Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 2 - Evidence - Meeting of October 24, 2011
OTTAWA, Monday, October 24, 2011
The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages met today at 5 p.m. to study the application of the Official Languages Act and of the regulations and directives made under it, and in particular to examine the use of the Internet, new media and social media and the respect for Canadians' language rights.
Senator Maria Chaput (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Honourable Senators, I see that we have quorum, and I declare the meeting open.
Welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages. I am Senator Maria Chaput from Manitoba, chair of the committee. Before introducing the witnesses who are appearing today, I would like to invite the members of the committee here today to introduce themselves, starting from my left.
Senator Champagne: Andrée Champagne from Quebec.
Senator Mockler: Percy Mockler, New Brunswick.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis, Quebec.
Senator Tardif: Claudette Tardif from Alberta.
The Chair: Thank you. Today we have with us the Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, who is appearing to give us his views on various official languages issues. One of the things Mr. Fraser will present is the key conclusions from the last two annual reports on official languages published by the Office of the Commissioner.
The commissioner's appearance is also an excellent opportunity for senators to ask him questions about three subjects of particular interest to the committee in the coming months: first, the use of the internet, new media and social media and the respect for Canadians' language rights; second, Air Canada's obligations under the Official Languages Act; and third, the obligations of CBC/Radio-Canada under the Official Languages Act and certain specific aspects of the Broadcasting Act.
Mr. Fraser, on behalf of the committee members, I would like to thank you for taking the time to present your reports and answer our questions.
With you today are four senior officials from the Office of the Commissioner: Ghislaine Charlebois, Assistant Commissioner, Compliance Assurance Branch; Lise Cloutier, Assistant Commissioner, Corporate Management; Johane Tremblay, General Counsel, Legal Affairs Branch; and Robin Cantin, Director, Strategic Communications and Production.
Mr. Commissioner, I would now invite you to take the floor and the senators will follow with questions.
Graham Fraser, Commissioner of Official Languages, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages: Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, honourable senators and members of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages.
I would like to thank you for inviting me to speak about Volume II of my 2009-10 annual report, my 2010-11 annual report, the audits of service delivery in English and French to Air Canada passengers and social media.
The second volume of my 2009-10 annual report, which I tabled in Parliament in November 2010, dealt with the dealt with federal institutions' compliance with the OLA. It analysed the performance of 16 federal institutions and provided an account of the complaints received by the OCOL.
Federal institutions' 2009-10 ratings were generally disappointing.
The report concluded that too many Canadians still could not get services from the federal government in the official language of their choice; federal employees could not always work in the official language of their choice; and official language communities were not receiving the support they needed. What was being asked of federal institutions last year was realistic and it still is.
My 2010-11 annual report, entitled Leadership, Action, Results, that I tabled in Parliament last Tuesday, was published in one volume. I have tabled this report within the context of federal government expenditure review.
Departments are being asked to find ways to reduce their expenditures by 5 or 10 per cent, and some departments are making significant cuts outside of the Strategic and Operating Review.
This financial restructuring could have repercussions on the ability of institutions to fulfil their official languages obligations. I am not saying that official languages are being targeted specifically, but there is a risk that they will be affected.
The government must consider the potential consequences for official languages communities. If each institution, independently, makes cuts to official languages programs, the cumulative effect will be much greater than 5 per cent or 10 per cent.
Part VII of the Official Languages Act includes federal institutions' obligation to support English-speaking communities in Quebec and French-speaking communities in the rest of Canada, and to promote linguistic duality in Canadian society.
This part of the act is one of the primary tools for fostering Canada's linguistic duality.
The Government of Canada still has not made it clear that full and proactive compliance with the act is a priority. The federal government has adopted a narrow interpretation of its responsibilities under Part VII. For example, the decision to eliminate the mandatory long-form census questionnaire was made without taking into account its impact on official languages communities.
Last month, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research eliminated the initiative on Official Language Minority Communities. The CIHR are the specific subject of a report card in this year's annual report, and the initiative that has just been cancelled earned them an A for Part VII.
For a federal institution to make this kind of decision without consulting or evaluating the potential impact on official language communities is a disturbing sign, especially at a time when federal institutions are preparing for budget cuts.
It is important to keep in mind that Canada is stronger, both economically and socially, when linguistic majorities and minorities support each other and contribute to the advancement of Canadian society.
The federal government still has not announced its intentions on the renewal of the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality, which expires in 2013. Strong leadership on the part of the federal government would enable federal institutions to better understand their obligations under the act.
Canadian Heritage has developed a useful guide to help institutions fulfil their Part VII responsibilities, but the fact remains that no central agency has the authority under the act to develop policies or guidelines for promoting English and French.
This is a significant shortcoming. Federal institutions are all interpreting their Part VII obligations differently. I believe the time has come for the government to amend the Official Languages Act. The amendment would give the Treasury Board the legal authority to monitor the application of Part VII through policies and directives, and, if needed, regulations.
My 2010-11 annual report also presents an analysis of selected federal institutions' compliance with the Official Languages Act. This year, we evaluated institutions that provide significant funds to Canadians and volunteer organizations. In general, the 13 federal institutions evaluated this year achieved fairly satisfactory results. However, the active offer of service in person remains problematic for several of these institutions.
With respect to Part VII, several institutions obtained good results. Generally, institutions that succeeded were open to dialogue with minority communities and took the necessary measures to understand their needs.
More often than not, those who underperformed did not plan, execute or understand their obligations adequately.
In 2010-11, my office received 1,116 complaints, of which 981 were considered admissible. Three federal institutions were subject to an audit this year: Environment Canada, Service Canada and National Defence.
These institutions seem determined to act on my office's findings, and I have confidence in the commitment shown by their senior managers and employees. We will follow up as appropriate to ensure that this is, in fact, the case.
