News: Demography and Immigration

The new International Mobility Program stream: A promising initiative

Yesterday, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada announced the introduction of a new International Mobility Program stream. I’m really delighted with this initiative, which is designed to attract Francophone skilled workers to Canada and encourage them to settle outside Quebec. I would also like to congratulate the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada (FCFA) for its many lobbying efforts to obtain what can be regarded as the return of the Francophone Significant Benefit program, discontinued by the government in 2014.

Scheduled to launch on June 1, the new stream is excellent news for all of Canada’s Francophone communities and particularly for Ontario, which already has the largest Francophone population outside Quebec. In summary, employers will not have to conduct a labour market impact assessment for certain types of jobs, which will speed up the hiring process. I firmly believe that this will not only help bring in highly skilled French-speaking and bilingual workers but also assist the provincial government in attaining the 5% target that it set for Francophone immigration in 2012.

In the joint report entitled Time to Act for the Future of Francophone Communities: Redressing the Immigration Imbalance that my federal colleague Graham Fraser and I published in November 2014, we made the following recommendation to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration: “Develop long-term tools and incentives for Canadian employers to assist in the recruitment and selection of French-speaking and bilingual workers outside Quebec, thus allowing Francophone communities to address past shortfalls and catch up in terms of their levels of immigration.” In my view, the new International Mobility Program stream is a promising way of achieving this goal.

An inclusive welcome for French-speaking Syrian refugees

Canada is preparing to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees. Of this number, 10,000 are expected to settle in Ontario, including 4,000 by the end of the year. I would like to congratulate our governments on their undeniable leadership in this never-ending crisis, which is claiming more victims every day. On the national, provincial and municipal levels, every effort is being made to prepare for the arrival of those destitute women, men and children.

Yesterday, a coalition of almost 30 Francophone organizations published an appeal for cooperation to facilitate the intake and integration of newcomers who need French-language services and support. The coalition called for the establishment of a seamless process to identify and take charge of French-speaking Syrian refugees. It urged that they be identified in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey and continue receiving effective, competent French-language support when they arrive in Ontario.

The Office of the French Language Services Commissioner supports this approach initiated by Passerelle-I.D.É, a community organization that helps immigrants get settled in their new environment. I would add that it is critical for French-speaking Syrian refugees to be informed, both before their departure and upon their arrival in Canada, not only that there are Francophone host communities but also that French-language programs and services are available to them. My federal counterpart, Graham Fraser, and I made recommendations to this effect in the joint report on immigration that we published in November 2014.

People who flee their country, who cross seas and oceans to start a new life, have suffered through ordeals that are, in many cases, unspeakable. One way to ease the transition to their new society is to show openness and inclusiveness. For the Francophones among them, that could mean welcoming them in their own language. In Ontario, which already has more than 600,000 French-speaking residents, we have the resources and the capacity to do so. The coalition’s initiative clearly shows that Ontario’s Francophone community also has unwavering solidarity and determination.

Taking Action to Eliminate Violence Against Women

December 6, 1989. A date that has unfortunately gone down in history. Our history. Including mine. Hard to believe that 25 years ago, I was a law student at the University of Ottawa, and it was the day before an exam in public international law (obviously, I don’t remember the date or subject of any of my other exams). It wasn’t until I listened to the news on Radio-Canada the next morning that I learned of the horror. I must tell you that for the previous four years, I had been a student at the Université de Montréal and, more importantly, I was living in residence there. I had dinner very regularly at the École polytechnique cafeteria, because the food there was surprisingly good, varied and, above all, inexpensive. Over those years, I also got to know some of the Polytechnique’s regular students pretty well. Hearing that such a massacre had occurred was beyond comprehension. But hearing that it was in Montréal, in a location that I knew so well, I was absolutely stunned. But that was nothing compared with the shock of finding out that no matter what the murderer was called, he spinelessly killed a number of women, young women studying in a field heavily dominated by men.

Needless to say, the halls outside the exam room were filled with a combination of tears and angry words. We wondered if we should ask for the exam to postponed, because no one was able to concentrate. The only thing that seemed important was to console our female colleagues and reassure them as best we could.

