THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON OFFICIAL LANGUAGES
WINNIPEG, Thursday, February 15, 2018
The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages met this day at 1:31 p.m. to continue its study of Canadians’ views about modernizing the Official Languages Act.
Senator René Cormier (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: I would like to welcome our witnesses and guests. My name is René Cormier. I am the chair of this committee, and I will chair today’s meeting. The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages is continuing the second part of its study on the views of official language minority communities on the modernization of the Official Languages Act.
Today we welcome an organization representing the Metis Nation. We are pleased to welcome, from the Union nationale métisse Saint-Joseph du Manitoba, Pauline Hince, a Metis Nation and Red River Metis grandmother. The union was founded in 1887 and is the oldest Metis organization in Canada. Its mandate is to maintain the unity that binds French-speaking Metis, represent them as a founding people, and safeguard their interests as well as their traditions, culture and history.
Before giving you the floor, I would ask my colleagues to introduce themselves, starting with the deputy chair of the committee.
Senator Poirier: Welcome. Rose-May Poirier from New Brunswick.
Senator Mégie: Marie-Françoise Mégie from Quebec.
Senator Moncion: Lucie Moncion from Ontario.
Senator McIntyre: Paul McIntyre from New Brunswick.
Senator Gagné: Raymonde Gagné from Manitoba. Welcome.
The Chair: You have the floor, Ms. Hince.
Pauline Hince, Metis Nation and Red River Metis grandmother, Union nationale métisse Saint-Joseph du Manitoba: I would like to introduce one of our elders who is very dear to us. She is also Metis and learned French as an adult. She is one of our resource persons in the union, and she does a great deal to remedy what I call the historical and cultural generation gap as a storyteller and by giving traditional arts workshops. So this is Nancy Gouliquer, an elder in the union.
The Chair: Good afternoon, madam. Welcome to this meeting.
Ms. Hince: So, dear Senate committee members, welcome to Treaty 1 Territory and the homeland of my ancestors. I appreciate your time. I would like to briefly retrace our steps through history. Thank you for that introduction, Mr. Cormier.
The Metis Nation has been present in Western Canada since the 18th century, and it was thanks to the determination of the provisional government of our leader, Louis Riel, that the Red River Colony became the province rather than the territory of Manitoba. My comments will be about our current, grassroots experience, and are informed by our volunteer work aimed at developing our Metis community, which could certainly benefit from the modernization of the Official Languages Act.
Our experience with the act as a francophone organization has been difficult, even painful, and we are still asking ourselves many questions about our place in the Canadian landscape. Our treatment is an aberration that shows ignorance of history and, in particular, of the French-speaking Metis Nation’s contribution to the fabric of Canada.
Why does Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada force us as francophones to be under the supervision of an organization that for 50 years has not recognized or represented us? Very briefly, following our request to meet with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada — which technically has authority over us — to discuss our situation and our needs for development program funding, we were referred to the Manitoba Metis Federation, the MMF, an organization established in 1967. The MMF simply does not recognize our provincial mandate or the union’s historical significance in Western Canada and for the entire country. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada officials keep repeating the same message: the only official representative of Manitoba’s Metis, the only organization that can receive core funding to represent Manitoba’s Metis, including francophone Metis, is the MMF. They are well aware that the MMF has not provided and cannot provide an active offer of programs and services for francophone Metis. They are also well aware that, as a department, they have never insisted, required or ensured that the MMF, which they fund, fulfil its obligation for the sustainable development of a community it claims to represent. When we remind them that our provincial mandate as the francophone representative has been clear since 1887, they dismiss us. We remind them that we would never claim to represent the Cree, Ojibway or anglophone Metis, because we could not provide an active offer. They say that is irrelevant, since the department recognizes only one Metis representative.
The result of our most recent efforts was that the MMF received funding for French translation services and money to purchase a bus so that consultations could be held with Manitoban communities. So, for all of our efforts and pleas to be heard, all we get are messages from the President and CEO of the MMF published in special sections of our newspaper, La Liberté, that never — and I mean never — mention the Union nationale métisse. We have serious questions about the advice given to ministers and the Prime Minister and about the laws they are supposed to safeguard.
Faced with this extremely confusing situation, we have made a number of attempts to communicate with Minister Bennett. She has never agreed to meet with us. These elected officials and bureaucrats continually remind us, all indigenous people of Canada, about their values of respect and fairness in working toward relations based on greater transparency and trust. So why is it that the only response from the minister and her officials is always to refer us to the MMF, which we repeat does not represent us and does not address our values and our desperate need for cultural continuity?
Does Minister Bennett realize that by doing this, she is marginalizing a francophone community that is in a double minority? That without resources for its development, the union cannot even get past square one in meeting its own needs in accordance with its culture and identity? We want to tell her that not all Metis are alike and that our distinctiveness, dating back to the 18th century in Western Canada, is still highly relevant, even crucial, to achieving reconciliation in Manitoba and Canada between the Metis and Canada.
As a Metis community, we believe deeply in the reconciliation process. We too suffered in the residential schools, and we too had to endure the horrors of acculturation and separation from our home communities owing to hatred and prejudice — and unfortunately, I can assure you that still exists today.
In 2016, we initiated a process of reconciliation with Manitoba’s francophone community. In asking Ms. Bennett and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada for what we are entitled to as Canadians, we must also have our share of reconciliation with the French-speaking indigenous Metis communities, in keeping with our principles and our ancestral values.
Over the past number of years, the province of Manitoba has done a great deal for the Metis community, and Louis Riel’s provisional government has been recognized in our legislative assembly. In Manitoba, we are recognized and included in Bill 5, whereas in Canada, we cannot get an answer from the department that we depend on. Why is the Government of Canada ignoring us when the modernization of the Official Languages Act is based on the following principle: acknowledging the citizenship of all francophones in Canada?
Notwithstanding the foregoing, we have some suggestions to make directly to the Government of Canada today.
The Union nationale métisse, the only francophone representative of Manitoba’s French-speaking Metis, should receive core funding and ad hoc funding earmarked for its needs with respect to implementing the Official Languages Act, to be included in the future roadmap.
That funding should include a catch-up component so that the younger generations would be able to recapture their French-language heritage and legacy.
That funding should be systemic so the union is not constantly destabilized as it attempts to prove the legitimacy of its existence.
The funds should be devoted to enhancing the vitality of the francophone Metis Nation for all generations, from infants to elders, to ensure that the longstanding disparities are forever reduced, and that the social, cultural and economic ties between the francophone Metis Nation and Canada as a whole are harmonious and based on equal citizenship.
Bilingualism policy should provide effective oversight and ad hoc redress to ensure that the funding the federal government provides to organizations claiming to represent minority communities is actually invested in programs and services that directly benefit at-risk language communities, so that we can finally get past the notion that what francophones need is translation services and a bilingual person at the reception desk.
In closing, I would like to share with you a few grains of Metis wisdom for your consideration.
We do not ask an elm to become a birch, nor a birch to become a cedar, nor a cedar to become a maple. Yet all of those trees are part of the Canadian forest. How do we know if they are healthy or about to die? Every one of those species needs a flow of sap that can reach its branches, leaves and buds. It is the law of nature.
That is what the 2018 Official Languages Act must do. It must ensure that the spirit of the act, its intrinsic and extrinsic values of inclusion, and its implementation through its framework, directives, and policies are like the sap that flows to every branch, leaf and bud.
We maintain that the Union nationale métisse Saint-Joseph du Manitoba is the official representative and advocate of French-Canadian Metis people. It is also the leading champion of language rights in Manitoba.
We are proud to have worked tirelessly for the past 130 years to spread Riel’s message, and in this age of truth and reconciliation, Canada must acknowledge our distinctiveness, our great resilience, our leaders, our volunteers, our families and our francophone communities.
Today we are asking you, dear senators, to help us secure, in the Manitoban and Canadian mosaic, full healing, growth and sustainable development for the francophone Metis community and for the other francophone Metis communities and groups across the country.
Our leader, the founder of Manitoba and one of the Fathers of Confederation, still rests here in Saint-Boniface. Louis Riel is the only one who founded a province in the image of Canada. He insisted that the anglophone and francophone communities live side by side in social, political, cultural and familial harmony. He set the example of a resolutely modern, inclusive political spirit. We and the union have always been — and are still — loyal to Riel’s vision, and also still inspired to emulate him.
Mr. Chair and committee members, on behalf of our ancestors, on behalf of the francophone Metis community and the Union nationale métisse Saint-Joseph du Manitoba, I sincerely thank you for your attention today and for your future consideration. We have provided some information about the union because we thought some of you might not be familiar with it. There are three Metis profiles, from 2017, 2016 and 2015, which briefly describe our activities and what we do in our community. There is also an article, published recently in the newspapers here in Winnipeg, about an artist by the name of Maia Caron. Her ancestors are from Batoche, Saskatchewan. She does not speak French, but it explains very clearly — I left you a personal note — that the article provides a good description of what I call the cultural and historical generation gap that francophone Metis have experienced in Western Canada. Thank you very much.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms. Hince, for your compelling testimony.
We will begin the question and discussion period with Senator Poirier.
Senator Poirier: Thank you for your presentation. I have a few questions; perhaps a bit of clarification to make sure I have understood certain points.
You stated the following in your brief, roughly translated: “Why is the Government of Canada ignoring us when the modernization of the Official Languages Act is based on the following principle: acknowledging the citizenship of all francophones in Canada?” If I understand correctly, you also said that the MMF told you that you are not part of their group, that they are the ones who will seek funding from the federal government, and that they do not represent you. If I understand correctly, the relationship between you and the federal government, nothing is provided as regards learning French, access to services, and funding. Is that correct?
Ms. Hince: Yes, but let me respond in more detail to your first question. Yes, we are saying that we believe that Canada is ignoring francophone Metis and francophone indigenous people in Canada. You hardly ever hear anything about francophone indigenous people. We are part of that large indigenous family. Second, the MMF would be the first to tell you that it represents us. That is what it has been saying for 50 years. I am telling you today that the francophone Metis community has not received any financial support for the development of its communities. I am a member of the MMF because, to get access to the Conseil Elzéar-Goulet, which is a branch of the MMF, I have to pay my dues to the MMF, and all services are provided in English. It is a system like the federal government’s system, which often means that we are in a minority. We do not have French-language services. We have to communicate in English to get what we are entitled to, and still we do not receive it. The MMF would be the first to tell you that it represents us, but we disagree. It is not because they go to Ottawa and have worked hard for 50 years fighting for Metis inclusion in the indigenous family. We are not taking that away from them. What we are saying is that they have been receiving funding for 50 years to represent the Metis community, which includes anglophone Metis, francophone Metis, Ojibway Metis and Cree Metis. It includes all of them. Not all Metis are alike.