Fulfilling official languages obligations requires leadership from senior management, knowledge and understanding of the Official Languages Act, a willingness to plan and coordinate programs and services and following up on them in an effective manner. Above all, they have to be ready to apply the act. This is nothing new. It is simply a question of putting words into action.
The 2009-10 and 2010-11 annual reports are available on the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages' Web site.
The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages conducted an audit of Air Canada from April 2010 to January 2011. The purpose of the audit was to evaluate services provided in both official languages on board flights on designated bilingual routes. The audit also examined services provided in airports where Air Canada has language obligations and the services provided by Air Canada call centres.
The audit revealed that Air Canada has a structure in place to manage the various parts of the Official Languages Act and that it has appointed an official languages champion. It has an official languages policy and action plan that must be updated, as they do not take into account all the components of Part IV of the act. It also has a number of means at its disposal for communicating language obligations to its personnel.
In light of these findings, I have made 12 recommendations to help Air Canada improve its service delivery to passengers in both official languages.
I am satisfied with the measures and time frames proposed in Air Canada's action plan for 11 out of the 12 recommendations. The action plan is provided in Appendix C of the audit. However, I am only partially satisfied with Air Canada's response to recommendation 11, despite the fact that the recommendation had been slightly modified to address Air Canada's concerns.
I maintain that full implementation of all recommendations is necessary. That will enable it to meet its obligations under the act in terms of communications with and delivery of bilingual services to the public.
I am pleased to see that the committee is looking into the important issue of social media. Federal institutions' use of social media for internal and external communications brings new official languages challenges, particularly because of the instantaneous nature of these tools. Your work will be very useful in finding solutions to these new challenges.
My office has been exploring these issues for some time. We are currently working on developing certain principles. We believe that the Official Languages Act was adopted at a time when the legislator could not have foreseen all the changes brought about by the rise of so many new technologies. Despite the challenges associated with advanced technologies, the interpretive principles of the act must continue to guide us in adopting an approach. One of the most important principles is clearly the substantive equality of the two official languages.
Federal institutions that have already integrated linguistic duality as a value will know how to adapt their practices to the Web 2.0 universe: for example, by using two versions of the same social media, such as a Twitter or Facebook account in English, and another one in French.
Regarding the regulatory framework, I encourage you to consult the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. It is working on developing guidelines for federal institutions in their use of social media in the workplace and in communications with the public.
One final word: Like other agents of Parliament, I am not obliged to meet the government's deficit reduction action plan. However, like my colleagues, I have agreed to respect the spirit and intent of the review. I have proposed to discuss our plans with the parliamentary panel on the funding and oversight of officers of Parliament, which was established so that parliamentarians could review the financial proposals of agents of Parliament in a way that would protect their independence.
However, the panel has not yet been reconstituted, and I am concerned that its mandate as a pilot project is scheduled to expire in November. I hope I can count on your support for the idea that this mechanism should become permanent.
Thank you for your attention, and I would now like to take the remaining time to answer any questions you may have.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Commissioner.
Senator Tardif: Welcome, Mr. Commissioner and members of your team. We are pleased to receive your reports and to see you here today before the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages.
The Official Languages Secretariat was part of the Privy Council in 2003. At that time, the application of the Official Languages Act was a priority for the government. There was also an indication of coordination and consistency among all federal institutions in applying the Official Languages Act.
On April 23, 2006, the secretariat was abolished and a version of it was transferred to Canadian Heritage. Now that completely changed the dynamic because there was no longer a central agency looking after official languages policy within the Government of Canada.
I expressed my concern at that time about this new governance of the Official Languages Act.
Now in your last report, 2010-11, you identified several times the fact that there was a lack of consistency, a lack of continuity, and a lack of leadership in the application of the Official Languages Act across all federal institutions. Some did it very well; others were not aware, particularly when it comes to Part VII of the Official Languages Act, fostering linguistic duality, and also the fact that federal institutions are now responsible for ensuring that positive measures are taken to promote the development of official language communities.
Do you think there is a connection between this lack of coordination, this lack of leadership, and that this connection stems from the fact that this governance was transferred to a department, like another department, rather than keeping it in a central agency like the Privy Council?
Mr. Fraser: Thank you for the question. I admit that in doing our current analysis I did not make that connection directly, even though at the time, in the past, I had stated concerns about the transfer. I even stated concerns in a conversation with the then clerk. One of the images I used when I talked about it at the time, which was very shortly before I was appointed, is that when there are directives that come from an office up above, people react much faster than if it comes from the office next door. Any organization, particularly in an organization that respects authority, a hierarchy like the federal government, there is always respect for directives that some from central agencies.
Without going back and asking for the decision to be reversed, we recommended that Treasury Board's authority be strengthened, precisely to be able to give directives to institutions. I personally think that Treasury Board already has responsibilities and authority in respect of other parts of the act and it would not be a major amendment to add Part VII to that existing authority. There is expertise at Treasury Board, there are people who are very familiar with the act. So that is actually why we made that recommendation.
Senator Tardif: So if I understand correctly, you chose to make a recommendation to give more power to Treasury Board for overseeing the implementation of all aspects of the Official Languages Act?
Mr. Fraser: At present, there is no central agency, there is no department, including Canadian Heritage, that has authority to give directives. As I said in my statement, there is a guide, an obligation on the part of institutions to report to Canadian Heritage on their activities in relation to Part VII, but on the other hand there is no authority to direct. Often, in our experience, it is institutions; either they think Part VII does not apply to them, which is wrong, or they know it applies to them but they do not know what they should do, how to react. At present, neither Treasury Board nor Canadian heritage has the authority to give directives.
