The Chair (Mr. Steven Blaney (Lévis—Bellechasse, CPC)):
I call the meeting to order.
Good morning, everybody. Welcome to the Standing Committee on Official Languages.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3), this morning we are considering the 2009-2010 Annual Report (Volume II) of the Commissioner of Official Languages, which was referred to the committee on Tuesday, November 2, 2010.
We have two representatives of Library and Archives Canada, Mr. Daniel J. Caron, who is Librarian and Archivist, and Mr. Mark Melanson, who is Senior Director General, Corporate Resourcing Branch.
I welcome you and, without further ado, invite you to make your opening statement.
Mr. Daniel J. Caron (Librarian and Archivist, Library and Archives Canada):
Thank you, Mr. Blaney.
Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before your committee today. I am appearing before you in response to the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Official Languages which was tabled on November 2. That report contains an evaluation of the performance of Library and Archives Canada as measured against its obligations under the Official Languages Act.
I'm accompanied here to by Mr. Mark Melanson, as he oversees the implementation of the Official Languages Act within our institution.
Library and Archives Canada combines the holdings, services and staff of two organizations that have now been merged: the National Library of Canada and the National Archives of Canada. Our essential mandate is to preserve the documentary heritage of Canada for the benefit of present and future generations; to be a source of enduring knowledge accessible to all, contributing to the cultural, social and economic advancement of Canada; to facilitate in Canada cooperation among communities, including official language minority communities, involved in the acquisition, preservation and diffusion of knowledge; and, lastly, to serve as the continuing memory of the Government of Canada and its institutions.
The face of information has changed substantially in the last decade. There is now superabundance; rapid creation, multiple formats; unprecedented access; and expanding user influence. This picture is in direct contrast to that of the past, which was characterized by limited creation and quantity, mediated access and decisions, authoritative sources, specialist interventions, a limited number of fixed formats, limited sharing, and fewer players. All of this calls into question the very basis of the traditional practices and theories that have driven the management of information, librarianship, documentary heritage, and the development of Canada's continuing memory.
Library and Archives Canada now needs to determine how to achieve optimal results in this constantly evolving environment to stay relevant to Canadians.
As the Librarian and Archivist of Canada, I am leading my institution through a process of modernization that touches all of our principal business activities in order to ensure that LAC respects and maintains its legislated mandate of acquiring, preserving and making accessible Canada's documentary heritage for present and future generations.
During this process, I draw upon my experience as the former president of the Council of the Network of Official Languages Champions to ensure that our new and emerging organization embodies in an exemplary fashion the spirit and intention of the Official Languages Act.
In general, recognition and respect for official languages is a question of respect for colleagues and Canadians. It is a matter of institutional and constitutional sustainability, of reinforcing our comparative advantages and of making Canadian values more vibrant in our daily life. In short, it means respecting our founding principles.
The future of official languages in Canada depends on our willingness and our ability to make linguistic duality work. We do not need to wait for new rules and regulations; we need to use what we have, to be respectful of our values and to be creative and innovative.
Canadians expect that their federal public service will be institutionally bilingual. Not only to be able to serve Canadians in the official language of their choice, but also to nourish policy thinking from the work and ideas emerging from the two official language communities.
With regard to the publication of the Commissioner of Official Languages annual report, I would like to respond with respect to LAC successes, areas where progress can be made, and areas where we have taken significant steps to improve.
In particular, LAC received perfect scores for the provision of its services in both official languages, in person or by phone. Concerning the active offer of service by telephone, Library and Archives Canada was one of only three institutions to receive this perfect score.
As for the application of the Official Languages Act in the work environment, Library and Archives Canada is proud of its performance, having attained the highest grade given among the 16 federal institutions evaluated.
Finally, with respect to the comprehensive measures taken by LAC to promote the vitality of official language minority communities, I would like to mention that LAC was evaluated during the first year of a four-year action plan for official languages.
Within the allotted time frame that allows for the completion of LAC's action plan, it is understood that we will need to make some adjustments beyond the first year of its implementation, especially when we take into consideration the nature of capturing a community's documentary heritage.
Gone are the days when a national archive could decide on its own what is the appropriate collection of heritage documents for a linguistic minority community and determine how this heritage will be accessed. A modem organization like LAC seeks to form partnerships with the members of the minority communities in order to have them participate meaningfully in addressing the fundamental questions of their documentary heritage. This process of meaningful consultation and collaboration is the foundation of LAC's action plan for promoting the vitality and sustainability of the official language minority communities.