But we have no access to core funding. The union does not even have its own telephone. It uses the phone at Chalet Louis Riel, a residence for people aged 55 and over which was established, with the assistance of the Knights of Columbus, the Metis and the Union nationale métisse, for people who do not have much money and need housing. The Chalet was established in the 1960s. It was a cultural and economic initiative carried out in conjunction with St. Emile Church, a parish that was not far from here, in Saint-Vital, which was fundamentally a Metis community. They lend us a cupboard to store our flags and the things we use in traditional arts workshops. That is our reality. We do not receive any core funding. If we received any grants, it was in the last 10 years, from Canadian Heritage, one of the departments here, but not anymore. In the past, they gave us a bit of funding to carry out some of our activities at the provincial level. Since then, the door has been closed. We have to go through the MMF.
What are we telling you? We are saying that across Canada, there are French-language school divisions, there are English-language school divisions, and right here in Manitoba, where we thought we had made a lot of progress, we see how tenuous that is. A deputy minister has just been put in charge of the Bureau d’éducation française. So you can imagine how it will be for francophone Metis when they try to get French-language services from indigenous affairs departments that are about 95 per cent to 99 per cent English.
We receive no core funding for development. There are one-off projects for which we have to request funding, but there is nothing permanent, no follow-up. We have to keep asking for it. What you have here are a French-speaking Metis woman, another French-speaking Metis woman and at least 10,000 francophone Metis who have done volunteer work. Today, for all of you sitting at the table, your salaries are paid and your expenses here are paid. We had to pay for parking and take a day off to be here today. That is our reality.
Senator Poirier: Thank you.
Senator Gagné: Thank you very much. I’ve got goosebumps, but in a good way.
Thank you very much for your testimony. I would also like to thank you and the Union nationale métisse Saint-Joseph for remaining faithful to its mission of uniting and representing francophone Metis people, who used to be called French-Canadians. Your word of wisdom at the end of your presentation has stayed with me, and I wanted to say that your sap has been flowing for 130 years and probably much longer than that, so thank you very much.
Manitoba has a language that is unique in Canada, Michif.
Ms. Hince: Yes.
Senator Gagné: It is a language that is not necessarily recognized in the statistics. You do not hear much about it at all. I know that in 2011, it was not included in the census. I do not know whether it was included in the last census. Can you confirm or deny that? It seems to me that the language is not on the list.
Ms. Hince: I could not tell you.
Senator Gagné: So we cannot determine how many people speak Michif, a language that borrows from French, English and other indigenous languages. It is a beautiful, melodious language.
Ms. Hince: Yes.
Senator Gagné: What is a francophone Metis?
Ms. Hince: Wow! That is quite a question.
Senator Gagné: While you are thinking about it, I am trying to determine, in the context of revising the Official Languages Act, which we hope will happen, how this might be included in the revision. That is why I asked the question.
Ms. Hince: I think the question is truly fundamental to the survival of the francophone Metis across Canada. I can tell you that when I was very young, my family moved from Saint-Boniface to a community called Saint-Claude, which was in a district known as La Montagne. The district’s population included many people who had immigrated from France and Brittany. I remember when I was 9, on my first day of school, and we were lined up in rows. The girl behind me said, “How many kids are you?” I had no idea what she was talking about. So I asked her, “What do you mean, kids?” She replied, “Children, of course!” Then she said, “But how many are you?” So I answered, “Well, there are about 10 of us.” She said, “Wow,” and then she said, “So how come you’re here anyway?”, but I did not understand because of her accent. I can tell you that the next month, we often went home with black eyes. My mother, who was a Metis, broke a mirror in 10 or 15 pieces and gave one to each of the children. She made us practise speaking with a different accent, so that we would not come home with black eyes anymore. She told us never to say that we were Metis.
When you asked me, “What is it like to be a Metis today?” I would suggest that you ask Nancy that question next. It is part of a culture that has been stamped out. Our children ask us about it. If I do not hunt, if I do not fish, am I still a Metis? We tell them, yes. Because behind you, on your shoulders, are all your ancestors who defended their land. They lost it. They lost the land that belonged to them. The communities were scattered across Western Canada. What makes you Metis? What is in your DNA. It is simple. We could ask you the same thing. How is it that you are a Ukrainian here in Manitoba? It is part of history. It is part of our ancestors. It is part of the traditions. It is part of the teachings. I cannot say enough about the cultural gap. The children tell us they never learned. If you read that wonderful article about Maia Caron, that is what she says. She says that her parents were ashamed of being Metis. So they never told her the story of her grandparents in Batoche, and they said “damn Metis rebels,” but those “damn Metis rebels” were not rebelling. They were defending what belonged to them, which was their land, their culture, their language and their tradition.
Still today, we come here and stand before you with thousands of other Metis behind us, and we tell you, “It is still the same.” I am still Metis. My family is still Metis. Several members of my family are afraid to say they are Metis because of prejudice. Imagine if for all those years, for 50 years, we had had a portion of the funding to develop our communities, our young people today would be proud. They say they are proud, but they do not know what that means because of the cultural generation gap. That is why we need funding to fix the problem, so that people can understand today what it means to be Metis. My great-grandmother told me that the primary attribute of being Metis was that we welcomed others and that everyone was human and that our duty in our territory was to welcome others and not to treat them as we had been treated for generations. It was important to be open to other languages and cultures and to differences, because that is what makes Canada a rich country. If you ask me today what was the best gift I ever received, that is it, and I have lived it my entire life.
Nancy Gouliquer, Elder, Union nationale métisse Saint-Joseph du Manitoba: Thank you, Pauline. That is very kind of you. I have just a few words to say. In my family, my father’s mother was a French-speaking Metis, and she taught him French. His father was from Quebec and spoke a different kind of French. At that time, they had to hide their roots and not show they were proud of having indigenous roots; in addition, he was marginalized by other francophones because of his French. It was not good French, and because of that, he did not share his French with his children. Because he was not proud of his language. He did not realize that there was nothing wrong with his French. It was his own Metis French. But he did not realize it, because his mother had hidden her indigenous roots, her Manitoba Metis roots, and all his life, he said, “I don’t speak good French. It’s not decent French. It’s not worth teaching my kids.” That is why I have had to learn French, because I was raised in a French-speaking family with a unilingual English-speaking mother. She was Metis from both parents. Her father speaks French, her mother speaks English, and her grandmother spoke Ojibway. After they married, they spoke only English, and because of that, I did not learn French from my mother.
For me, being a francophone Metis is being part of a group. Francophones often have to demand their rightful place at the Canadian table. For us, the French-speaking Metis in Manitoba, it would appear that we have to ask the MMF, an anglophone organization, for our rightful place at the francophone Canadian table. For me, it is not the appearance, it is just problems. Thank you for listening.
Senator Moncion: Why is recognition being denied?
Ms. Hince: I would like to get a very clear answer to that question. You know, when I met Senator McIntyre just now, he said, “Pauline, I think one of the biggest scourges in Canadian history — and that may not have been your word, but mine — was the hanging of Louis Riel.” And I think that when we go back to the source, there was a great deal of controversy and prejudice, based primarily on an economic dispute between the Hudson’s Bay Company — over the fur trade — and the North West Company, and later with Sir John A. Macdonald, they felt it was absolutely necessary to destroy the economic foundation of the Metis in Western Canada, because they wanted to build the railway. They could not let the bison stand in their way. It is staggering when you look at historical photos. They killed millions of bison. The railway was built, and it had to be done; it was necessary in order to modernize, but the economy was ruined.
I should also say that the Metis lost the battle to save their lands, and families were scattered across Western Canada and into Ontario, where they took refuge. The Metis Nation was no more, and when you look at it, you wonder why. Well, it was because of economics, politics and the quarrel between the English and the French that is central to our Canadian history.
There are still scars and open wounds, and we are telling you that yes, there are scars, but the open wounds are still there. You see it before you today. We have to fight constantly, and our voice is not heard. So the French-English question is fundamental, I think, and what I am saying is that the MMF would be the first to tell you that they represent all Metis, but that is only how it looks, and the government is ignoring us. We have not even been able to arrange a meeting with the minister to talk to her, and we had a very good reconciliation initiative — please excuse me for being so passionate. We had a “damn” good Canadian reconciliation project, not just Manitoban, with an economic basis, but no one is listening. No one is even willing to meet with us. You can imagine how happy we were to be invited here today.
The Chair: Thank you.
We are almost at the end of our meeting with you, unfortunately. We are short on time.
Senator McIntyre: I will try to be brief. Thank you very much, grandmother Hince. First of all, you are right, and as I said to you earlier, the execution of Louis Riel in November 1885 was one of the greatest tragedies in Canadian history. In my view, the execution resulted in great mistrust of the federal government by the Metis community, and I would add that the current federal government has an excellent opportunity to end that mistrust. Unfortunately, it has missed the boat so far, and we hope that it will be able to remedy that and build new trust with the Metis community.
My question is this. You mentioned that the Union nationale métisse is recognized and included in Manitoba law. How does that recognition by the provincial government benefit the union? Let us leave aside the federal government for the moment.
Ms. Hince: Well, I have been candid up to now, and I will continue to be. That remains to be seen. In the past year, in the past two years, we have worked very hard to achieve reconciliation with Manitoba’s francophone community, and we have worked very hard with community groups and also mainly with the Société de la francophonie manitobaine. The problem was that, in the envelope they receive from Canadian Heritage for official languages, the Union nationale métisse was not among the organizations that were receiving core funding. From our perspective, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada should have recognized us, and there was a great deal of reconciliation work to do with the francophone community. Like the francophones, our elders tell us the stories of the prejudice that existed. So the francophone community was doubly marginalized, as Nancy said, because we did not speak French well enough. We were Metis, and it was simply extreme prejudice. Despite the fact that many francophone Metis, such as George Foret, fought back and brought about substantial change. It is unbelievable. So it remains to be seen what the province will do for us, whether it will make room for us among the various francophone groups living in Manitoba. We hope that might help us open the doors of other departments that we have to deal with to secure sustainable development for the francophone Metis community.
Senator Mégie: Do you know how francophone Metis communities are recognized in other provinces of Canada? Do they have better recognition than you?
Ms. Hince: No. It is a big, big struggle, and that is why we are speaking on our own behalf today, but we sincerely hope that as a result of your attention and consideration, you will look closely at what is happening in the other provinces. In Saskatchewan, there are hardly any Metis left who can speak French. In Alberta, there are still a few, but very few. In Ontario, there are many more. In Quebec, francophone Metis are not even recognized, and in New Brunswick, we are told, the situation is pretty much the same. So what we are asking for today as well is your consideration for indigenous peoples, for those who are living as First Nations, Inuit and Metis people and are not recognized within the larger indigenous family. That needs to be looked at. Room has to be made at the table; otherwise, reconciliation will not happen.
The Chair: Thank you, ladies. Please allow me to wrap up your moving testimony, which, honestly, I think, has affected us all deeply. You spoke at the beginning about the cultural gap that exists between the generations, so I would like to conclude your testimony by reading the following:
[…] In 1885, following the hanging of his friend Louis Riel, bison hunter Gabriel Dumont fled to the United States. There he was recruited by the legendary Buffalo Bill, founder of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, a gigantic outdoor travelling show that re-enacted life in the American West. It made a huge impression on Dumont, and he dreamed of putting together a similar show to tell the story of the struggle of Canada’s Metis to reclaim their rights.
