, a second question from
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
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
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
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
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
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 Chair: Thank you for being so generous
in your answers.
(The committee adjourned.)