Commissioner’s Blog

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François Boileau
French Language Services Commissioner

Patients first – including Francophone patients

In its Bill 41, the government is proposing a major reform in the critical health care sector. The discussion paper issued by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care clearly outlines the deficiencies in health care for the province’s Francophone patients, and I’m grateful to the Ministry for being so proactive in this disclosure. The paper contains the following statement:

“Some Ontarians – particularly Indigenous peoples, Franco-Ontarians, members of cultural groups (especially newcomers), and people with mental health and addiction challenges – are not always well-served by the health care system.”

The government has certainly been responsive to our repeated requests, but I’m concerned that the bill, in its present form, doesn’t go far enough. For that reason, I published a news release, and I appeared before the parliamentary committee last week and gave this presentation. Most importantly, we submitted a more technical legal brief, in which we offered some concrete, achievable suggestions for long-term solutions.

We see two major issues here. The first concerns a subject of particular importance. Essentially, the Ministry and my office have been in a legal dispute for years about how to interpret the obligations of the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) when they identify French-language service providers. We believe quite simply that the service providers become third parties and therefore that the French Language Services Act and its regulations apply to them. The Ministry and the LHINs disagree. It is important to fix this now, while we are in the process of amending the Act. Because the Ministry kept telling me that it could not change the Act to remedy this problem. Now is the perfect opportunity to do so. The consequences for French-language health services for Francophone patients are too great to sit by and do nothing.

The second issue concerns the relationship between the LHINs and the French Language Health Planning Entities. We are offering important recommendations to make the Entities genuine partners in planning health services with the LHINs, as their name indicates, so that they can provide suggestions for long-term solutions for Francophone patients. We also make recommendations to improve the transparency and accountability of both the LHINs and the Entities.

Today, the parliamentary committee responsible for clause-by-clause study of this bill is meeting for the last time to deal with amendments before the bill goes to third reading. We are in attendance to provide advice (or input) if needed, so that we can make sure that we have the best possible bill, a bill that will actually put patients first, including Francophone patients.

 

Ontario officially an observer member of the International Organisation of La Francophonie

A weekend that ended wonderfully with a wonderful announcement! Ontario has been accepted as an observer member of the International Organisation of La Francophonie (IOF).

Following this announcement, I must congratulate and salute the leadership of the province of Ontario, not to mention Canada and the provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec. As for us, we truly believe that this new status will definitely bear fruit on many levels and above all open doors to La Francophonie on a much larger scale. It is a unique opportunity to enjoy a number of economic and cultural benefits as well as an exchange of knowledge and best practices with other member countries.

We hope that this good news will influence the immigration strategy that the government is to develop following the recent publication of the report by the Group of Experts on Francophone Immigration. The province now has a special place on the stage of the International Francophonie, so it may very well take inspiration from that to put in place an effective recruitment plan and achieve its target.

The IOF Summit proved once again that the French language is not in decline. According to the 2014 study by the Observatory of the French Language, if advances in French-language education continue around the world, the number of Francophones will reach 767 million by 2060. The French language continues to make headway among the languages used at the international level by many countries. As LeDroit highlighted in his editorial, the are more and more Ontarians that realise the presence and the importance of the francophone community. Now that Ontario has observer member status, it’s only a matter of time, I hope, until it becomes a permanent member.

The Premier prepared a gretting on Youtube following the acceptance of Ontario as an observer member of the IOF.

Once again, well done!

Report on Francophone immigration: a demand for a concrete action plan

The report of the Group of Experts on Francophone Immigration was released yesterday. I issued a press release today providing facts, as well as our reactions to the report.

The report from the Group of Experts is a step in the right direction, and I ask that the government accepts the recommendations and have in place an action plan to make it more concrete. The government will have to work with its federal colleagues, since immigration is a shared jurisdiction. It’s important to have a concerted plan to maximize efforts to promote, recruit, establish and integrate Francophone newcomers.