Many things changed following that shattering event. First, the incident cruelly made it clear that the much sought-after equality of the sexes had not been achieved. Because that person had targeted women. Just women. He made victims of a whole society. But the fact remains that he deliberately and knowingly targeted women. For a young man who grew up believing, wrongly, that the quest for equality between men and women was more or less on the right track, well, let’s just say it was not so much a cold shower as an icy one. I think it was then that I realized I had an obligation not only to be more sympathetic to the more than legitimate aspirations of more than half the world’s population but also to ensure that my actions were consistent with the fact that I had become a feminist. In fact, I still find it hard to believe that people refuse to consider themselves feminists, especially in 2014, here in Canada.

Some years ago, I met the mother of a girl who is now our daughter’s best friend at school. The woman is a civil engineer by profession. Considering her age, late thirties, I cannot help thinking that she must be a member of the cohorts of young women who went into engineering in the years following the tragedy. And it feels good to think that.

Quite recently, I had the privilege of giving the opening address at the “États Généraux 2014*”, organized by Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes* (AOcVF), on the theme of the current status of sexual assault, spousal violence and the development of French-language services in Ontario. The goals of the conference were to foster coordination, prepare the next generation, inform the ministries of the sector’s needs and the Franco-Ontarian community’s recommendations, and establish a work plan for the next few years. We should acknowledge that their timing, even though the event requires extraordinary preparations, is outstanding, as the event coincided with the national discussion that recently resumed in a hurry (with a capital H).

It is often said that the best legal arguments are the ones you make afterwards, and the same is true for some speeches: after you sit down and listen to others, you feel as if you’ve missed a great opportunity. I think that my speech focused too much on my day-to-day work and failed to emphasize the special opportunity for participants, mostly women but also a few men, to make concrete, practical suggestions on the directions that governments and community organizations should take over the next 10 years to further curb the afflictions of sexual assault and violence against women.

Because these evils still exist and are definitely with us. The organizers commissioned researchers Marie-Luce Garceau and Ghislaine Sirois to produce a report entitled “Éliminer la violence faite aux femmes en Ontario français : une tâche ardue*” [eliminating violence against women in French Ontario: an arduous task]. This first part of this superb study, for anyone who is the least bit interested in the subject, contains a review of the 2004 estates general. The second part of the study provides a comprehensive picture of the areas of intervention and the improvement and evolution of French-language services in every region and describes the means introduced to improve the quality of those services. The third part provides a clear explanation, supported by statistics, of sexual assault and its barriers, the entire question of spousal violence and its barriers, and a range of common issues. The study ends with recommendations for further discussion and some possible solutions.

We are now in the midst of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, which runs from November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, to December 10, International Human Rights Day. To quote Julie Béchard, president of AOcVF, “We have to think about the actions that we can take individually and collectively to eliminate violence against women.”

Today I am the father of a young girl. Naturally, like every parent in the world, I want her to be happy and healthy and, especially, to be free in her choices. All of her choices. To be able to choose how she in turn will make a difference for the people she loves, for her community, for her region and for her country. But to be free to make her choices in complete safety, she must be on an equal footing with the male gender within our society.

I understand today that I have to do much more than just say I’m a feminist. Words have to be followed by actions, every day and collectively, as Ms. Béchard pointed out. I have to be an engaged feminist, as a man, as a father and as an individual living in society.

I would like to congratulate all those women who work day after day, often with very few resources, yet find a way to help the many women who are victims of spousal violence and sexual assault. Thank you for making such a crucial difference in the lives of all those women and their children. On another note, I know – or at least I hope – that all fathers of young girls think as I do now. So I would also like to encourage all fathers of young boys to ask themselves how they can make sure that their children are sufficiently aware of the importance that must be attached to the issues associated with gender equality. Perhaps someday, together, we will succeed in curbing all that spousal violence and sexual assault.

*Website in French only

The Challenge of Immigrating to Minority Communities

This week, I have talked a lot about Francophone immigration. First with the release of a joint report highlighting the need for the federal and provincial governments to include a Francophone perspective in their immigration policies and programs. Immigration is an area of shared jurisdiction between the federal government and the provinces, which means that the various levels of government must work together to facilitate progress.

This joint report titled Time to Act for the Future of Francophone Communities: Redressing the Immigration Imbalance, paints a picture of immigration to Francophone communities, examines the current situation and presents a pan-Canadian analysis. The report also provides a series of recommendations for both levels of government.