Louis Riel said, “My people will sleep for 100 years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them back their spirit.” So, at the Théâtre Cercle Molière, on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, the play Le Wild West Show de Gabriel Dumont will be performed by a team of artists from different parts of Canada. That will not resolve the Metis issue, but I think it may at least bear witness to the richness of the Metis contribution to Canada. So thank you very much for your contribution and your testimony.
Ms. Hince: Thank you, meegwetch.
The Chair: Senators, this next group of witnesses consists of organizations representing the economic development and municipal sectors. We are pleased to welcome Mariette Mulaire, President and CEO of the World Trade Centre Winnipeg. The World Trade Centre supports Manitoban companies that want to export outside the province’s borders and facilitates exchanges with international companies interested in doing business in Manitoba.
We also have with us Louis Tétrault, Executive Director of the Association des municipalités bilingues du Manitoba. The association represents Manitoban municipalities that have adopted a policy of active offer of bilingual services to their residents. Lastly, Louis Allain is Executive Director of the Economic Development Council for Manitoba Bilingual Municipalities. The council serves as the economic development engine for 17 bilingual municipalities in the province.
Ms. Mulaire, you have the floor.
Mariette Mulaire, President and CEO, World Trade Centre Winnipeg: I will begin by talking about the World Trade Centre to provide some context. I used to be president and executive officer of the CDEM. We saw an opportunity to go outside bilingual municipalities and promote bilingualism in order to penetrate markets such as France, Quebec, North Africa, and West Africa. Our companies said, “We are ready. Let’s use our bilingualism.” So we established what we call the ANIM, or Agence nationale et internationale du Manitoba, whose mission was to use bilingualism outside our borders.
In the first year, we held an international economic forum for the first time in Manitoba; the forum was called Centrallia. This initiative was launched thanks to efforts of francophones. It gave us a lot of credibility with the anglophone population, since the forum was held in French, English and Spanish.
Subsequently, we organized a forum that was in French and English only, which gave us a lot of exposure. Then we bought a licence for a world trade centre. Why? Because the name ANIM did not mean anything to people outside the province. So we purchased the licence through the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce.
Normally, the Chamber of Commerce alone would have bought the licence, as is the case in the other provinces. Since we already had a group working at the national and international levels that had proven its abilities through the Centrallia forum, we were asked if we wanted to purchase the licence with them. We agreed, on four conditions.
First, we wanted the World Trade Centre Winnipeg to be fully bilingual and all documents to be published in both languages on our website or elsewhere. Second, we wanted the working language here in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to be French. Third, we wanted half of the board of directors to be appointed by the ANIM, so half of the board would be francophones and the other half anglophones. This helped standardize bilingualism and the Francophonie in Manitoba. Whether in French or in English, we create economic value and work with businesses. Most businesses work in English. When I look at the Official Languages Act and what we are doing with the economy, there are some deficiencies in the act. We have attracted investment from francophone markets. Here is a brief example.
Very close by is the Alt Hotel. It is owned by the Germain family of Quebec. We approached them about coming to Saint-Boniface. Today, the hotel is located in the centre of town and hires bilingual employees. When you take the elevator in any hotel, you see the signs for “2nd Floor”, “3rd Floor”, et cetera. At the Alt Hotel, you are on the “2e étage/2nd Floor”, “3e étage/3rd Floor”, et cetera. What is missing in the act is this standardization aspect. The act is not truly proactive. We need to find real tools that will ensure that we are truly in a bilingual country. The government must take meaningful action to protect and promote our language. Some initiatives may also be undertaken with the private sector. We have to find ways of attracting francophone investment to our municipalities or our official language minority communities. There is something to be gained in that area. We have to come up with investments, a federal program or a way of talking about francophone investment in francophone official language minority communities and vice versa.
Second, we have to find a way of further promoting the official languages and bilingualism. We have to provide the required tools, and that does not have to be done within the act, but there needs to be an entity whose only job is to provide Canadians with the necessary tools.
Third, I have to mention the French-language media. You hear a lot about how fragile they are. We do not have enough visibility in our French-language media. The Winnipeg Free Press does not cover what is happening in the Francophonie. That is up to the newspaper La Liberté. The newspaper has made every effort to maintain a web presence, to modernize and to find the right tools.
Lastly, there is definitely something missing when it comes to the Metis people. Many of us here in Manitoba are members of that group, and that should be recognized.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms. Mulaire.
Louis Tétrault, Executive Director, Association des municipalités bilingues du Manitoba: Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me to testify. I am the Executive Director of the Association des municipalités bilingues du Manitoba, or AMBM. Let me begin with a brief history of our association, and then I will present our thoughts on revising the bill.
The vision of the Association des municipalités bilingues du Manitoba is to have strong bilingual municipalities that are valued for their energy and leadership in economic development and innovation. We are a catalyst for the development, prosperity and continuity of Manitoba’s bilingual communities. The AMBM is a political and strategic leader in bringing together, supporting and representing strong, cooperative municipal governance. We embrace the values of engagement, conviction, bilingual identity and leadership. I would like to stress that we want to celebrate the French language for the added value it brings to bilingualism. It is a skill in high demand and an important asset in the social, cultural and economic life in our communities.
The AMBM’s client base is all municipal entities in Manitoba — municipalities, cities, towns, villages or local urban districts — that have adopted a French-language services policy that meets the AMBM’s criteria.
I would now like to provide a brief history of our association. In 1986, a number of francophone elected municipal officials were concerned about the disappearance of French-language services in their communities, and they formed a group. In 1995, nine municipalities incorporated for the purpose of supporting members in protecting, promoting and delivering French-language services. That was in 1995, and most of the councillors of the nine municipalities — I do not have the exact figures, but I think more than 90 per cent of the councillors were francophones, and all of the administrators were francophones. French was the first language of between 35 per cent and 85 per cent of the municipalities’ populations.. All of them were small rural municipalities with rapidly shrinking populations. To quote my predecessor, Raymond Poirier, “If this continues, the last person to leave the village will have to turn off the lights.”
One of the first initiatives that the AMBM launched under Mr. Poirier’s stewardship was a study of member municipalities’ economic profiles. The study revealed that our municipalities were part of the macro-economy. Being 60 per cent francophone, they were right alongside Manitoba’s other municipalities, which were 73 per cent francophone. That was probably because there were no federal bilingual services in our municipalities. Hence, in an effort to address the population decline and rebalance the economy, the association focused on the economic development of its members and established the Economic Development Council for Manitoba Bilingual Municipalities (CDEM), which will be covered by Louis Allain. Once again, I will quote Mr. Poirier:
We created the CDEM from scratch to normalize French life in Manitoba by taking some control over our francophone villages, which were losing their services one by one. Franco-Manitoban communities needed to rebuild economically and organize themselves to obtain government supports.
That model was subsequently adopted across Canada and the territories. At that point, we had negotiated or succeeded in forming the national Comité de développement économique paritaire communauté-gouvernement. That committee brought together all the departments and ministries that had a role to play in enhancing the economic development of francophone and Acadian communities. It was co-chaired by a community representative and a government representative, the first co-chair. He said, “Forming this committee was a brilliant, revolutionary idea that ensured the engagement of all departments concerned.” That committee — and I will return to this in our conclusions — no longer exists.
Six years after it was created, we did a brief study to see whether we had had an impact and succeeded in remedying the situation. We found that the population of our municipalities combined had grown by 8.5 per cent, while in the rest of rural Canada, the population had declined by 5 per cent. We realized that our initiatives had been highly successful. The other example is the ANIM, the Agence nationale et internationale du Manitoba, which is now the World Trade Centre and one of the children of the CDEM and the AMBM. Today, we have created an organization known as Eco-West.
We now have 15 member municipalities, down from 17 previously. The provincial government imposed mergers in 2015. We lost one of our members, the municipality of Saint-Claude, whose population was 50 per cent francophone. It merged with the larger municipality of Grey. That mostly anglophone municipality chose to cut its ties with the Association des municipalités bilingues du Manitoba. Consequently, among our members today, 45 per cent to 55 per cent of our municipal councillors are francophones; less than 20 per cent of our general managers are bilingual; and our demographic weight is decreasing by 15 per cent to 35 per cent. Despite our population growth and the success of our initiatives, our demographic weight in a province that is only 4 per cent francophone was bound to decline. Today, we find that municipal councils are much more willing to provide services, but they are less able to do so. We see a growing interest from other municipalities with much smaller francophone populations in joining our association.
The question asked in the document you gave us in preparation for this meeting was as follows: Should the significant demand criterion used as the basis for providing services to the public be changed? I would like to provide an example using the demographics of one of our fast-growing municipalities. I live in La Broquerie, a municipality that is growing rapidly. In 1996, French was the mother tongue of 34 per cent of the population, or 820 people, by the official languages measure. In 2016, 20 years later, the population of La Broquerie was about 6,000. According to official languages data, French was the first language of 14 per cent of the population, and 1,220 residents were able to communicate in both languages.
In other words, the demographic weight of francophones fell to 14 per cent, but there were 50 per cent more francophones in the municipality. That is the reality in our municipalities. I think the calculation and criteria for maintaining services are too quantitative, and that we probably need qualitative indicators. The bill proposed by former senator Chaput contains a number of recommendations.
I would like to share another brief anecdote that concerns my family, my personal life. When I completed the 1996 census questionnaire, French was the first language for my wife, myself and our entire family, that is, the first language learned and language spoken most often at home — 100 per cent of our household. In 1981, when I completed the questionnaire, I had three sons. French was the first language of all five members of the family, that is, the language learned and language spoken at home. By 2001, my three sons were married to anglophones, all of whom understand French. When we completed the questionnaire, French was the first language of 63 per cent of us, and 25 per cent spoke French at home. In 2016, when our family completed the census again, I had nine grandchildren, for a total of 17 people. French is the mother tongue and first language learned of 29 per cent of us, and the language spoken most often at home of only 12 per cent of us, even though 100 per cent of our family can communicate in both languages.
So it is a growing challenge for members to maintain services. It is also a huge challenge for the association to fulfil its mandate, considering also that our membership increased from 5 to 17 owing to our success, and that we have to do so with the same budget we have had for more than 15 years.
I talked about the federal committee that no longer exists, which had an impact on bilingualism in municipal, provincial and federal centres. Over the past few years, bilingualism has declined or virtually disappeared in those centres, which has had a considerable impact on French-language services in rural areas such as Saint-Pierre-Jolys, Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes and Sainte-Anne.
Now, with Bill 5 on French-language services, the provincial ministries are responsible for providing services in French. I am inspired by former senator Chaput’s Bill S-220, which required the federal government to do at least as much as the other levels of government, that is, to must provide bilingual services where the municipal or provincial governments do. Consideration should be given to including a provision requiring the federal government, as well as the other levels of government, to deliver bilingual services, which pertains to Part IV. It would be worthwhile considering the role of bilingual municipalities in enhancing the development of official language minority communities in Part VII. The wording should be broadened to specifically address the role of bilingual municipalities in enhancing the development of official language minority communities. It would be worthwhile considering a scenario inspired by the Comité de développement économique paritaire communauté-gouvernement to ensure that an action plan is prepared in accordance with Part VII. We believe that in this type of scenario, bilingual municipalities could benefit from federal investment. Thanks to their bilingual municipal infrastructure and their organizational and social structure, they could play a vital role in expanding the minority’s linguistic space. Thank you very much.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Tétrault.