I would very much like the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to establish a permanent advisory committee on francophone immigration to guide the government throughout that process. It was one of my recommendations in my 2011-2012 Annual Report and I think it is even more relevant than ever.

This committee could guide the department in establishing the priorities and a precise timeline to implement the recommendations brought forward by the Group of Experts. This committee could also follow the various inter-departmental work that will be needed to counter the current silo culture. Immigration touches many other departments and fields, and it’s very important to have a holistic approach.

With the cooperation of the federal government, it’s possible to reach the 5% objective of Francophone newcomers. Community organizations have to work with the government to ensure that francophones feel at home here and that they have the right programs and services to facilitate their integration within the great francophone community in our province.

National Francophone Immigration Week

To wrap up this superb National Francophone Immigration Week, I would like to mention the various personal stories we heard through the week and point out how significant newcomers’ involvement is in our communities. I also took part in a few interviews here and there.

I stressed a number of times the importance of having good programs to provide the best possible welcome for people who decide to move to Ontario and live their lives in French. We have to be able to welcome them properly, in French, and find a way of retaining them, so that they will decide to settle here.

In our infographics (which many of you have undoubtedly seen circulating over the last few years), we show the large pool of newcomers who contribute to Ontario’s Francophonie. One out of two Francophones in the Greater Toronto Area was born outside Canada, and only 60% of Ontario’s Francophone population was born here. That says a lot!

Also, in 2009 we broadened the meaning of the term Francophone by introducing the Inclusive Definition of Francophone (IDF). Under this definition, Francophones are “persons whose mother tongue is French, plus those whose mother tongue is neither French nor English but have a particular knowledge of French as an Official Language and use French at home.” As a result of this change, more people who are already here, in our province of Ontario, are recognized as Francophones and Francophiles.

Some will say, That’s all very nice, but we’re having trouble attracting, recruiting and keeping those people here. The numbers aren’t there, and we are not reaching the provincial target for Francophone immigration. The long-awaited report of the ministry of Citizenship and Immigration’s group of experts is expected out shortly. I will certainly have occasion to respond to it.

Until we see that report and the solutions it will undoubtedly suggest, we have to continue finding ways of attracting newcomers and making sure that we welcome them with open arms. If they feel at home here, they will want to stay and in turn help bring others here and play an active role in the community. We need to continue stressing how important Francophone immigration is and how it enriches our lives.

Coming back from the AFO’s congress

After an excellent weekend at the Assemblée de la francophonie de l’Ontario (AFO) congress, a very emotional conference, I’d like to provide a brief summary of my favourite moments and the successes of the weekend.

The first thing I’d like to mention is the departure of Denis Vaillancourt as AFO president. In his two terms, totalling six years, Mr. Vaillancourt accomplished a great deal for the community. A very frequent participant in the many francophone events, he was dedicated and highly engaged in issues of importance to the AFO, and he leaves an admirable legacy. There is no doubt that he will continue to be involved in various organizations and local causes. And of course there were the unforgettable celebrations of the 400th anniversary of Francophones’ arrival in Ontario! He also leaves behind him a number of ongoing issues, which I’m confident his successor will deal with effectively. Thank you for the credibility you lent to Francophones and Francophiles, for your sound judgement on many issues, for the pertinence of your many actions, for your respectfulness, for your sustained and very personal commitment, for your listening skills, for your confidence and for your many words of advice. Have a happy “retirement” and, for the 400th time, thank you, Denis!

Carol Jolin, Denis Vaillancourt’s successor, is now president of the AFO. He too is heavily involved in the community, and he’s already taking on issues that are important to AFO members. With his background in education in several regions, and his recent term as president of the AEFO, Mr. Jolin is familiar with the many concerns of the province’s Francophones and Francophiles. He’s already indicated a few priorities for this new term:

  • official bilingualism of the City of Ottawa;
  • a French-language university in Central-Southwestern Ontario;
  • following up with senior officials about implementing the recommendations in my annual report, FLSA 2.0, to update the French Language Services Act.