Senator Tardif: If I understand correctly, from 2003 to 2005, a subcommittee was responsible for implementation. So it was a cabinet committee. It was the deputy ministers who met to discuss the application of the Official Languages Act. Now, we have assistant deputy ministers. I think the message being sent is that the official languages perhaps do not have the priority they should have. Putting it in a central agency like Treasury Board, in your view, could help to improve the poor performance of institutions in relation to Part VII, for example?
Mr. Fraser: That is our hope and it was a recommendation we thought was very achievable, very concrete. The expertise and authority are there for other parts of the act. It seemed logical to us to give that authority to Treasury Board.
Senator Tardif: Madam Chair, we will have an opportunity to meet with the minister responsible for the Treasury Board this week. We are eager to hear his views on your recommendation.
Mr. Fraser: Perhaps Johane might have other aspects to add. I always like to refer to my legal counsel on matters of law, given that this is the first time we have made a recommendation to amend the act, but actually it is quite limited and quite realistic.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: I am always pleased and it is always a pleasure to meet with you and the people around you.
My first question will relate to Air Canada, and in the second round it will be about the new media.
With respect to Air Canada, you assessed the services offered by Air Canada, and as well you made 12 recommendations. Also, I am quoting you because in an interview with the Canadian Press, you said that a very clear protocol was needed so that employees would know that, even if they are not bilingual, there was a bilingual colleague next to them, that there was a way to do things if someone wanted service in French.
I would like to tell you about something that happened to me. I was coming back to Canada through Vancouver; I had a Vancouver to Ottawa connection. So we have to take our luggage, go through security, wait, line up to go to a counter and ask for our boarding pass. There were only two people at the counter and there were a lot of us. There was also no one there for business class. When the woman realized that I was francophone, she offered to get a francophone for me, but I would have missed the plane. I only had 10 minutes. It was impossible to wait to get services in French. So I spoke in English, but not in perfect English like yours.
How is it that you did not include a recommendation that all Air Canada employees had to be not perfectly bilingual, but understand the second official language adequately?
Mr. Fraser: It was from recognizing the difficulty there is in hiring even in the federal government. It is hard to demand it for the public service or other institutions subject to the act.
I have often been asked whether it should not have been mandatory for anyone employed by the federal government to be bilingual. I have always answered that as long as there is access to good, equitable language training across Canada, the federal government will have a duty to provide its employees with language training.
The same thing applies for Air Canada. Air Canada was required to take over the responsibilities as employer of 4,000 employees of the Canadian airline based in the West. That meant that they absorbed 4,000 unilingual employees who were essentially hired by force, given the nature of the merger. That meant that it was even harder for Air Canada to make sure that there are enough bilingual employees.
In our audit we discovered that the capacity exists. Fifty per cent of employees on designated bilingual flights are in fact bilingual. If half the personnel on a flight are bilingual, it is very easy to say: Do you want to wait a minute? I am going to get one of my colleagues. And make sure that passengers are served in the language of their choice. It is harder in percentage terms for ground services. I think it is 25 per cent of ground employees. So given the need to hire employees in regions of the country where the bilingualism rate is fairly low, it would not have been realistic on my part, given the conflicts I have had in the past with Air Canada about things I consider to be completely doable, to imagine that they would have been able to accept that kind of regulations.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: For the ones who are in contact with the public, the front line, the ones who are on the ground, the ones who deal with people, you could perhaps ask them to go from 25 to 50 per cent for bilingual personnel.
Mr. Fraser: You know, the rule has always been that the institution should be able to provide the service and not that all employees are required to be bilingual. Sometimes there are situations like the one you experienced in Vancouver, where you had to make a choice between a service and you flight. I understand the decision you made very well. It is unfortunate. It made me think a little of an answer that members of an organization in a minority community got from a department in the region, which was: ``Do you want to speak to someone bilingual or do you want to speak to someone who is familiar with the case?'' People should not have to choose between the service and bilingualism. You should not have to make a choice between catching your flight and getting a service in both languages.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: I have one final question about Air Canada. You may not be obliged to answer, but I would like you to explain to us why, year after year, Air Canada is one of the three institutions against which the most complaints are made to your office.
Mr. Fraser: I always ask myself the same question, given that we have fairly regular contact. I think the experience of this audit was very useful for us, and, I hope, for management as well. When I presented the preliminary results of the audit, we saw that the management was genuinely surprised by the results we had found on the ground. Just to give you an example, Air Canada put a lot of effort and resources into ensuring that travellers going to the Olympic Games in Vancouver were served in the language of their choice. It was a great success.
Personally, I hoped this would be a step forward and would bear fruit in future. But what we learned from the 150 interviews we conducted in the course of the audit is that the employees thought it was solely for the Olympic Games, and afterward they went back to their old habits. They thought that active offer, for example, was just for the Olympic Games. You will understand that senior management was also somewhat surprised by this information, and they said, ``We never said that, that was never a message sent to employees''; but that was the employees' understanding.
I observed that there were several aspects of communication on which employees were not aware of the actual nature of the duties. So I think the audit process was very useful. I think it opened our eyes and I also think it was useful for Air Canada management.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Thank you. I will have more questions in the second round.
Senator Champagne: Mr. Commissioner, ladies and gentleman, thank you for being here today.
Before getting to the point I want to address, I am going to follow up from Senator Fortin-Duplessis and offer my two cents' worth on Air Canada.
Do you think that a Quebec or francophone woman who does not speak a word of English would be hired by Air Canada as a flight attendant, for example? Because they hire anglophones who do not speak a word of French. Would a francophone who had all the qualifications and all the knowledge but who did not speak a word of English have a chance of getting a job?
Mr. Fraser: Well, I have never asked the question.
Senator Champagne: I have no copyright in the question.
