Entitled The Vitality of Quebec’s English-Speaking Communities: From Myth to Reality, the report is based on testimony the committee received during public hearings and informal meetings in Ottawa and in regions of Quebec in the fall of 2010.
The report suggests that the English-speaking minority in Quebec is caught in a dynamic where it must constantly stand up for its rights, and yet is not necessarily able to promote them. It has found that the problem may stem from a number of sources: a lack of commitment to the English-speaking communities on the part of federal institutions in Quebec, a lack of consultation, the absence of communication about existing federal programs, or a lack of transparency in the use of funds transferred from one level of government to the other. In short, the English-speaking communities would like to be seen as an asset, not a threat, and would like to be able to take part in the decisions that affect their future and the future of Quebec society.
“The committee hopes that in the future the results of this study and the recommendations set out in it will provide direction for the federal government’s approach to Quebec’s English-speaking communities. It is particularly important that the specific needs of these communities in the various sectors that affect their development be well understood”, stated Senator Maria Chaput, chair of the committee. “In summary, federal institutions must fully respect the rights enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and meet their obligations under Part VII of the Official Languages Act. To do so, they must stay informed of the day-to-day challenges and needs of English-speaking communities across Quebec. For this to happen, consultation must be the watchword for relations between governments and communities in all instances.”
“It is not an issue of winners and losers. It is a reflection of the federal government’s obligations with respect to the promotion of official languages”, added Senator Andrée Champagne, P.C., deputy chair. “A ‘win’ for anglophone minority rights does not necessarily constitute a threat to the aspirations of the francophone majority. The goals of the two communities do not have to be mutually exclusive and must be achieved in an atmosphere of respect for the rights of both.”
In presenting the results of the study, the committee was mindful that the federal government has a duty under the Official Languages Act to support the development of both of the country’s minorities, English-speaking and French-speaking. Furthermore, the committee reminds the government that it needs to recognize that since the realities and challenges experienced by the English-speaking and French-speaking minorities are sometimes similar, sometimes different, each minority must be treated in a way that takes its specific needs into account. Finally, the government must ensure that federal institutions take positive measures to enhance the vitality of the English-speaking minority and support its development, while acting in accordance with the province of Quebec’s jurisdictions and powers.
To read the report and the committee’s recommendations or to learn more about the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, visit the website at http://senate-senat.ca/ol-lo-e.asp.