The road to successful integration for these men and women with a variety of life stories and backgrounds is often encumbered with challenges. Prior to their arrival, many prospective French‐speaking immigrants know little about the linguistic situation in Canada, incorrectly believing that the country is completely bilingual.

When they arrive, newcomers are sometimes referred to English or bilingual settlement services that know little or nothing about Francophone communities and institutions. We cannot expect them to be aware of services available in French or the presence of Francophone communities and institutions in their new region.

It is important to ensure that before their arrival and upon their arrival, those immigrants are made aware that they can not only obtain service in French from the federal and provincial governments, but also live in French, educate their children in French and obtain community assistance in French.

This is why we recommend that before French‐speaking newcomers leave their home countries and upon their arrival in Canada, they are made aware of the existence of Francophone communities, the potential that these communities represent for welcoming and integrating them as well as the settlement programs and services available to them in French.

In this report, we have elaborated eight recommendations, primarily to the federal government, but also to the government of Ontario. These recommendations deal with: support for the French-speaking immigrants through Francophone institutions and organizations; information and resources for French-speaking newcomers; cooperation with the provinces; incentives for employers to recruit and select Francophone and bilingual workers and; accountability.

The following day, I spoke on a panel organised by the Language Rights Support Programwith my counterparts from New-Brunswick and Ottawa which provided an overview of immigration issues in minority official-language communities. At this conference, I explained the importance of immigration to Francophone communities. In fact, because of lower birth rates and an aging populationCanada has seen its population decline for some time now.

Francophone communities are not only experiencing significantly lower birth rates and higher rates of population aging, but they are also being affected by intergenerational linguistic shifts to English, weakening their demographic vitality over time.

I also explained our need for immigration to ensure the continuity of French-language services. For example, we will need more nurses to take care of our aging population, and more early childhood educators, and teachers of French and many other subjects.

That is why the issue of immigration to Francophone minority communities is so important.  As I wrote in my last annual report, immigration is a priority issue on which my Office intends to keep getting involved and play an active role.

The French Language Worldwide 2014: Report from the OIF

The Observatoire de la langue française of the Organisation internationale de la francophonie (OIF) just published a new study titled: The French Language worldwide 2014*.  This new report aims to provide researchers, language specialists and the general public with reliable data on the situation of the French-language in several areas.  It draws a picture of Francophones and Francophiles in the world and of French as the language of international communication and business.

According to this study, we will be 767 millions of francophones in 2060. Other interesting facts highlighted include:

  • French is now the 5th most spoken language in the world with 274 million speakers
  • French is the 2nd language learned as a foreign language after English
  • French is the 3rd language of business worldwide
  • French is the 4th language used on the Internet
  • There are 125 million learners of French-language.

I invite you to read this important work of reference or its summary that traces the overall picture of our growing language. Good reading!

*website available in French only

Francophones in Ontario

The face of Ontarian society is continually being transformed by successive waves of immigration. In 2006, Ontario was home to more than half of Canada’s visible minority population. The Franco-Ontarian community is no different. It has a high proportion of recent immigrants. According to Census data from Statistics Canada, of the 13,5 million people in Ontario,  611, 500 identify as Francophone. That’s close to 5% of the population. The data also show that14% of Francophone was born outside of Canada, mainly in Europe and Africa.

Another important factor in the rise of the number of Francophone is linked to the adoption, in 2009, of the expanded Inclusive Definition of Francophones (IDF) which added 50, 000 more identified Francophone. This definition is based on three variables: mother tongue(s), knowledge of official languages, and language(s) spoken at home. Consequently, the IDF includes not only people whose mother tongue is French but also individuals whose mother tongue is neither English nor French (allophones) but who have particular knowledge of French as an official language and use it at home. For example, under the DIF, a Moroccan family that speaks Arabic and French at home is considered Francophone. In addition, there is the growing proportion of exogamous couples, i.e. those composed of one Anglophone parent and one Francophone parent, and young people who increasingly identify and describe themselves as bilingual.

I invite you to read and circulate in your network this infographic which illustrates the French presence in Ontario.

Francophones in Ontario

Francophones in Ontario