Mr. Fraser: Some would answer by pointing out that the question answers itself. I have no answer. I do not speak for Air Canada, so I can only speculate like yourself.
Senator Champagne: Contrary to what Senator Fortin-Duplessis said, I had an exceptional experience when I arrived at customs in Vancouver. I had filled out the little form on the French side without even thinking about it. And when they saw that, they went to get me someone, a young woman who spoke impeccable French, and she told me she had spent two months in Arvida or somewhere.
There is the problem with these designated bilingual flights. I recently went to Regina; so I went from Montreal to Toronto and Toronto to Regina. For the second leg, it was not a bilingual flight. Finding someone who spoke two words of French, hello or thank you, could not be done. Should not all flights be bilingual in Canada? That is a question. We will come back to it because we have to come back to Air Canada.
Your report, Mr. Commissioner, you say you table it within the context of the federal government expenditure review. And you say ``some departments are making significant cuts outside of the Strategic and Operating Review.'' And you say: ``If each institution independently makes cuts to official languages programs, the cumulative effect will be much greater than 5 or 10 per cent.''
When the document was released, what we heard on the radio was: ``The Commissioner thinks the government is going to make major cuts to official languages.''
I was delighted when I heard you interviewed a few minutes later, and say, ``Obviously, that is hypothetical, because we do not know where the cuts will be made.'' And so obviously you softened the outcome a bit.
Mr. Fraser: I am not the one who softened the outcome; that was others who may have misinterpreted what I had said. I have to be very clear on this. Just to reiterate or clarify, I am very aware that every department should go through this budget constraint exercise. But I have two fears. The first, as I stated it, is the cumulative effect if the programs that affect the communities are eliminated by all departments. You can say that 5 per cent everywhere is 5 per cent, but if Health Canada cuts a program that affects a community, and if Canadian Heritage cuts one too, that community is going to have a reduction in several programs that affect it, when no one intended to target that community. So that was somewhat the fear I had and I continue to have. And I raised that question with the ministers, and they told me: ``Rest assured that this is not our intention, we are going to be careful.'' And I said: it is fine to have intentions, but I am still going to raise this concern publicly. As I am now doing.
The other aspect that concerns me is the danger of decisions that are going to have more impact than we can anticipate at present. I am thinking of the decision made in 1995 to eliminate the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean. The thinking at the time was in terms of fairness because Royal Roads Military College had been eliminated, so to be fair the equivalent institution in Quebec had to be eliminated.
The problem is that this affected the language capacity of the Canadian Armed Forces, it affected officer training and it affected recruitment of francophones. Even with the reinstatement of the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean as a Cégep, now, there is still a long way to go for it to become the university again that it was in the past.
When I talked to the management of the Canadian Armed Forces after the decision by former Minister Gordon O'Connor to recreate the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean as a Cégep, they told me they did intend to continue and recreate an institution at the university level.
But in a way, it is a decade of military training in French that has been lost, and so in a way, I am feeling once bitten and twice shy about the danger in this exercise.
Senator Champagne: I would say though that the present government, if only in the case of the military college, has still made an effort to restore things and I feel a bit uneasy about what you are saying: they are going to intentionally cut things that affect the —
Mr. Fraser: No, on the contrary, I have never said and I am careful to say specifically that I am not saying that these programs are targeted.
Senator Champagne: But hypothetically, that is what you said.
Mr. Fraser: My fear is that, individually, institutions will make decisions that would have a cumulative effect. At the centre, at Treasury Board, when the ministers meet to look at all these proposals, there is no awareness that the cumulative effect may be more dangerous than the individual effects, and they will say: Oh, good, if Health Canada does that, a choice has to be made to make sure that the burden everybody would have to bear fairly is not placed unduly on the shoulders of official language minority communities.
Senator Champagne: At some points, before the time, you have almost, if I may say so, accusations. For example, you say: ``The federal government has still not renewed its Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality.''
It expires in 2013. This is not yet 2015, when you could say: it expired two years ago and nothing has been done. This is 2011, but you are already making the accusation that they are not going to do it. That disturbs me and worries me a lot. I quote: ``. . . has still not renewed.'' ``Still not.'' This is 2011. It does not expire until 2013.
Mr. Fraser: I note your concerns, but this is a fact, no commitment has yet been announced. The government is thinking about it and looking at how they are going to proceed.
Senator Champagne: It is not unusual for the roadmap not to be renewed yet. This is 2011. It still has a year and a half to go, this roadmap.
Mr. Fraser: I thought it wise to point out the importance of the program and the importance of reassuring the communities that are concerned, particularly in the present circumstances.
Senator Champagne: The big bad government will surely renew the roadmap. Thank you.
Senator De Bané: Mr. Commissioner, thank you very much for being with us. I am looking particularly at your recommendations concerning the shadows on the Canadian television landscape.
For the moment I would like to limit my questions to the French network of the public broadcasting corporation, Radio-Canada.
The first shadow that strikes me, that bothers me and upsets me, is that one of the fundamental objectives of the CBC's French service is, to use the expression in the Broadcasting Act, to develop an awareness of values shared by francophones and Anglophones. On that point, no, there is no development of an awareness of shared values. That goes so far that all sorts of stratagems are used to avoid referring to English.
On the weekend, during a program that was broadcast on Saturday afternoon, every time one of the guests on Radio-Canada, on the French-language radio, was unable to find the French expression to translate his thought, he used an English expression and said, ``As we say in Latin.'' The fact that it is other Canadians, no, he had to say that. But this was a guest taking part in the program.
Even more serious, on a daily program, the celebrity host, also sheepish and not very proud about being unable to express his thought in French, used English expressions. And each time, what did he say? ``As we say in Chinese.''