Louis Allain, Executive Director, Economic Development Council for Manitoba Bilingual Municipalities: Thank you for the privilege of being here at this hearing. I would like to begin by picking up on something that was said earlier. I come from a francophone Metis community, and I think that in your template, there was the whole of Part I of the act, which in fact refers to the preamble, and when I reread the preamble, what strikes me is perhaps what John Ralston Saul identified as a problem in the Canadian psyche, which probably has a typically colonialist source, that is, French and British. As the old saying and motto of the municipality of St. Laurent goes, “Always be prudent.” I think that Saul’s statement that the principles of good government, which are based on peace and justice, do not inspire us to move toward order, but rather toward well-being, informs what I am going to tell you today, what I have tried to put together to assist you in your efforts to modernize the Official Languages Act.
I am making this presentation on behalf of the CDEM, which was established in 1996 and has a role in both economic development role and community development. What I can say about the CDEM is that we have had some success with our Vision plan, including with the “C’est si bon!” campaign — which Louis and my colleague Mariette will certainly remember — and also with the role that we played in sustainable development with the creation of the OLMCs. These initiatives have all helped us lock things down, map things out. As you will have noted from the previous presentation, there is the whole issue of linguistic security and the issue of anomie owing to acculturation over many years, which is why both economic and community development were important — and the CDEM did both.
With regard to organizations, I have to mention Changement 2008. Senator Gagné is well aware of the issues behind that. Being able to work with the organizations and within the framework of the community strategic plan developed by the Société francophone du Manitoba with all of its organizations, with very rigorous guidelines for results and accountability, might inspire you in your work.
I would like to see growth in the official languages because it is an asset for the Canadian economy. RDEE Canada, an umbrella organization for all of the smaller organizations such as the CDEM in the provinces and territories and the employability and entrepreneurship network for francophones, carried out a study with the CEDEC, which is our counterpart in Quebec for the anglophone minority. It is always important to have the yin and the yang on the Quebec side. The study was conducted in conjunction with the Conference Board, with a ratio-based approach to identify where francophones and bilingual people were. With that study, we were able to show that bilingualism pays. Mariette referred to the importance of bilateral trade. We saw a substantial difference of 3.5 billion. The question that I ask myself in the spirit of the official languages — and I will come back to Part V, because I started poking around just for fun, and when you poke around, you find things — is the whole bilingualism aspect. What does unilingualism in Canada actually cost us in lost opportunities? No one has studied that question, because when you look at Switzerland, Belgium and other parts of Europe, you find that bilingualism as part of globalization pays and is beneficial.
Despite all this, I will now skip right to the question of modernizing the official languages, because that is what you are concerned with. On that issue as well, I poked around and found some interesting things, and I hope they will be relevant. First, I would be remiss if I did not thank Maria Chaput, one of our champions, who was replaced by another champion, for all of her excellent work. We are proud of her, because, in fact, I was taking stock of all the francophone senators we have had in Manitoba. We have always sent champions, and I see it is pretty much the same for the other provinces as well. You are the mavericks of the Francophonie, and I am talking about Ms. Chaput, because I reread all the transcripts. We come here, we tell our stories, and what really inspired me was to see that the Francophonie, and the francophone and Acadian communities, we are here, and we are all positive. I noticed, with some dismay, however, the arrogance of the Crown corporations, except for the CRTC, as I noted in my brief, in reading the testimony, particularly in connection with Ms. Chaput’s bill, which added three airports, including one in Regina, and in reading the testimony of Mr. Graham, who said they were using Google Translate for the signage. Can you imagine, a national airport where Google Translate is being used to make the signage? There was also the arrogance of Canada Post, because Ms. Chaput had lost her post office for reasons similar to those mentioned by Mr. Tétrault with respect to the analysis of demographic weight. In reading all that, I decided that I wanted to go further and dig deeper, because the whole issue of Part IV interests me, but not just Part IV and Part VII, but Part IV through Part VII. I think you have to look at them as a whole, and I do not want to blame Canadian Heritage. They do what they can with the resources they have. Part IV is the part that has associated regulations, but everything that is forgotten about — that is, relating to the devolution of powers, ancillary powers, to Crown corporations — is within the realm of wishes. We have also seen the interventions by the Commissioner of Official Languages in this regard. In modernizing the act, it is important to reconsider who administers the act, and we have to allow ourselves to dream, as Gino LeBlanc does so well when he asks, “Why not go to the highest level and make it the Privy Council?” But we need a house, a department, something robust in order to have a structure like the one indigenous peoples were given just yesterday.
So, I am jumping around like this because I have only 10 minutes, but I also think it is very important to look at our public servants and move away from the sphere of bilingualism, which again relates to Part V, because outside that sphere, there is not much going on in French, in terms of bilingual capacity, within the country’s largest employer, the federal government, because they are outside that bilingual sphere which ends in Gatineau, in our case. That is something that hurts us, because there are two related problems, and they affect other parts of the act. That is because our bilingual capacity … often because the family of EX-1s, EX-3s and EX-4s and company, once they get their C Level, they are good for their career. But in minority communities, if there is no commitment, and if there is no maintenance, it goes nowhere.
I also want to talk about contracting-out legislation. It is important. In my estimation, Treasury Board seemed to get bogged down quite easily when it came to exercising good judgement. Treasury Board — and that is in the minutes I read, the hearings that Ms. Chaput attended at the time — takes 10 to 12 years to gather statistics and make an application. You can imagine the red tape. What concerned me about contracting out is our institutions. The fact that a school in the Estrie region can compete — because it is beneficial to an institution such as Saint-Boniface University to provide courses to public servants — is bad for us because a contract awarded to eastern Canada causes our vitality to suffer immediately from a loss of income. The deeper you dig, the more interesting things you find.
I also referred to the gains we have made as a result of Part VII. There have been gains, and in the spirit of the Doucet case, the Amherst case, Ms. Chaput always mentioned the trans-Canadian case as well. Our francophone space is determined by local governments such as bilingual municipalities, but it is also all of this. It is everything we have developed through Mariette’s work with the World Trade Centre, with the business community, with the anglophone community. Our francophone space has served us in the past. I come from a Metis community. It is a very closed environment. That saved us from assimilation, but what is important today is to be part of the greater diaspora, and on the economic front, we must not be left behind.
There are plenty of other little gems here, but I will close with the issue of the federal council, because that’s paramount. I have often spoken with Louis about it. We have adjoining offices. We are part of the family. It is the same gang.
Mr. Tétrault: I wanted to make good decisions.
Mr. Allain: It is the same gang. So, on that subject, and I will close with this, there were champions at the time, and there was a regional federal council with public servants who had delegated powers. Today, even decisions on coffee and donuts have to be made in Ottawa. There are no more delegated powers, there is no more federal council. There are official languages champions in Edmonton. Imagine, there has been a hockey rivalry for centuries, and today we find ourselves in those situations. But I think it is very relevant. I remember Michel Lagacé and what he was doing here at the regional level, bringing the federal, provincial and municipal governments to the table, as Louis mentioned. That is our local government. In that regard, what is very important is that without constructive dialogue in the field, the official languages, for ordinary public servants who no longer have the powers they once had, are the least of their concerns when they get up in the morning, here in Manitoba.
I could have talked to you about the financial side, as I have a background in education. Every year, the spigots are opened by 1 to 2 per cent. Our government will reduce that, but at the fiscal level, there have been two roadmaps, and each time I say to Louis that there is never any increase. So we are operating using the cost of living of 20 years ago. But we are managing. It is alright.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Allain, Mr. Tétrault and Ms. Mulaire. In any case, the question period will enable you to provide further information if you wish. We will start the question period with Senator Poirier.
Senator Poirier: Thank you all for your presentations. My first question concerns the Association des municipalités bilingues du Manitoba. You said in your presentation that, for a municipality to be part of your association, it has to meet certain criteria. You spoke a little about this. I understand some of the criteria. Does a certain percentage of a municipality’s population have to be francophone in order for it to become a bilingual municipality? Is that one of the criteria?
Mr. Tétrault: It has never been a very precise criterion. We wanted at least 25 per cent of the population to be native French speakers because, at the time the association was created, it appeared that the capacity and political will of a municipality would be inadequate below that level. Now, 25 years later, we have come a long way in gaining acceptance of bilingualism, active offer and recognition of the value added. That was the foundation of our initiatives. So there is no minimum criterion, but when the proportion of francophones is too low, bringing in the human resources needed to offer municipal services in French, for all kinds of reasons, is difficult. Maintaining and providing municipal services seems a little difficult if there are not enough francophones.
Senator Poirier: To be a bilingual municipality, to be part of your association, does that mean all municipal laws and by-laws must be provided to residents in both languages?
Mr. Tétrault: Yes.
Senator Poirier: Do the minutes of meetings have to bilingual? Do all municipal employees or a certain percentage have to be bilingual? Do all municipal services have to be offered in both official languages?
Mr. Tétrault: The first by-laws that our members passed created bilingual positions, because they had a high enough proportion of francophone residents. All positions that involved delivering services to the public were designated bilingual. Today, in 2018, it is difficult to make all such positions bilingual. Our members seem resigned to, at a minimum, promoting bilingualism as a skill in human resources and designating at least one client service position as bilingual. The by-laws municipalities have to pass include a schedule that states the level of service the municipality has to offer. For example, it refers to signage, bilingual websites and bilingual minutes. Our association helps our municipalities with translation and aims to make the work of providing bilingual services to residents as normal and easy as possible for our municipalities, elected officials and municipal administrations.
Senator Poirier: Because you are a municipal association, I suppose you are not part of the government. You are independent, if I understand correctly. So I imagine that means the municipalities themselves choose whether they want to apply to be a member of your association. I know that, in New Brunswick at one time, a law was enacted requiring all municipalities in the province with a certain percentage of francophone residents to provide its by-laws and services in both languages. Does the Government of Manitoba require municipalities in the province with a certain percentage of francophones to do the same?
Mr. Tétrault: New Brunswick is unique in having a law governing municipalities’ responsibility to provide services in French. Manitoba just recently passed Bill 5, which requires the various provincial departments to develop French-language services action plans. But I will be very frank with you: the provincial government does not want to impose this requirement on municipalities. We met with the ministers of these departments, and they do not want to require or force municipalities to provide services in French. Therefore, becoming a member is a democratic decision that depends on political will. Obviously, when six out of seven councillors are francophones, it is a little easier to pass a French-language services by-law than when only two out of seven are francophones. As I said in my presentation, because we have had some success in growing the population of our municipalities, the political power of francophone elected officials has been diluted somewhat.
