Last year, we looked back at the impacts that the Commissioner’s Office made in key sectors over the last 10 years. This year, we’re going to a completely opposite direction: looking 10 years into the future to see what our society will look like and figure out together what we can do to prepare. Looking ahead, getting ready – these are the words of action that prompt us to confront reality and tackle what must be done.
This report is different from the previous ones also because we took the time to reflect with a cool head. And we didn’t do so alone. We brought in a number of specialists who, with their knowledge and expertise, were a great help in our analysis of key issues. We called on these experts first and foremost because thoroughness is standard practice for us. That approach also fits in with our strategic priorities, especially the priority the promotion of French-language services as the mainstay of an open, inclusive, prosperous and dynamic Ontario.
People sometimes forget, but one of the important roles assigned to me by the French Language Services Act is to provide advice. More than ever, this annual report looks like a compendium of advice – and, of course, recommendations! – which are intended to be constructive and helpful, with the aim of generating debate and discussion about the future of Ontario’s Francophone communities. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, but it’s important to try to scope out what the future holds for us. No one likes nasty surprises, and there’s no reason an entire society would like them, any better.
Chapter 1 is about demography, a subject that merits its prominence. Demography is a fact of life; there’s no escaping it. Looking 10 years into the future is already a perilous exercise, so we restrained ourselves from venturing further. Nevertheless, what we see is clear, regardless of the scenarios. Despite the foreseeable growth of the Francophone population in absolute terms, our communities will continue to shrink in terms of percentage of the total population.
Yet the French language is growing by leaps and bounds around the world. According to the International Organization of La Francophonie (IOF), French will be the language of more than 750 million speakers by 2050, 85% of them in Africa, a continent that is experiencing explosive demographic, social, cultural and economic growth. Many of Ontario’s Francophone newcomers are from that rich continent with unimaginable economic potential.
The province would do well to strengthen its relations and partnerships with Africa in a globalized world that is getting smaller and more interconnected. The fact that Ontario is now an observer at the IOF will surely help bring the province to the attention of these potential new partners. Ontario is currently home to more Francophones than many IOF member states and countries. And what about the invaluable contribution of Francophiles? They play a role, too. Not only do they take part in the discussion, but they also are concerned about demographic issues. They are directly involved in the improvement of French-language services for the Francophone population and the establishment of cultural and trade ties with IOF member states and countries. I can only hope that the province will become a full member of the IOF, thereby creating even more opportunities for exchanges and business, especially with the African continent.
Institutions like La Cité and Collège Boréal already have a presence in Africa, either to establish police colleges, train future workers or provide guidance, in French, to the mining industry. That presence is a sign of the vision these institutions possess. People from here who spend time there come back enlightened and much better equipped to share their knowledge. At the same time, we make key contacts that can only benefit the province in the medium to long term.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to our collaborators for contributing their expertise and know-how in the preparation of this report. And by the way, you’re all invited to a symposium in Toronto on November 26, 2018, where, with the collaboration of our partners, we’ll review each of the themes in this report, continuing the conversation that begins today with its submission.
Before I close, a big thank-you to the following people:
- Mariève forest – Demographic outlook for Ontario’s Francophonie in 2028/Aging with dignity
- Lucie Lalumière – Production and distribution of French-language content
- Jordann Thirgood – The workforce of the future
- Kiran Alwani – Digital transformation of the Government-citizen relationship
- Christophe Traisnel and Guillaume Deschênes-Thériault – Francophone immigration in Ontario
- Hermann Amon – Restructuring in-person services
I would be remiss if I failed to also extend my sincere thanks to the provincial government, which, apart from the minor roadblocks that are not unusual for big government, has some fine accomplishments to its credit. Under the leadership of the Minister of Francophone Affairs, the Honourable Marie-France Lalonde, the government laid the groundwork for the Université de l’Ontario français, made the City of Ottawa a little bit more bilingual than before, and agreed to revise the process for designating organizations under the French Language Services Act. In addition, the Office of Francophone Affairs was for a brief moment a ministry, with a larger staff. That is not going to happen and it is a shame the previous government waited so long to act on this and it is also a shame the new government has not taken the time to process the need for more staff at the Office. Call it the name you want, we do need an OFA much more effective and proactive in taking a systemic approach to successfully implementing the FLSA across the government.
And of course, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of the incredibly skilled and motivated people who work in the Commissioner’s Office. All the good things we’ve achieved over the past year we owe to them. Special thanks to Jocelyne Samson, who took her well-deserved retirement.