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French Language Services Commissioner
I’m very happy to know that La Cité collégiale in Ottawa will be in good hands in March 2010. Lise Bourgeois (French only) will replace Andrée Lortie who is retiring after 20 brillant years at the head of this great institution. It’s quite something! I’m eager to meet with Ms. Bourgeois and pursue the good relation between our offices. Franco-Ontarian, Ms. Bourgeois comes from the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est where she taught for 19 years before becoming the Director of education. An interesting path.
Speaking of Ottawa, a brief word about the funerals of the ex-Senator Gauthier, an event that I attended. To see all these people and dignitaries fulling the church reminded me the great man he was. Nobody can replace this monument.
My recent meeting with the linguists network did not leave me indifferent. In fact, it let me really concerned about certain systemic problems identified inside the government.
The work of these people is extraordinary essential in the delivery of French-language services. It’s them, the translators, coordinators and interpreters, who make possible the communication with Francophones. Again, according to my understanding, it’s in the planning and the integration of services that it’s breaking down. One of the recurrent examples is ministries that send last minute to translation very important documents prepared for the general public, and worst, sometimes they just forget to do it. Result; Francophones risks receiving late and bad quality information compared to the original documents. This situation and this impunity concern me, obviously.
This is not entirely new to me and I will continue to press on officials for the need to plan ahead. So I took good notes of these circumstances and challenges of linguists in the Ontario Public Service.
Last Thursday and Friday, I was in the cold reality of the North, nevertheless, it largely compensates with the warmth and generosity of the people living in Thunder Bay, specially the Francophone population. It was my second visit in this city since my nomination. Sincerely, I just love going there. First, the air is so fresh and pure. Second, the area is very beautiful. Third and most importantly, I feel like I belong there. It is simply quite humbling to meet so many people who wear so many hats and who are so very much dedicated to the well-being of their own community. It is when I meet such people that I remember why we must work even harder, even if just to let them know they are not alone in their relentless pursuit of improving services to the Franco-Ontarian community in the North. It is in Thunder Bay last Friday morning that I learned of the passing of one extraordinary man who never let down his guard. Needless to say, everyone I’ve met spoke at great lengths of Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier and of his numerous legacies.
I was also there to conduct some business. So I had the chance to meet with the local LHIN Board of Directors and I was pleased with this meeting. I felt we truly had a good exchange. The same morning, I met the CEO of the Thunder Bay Regional Hospital, Mr. Ron Saddington, a true ally of the French community. Often, we forget that many of our friends do share our passion and commitment for the preservation of the French culture. So we need these leaders as well and I am glad to have recognized one of them.
Later on, I met with community members and we had a very interesting conversation; almost as interesting as my exchange with students from grade 12 at the end of the day. Big thanks to all for the warm welcome, especially for the meet and greet event on Thursday evening. So Denyse, Angèle, Chantal, and all others, until next time!
In the coming days and weeks, you will be hearing and reading many accounts of the life of Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier that depict him as larger than life. And indeed he was. It is with great sadness that I write of the passing of a great man who was a tireless champion of the Francophone community here in Ontario and across the country. I would encourage you to read Rolande Faucher’s excellent biography of Senator Gauthier and to “soak up” these wonderful accounts of his life.
With the passing of this great man, it is difficult to take the measure of his accomplishments or to fully grasp how he changed the landscape of Canada’s Francophone community. Jean-Robert Gauthier spent his entire life fighting for what he believed in, and that included the rights of the hearing impaired in the House of Commons!
We owe him a huge debt of gratitude. For example, for all of his work for the establishment and governance of French-language schools in Ontario. I personally remember the incredible energy and determination with which he tabled his bill to amend Part VII of the Official Languages Act. It is important to understand how difficult it is for a member of parliament—and how much more difficult for a senator—to amend a statute by means of a private member’s bill, especially with a minority government. But he succeeded.
I feel great sadness with his passing today, and I wonder who will take his place in our history. Individuals of the stature of Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier are few and far between.
On behalf of the entire Office team, I offer Jean-Robert Gauthier’s family my sincerest condolences.
… about the Francophones in Ontario since the adoption of the new definition of the Francophone population on June 4, 2009. These are the first concret results following my recommendation I made last year. This exercice proofs the relevance and the real need to reflect all of the Franco-Ontarian diversity. I am genuinely happy that the province took heart of today’s Franco-Ontarian community and standardized its data for all ministries.
The next step would be, I suppose, for these ministries and other government agencies to better target the needs of the Francophones and adapt services to this specific clientele accordingly, in light of the numbers and date provided today. Other profiles (such as for youths, women, seniors and visible minorities) will be made available within the year.
I invite you to visit this website ontario.ca/francophoneprofile. It is very well done and give access to other links where one can find interesting details on all regions of the province.