I have written to Radio-Canada several times to inform them that it is unthinkable that when it comes to one of the official languages, enshrined in the supreme law of the land, someone would refer to that language by saying ``As we say in Chinese.''
It was so blatant on the part of this celebrity host that he used the expression several minutes, several times in the same program.
I am going very quickly on this subject. I sent letter after letter after letter each time I observed this kind of situation, every day. Finally, I received a letter from the general manager of the French radio service of the CBC. This is what he told me, roughly, and I paraphrase: Mr. De Bané, calm down. You are talking to us about something we are perfectly aware of. It has gone on for several years, stop getting worked up because he says ``as we say in Chinese.''
I told him: Sir, I can already hear the wailing from the French side if every time someone talked about French on the CBC they said, ``As we say in Mongolian or Chechen or some other exotic language.'' But that was his attitude: ``It is no big deal! Settle down! Nobody's perfect.''
We have got to the point that we are incapable of accepting that there are others besides ourselves, whether in Quebec or in the rest of Canada, so our committee spent months studying the situation of English Quebecers, here at the committee where you are or visiting Quebec for a week, to hear all the leaders of the anglophone community, artists, writers, academics.
Not one word, not one word on Radio-Canada radio in Quebec. Of course not, it is about the English. We do not do that here.
And I think it is a shame that things are this way. And obviously, by talking only about Quebec francophones, they totally ignore francophones living outside Quebec, to the point that the chair of Canadian studies at the Université de Moncton published a report saying: ``The National is Canada and Téléjournal is Quebec.'' And in that report, they say that the CBC covers Acadian society a lot more than the Radio-Canada does. This is a very long way from the objective that was intended through these two networks for expressing Canada. Once in French, the next time in English.
I would like to hear your thoughts on this subject. It is a subject that concerns me a lot.
Mr. Fraser: I have a lot of respect for the work you have done on this subject. I read a draft of a paper you prepared. I apologize for not replying, it came in the middle of tabling the annual report.
Senator De Bané: I do not expect you to answer me. We can talk about it someday.
Mr. Fraser: Let me highlight a few points you raised. You mentioned several times that when those expressions are used, ``as we say in Latin, as we say in Chinese,'' it is because they were having trouble finding the expression in French. And they were embarrassed by their inability to do that. I think that has to do with a certain linguistic unease that is making itself felt in Quebec at present. We are seeing it at present with the debate, if we can put it that way, around the demographic projections regarding the percentage of people who speak French as their mother tongue on the island of Montreal, in 2031, when it is said that, according to projections, French may be in the minority.
It was Jack Jedwab who recently did a demographic analysis, saying there is no language called the allophone language. There is no minority on the ascendance, no growing minority that is going to speak an allophone language. There is a number of linguistic minorities who participate in Quebec life where the public language is French, but that concern or apprehension or fear, which is very sincere, is part of a linguistic unease that we are seeing coming back to the foreground at present, and that I think is related to other phenomena in Quebec society at present.
To come back to your subject about Radio-Canada, once I asked myself: are you concerned about the decline of French in Quebec? And I replied that I did not want to launch a debate on hypothetical projections by demographers at the language spoken at home in 2031, but if we were closing down the program Tout le monde en parle because nobody was watching, because everybody was watching English television on Sunday night, I would be concerned about that kind of threat. But it is not true. Tout le monde en parle is threatened by its French-language competitor. Arithmetically, we cannot take in 40,000 newcomers to Quebec every year and maintain the same percentage of people who speak French at home or who have French as their mother tongue. It is mathematically impossible. Quebec's strength is that it is a welcoming society.
In 40 years we have seen the transformation of Quebec into a modern society, a welcoming society. But with other transformations on the sociopolitical landscape where there have been all sorts of upheavals occurring on the political stage. Any upheaval represents other changes and generates insecurities. Linguistic insecurity in Quebec is expressed differently and you have put your finger on a certain element of that insecurity regarding the coverage of events inside and outside Quebec.
I was very interested in the figure you mentioned, but I have no comment, as Commissioner, on that.
Senator De Bané: Mr. Commissioner, I do not disagree with your thoughts, I share them. But that does not explain why the hearings of our parliamentary committee on the situation of Quebec anglophones who are a minority was totally, absolutely totally ignored, both our hearings in Ottawa and around the province. It was Radio-Canada's duty, if it wanted to be faithful to the mission assigned to it, to echo our hearings. You will notice that every time it talks about the Canadian government, it is always through the prism of conflicts, of obligations going unmet, and so on. Always! But it has never tried to show how that might be positive.
The image I see of Canada when I watch Radio-Canada is of a very distant land. If the news is about another region of Canada, it will always come at the end of the line after all the other news.
The Chair: Do you have another question?
Senator De Bané: I am talking with the commissioner and that allows the speaker to answer us. If you want me to put it in terms of a question, I will do that.
Is it reasonable, for the 25 per cent of people outside Quebec whose mother tongue is French, or who are anglophones who speak and understand French, for that 25 per cent never to hear anything about their region and never to see anything except Quebec covered on Radio-Canada? And in the same vein, the four million Quebecers who are unilingual French cannot tune in to the CBC to find out what is going on in Canada because Radio-Canada devotes a minute if not insignificant amount percentage of its programming to that.
Do you think that is reasonable?
Mr. Fraser: We are in court with Radio-Canada which claims we have no jurisdiction in this regard. We think otherwise. I have never argued that our jurisdiction covered their journalistic decisions, it covers their obligations as a crown corporation. The legal dispute relates to their obligation to official language minority communities, and more specifically the impact of budget cuts on a radio station.
When I left journalism, I decided that I would deny myself the privilege of being a journalism critic, but I would tell the senator that next year, the CBC's licence will be before the CRTC. It is appropriate to hold this kind of debate before the CRTC. Even though I will not stop myself from sharing my opinions in private, that is outside my present mandate.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Commissioner. Senator Mockler has the floor.