Senator Poirier: Mr. Allain, thank you for your presentation. You said in your presentation that the key issues often relate to Part IV and Part VII of the act, and then you spoke about the other parts. My question is about Part V. Do you believe Part V of the Official Languages Act, which concerns the language of work of federal employees, should be changed? Do you think the list of prescribed bilingual regions for language of work needs to be amended?
Mr. Allain: Definitely. I think that, consistent with what Mr. Bastarache asserted when he said that Part IV to Part VII should be considered of a piece, in Part V, if the country’s largest employer does not set an example, as in Switzerland or Belgium…. I also mentioned in my brief the current difficulties with recruitment. When Ms. Chaput dealt with the bigwigs at the Crown corporations who sent associations — Air Canada did not come, nor WestJet and the rest, as they would send associations — the whole issue of bilingual capacity came up. Ms. Chaput asked them whether they were familiar with the francophone associations and francophone universities, and they said they were not. To me, the Part V capacities should be strengthened and expanded, not in terms of strictness but in terms of flexibility. The changes should allow for as much asymmetry as possible, because we are all in unique situations. However, we need to expand the francophone family in the federal government and revise Part V.
I want to come back to fundamental values. John Ralston Saul set us on the right track. The preamble needs to mention well-being, what Ms. Chaput called development and vitality. Those are the key words. Indeed, the new commissioner is paying a lot of attention to the issue of terminology. What do these words mean? I believe that we have to start using some common sense and looking at how we can increase the francophone presence in the public service. Right now, it is virtually non-existent outside of the bilingual crescent.
Senator Poirier: Thank you.
Senator McIntyre: We are very happy to have you appear before this Senate committee to answer our questions.
Mr. Allain, in Appendix A of your brief, you provide a list of 10 recommendations. These recommendations are helpful because they add to the testimony heard to date from representatives of francophone minority communities. Moreover, this testimony focused on the provisions following the preamble to the act, parts IV, V, VI and VII of the act, and the coordination and oversight mechanisms of the act. So, with your recommendations in mind, I will ask you a question that I asked other witnesses this morning. What mechanisms need to be added to the Official Languages Act to ensure it is fully implemented? For example, do we need to review the powers granted to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and those provided to the Treasury Board? Do we need to strengthen the powers of the Commissioner of Official Languages, make it easier to take legal action when language obligations are not met and, lastly, penalize — yes, I said penalize — institutions that do not meet their language obligations? Could you say more about this topic?
Mr. Allain: First, the recommendations come from your predecessors. They are the result of the good work of the senators on the standing committee, which goes to show the importance of a thorough review of the literature to see where the Senate committee stood during a difficult period. I have to say that some of those 10 recommendations are quite timid and that I do not entirely agree with some of them. But I think they are a good start.
Now, you put your finger on a number of features that, in my view, are needed to bring the Official Languages Act to the next level. But besides the order, there is the issue of well-being. Everything has to work in harmony. It has to be seen as a process, not as an event. The last thing we need is to be whipped again, because we have had enough of that already. I think everything should be integrated into a process that would enable us to build something — and I emphasized the word “build” in my brief. I believe that is essential here. Community-led work is required. We see that here in Manitoba and in our municipalities. You will see it later in the meeting with the provincial officials. We are facing new realities. We are now dealing with Bill 5. What might this entail at the departmental level?
At the time, we were dealing with EDI projects. They came from Western Economic Diversification, where the federal and provincial governments were at the table. Mariette will remember. They worked in partnership. That disappeared. All of that good work done under Part VII and the federal councils has eroded away. I believe we need a systemic approach that will address many factors, but as regards the act, we need to add the ingredients that will let us go beyond the requirement to only use Part II, which is legal in nature, and lead us down avenues toward a genuine dialogue about working together to build a Canada with national languages, as is the case in Switzerland and Belgium.
Senator McIntyre: Another point you raised is making the connection between growing the official languages and the Canadian economy, and you are absolutely right. Bilingualism provides a number of benefits, not only social and cultural benefits, but economic ones as well.
Mr. Allain: I will answer and then ask Mariette to answer as well. We understand it in Manitoba, and our predecessors, the coureurs des bois, understood it too. They were polyglots: they spoke several languages. In the case of globalization, when we read about what is happening in Europe, yes, English is important, but in Switzerland, Swiss German is every bit as important. French is important, along with all the other languages they speak. Whether the issue at hand is trade or human emotions, the French language has a role to play just like any other national language.
Since Ms. Mulaire is more of an expert in this area, I will yield the floor to her.
The Chair: Go ahead, Ms. Mulaire.
Ms. Mulaire: On many occasions, I have seen how language and bilingualism contribute to the economy. I gave you one, but there are many other examples of attracting francophone investments, where being able to interact with people in French, especially from the beginning, made it easier to bring in major investments. This happens even though the investors understand that, once they are here, as in the substantial Roquette project, they will have to deal with people in English.
I was in China. I entered a room, and there was a flip chart with “My name is XYZ” written on it in French. I asked, “What’s going on?” I was told that people were learning French and Chinese. I said that surprised me. I was told that English has to be learned but that French is the prestigious language that fosters another way of thinking and seeing things. This information came from someone who was not responsible for defending official languages and that sort of thing. It was entirely innocent, but it sent a very strong message. I am constantly running into things like that regarding the economic value of bilingualism.
Senator Gagné: First, I want to thank you for accepting our invitation to appear. And thank you for your testimony, which will guide our thinking and discussions going forward.
I would simply like to let you know that economic development in our communities depends in part on your leadership, and you have my thanks. You have played, and continue to play, the role of mobilizers, unifiers and key players, and I believe it is thanks to you that elected officials, chambers of commerce and other community stakeholders are on the same page. So, congratulations and thank you!
I want to return to the concept of bilingualism and French as adding value here in Manitoba. Given that bilingualism is one of Canada’s founding values — and this is a question I am still asking myself, but does not reflect my views; rather, it is something a witness shared with us at some point —, I wonder when we will think of French as being an added value, of official languages as being an essential skill today and in the years to come. This question is open to everyone, but I would like you to answer, Mariette. If anyone else wishes to add anything, they are welcome to do so.
Ms. Mulaire: In my own life, it has been a skill that has made a big difference. At the World Trade Centre, French is the language of work, but it is not necessarily everyone’s first language. There are people from Ukraine, Mexico, Brazil, Russia and still other countries. When we decided to make speaking French a skill requirement in order to work for us, it was not easy for people to accept, especially people on my board of directors who are unilingual anglophones, who have a nephew or niece in global marketing who would be perfect for the World Trade Centre, but who do not speak French. When we tell people that speaking French is a required skill at the World Trade Centre — because, when we leave Canada, we should at least speak our country’s two languages —, it gets the message across. But we also say that, even though French is required, we are also happy to have six other languages that are important for other markets. Moreover, it is not so difficult to find a Chinese person who speaks French — as I now know —, but I think that, if it matters to us and we prove that it is truly an essential skill, people start to understand. And that is why our immersion schools are overflowing.
I am not sure that I have properly answered your question.
Senator Gagné: Would anyone else like to add anything?
Mr. Tétrault: I appreciate your question. It is very interesting. The anecdote that comes to mind is about our association. It was in fact created to promote the value added, and I have seen some progress in normalizing bilingualism at the municipal level over the past 25 years. Let me briefly say that, in the beginning, looking at the minutes of meetings of municipal elected officials in 1993, there was even a fear of promoting French among municipal councils. Some of our municipalities were almost at war, and today, when we meet with a majority-anglophone municipal council, we have come so far that the anglophone majority is starting to understand that having two languages is a genuine advantage and an important value. Bilingualism helps people open up to the world and stop navel-gazing. We are not all the way there yet, but we have come a long way. The proof is that, today, municipalities like Morris and Piney are approaching us to become members. Yet 25 years ago, we went through these municipalities, and no one paid us any attention.
Senator Gagné: Thank you. You also mentioned the benefits of knowing English and French for economic development and the fact that the Official Languages Act should better promote those benefits. My question remains: how? You spoke about the idea of integrating it into Part VII. Mr. Tétrault, you said that. Mr. Allain, we touched on the issue of the application of the regulations for Part IV and the related problem of not having the numbers to meet the significant demand threshold, which changes the status of bilingual offices to offices that provide services only in English, and so on. Should any potential agreements between the province and the federal government in the areas of economic development or employability, or even as part of federal programs that transfer funding envelopes to the provinces, be included? Should the legislation simply mention the need to consider official languages when allocating funding? Are you thinking of a provision that could be inserted in the Official Languages Act that would give it more teeth?
Mr. Allain: I am inclined to build on the previous question, as I used to do, but I will answer this one directly. At the very heart of this modernization is the idea of a vision for society, and whether it was Mr. Bastarache or the former commissioner of official languages, they were always talking about harmonizing parts IV through VII and regulating them as soundly as possible.
In the short brief I submitted, I used the example of RDEE Canada. In Mariette’s time, they had a partnership with 11 federal departments. This partnership was weakened. When I arrived at the CDEM, it was already becoming more timid and, in the end, owing to Treasury Board policies, it was eliminated so that organizations would become only beneficiaries. Very sound, right? The Treasury Board has just slashed an initiative that was all about partnering with communities. Therefore, I believe it would be a good idea, in order to pursue this vision for society I mentioned, for the Official Languages Act to take this important dynamic of moving from beneficiaries to genuine partners into account and to deal with the issue of reporting and accountability — we saw it in the minutes, Mr. Roger Paul reiterated it — since we do not know where the money goes. I worked in education, and I saw how money was spent. Obviously, giving a province a cheque without any conditions is a little like what Mr. Poirier used to say: it is a carrot, but it does not go very far. It is time to take this issue more seriously and take responsibility for our affairs by putting forward a genuine vision for society in the Official Languages Act.
Ms. Mulaire: If I might add something, I always come back to the idea of normalization to enable Canadians to more easily gain access to the other language, to learn it and to have the tools to do so. This has to be easy for all Canadians, and I do not know how this could be added to a law or if it is something that can be implemented pursuant to a law, if an organization were responsible for it. However, when Mr. Trudeau the elder brought in this law, what was missing from it was really the tools to implement it. How can we celebrate the fact that we are a bicultural and bilingual country? It was a good idea. It was excellent, but it was never taken any further, and it did not provide the necessary tools. Giving people the tools they need to understand what the other language is and fostering the desire to learn it and, in turn, normalizing it — that is what is needed. Furthermore, I am not sure whether it would be a matter of languages or not, but we need to invest in some kind of organization that would not only promote the language, but also develop tools to truly facilitate the process.
Senator Moncion: To advance what you just said takes tools, but also political will, and if the political will is not there, you might have a problem. In any case, there is a problem.
Ms. Mulaire: Are you referring to political will at the national or provincial level?
Senator Moncion: At all levels.
Ms. Mulaire: I think we have to make this easy for people. I am even referring to the private sector, where there could be funding to help provide tools so that people could take courses or whatever. The idea is really to provide the tools necessary to learn the other language, and in most cases, it would mean learning French. We have to find ways to reward this learning. At some point, it takes an investment, a real investment. It may not be popular with everyone, but I think that, today in Canada, in a global world, given everything that is happening with globalization — I very much liked what you said, Louis, about the fact that we live in a situation where it is normal to have multiple languages in many countries, because we see that it works and that knowing only one language has a cost — at some point we have to invest in the vision for society, whether we call it that or not, because we did not do it in 1969. We did not invest in it, but now people accept that we invest in it. Parents invest in French immersion schools to ensure their child learns another language.
Senator Moncion: But what I gathered from what Mr. Allain said earlier is that he was talking about a time when there was a group of 11 departments. The political will existed at that time. It seems to me that this political will has evaporated over time. The top level was removed, everyone was sent back to their own box and we ended up with money being distributed left and right but perhaps not given to the initiatives that the envelopes were originally intended to fund. So that is the context in which I am trying to understand the whole issue of tools. People are getting tools, but francophone communities for years now have been the poor cousins. We are putting things together ourselves in order to create all these institutions we are referring to.
That leads me to talk to you about Centrallia.
Ms. Mulaire: To be honest, I think we were on the right track when we had that committee, because a number of departments were committed. It was taken seriously. We moved forward. Francophones proved themselves. We proved ourselves. That is why we can see that, in Manitoba, we had to prove ourselves. We did it, and that is how we gained respect and were able to decide that the World Trade Centre, in the middle of Canada, would be bilingual. It was because we had to prove ourselves. But now it’s time. We have a track record. Now it’s time to invest and ensure that we will not lose ground like we have in the past, because we have lost some ground. Things could have gone much better, but major changes occurred, and the promotion of and support for this official language and this project diminished.
Senator Moncion: I think that, right now, there is perhaps a lack of political understanding of the current issues, but there is no continuity with history and what was done in the past. Sometimes, I think this is perhaps — and this is just an opinion — linked to the newness of the government, which is like us, young senators, who sometimes do not have all the background knowledge that comes from the history.
But I would like to talk to you about Centrallia, because I knew it when it first started. Now, how often do the World Trade Centre’s forums happen?
Ms. Mulaire: Centrallia was funded by the federal and provincial governments, and it was cut. The project was cut by the federal government after the first edition, so we turned to the province, and now the province is not really interested anymore. We lost this support. I feel it is a loss because this international forum brought Manitoba’s francophone community to everyone’s attention, whether it was through our artists like Daniel Lavoie and Gregory Charles, or our francophone songs. There was always a presence at Centrallia, and everything on stage happened in English and French. It was normal. People switched from one language to the other. We have not planned another edition of Centrallia because of the budget cuts by both the federal and provincial governments. That is why it is no longer a priority to organize another Centrallia any time soon.
Senator Moncion: That is too bad, because I know that people from Ontario came to Manitoba and were able to reach trade deals with Europe. Even when you reached out to businesses, because I think you also tried to obtain funding from businesses, a forum took place, and I think it was in Sudbury, but it was not as successful as the ones in Manitoba. In any case, I find it interesting that you were behind this initiative and to meet you after all these years.
The other aspect is everything relating to the RDEE. Mr. Allain, I met with you on several occasions for the forums on co-operatives. How are the partnerships with the RDEE doing today? I ask because it was always a battle for funding, and I think the funding was cut and it became increasingly difficult to operate. The funding comes from federal government programs, and it does not go to the right places. You spoke about the roadmap, about strategies, about a vision for society — could you elaborate on that a little?
Mr. Allain: My colleague Louis has been remiss in not telling you about the former departments and the rural community and everything that was done. We told you about the 12 departments. What saved us somewhat was the zeal of our officials, who dared tell us that francophones “scrounged.” Listen. There is no money. You kept your hopes down by scrounging for the bare minimum. We see it at WD. We receive $3.5 million in an envelope called EDI, and that envelope is for Part VII. Then they put that in the middle of everyone and tell us to fight for the cheese. Over five years, $3.5 million, you can do the math — there is nothing left but crumbs. Yet we are among the greediest. But at the federal level, thanks to those officials, the CEDEC is now at the table. There is an association, a sort of horizontal table where the 11 departments have returned with small envelopes, because they say they have to move slowly.
In addition, the RDEE has a working group that is looking at francophone economies, and this work is occurring not only in Canada, but across all francophone countries. Let me explain. The ecosystem behind the francophone presence in the economy goes beyond the francophonie. It also involves developing countries. One of the major strengths we see today is that some officials are supportive, but what is lacking in all this is structure. In the case of the Official Languages Act, we have to move from a declaratory law to an enforceable law. As part of all that, for the economy, we need the means to continue our community-led work, as we did so well with Centrallia and other events. Because we do it ourselves so well, not only with the major players in the francophonie, but also in our bilingual municipalities, where we have so many businesses, we go well beyond Duhaime’s reductive definition of a business. Francophone businesses in minority settings have many facets, and what we have realized is that we are truly starting to have a much bigger impact. If we had access to this funding — instead of scrounging for the scraps that are supposed to keep us alive — so that we could enter the real economy, it would make a huge difference.
I mentioned that working group in my brief and the departments that participate. One of the departments, the agriculture department, made a very positive contribution in discussing the next roadmap. It was not just a discussion; it was a dialogue. When its representatives invited us to Ottawa, we saw that all the department’s officials were making a concerted effort to ensure OLMCs get their share of the cheese. But overall, the discussions are at a superficial level. We are not seeing real money on the table.
Senator Moncion: Right, so where in the act could we put the cheese? In what part of the act could we incorporate the funding so that it goes to the right places and the right people, besides the accountability framework? Because that is something that is missing from the act. Because the act is already there. There is funding allocated in a budget, whether it is at Canadian Heritage or the Treasury Board, but it is not guaranteed. Where can we indicate that X number of dollars will be provided to francophones, not necessarily through the province, where the province can do what it wants with it? To some degree, that is what has happened in recent years when amounts were specifically allocated to projects. First, as you said, there have been no increases for a number of years, no cost-of-living increases, and, second, some funding has disappeared or was not directed to projects for francophone minority communities. So where in the act could we integrate this?
Mr. Allain: I think you have a kind of cheap labour in Part VII, namely, the organizations, but the fundamental issue in the written provisions is substantive equality. We have also seen cases in Ontario, such as the Desrochers decision, that require that we be given the resources. We have to be careful in saying, “You will give us this” because, given the few resources we had, we were able to make miracles happen, such as Centrallia. It was a miracle what was accomplished here in Manitoba, given the resources available.
Now, as regards the Official Languages Act, I think the key is the issue of substantive equality. It is the impact of Charter case law, and I believe that, as the Aboriginal peoples have seen, we need to retain a model that will enable us to obtain a level of service that meets our aspirations to realize our vision for society in a lasting way. The economy is important, as we have seen with the impact of immigration in Manitoba. The most important thing, besides dressing for the weather, is having a voice and, after that, entrepreneurship. Those two things are the pillars of building communities. Perhaps Louis could talk about what he experienced with the rural secretariat.
The Chair: Quickly, if you can, because we still have others to hear from.
Mr. Tétrault: I have nothing to add. We do not want to repeat ourselves. He has already covered everything.
The Chair: Thank you.
This group will finish up with a question from Senator Mégie.
Senator Mégie: Indeed, I would like to congratulate Ms. Mulaire, because I have heard that everything in the business world happens in English. You managed to implement your criteria and make the World Trade Centre completely bilingual, making the language of work French and half the members of the board francophones. I take my hat off to you! But are you satisfied with the results you achieved, the number of major francophone investments you were able to attract with these criteria?
Ms. Mulaire: First, our mandate is really mainly a mandate for trade, but with ANIM, we kept the francophone investment attraction mandate. Given the budget cuts, we could not keep the two people responsible for this file. We had to let them go, so we did what we could. We always say that if we had the funding to hire two full-time resource-persons to do this work, it would be wonderful, because we would be able to attract more people.
We have good connections with Quebec. We have good connections with France. We have good connections with Belgium. We have good connections with the World Trade Centres in North Africa. I could go on. We simply do not have the resources, the people. This kind of work has to keep being done, connections have to be maintained and followed up on, and research has to be done to get the business on the other end to say, “I had thought about Manitoba. I did not even know where it was, but now I am interested in learning more about it because I was so well served in my own language.” So it is a matter of human resources, but we have still had investments and continue to have a lot of fish on the line that we want to reel in soon.
Senator Mégie: I hope that you stay the course, because I think that these are excellent objectives and solid criteria.
The Chair: Thank you.
Thank you very much, Ms. Mulaire, Mr. Tétrault and Mr. Allain. I know that the words “innovation” and “leadership” are used a lot, but in your case I think they are entirely appropriate. You have done a lot of innovating in finding ways to increase economic development and municipal development. Thank you for coming.
We are pleased now to welcome the Honourable Rochelle Squires, Minister of Sustainable Development, Minister responsible for Francophone Affairs, and Minister responsible for Status of Women. Minister Squires has been the MLA of Riel since 2016. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the University of Winnipeg, a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of British Columbia, and a journalism diploma from Red River College.
We will also be hearing from Ms. Teresa Collins, Executive Director of the Francophone Affairs Secretariat of Manitoba. The secretariat advises the Government of Manitoba on measures to enhance the vitality and support the development of Manitoba’s francophone community. Finally, we have Mr. Fred Meier, Clerk of the Executive Council, Cabinet Secretary and Co-Chair of the Francophone Affairs Advisory Council. Welcome.
Before we begin, I must mention that I will have to leave the chair at 4:45 because I have an interview with CBC, but the deputy chair, Senator Poirier, will take the chair. So please excuse me if I have to leave before the end.
Go ahead, Ms. Squires.
The Honourable Rochelle Squires, Minister responsible for Francophone Affairs, Government of Manitoba: Thank you very much. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Please excuse my French. I speak a little French, and I am taking a course. My name is Rochelle Squires, and I am the Minister responsible for Francophone Affairs in the Government of Manitoba. Joining me are Fred Meier, Clerk of the Executive Council and Co-Chair of the Francophone Affairs Advisory Council, and Teresa Collins, Executive Director of the Francophone Affairs Secretariat of Manitoba. I would like to acknowledge that this meeting is being held on Treaty 1 lands and the ancestral territory of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene peoples, and of the Metis Nation. I would like to thank you for giving the province the opportunity to comment on the modernization of the Official Languages Act.
I will now turn the floor over to Teresa Collins.
Teresa Collins, Executive Director, Francophone Affairs Secretariat of Manitoba: Thank you. The state of the francophonie has changed a great deal since the last major revision of the act in 1988. Immigration, the growing popularity of immersion schools and the new importance of official-language bilingualism have expanded the francophone presence in Canada.
In Manitoba, the francophone community has been able to adapt to these changes and has enthusiastically welcomed new members. As for the Government of Manitoba, it enacted the Francophone Community Enhancement and Support Act on June 30, 2016. This legislative framework is intended to foster the growth and development of Manitoba’s francophone community.