I’m confident that Mr. Jolin will be an excellent spokesperson for the community and for AFO members. I look forward to working with you, particularly on the proposals for revising the French Language Services Act.

I also want to take the opportunity to congratulate all the winners and finalists of the recognition awards presented during Saturday’s awards gala.

Congratulations to Dominic Giroux for receiving the “pillar of the Francophonie” award. He won the award for his involvement over more than 25 years in the institutional, governmental and community sectors of French Ontario. He’s currently President of Laurentian University, which under his leadership became the first bilingual university to receive partial designation under the French Language Services Act.

Congratulations to the Association des francophones du Nord-Ouest de l’Ontario (AFNOO) on winning the Franco-Ontarian horizon award for publishing and distributing the magazine Le Relais. For the last 30 years, Le Relais, the only French-language magazine distributed free of charge in Northwestern Ontario, has kept the community informed and promoted the region’s vitality, creating synergies and reinforcing the sense of unity in Francophone groups.

Lastly, congratulations to Jean-Claude Legault on receiving the Florent Lalonde award. He won the award for his significant engagement in the entire community. He’s a passionate, dedicated volunteer known for his leadership and involvement, particularly with CFORD, Réseau Ontario, Contact Ontarois, the Knights of Columbus and the Clarington project, in which he assists adults with disabilities.

The congress ended with a stirring tribute to our friend Paul Demers, who passed away Saturday afternoon. That was followed by the AFO’s AGM, which elected the new board of directors. Congratulations to the new board members. We wish you a pleasant term!

 

It was a weekend full of worthwhile discussions, useful networking activities and, of course, decisions on the focus of the term of Mr. Jolin and his team. As observers, we would be remiss if we failed to mention the significant involvement of the community in this annual congress. Nearly 250 got together to discuss issues, share experiences and talk about best practices. All this demonstrates that Francophones and Francophiles are very concerned about the issues of the day and want to make sure their voices are heard.

We want to continue working with the members of the Legislature to ensure that the FLSA is revised. In my report, I made many recommendations to the government regarding FLSA 2.0; while the current act is useful for obtaining service in French, it has become outdated. In 30 years, many things and many circumstances have changed! All that needs to be done is to reflect these many changes in a revised French Language Services Act. The key recommendations are as follows: provide rules regarding the use of social media, make the province a single designated area, and include active offer.

We’re very happy to have attended this major conference and had an opportunity to take the pulse of the association and community sector. We all have our mandates and our roles, and we have to take care to respect them. It’s my job to put forward ideas, and it’s up to the community to support them if it considers them worthwhile. But that doesn’t mean working in isolation; it means helping one another in the many areas of activity to ensure that Francophones and Francophiles have access to their services in French and continue to demand service in French!

« Pour ne plus avoir notre langue dans nos poches, je vais chanter… »

An evening high in emotions last night. We highlighted a number of personalities that have contributed from afar or up-close to our francophonie. An evening filled with good laughs, happy tears, and some sadness. We have lost a great man, Paul Demers. Founding member of the l’Association des professionnels de la chanson et de la musique (APCM), he has played a determining role for the recognition and promotion of many francophone artists from Ontario, and also with the creation of the Gala Trille Or.

With his lyrics and music, he has touch many francophones and francophiles in Canada, Louisiana and France with his famous song Notre Place – the anthem of the francophones in Ontario. You may not know, but this song is much more than simply an musical symbol. This song actually was an order for a celebration for the anniversary of the French Language Service Act. I invite you to go watch the excellent interview with Gisèle Quenneville during for the show Carte de visite. We are about to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the FLSA, and I can say thank you Paul in helping us find our place today, for tomorrow.

Our sincerest condolences to his wife Sylvie and his relatives, from all of us at the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner.