Commissioner’s Blog

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François Boileau
French Language Services Commissioner

Forum on francophone immigration – Moncton

A ministerial forum on francophone immigration took place on Thursday and Friday in Moncton, New Brunswick. It was attended by the federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for the Canadian francophonie and immigration. The key discussions focused on developing actions to extend the reach of government efforts and implementing common strategies to achieve their objectives in relation to francophone immigration.

The invitation to the three language commissioners (federal, New Brunswick and Ontario) to participate at this event gave us the opportunity to engage in dialogue and share our recommendations about immigration and settlement throughout Canada.

Each year, the federal government decides how many newcomers may be admitted to Canada. Recent projections indicate that newcomers will account for between 24.5% and 30.0% of the population of Canada in 2036, as compared to 20.7% in 2011 (Statistics Canada, January 27, 2017).

We are already seeing a significant rise of newcomers, given that we have admitted a little over 320,000 in the last two years. Ontario has benefited considerably from this increase, it being considered to be the province that attracts the most people who come to Canada from another country.

Today, we are having to address demographic and economic issues that take the form of a notable decline in birth rates and an increasingly aging population. There can be no doubt that if we are to be able to counter this reality, we need higher levels of francophone immigration, which will contribute to preserving, developing, and enhancing the vitality of francophone communities outside Quebec.

The announcement of Ontario’s membership as an observer in the Organisation internationale de la francophonie (OIF) is particularly timely, since it will certainly have a positive impact on notably the recruitment strategy.

In 2012, the government produced its very first immigration strategy, with the aim of attracting more skilled workers. The strategy set a target for francophone immigration of 5%, and a number of things have already been done to meet that target.

Very recently, I learned that changes are going to be made to Express Entry in June 2017. These new measures will enable francophone applicants to score more points if they have strong French language skills. This is an excellent initiative, and one that I think will lead to the arrival of more francophone newcomers who previously did not have the opportunity to settle in Canada because they did not have enough points.

That is great news and a step in the right direction. We must still analyse the entire point system to make sure that those not conversing in the language of Shakespeare, but whom are comfortable in the language of Molière are not losing any points. In other words, to make sure that applications to come to Ontario are adequately scrutinized.

Also very recently, a group of experts on francophone immigration released a report proposing solutions to the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration for meeting the target by 2020.

In fact, I published a press release on this point, informing the Ministry that it was essential to put those recommendations into concrete form in an action plan with a timetable. We have only three years to do this and I would admit to being a little anxious about these concrete measures being put into action. We certainly see a net increase in the percentage of immigrants represented by francophones in Ontario between 2015, at 2%, and 2016, at 2.2%. However, those results also show the urgency of implementing an integrated interministerial strategy. Unless a concrete action plan is put in place to attract, recruit, admit, integrate, train, and retain francophone immigrants, both provincially and federally, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for us to meet that target.

It is also important that these government bodies communicate with the institutions that provide direct services to newcomers. Working with those organizations enables us to offer personalized services that are tailored to newcomers’ specific needs. That is the objective of my message. We can have the best complicities between the two levels of government, the fact remains that they are not the ones on the ground, delivering the programs and services. That being said, we must not only be strategic, but also efficient. Let’s be at Pearson Airport to have a tangible example. It is time that we think about the next level, beyond strategy, and focus on actions that will be effective, but will also, most importantly, be based on the lived experiences of francophone newcomers as they settle and integrate.

I would also hope, in light of my recommendations and the discussions that took place at the Forum, that we will be able to secure commitments from both levels of government, but also, to implement concrete, pragmatic actions to remedy the imbalance when it comes to francophone immigration.

We say goodbye to a great voice of the francophone media of Ontario

It is with deep sorrow that we have just learned of the passing of Adrien Cantin, one of French Ontario’s greatest journalists.

He first entered the media industry in the 1970s, with the weekly newspapers La Gazette de Maniwaki and Le Nord, in Hearst, his home town. Only 10 years later, he joined the ranks of the daily Le Droit and then moved on to radio and television, with Radio-Canada in Toronto and TFO on the public affairs program Panorama.

Adrien also worked at Collège La Cité, where he taught courses in journalism. After that, he became executive director of the Association de la presse francophone, a Canadian network of Francophone minority newspapers.

It is difficult to find the words to describe my profound sadness at this devastating loss. I have known Adrien for many years, and he was one of the first people to interview me as Commissioner almost 10 years ago. Never smug, always helpful, his stories were very fair and critical, but never simplistic. Visibly passionate about both his calling and his community, Adrien was able to make subjects more interesting and always looked at things from a deeply human perspective.

We have just lost a great spirit and a wonderful man. On behalf of the team at the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner, we extend our most sincere condolences to his family, friends and loved ones.

Counting the number of rights-holders

Following the release of the first statistics from the 2016 Census, many experts have talked about the issues they raise and particularly about the data relating to Francophone communities.

So it’s my turn to weigh in on the subject, focusing on the issues associated with counting the number of rights-holders under section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. What follows is a summary of the brief that I presented this morning to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages.

To get to the crux of the matter, I’d like to recap the key elements of section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“Section 23 gives education rights to Francophone minority parents with Canadian citizenship who fall into one of the three rights-holder categories:

  1. parents whose first language learned and still understood is French;
  2. parents who received their elementary education in French in a minority setting; and
  3. parents with a child who was educated or is being educated in French in a minority setting.”

Everything in this statement is clear. What is problematic is that the Census does not ask questions about the last two categories of rights-holders. As a result, only parents in the first category are counted, and census data do not reflect reality for the provinces and territories. The problem goes much deeper. The education ministries and departments are using census data to determine their requirements for allocating material and financial resources. Since the figures do not cover all of the section 23 categories, the resource allocations to minority language schools do not match the actual needs of Francophone minority rights-holders. In addition, the provinces and territories could potentially use the lowest number of rights-holders, resulting in a larger cutback in necessary resources for French-language school boards.

Accordingly, I took advantage of my presentation to put forward two proposals. The first is to add two questions to the education section of the 2021 Census long form to produce a complete, representative enumeration of rights-holders. The second suggestion is to make this change in time to allow for the inclusion of these questions in the next census.

I hope that in light of the suggestions made in my brief, the Committee will consider the important issues facing minority Francophones. This is a concern that bears very close attention in the coming months.

A census of the articles and reports from the 30th anniversary of the FLSA

To go back to the celebrations for the 30th anniversary of the French Language Services Act, I thought it would be good to bring back all the articles and reports and other coverages available online. It will allow you to relive the important moments highlighted in these celebrations (as much as the history, as the conference itself). All the coverage listed below is in French.

 

Historical reports:

 

Radio excerpts:

 

Interviews with M. Bernard Grandmaître:

 

Interviews with commissioner Boileau:

 

The FLSA compared with other provinces:

 

The events of the celebration of the 30th anniversary (luncheon of the Club Canadien and the #LSF30 conference):

 

Designated areas:

 

And today?

Moment of reflection for Québec

It is with great sadness that we learned of the attack on the mosque in Québec yesterday evening. In these circumstances, it is difficult to find the words to reflect or describe what every one of us across Canada feels.

We are deeply troubled by this sad news, and it is important to remember that we have to gather our strength and speak out together against such violence through discussion, openness and inclusion. On behalf of the entire team in the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario, we extend our deepest condolences to the families affected by this tragedy.

Our hearts go out to you.

 

Illustration credits : Marc Keelan-Bishop

nous-sommes-quebec

 

Revisiting the #LSF30 celebrations (part 3)

Today, last Friday of January 2017, I talk about the third (and last) important theme of my annual report entitled FLSA 2.0:

 

Integrated, almost organic vision of the French Language Services Act

First of all, a number of good things are already in place. We mustn’t ignore the FLSA’s successes of the past 30 years. On the other hand, major adjustments are now needed. For example, the FLSA does not mention the Advisory Committee on Francophone Affairs. I suggest that it should be made an advisory council and given a very specific mandate, which would include determining which government ministries and agencies should have French-language service plans and reviewing those plans. Because, in my opinion, not all ministries need to consult the Francophone community in developing all of their policies.

The role of the French-language services coordinators needs to be revised to ensure that they are included in the policy development process from the very beginning, and to give them an expanded role with regard to knowledge of the Francophone community’s specific needs. The Minister’s role should also be revised to include the promotion of the French language and Francophone culture in Ontario.

To ensure that all this continues to move forward, we need to offer the government some possible solutions. Not just complain, but offer concrete suggestions, for example, with regard to the delivery of services to the public.

For example, the Centre francophone de Toronto is a multiservice centre where we can obtain health care services, employability services, mental health services and so on. It was a solution to provide French-language services in the Toronto area in order to reduce travel and facilitate access to French-language services for Francophones, all under the same roof. One simply has to keep an open mind to provide and obtain French-language services differently.

 

Conclusion 

In my annual report entitled FLSA 2.0, I request that the FLSA be rewritten. While it will conceivably be a slow process, it is important to remind the government that I am not asking for cosmetic changes in the Act, but real, more extensive changes. I also requested that the revision process commence right away, because the community has been waiting for the changes for a long time and we need to see positive progress toward a modern Act.

At the #LSF30 symposium last Monday, a bill was presented by lawyers from the community and debated by various panels. I really enjoyed it, as it was one more step toward modernization of our FLSA. We have to be careful not to exclude groups, especially in the title. I had the opportunity to make a few comments with regard to the excellent work that was done, so I won’t repeat myself here.

In conclusion, the French Language Services Act was very innovative in 1986, as it was the first legislation of its kind in Canada. Since then, a few provinces have followed suit and passed laws that were also very innovative. In the wake of the symposium, I believe that a worthwhile dialogue between the community and the government has just begun.

And I am absolutely thrilled with the statements made by the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs on the morning of the #LSF30 symposium, announcing the government’s commitment to revising the FLSA. It represents a good start for the discussions, and I look forward to hearing what next steps will eventually be announced by the government.

A big thank-you to everyone who joined us for the various events surrounding the celebrations of the French Language Services Act’s 30th anniversary. The Club canadien de Toronto, the #LSF30 symposium, the various conferences across the province, the many news stories featured by the Radio-Canada and Groupe Média TFO (ONfr), analyses of the current act, and meetings with people who helped get the Act passed have all helped explain the Act’s impact and the importance of revising it!