If there is a sector that illustrates how important it is to view French-language services in a much broader context – that of enhancing the vitality of Ontarian society as a whole – it is youth services.
Youths, as “adult citizens in training”, already need special guidance. Add to that the reality of young Francophones in the midst of seeking their identity, with a strong need to belong, having to make decisions that will affect their linguistic and cultural future, and you can see that considering Francophones’ needs from the outset in the planning of youth programs and services is absolutely critical.
The government does a lot to support youth development. Bravo! But where there are large numbers of programs, there are also many questions. The following are a few examples:
• Have the evaluation criteria for Francophone community organizations that provide youth services been changed to reflect the fact that, for example, such organizations cannot reach as many young people as their Anglophone counterparts because their clients are a minority group?
• Has a process been established for end-to-end case management for Francophone youths who are in crisis, have mental health problems or are struggling with addictions?
• Is fluency in French valued as an asset for young people and fully exploited in youth employment assistance programs?
Over the years, the Commissioner’s Office has looked into issues of importance to young people, including the lack of postsecondary options in French, the elimination of the fellowship that encouraged young people to study in French, and day treatment education programs for youth. Clearly, however, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
As the Commissioner stated in his first annual report, children and youth are the future of French Ontario and clients of the Commissioner’s Office.15 That is why children and youth services are one of the Office’s strategic priorities, and the Commissioner hopes to be able to continue making a contribution not only to improve French-language services in these sectors but also to support the development of the Francophone community of the future.
15 Office of the French Language Services Commissioner, Paving the Way, Annual Report 2007–2008, Toronto, 2008.