We created a broader definition of Manitoba’s francophone community that includes people whose mother tongue is French and people whose mother tongue is not French but who have a special affinity for the French language and who use it on a regular basis in their daily life. This definition is the foundation of our more representative and inclusive vision of Manitoba’s francophone community, and it supports our efforts to enhance the vitality of our official-language minority communities.
Manitoba recognizes that the vitality of a community cannot be measured solely by the size of its population. A community may consist of only a few hundred people yet be very strong and have a stable foundation. That is why we will support the modernization of Part IV of the Official Languages Act so that federal institutions take qualitative criteria into account in determining whether there is significant demand. Furthermore, we need to recognize that the technological revolution has had a huge influence on how people obtain government services. Physical geography and a person’s location play a far smaller role.
In 2002, Manitoba opened its first ever bilingual service centre. These centres, which house civil servants from the provincial, federal and municipal governments, enable clients to gain access to government services in a whole range of areas — housing, employment, business, education, training, the environment, health, immigration, justice and more — all in the official language of their choice and under the same roof.
There are now six centres across Manitoba, and this model, which brings together a multitude of programs and services, provides important support to our francophone population, who know that services in French are always available at these offices. Furthermore, the concept of a central hub has been adopted by a number of other public bodies in the province, including the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation, which now has two completely bilingual service centres.
The ability to bring together a number of bilingual employees in the same office facilitates access to services in French while also encouraging the use of French in the workplace. In addition, the centres all have video-conferencing equipment, which enables them to conduct virtual meetings and offer long-distance service delivery. This idea of offering virtual services is becoming increasingly common. A number of provincial departments, including health, seniors and active living, and agriculture, have developed IT networks that provide the ability to communicate by videoconference.
There are many ways to take advantage of technology in order to improve bilingual service delivery. Manitoba would like the revised Official Languages Act to take these possibilities into consideration and encourage federal institutions to make better use of them in their communications with and services to the public.
This province is extremely proud of its francophonie’s diversity. Manitoba was one of the first Canadian jurisdictions to establish a francophone immigration strategy in order to increase the number of French-speaking newcomers. As Mr. Jean Johnson, president of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, recently remarked, the invaluable contribution of people of African and Caribbean descent or origins to the Canadian francophonie will help shape the future of our communities.
Nor can we forget the increasing popularity of French immersion schools in Manitoba. The immersion program now has 25,000 students and has been growing constantly for 15 years now. The proportion of students enrolled in French immersion continues to rise. Enrolment in French-as-a-second-language courses in our continuing education institutions is also increasing, including at the Alliance française du Manitoba. The added value of bilingualism is obvious to all those who want to learn both official languages. Bilingual anglophone and francophone newcomers are proving that the promotion of linguistic duality produces tangible results.
However, we must acknowledge that promoting the official languages is not simply a matter of linguistics. More and more, the new francophones of the Francophone Community Enhancement and Support Act are choosing to live entirely in French, whether they are at school, at work, participating in sports and recreation, attending cultural activities or even out for dinner. Every order of government has a role to play to support and facilitate people’s decision to live in the official language of their choice. Part VII of the Official Languages Act establishes the federal government’s commitment to enhance the vitality of the English and French linguistic minority communities in Canada and support and assist their development, and to foster the full recognition and use of both English and French in Canadian society. It refers to a duty to take positive measures to implement this commitment in a number of areas: language learning, the provision of services in both official languages, the recognition of the bilingual character of Canada and so on.
Part VII further establishes the obligation to publish an annual report on the matters relating to official languages for which Canadian Heritage is responsible. However, what is missing is a definition of the performance indicators that could assess in concrete terms the impact of the positive measures that federal institutions take. In addition, the annual report should take into account the results of the consultations between Canadian Heritage and federal institutions on one side and minority communities on the other. These consultations should cover more than just the equality of status and use of English and French. The tangible enhancement of the vitality of communities owing to positive measures taken should also be discussed. The Francophone Community Enhancement and Support Act recognizes that supporting Manitoba’s francophone community benefits the province as a whole. The implementation of this act is guided by four principles: the recognition of the important contributions made to the province by its francophone community, the concept of active offer as the cornerstone of the provision of French-language services, the collaboration and dialogue between public bodies and the francophone community, and the steady progress and growth of government services in French. The promotion of French language and culture is at the heart of the Manitoba government’s approach to enhancing French-language services and supporting the francophone community. Whether it is an increase in the number of services and programs offered by public bodies, the development of bilingual capacity across the public sector, consultation and collaboration with community partners or even the work of the Francophone Affairs Advisory Council, our objective is always to support the enhancement of Manitoba’s francophonie, wherever it may be and in all its diverse forms. Manitoba hopes to see the federal government adopt a similar vision as it modernizes the Official Languages Act, a vision which recognizes the diversity of minority communities, which celebrates the concept of inclusive belonging and which understands the importance of promoting culture as a means of fostering the equality of both official languages. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Official Languages Act, Canada deserves a legislative framework that emphasizes the vitality of our linguistic minority communities and recognizes the role federal institutions can play to support this vitality.
The act should also aim higher than definitions rendered obsolete by everything that has changed since 1969. Thus, the act will be a model for the support and promotion of minority communities, a model all provinces and territories can aspire to follow. Thank you for your attention.
The Chair: Thank you for your presentations. We will now move into the question period, starting with Senator Poirier.
Senator Poirier: Thank you for being here, Ms. Squires. Welcome. I have just one question, really.
As you know, we are now in the second phase of our study on the modernization of the Official Languages Act, which will have five phases in total. As a province, what recommendation would you like to see appear in our report that could benefit you and help you better meet the needs of Manitoba’s francophones?
Ms. Squires: Thank you very much for the question.
I’ll answer in English, if that’s okay.
Senator Poirier: You can answer in English.
The Chair: Yes.
Ms. Squires: What I think would be really beneficial is perhaps some collaboration and mirroring of what we are doing here in Manitoba. Our Francophone Community Enhancement and Support Act is not just about the focus on enhancing bilingualism or an opportunity for people to live, work and play in the official language of their choice, but it is really a focus on the vitality of our community and enhancing that community through arts, culture and an expression of living life in the language of your choice. So opportunities to partner in that regard would be very beneficial. I know that we do a lot of work together. We do have a lot of collaboration with the federal government on these particular initiatives, but just an ongoing emphasis in that regard.
Senator Poirier: What would be your biggest challenge?
Ms. Squires: Like Teresa said, of course, resources are always a challenge. We do have our matching funding agreement and we are asking for an increase in that regard.
We have in Manitoba a very vibrant francophone community and ambitious strategy in terms of enhancing francophone tourism and attractions for francophones from other parts of the country or the world. We want to have a bit of a francophone tourism strategy. We also have ambitious francophone immigration targets. Accomplishing with limited resources the many initiatives we have under way is always a challenge.
Senator Poirier: Minister, a little while ago we questioned the Association des municipalités bilingues du Manitoba. I was speaking with their representatives a short while ago. We talked about their role and the criteria for people or the municipalities to be part of their organization. I’m just wondering if the francophone community in Manitoba wants to have a copy of their provincial laws in French. Is that available to them, even though you’re not an officially bilingual province like New Brunswick? Is that material available to all the francophones, to have that service?
Ms. Squires: I will ask Teresa to get into the specifics, but generally what I can say is that we do our utmost to provide services to our francophone community in French so that they can access services or receive paperwork in the language of their choice. We work with all the partners that we have in government to ensure that those services are provided, whether orally and in written correspondence or from officials, for example, in law enforcement and municipal affairs. In all reaches of society, we try to ensure that this is offered to our community in both languages. But there are always challenges.
Senator Poirier: Is it done just if requested? If I was a francophone in Manitoba and went to the province and asked to have a copy of a certain law in French, is it available? Is it officially there all the time, or is it just translated as requested?
Ms. Squires: It’s a little bit of both, and I’ll have Teresa answer.
Senator Poirier: Nice to see you again, Teresa.
Ms. Collins: As for the statutes and the regulations, everything is automatically available in both languages. Everything is done automatically by the legislature. Here in Manitoba, our approach is based on an active offer, so all offices, all ministries, all public agencies have that obligation. We have a policy on French-language services but it also comes with legislation and an obligation to provide services in French. This should be done with an active offer and should provide services that are evident, readily available, easily accessible, and comparable to the services provided in English. One feature of the legislation requires public agencies to establish and draft multi-year plans on their French-language services. So the secretariat is actually in the process of working with the public agencies on the preparation of their plans, which all have to be implemented as of April 1 this year. Several ministries were already in the habit of providing services in French, but for others, it is something new. But the obligation exists all through the provincial government.
Senator Poirier: Thank you.
Senator McIntyre: Welcome to the committee hearings minister, and welcome as well to Ms. Collins and Mr. Meier.
Mr. Meier, your job is to advise the minister regarding the expansion of the French language in Manitoba, and then we have the secretariat which advises the Province of Manitoba on French issues. Is there a good relationship between your council and the secretariat? There is no overlap?
Fred Meier, Clerk of the Executive Council, Cabinet Secretary and Co-Chair of the Francophone Affairs Advisory Council, Government of Manitoba: Thank you for that question and thank you for the opportunity to be here this afternoon.
I wouldn’t characterize the relationship between myself and Teresa and the minister, and the advice that we provide, as overlap. In fact, I think it’s complementary. Teresa provides not only the minister with advice but me with advice. As head of the public service in Manitoba, that advice finds its way into the policies and the advice we provide the government broadly inside of Manitoba. So actually, the partnership of Teresa and her advice, her counsel on different issues, is very complementary. That is the way I would describe it.
Senator McIntyre: Thank you.
Ms. Collins, under the Canada-Manitoba agreement, the secretariat receives funding and that funding allows services in French to be provided by the provincial government or the municipalities in a number of sectors such as justice, health, youth, economic development, arts, culture and communications. So are we talking about quite a substantial funding envelope?
Ms. Collins: There is never enough money, whatever the area, whatever the subject. Unfortunately, the envelope has not increased for a number of years. As the minister mentioned, our legislation now commits us to do more and more. Progress is a principle of the legislation, so we are expecting to see an improvement, an increase in the range of services; our province is ready to invest more each year. The ministries are doing more and more. There is more translation, there are more websites, and, in addition, we are in the process of developing our bilingual capacity. In a sense, as I explained, because of the newcomers and the popularity of immersion systems, we have more and more bilingual people in the province. But we also are supporting opportunities for professional development in French with language training courses. All those things have costs associated with them.
Senator McIntyre: Do you get funding annually?
Ms. Collins: Yes. Well, it corresponds to the plans. The agreement is for five years. We are actually just in the process of negotiating the new plan that will go from 2018 to 2023. We receive a fixed amount each year for all the projects we support.
Senator McIntyre: So, even if Manitoba is not a bilingual province, under the agreement for French-speaking Manitobans, it is possible to receive services in the areas of health, education and justice?
Ms. Collins: Yes.
Senator McIntyre: It is? For example, if I as a francophone want to have a trial in French, it is possible to do so?
Ms. Collins: Yes, absolutely.