For example, this year at the Conference of Federal, Provincial, and Territorial Archivists, a collaborative project was undertaken to elaborate a national strategy for the documentary heritage for Franco-Canadian communities that includes the participation of the territorial archive of the Yukon and the provincial archives of New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, along with the National Library and Archives of Quebec and LAC.
Presently, the member organizations are engaged in important consultations that will determine the principal parameters of the project and the criteria that will be used to document a shared heritage.
It is also envisioned that the formation of this network will afford LAC with the opportunity to share with the official language minority communities its growing expertise in the digital realm. Indeed, the transition from analogue to digital communications can empower these communities to transcend the limitations of geographic isolation by enhancing the communications between community members and provide better communications with federal government departments. Social networking offers many opportunities for community building, and LAC, in partnership with the communities, can help document the particularities of this transition to the digital reality of the 21st century.
Mr. Chairman, the promotion of Canada's linguistic duality is a core principle at the heart of the modernization project at LAC. In fulfilling our mandate to provide Canadians continued access to their documentary heritage, we will continue to work with the language minority communities to ensure that their heritage is also properly captured.
Thank you. I would be happy to respond to your questions.
Mr. Richard Nadeau (Gatineau, BQ):
Good morning, Mr. Caron. Good morning, Mr. Melanson.
I must admit to you sincerely that, as the Bloc Québécois official languages critic, I was very surprised when I saw the mark. And that obviously wasn't in the happy sense of the term. The surprise was twofold because I visited the centre in Gatineau. I have previously used your services on Wellington Street, here in Ottawa. I thought of a host of things to try to explain this situation.
I must admit that, as a consumer, and later as a member, I had no grounds to criticize Library and Archives Canada. However, the Commissioner of Official Languages has conducted much more in-depth studies. At the time, when I met Mr. Wilson—and I also met you, Mr. Caron, concerning another file—he told me about the difficulties involved in transferring from the Wellington Street building to the place where you are now. I believe a lot may have to be done with regard to the organization's culture. There was at least one petition to avoid transferring people from Ottawa to Gatineau. They said it was
because they didn't want to go there--out in the bush.
You know the story better than I do. People didn't want to go and work in Gatineau, a remote francophone place on the other side of the world. However, that place is less than 17 km from here. So there is that aspect of the internal culture.
I'm thinking in particular of a statistic concerning personal service. It's in the commissioner's report. It states that, in 100% of cases, you visually announce that you provide active offer. I tip my hat. However, it states that the figure is 56% when it comes to opening your mouth and answering people who want service in French. So only 56% of services are provided in French.
What kind of electroshock is required to make people understand...? Particularly since we are in the national capital region. Elsewhere in the country, the shock may be great, and the unilingual anglophone majority may be very much an issue, but here... Mr. Melanson, you have the file in hand. Mr. Caron, you have it as well. You are the "file-bearer", if I may use that expression.
What has to be done for you to earn As the next time, across the board, as regards your organization's entire culture?
Mrs. Tilly O'Neill-Gordon (Miramichi, CPC):
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to welcome Mr. Caron and Mr. Melanson. Thank you for joining us today and taking time to be with us.
I also want to congratulate you on the score you did receive. We also know there is always need for improvement in anything you do. I guess that's part of being a teacher; you always look for more improvement with everybody.
With regard to your attitude in saying that we must forget the old concept of “mandatory bilingualism” and continue to develop what you call a “positively necessary and voluntarily adopted bilingualism”, I must say I like that idea. Anything you do on a voluntary basis comes from the heart. It gives a more pleasant and more positive spin to it all.
So just with those two characteristics, of being positive and being more pleasant in your department, I'm sure that too will make a big difference in your score, and it is something people like to receive when they visit your department.
As a New Brunswick MP, I also was happy to hear you say this morning that the conference of federal, provincial, and territorial archivists has included the province of New Brunswick as one of the provinces. You know and I know that there are many francophone pockets in New Brunswick. Bilingual services are very important in New Brunswick as well as right across our great country.
As well, being a teacher, I certainly recognize and realize the importance of high services, great services, being provided in libraries, because libraries provide us with lots of information. We need to have it available for all of us to receive.
Getting down to my question, we all know that the Department of Canadian Heritage is responsible for official languages, and I'm wondering to what extent you work with Canadian Heritage to define positive measures to ensure greater compliance with part VII of the Official Languages Act.