Senator Mockler: I would like to thank the commissioner for the work he has done across the country, even though I do not always agree with his comments. However, I have to tell you sincerely, sir, that the people I meet, particularly in New Brunswick, among other places — in fact, this week, francophone leaders came to see me and told me they are pleased with the development of the roadmap.
You told Senator Champagne that the federal government had still not renewed its roadmap for linguistic duality, which expired in 2003. So why did you insert that in what you presented to us? I would like you to explain that to me.
Mr. Fraser: I made those statements to remind the government and parliamentarians of the importance of the work that I hope is being done within the government on evaluating what has worked well. I would wait for a rigorous analysis to eliminate what did not work and to inform the people responsible that I am trying to monitor this matter as closely as possible. It was perhaps a clumsy way on my part of saying that I am waiting to see the next step for renewal.
I know there are people working on it. As well, the House committee will be studying the present roadmap to make recommendations, I assume, regarding renewal. It was my way of saying that I am trying to monitor it closely. We think it is very important.
Senator Tardif: The roadmap covers the stage from 2008 to 2013. Is it usual, Mr. Commissioner, that at about halfway or a little more, in the process of preparing the new roadmap or the continuation of a roadmap, that we would be at the stage of evaluating to see what worked, in consultation with the other departments and the official language communities?
Would it be reasonable or usual to think that the government would be at that stage in the present roadmap? Is that what is done?
Mr. Fraser: It is what happened with the predecessor of the roadmap, a plan that ran from 2003 to 2008. At the halfway point, a public report was released about the money that had been spent, the results achieved or not achieved. It was possible for my predecessor to take that document and say publicly: these are the results, where we are at the halfway point. That has not been the case for me to date, but I would be very happy to go through that kind of document.
When officials from Canadian Heritage appeared before the House of Commons standing committee, they said there would be a document, but they were very close-mouthed as to when it would be published. I had the impression that the decision had not been made.
Senator Tardif: I wondered whether this was the perspective from which you made your comments, you saying there had been no consultation and no report, and that at first glance you were not optimistic as to when we would see a new roadmap.
Mr. Fraser: If a report had been published at the halfway point, I would not have put it that way.
Senator Mockler: Has your office asked for a progress report on the roadmap?
Mr. Fraser: We have asked for assurances that the roadmap will be renewed.
Senator Mockler: Have you asked for a halfway point report?
Mr. Fraser: Not specifically.
Senator Mockler: You say that the Government of Canada has not always said loud and clear that proactive and complete compliance with the act is a priority. Could you explain that for us?
Mr. Fraser: I am still waiting for a speech, a tour, a series of statements that should follow up on the statements made not in the last Throne speech, but in the Throne speech before that, in which it was stated that linguistic duality was a Canadian value.
I see the government's frequent assertions of diversity, multiculturalism and integration of newcomers in its policies. That point was even asserted in the throne speech. The Prime Minister said in Australia that Canada was born in French. So I expect to see the recognition and assertion expressed with the same energy and determination for promoting English and French and that the importance of the official language minority communities to linguistic duality will be recognized.
My comment is not limited to this government, but there seem to be measures being taken for minority communities, and I mention this in the preface to my annual report, so the majority does not realize it. Take the roadmap as an example. When it was announced in 2008, there were no figures in the February-March 2008 budget. There was an appendix saying renewal of the action plan with the amount to follow. The roadmap was announced at the end of June, when Parliament had recessed. The news was reported widely in the minority communities, but got virtually no coverage in the majority press, in either French or English. You will be surprised to know how many very politicized people, people who are very involved in public life and up to date, do not know about the existence of the roadmap or the fact that this government spends $1.1 billion on linguistic duality and the development of official language minority communities. From one government to the next, I came to the conclusion that they are afraid that if the majority realized that so many things are being done for minorities, a wave of anger would undoubtedly flow across the country. We see general support in opinion polls for linguistic duality in Canada.
Senator Mockler: Absolutely.
Mr. Fraser: We are no longer where we were 40 years ago. It is no longer an issue that divides Canadians.
I think it is time to assert the policies loud and clear, policies the government should be proud of, for promoting English and French and for developing official language minority communities. That is why I wrote that sentence.
Senator Mockler: I have four other points to raise, but I am going to limit myself to one.
Mr. Fraser: I do not know whether I can provide as exhaustive an explanation for each sentence.
Senator Mockler: They are questions that will be asked.
Having been minister responsible for the francophone and implementation of the official languages, I can tell you that we worked across the country and found that the roadmap was welcomed. As well, on Wednesday, I had the opportunity to meet with francophone leaders from the country, from both Quebec and other regions, and in particular the Acadian and francophone community outside Quebec.
What struck me and still bothers me is that, on page 3 of your French statement, you say they have to act in good faith. Are there people in the government who do not act in good faith in administering the official languages? Are there people who object? The official languages and the linguistic duality of Canada, these are unifying factors that demonstrate Canada's strength, both for our small urban and rural communities and at the international level. I would like you to explain to me what you mean by ``act in good faith.''
Mr. Fraser: In fact, it was meant as encouragement, to keep on in the same direction. I have never thought they were acting in bad faith. I am struck by the number of allies we have in the departments. One of the underlying themes is the unequal capacity of a department to meet its obligations in the act.
When I am asked how, overall, to proceed in relation to official languages, I reply that some do it well and others do it less well. It is the unevenness that I find striking. That is why we recommended that authority be given to a central agency and clear directives be given, for greater consistency. Obviously, there has to be trust and there has to be good faith. But we are not trying to insinuate that there is not good faith.