Senator McIntyre: Do you have a number of francophone judges in Manitoba?
Ms. Collins: Yes, we have bilingual judges, francophone and bilingual. We have lawyers, we have sheriffs, we have court clerks, not as many as we would like, but we are actually in the process of developing that capacity. But, even though we are not a formally bilingual province in legislative terms, I repeat that we are bilingual. It’s just that administratively, we are working to add some government administrative services.
Senator McIntyre: Is it more or less the same thing with health?
Ms. Collins: Yes. In Saint-Boniface, for example, there is an access centre that brings together clinics, primary care services, specialized services, and everything is in French.
Senator McIntyre: Thank you.
Senator Gagné: First of all, let me congratulate Minister Squires on her department’s adoption of Bill 5, the Francophone Community Enhancement and Support Act of 2016. I especially like the fact that the definition of Manitoba’s francophone community is certainly more inclusive. It establishes an advisory council and the fact that French language services plans are mandatory in the act. I think that this act could certainly inspire the study we’re doing at the federal level. Our recommendations pertaining to the modernization of the Official Languages Act could be inspired by this act. So, thank you.
French language education is not only a fundamental right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms but also the key to the vitality and development of our province’s francophone community. I would like to touch upon the fact that your government did decide to eliminate the position of the assistant deputy responsible for the Bureau de l’éducation française. Having worked with the Bureau de l’éducation française and knowing its mandate, I know that it’s very broad. Both francophone schools and French immersion programs fall under its purview, as well as quite a few projects and programs that are offered at the Université de Saint-Boniface.
Federal-provincial agreements on education and on services are negotiated, and monies are transferred. I was wondering within these agreements if monies are being transferred to the provincial government that go to the Bureau de l’éducation française to support the work it does?
Ms. Squires: Thank you very much for your comments and your question.
We certainly do agree that our enhanced francophone education system and the curriculum are incredibly important to our government. We recognize that without a strong component in our education system focusing on the development of French language skills, we would not be able to expand the bilingual capacity that we have in the public service throughout our province. That is something in which we take immense pride. We expanded our bilingual capacity more last year than ever before. We have more people working in health care, law enforcement and justice, in all aspects of our civil service, in both languages. That is helping us accomplish our goals, and most of it is because of our enhanced focused on our offerings through the education system. So we really do feel that the bureau is playing an integral role and will continue to play an integral role.
There was some restructuring with senior managers in the bureau and throughout the education system. The education minister, Mr. Wishart, and I met with a group of concerned individuals in December and agreed to work collaboratively with a working group on ensuring that their concerns with the curriculum were being met. The working group met recently, and I believe that there is some level of contentment amongst the community that we are working towards the same goal and that we will achieve the outcome the community desires, which is to ensure that we have an enhanced focus and a dedicated team working on the curriculum and the vitality of our French offerings through the education system.
So I do feel very confident that we are in a good place with the community and will continue to work towards addressing their concerns.
Teresa might want to add something to that.
Ms. Collins: I just want to say that we actually had a meeting yesterday morning with the partners in French-language education in Manitoba. So we are really working very collaboratively, because, as you know, the vision of this government is to broaden the scope of education, so that it includes early childhood and post-secondary, either at university or through training. So the BEF will have to change its mandate, because, at the moment, the BEF goes from grade 1 to grade 12. So it really is our vision to optimize the available resources, and to find ways to think about education differently, so that it becomes an entire continuum, from the cradle almost to the grave. To do so, we have to work with francophone members of the educational community.
Senator Gagné: Given that you are going to expand the mandate of the Bureau de l’éducation française even more, it might still be appropriate to consider re-establishing the position of assistant deputy minister, because the BEF would be inheriting additional responsibilities.
Ms. Collins: All options are on the table. We are currently seeing whether an assistant deputy minister will take on that role or whether the job can be done another way. I cannot tell you whether or not the position will be re-established, but, for the moment, when Minister Wishart and Minister Squires met in December, they said that all options are valid, so we have to look at the suggestions. We are organizing a public forum in April precisely in order to discuss the issue with concerned members of the community.
Senator Gagné: Then, you are clearly going to start negotiations with the federal government soon in order to renegotiate the memorandum of understanding on education. That is one issue. I know that you want to increase the transfers made to education. Once again, is the province ready to negotiate with the federal government at the moment in order to meet the needs of the minority language community in services and education?
Ms. Squires: I can say with certainty that both my colleague Minister Wishart and I will be welcoming those conversations.
Senator Moncion: Just for the fun of it, we were told this morning that part of the money that you received from the federal government — I see that you receive over $4 billion, but there seems to be an amount of $1.350 billion dedicated to arts, culture and social projects. I would like to know if any of that amount is specifically dedicated to francophones, either arts or culture or the different social programs that you have in the province?
Ms. Squires: Thank you for that. We certainly do have a lot of initiatives under way to support our francophone community. We have the CCFM that is supported by our government, which is a cultural centre, if you will, a gathering place.
We also are working toward a tourism strategy with one of the francophone groups and the community in that regard to enhance the offerings that people might want, attractions that people might want to explore, whether they’d be folks from Manitoba or from other jurisdictions. So we do have a significant commitment to developing the francophone culture in our province.
Your question is quite timely because just this week we had the opening ceremonies for Festival du Voyageur, which is strongly supported by our government. It is one of the longest-running festivals in the country and a source of pride for francophones in Manitoba. I certainly hope while you’re visiting our province that you might be able to take in some of the festivals.
Senator Moncion: Unfortunately, I won’t, and my colleagues will have to go back tomorrow.
Do you have a specific amount dedicated to francophone initiatives, or is it within the budget?
Ms. Squires: We have a couple of different departments that support the initiatives out of our Growth, Enterprise & Trade department and our Tourism Secretariat. We have money set aside for francophone tourism.
In my former department of Sport, Culture and Heritage, significant money was set aside each year for festivals and for cultural institutions and opportunities and offerings through the francophone community. And through my Francophone Affairs Secretariat, we do have specific envelopes that I will let Teresa explain fully to you.
Ms. Collins: According to the agreement that we have with the federal government, the Canada-Manitoba Agreement on French-Language Services, we currently receive $1.4 million each year. That is why I said that there is never enough money. That amount is for French-language services in all areas. We support initiatives in health, culture, economic development, justice, immigration and tourism, and the municipalities as well.
Senator Moncion: I find it a little disappointing, especially for francophones, because it doesn’t seem to be a lot.
Mr. Meier: I would add that you won’t find the complete spending on Francophone Affairs on a single line of a budget. Built within each of the departments is a service centre. For example, our service centres will have staff from municipal relations and many of our different areas as well. Many of those people are supported by funding within different departments as well, so it’s very difficult for us to find a single line inside the budget that identifies a complete level of spending.
Senator Moncion: That’s not what I was looking for. I wanted to see how big your budget is. The one on the website, I think last year it was published, was 2015-16, and it was at $15 billion. So $1.4 million in a $15 billion budget is a little drop in the bucket.
My other question is related to the type of accountability you require in regards to the use of the funds. If you give funds, let’s say, to “le centre francophone” here, what kind of accountability do you receive to ensure that the funds are being used properly?
Ms. Squires: I do want to clarify that the $1.4 million we have set aside and the matching funds to the memorandum of understanding with the federal government is not our exclusive budget for francophone initiatives. We have a significant contribution. For example, the money that our government commits to Festival du Voyageur, the money our government commits to Maison Gabrielle Roy, the money that our government commits to the Societé de la francophonie manitobaine, and many other initiatives, comes out of different envelopes.
What we don’t do, and what Fred just alluded to, is have a total calculation or a line item in our budget that would say this is what we invest in our francophone community. The tourism dollars that we spend on enhancing francophone tourism initiatives comes out of a different budget. We don’t have a total or a summary of that.
That might be something we could look at so that we know exactly what our commitment is and we can inform our community what our commitment and the vitality of our francophone community actually is.
In terms of accountability, we do have a very close relationship with all of our organizations that we support. Teresa does have a good working relationship with them. So we do feel that there is some accountability that they are providing services reflective of what the community is asking for. I will let her elaborate on that.
Ms. Collins: The funding that we receive under the agreement, the $1.4 million, is the money contributed by the federal government and, of course, the provincial government spends the same amount, a lot more, in fact, as the minister said. So for those projects, they are required to provide periodic reports and a final report each year. They are required to provide it to us and then we take all that information and provide an overall report to the federal government at the end.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
So, I am going to take this opportunity to ask two questions. If my information is correct, we are in an era of modernization and I believe that you are currently modernizing your policy on French-language services. I would first like to know why this current need to want to modernize the policy on French-language services, and second, what issues have been identified in terms of continuing to implement that policy?
Ms. Collins: Our first reason for modernizing the policy is to bring it into line with the act. We passed the act in 2016 and the last time the policy was updated was really in 1998. So it is to make the wording match and deal with some aspects that were in the act and not in the policy.
One of the things the Advisory Council had to work on was to catalogue French-language places and services. We conducted an online survey in the community. We are just looking at the results, which could help us to modernize the policy, but more to modernize or develop resources to support ministries and public agencies in providing services. We know that we provide services, but do the services correspond exactly to the needs of the community as it exists today? That was really the objective of the survey and the cataloguing that we did from both sides. From the government side, we looked at what is offered as a service and the way in which it is offered. Are they online services or are they in person? Are we talking about websites and so on? We also had to find out the community’s view of those services.
The Chair: Okay. Thank you.
My second question goes to the Minister. Since the very start of these consultations that we are holding, in a number of places with different sectors of society, one of the major issues brought to us is the relationship in the frameworks of the federal-provincial-territorial agreements, provincial accountability. What the community constantly tells us is that federal government money is turned over to the provinces. Afterwards, no one knows whether the money is used in the way in which it has to be used under the agreement between the feds and the province, I would like to hear what you have say about it.
Do you have any issues in the use of the funds from the federal government? Do you have any issues in your ability to account for them, to know how you can identify the funds and the way in which they have been used? This issue comes up constantly; this relationship between the federal government and the provinces is probably also one of our country’s challenges. I would like to hear a little of what you have to say about it.
Ms. Squires: Thank you for that question. I certainly don’t feel that it is a top-of-mind issue for me or for us in Manitoba. I have tremendous respect for my federal counterpart and have met with her frequently on matters of mutual interest. As I mentioned in our prior discussion, there could be a little bit more accountability in terms of our financial commitment to the francophone community and there could be an enhanced reporting system in terms of what it is we are receiving for that investment. What are the indicators and how are we meeting them? Those are always good questions to be asking when in government. We are committing resources, and so I would welcome that conversation. I welcome that opportunity to reflect on what we can do better here in Manitoba, how we can strengthen our partnership with the federal government, and how we collectively could look at indicating our priorities, how we are meeting those priorities and what our financial commitment is.
The Chair: Okay.
So, thank you very much, I think we have gone around all the questions.
Madam Minister, Ms. Collins and Mr. Meier, thank you for your presentation and your contribution. This is maybe the beginning of a good discussion and conversation.
(The committee adjourned.)