Senator Mockler: I was asked the question this weekend, in my region, and I said I would put it to you. Mr. Commissioner, feel free not to answer. There is often talk about social media. In your opinion, could social media become an assimilation mechanism? How can we ensure that they do not?
Mr. Fraser: You are touching on a very important point. The question is how the government and federal institutions can adapt to these instantaneous social media, both for their strength and for the danger they represent.
Microsoft has developed programs in Welsh. I think the Nunavut government is working with Apple to develop programs in Inuktitut. In my opinion, the media represent a great opportunity to develop new communication networks among.
In British Columbia, I saw a classroom where secondary students were taking a physics course on line and things were being demonstrated on screen that I have in fact never understood, regardless of the language. The class was in Victoria, and francophone students were attending it in Vancouver, Campbell River and a host of other schools that did not have the opportunity to have a grade 11 physics teacher. Through this method of communication, it was possible to give the class to all grade 11 students in the small schools all across British Columbia.
The new media, the new technology, is a tool. It can be used to homogenize, to assimilate, but also to differentiate, to create new communication links and make information accessible for people who would never have had contact with the outside world.
I attended the opening of the Community Learning Centre in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine. For the opening ceremony, they linked with another learning centre on the lower North Shore that had been open for a year and a half or two years. With that very isolated community, they were able to be in contact with museums around the world. They even organized a conversation with astronauts. Seeing this amazing thing, this teacher in Rivière-Saint-Paul in the lower North Shore, what she could do with the young people and new media to break down the barriers of isolation, made me think that with imagination, the new media are a source of creativity, a source of development for communities. Obviously, if they are misused, if they are not used with imagination, of all the young people are left to their own devices to search for all the sites they want to find, they could find themselves on sites in English.
The Chair: Honourable senators, we are going to move on to the second round. I have four senators who have asked to speak. I would ask my colleagues to kindly keep to one fairly short question and try to have the question and answer stay within five minutes.
The commissioner has graciously agreed to be with us until 7 p.m. So five minutes per senator, question and answer.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Why did the Franco-communauté virtuelle program end in March 2008?
Mr. Fraser: I have no answer.
Robin Cantin, Director, Strategic Communications and Production, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages: The Franco-communauté virtuelle program ended in 2008 by a decision of Canadian Heritage that followed an evaluation of the program objectives.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: That means they had not achieved their objectives, is that it? They did not succeed in that regard?
Mr. Cantin: That would be an excellent question for Canadian Heritage. Obviously, we cannot speak for them.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Do you intend to study the question of the use of the official languages on the Internet again?
Mr. Fraser: The question of the new media is one of the questions we will be putting considerable thought into how to study. We have been involved in some discussions. We organized a discussion day, but again, I am going to ask Mr. Cantin to talk in more detail about what we have done and what we are contemplating.
Mr. Cantin: The studies we did in 1999, 2002 and 2005 were relatively ambitious. Like the study you are preparing to undertake. In fact, your powers are very impressive and very broad.
At that time, we had addressed various aspects of official languages on the Internet, but we had tried to stick to the impact of the federal government, the federal public service, on the English-French balance on the Internet. That is still relatively our focus, essentially the 15 million pages in French and 15 million pages in English that the federal government makes available to the Canadian and international public, and its communications with the public by the Internet continue. Our efforts are still relatively focused on the relationship between the Internet and the federal government.
Something that attracted our attention a great deal in recent years is the guidelines for social media that Treasury Board has already published for the internal use of social media, internal to the federal public service, wikis and that sort of thing, and we hope, will soon be published for external use of social media, that is, how the federal public service communicates with Canadian citizens.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: A moment ago, my colleague asked you whether there was a danger of assimilation. You talked about how important it is now because teachers can work over the Internet and there are connections being made. You said that young people may often find themselves on anglophone sites. The assimilation of young people is of considerable concern to me. We would not want to see that. We would want them to retain French very well, even if they are able to speak English.
I would like to hear your opinion on that a little, even though you answered my colleague. There is a real danger.
Mr. Fraser: In terms of assimilation, I think we have to look at the question from a different angle and ask how the community is doing in terms of vitality. What are the cultural and linguistic resources needed so the linguistic community can develop? What pressures are there on the community? What are its institutions? What linguistic space is there for this community? Is French a public language or just a language used in the home or in certain more private institutions? If we look at the evolution of French in Quebec, there has been a very impressive trajectory since the 50 or 60 years ago when French became the public language of Quebec.
That is not necessarily the case for some official language minority communities. Francophone communities outside Quebec, where the institutions are weaker, space is more limited, and we have to remember that French schools were abolished in some provinces for almost a century and were restored only since the Charter in 1982. We have seen the impact of these schools on the quality of the French spoken in communities in the West.
I have never believed that people can decide all of a sudden, overnight, to abandon their language and culture. It is a longer and sometimes tragic process. I think that when we think about assimilation, we have to look at the factors in a community's vitality.
Senator Tardif: Before asking my question, Mr. Commissioner, I would just like to make a comment about the exchange between Senator Mockler and you.
It was said that the government is acting in good faith. However, it is achieving poor results; some federal institutions are achieving poor results. Who is responsible? What has to be done to find solutions to this problem, ``as we would say in English''?
Someone has to take ownership of the problem. Someone has to take ownership for the poor results and the poor performance.
And personally, I completely agree that it is the responsibility of the government at the highest level of leadership. That is the comment I wanted to make and I will now move on to my question.
I agree with you, Mr. Commissioner, that budget cuts by a number of departments would have a disastrous effect on official language communities.
Do you think, Mr. Commissioner, that these departments should have responsibility for consulting the official language communities before putting those cuts into effect, to see what the impacts would be on the vitality of the communities? And all in compliance with section 41 of the Official Languages Act talking about positive measures.
Mr. Fraser: I think it is very important, and in fact it is often the lack of consultation that is pointed to when certain decisions are criticized.
When I raised the question of consultation with senior officials in the context of the Strategic and Operating Review program, they told me: ``You know, Mr. Commissioner, all that is part of the budget process, confidential process, so cabinet confidence applies.'' It is hard to consult about something that is going to be a cabinet confidence.
That is another reason why I thought, in spite of my confidence that people are acting in good faith and are sincere when they tell us they are going to take official languages questions into consideration when they make the final decisions, that it would be good to raise this concern in public. That is why I mentioned it at my press conference last week and my statement today.
Senator Tardif: Making these decisions in secret, would that not violate the government's obligations under the Official Languages Act, by Part VII, where people have to be sure there is no negative impact and attention is paid to the development of the official language communities? Cutting a program when it harms the development of the official languages communities is a violation, do you not agree?
Mr. Fraser: The difficulty, I think, is when we are facing a decision of the government in contrast to a decision of an institution. That is in fact why, when we did our investigation into the decision to abolish the long form census questionnaire, the institutions were not involved, so we could not say that the institutions had not complied with their obligations, it was a cabinet decision.
So we can say there is an inherent contradiction in the fact that the government — But the government continues to be bound to honour its obligations, even with budget constraints, definitely. But for the obligation to consult, when there is a conflict with the process which is a secret process of preparing a budget, I am less certain. I do not know whether Johane might have any comments.
Johane Tremblay, General Counsel, Legal Affairs Branch, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages: I would just like to add to the commissioner's reply by saying that federal institutions certainly have an obligation to take into account the impact of the decisions they have to make on the development of official language minority communities. And in a situation where it could have a negative impact, they have an obligation to consider measures to mitigate the negative impact of the decisions.
That responsibility derives from the interpretation of Part VII that each federal institution must abide by, and accordingly the government also has an obligation, a similar responsibility.
Is it an obligation to consult in all cases? Not necessarily, but an obligation to do an impact analysis, certainly.
Senator Champagne: One short comment first, before addressing another subject.
I agree with the grievances voiced by my colleague Senator De Bané, who is upset about the poverty of the vocabulary of some SRC presenters, on both radio and television. There is not one of them at present who seems to want to pick up the torch from René Lecavalier and have a significant impact of the quality of the French spoken in our hearths and homes.
What makes me tear my hair out is the dangerous liaisons. The ``quatre z'autres concurrents'', the ``cinq z'athlètes'', you hear them all the time. I get — Well.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: The ``si j'aurais'' too.
Senator Champagne: The ``si'' with the ``-rait'' you still hear that a lot.
I would like to know, Mr. Commissioner, what you think about Bill C-17. Are the provisions clear enough to ensure that the language rights of the travelling public are preserved in the event that there is a reorganization at Air Canada? The bill was just introduced on October 17, but you have surely had to look it over.
Mr. Fraser: To start by answering your first comment, I am convinced that my French teachers are spinning in their graves at the idea that I have made it to the commissioner's office. So I hesitate to comment on other people's mistakes.
On Bill C-17, yes, and I think it is a step in the right direction. It is somewhat different from other bills introduced by the government earlier in response to a request from a member, which was shared with the members of the House committee and the people from Transport.
We had written down our concerns and expectations in detail regarding some elements of the bill, such as language of work, which have not been touched. At present, we have received over 400 complaints relating to language of work at an Air Canada subsidiary. I think that is the main flaw we see at present. We are doing an in-depth analysis of the situation that we will share in greater detail when the bill is examined in committee.
Senator De Bané: Mr. Commissioner, you were one of the people who did the most penetrating analyses about Quebec. We were talking just now about the concern for the English language. I am sure you know the famous words spoken by Jacques Parizeau when he was asked the following question by an anglophone journalist: ``What is this ambiguous relationship that Quebec francophones have with English?'' and Mr. Parizeau replied: ``When we have independence, I can tell you, I am going to give anyone who does not learn English, and quick, a good kick up the backside.'' I will end that aside because you are surely familiar with Mr. Parizeau's reply.
The other subject that pains me greatly, and that does not meet the objectives assigned in the legislation enacted by the Parliament of Canada for Radio-Canada, is to see the extent to which the corporation fails to cover French communities throughout Canada on its network.
Certainly, Radio-Canada has chains across Canada that broadcast regional news to each community. But it never allows everybody to see it. And when everybody can see, as happened on the 50th anniversary of Radio-Canada in Winnipeg, they heard Céline Galipeau, who read Le Téléjournal from that city and told young Manitobans she interviewed: ``Frankly, why learn French here? You are not in Quebec and I am giving you the Quebec point of view. Quebecers think that you are wasting your time.''
That happened while we are in the middle of a renaissance, a development of the French fact in St. Boniface, with a college that has become a university. In other words, it is this way of not talking to one another that goes on inside Canada.
A francophone from another province sent me word to tell me that on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, while thousands of celebrations were being held in French communities in Canada, the only thing they could see on Radio-Canada was the Saint-Jean show at Parc Maisonneuve in Montreal. It seemed that everything going on across Canada could not be mentioned on the network. It can be talked about in the regional programming only.
What I do not understand is that apart from Parliament Hill in Ottawa, there are no full-time Quebec journalists in the other provinces, or in Toronto or Vancouver or Calgary. The only network that has several hundred journalists across Canada is Radio-Canada. And everything that happens in francophone communities across Canada seems to be absolutely off limits, out of bounds, in the eyes of Radio-Canada. That is not right.
It was a great nationalist Canon Lionel Groulx, whose doctoral studies in Paris were paid for by Franco-Ontarians, who wrote in his French-Canadian school book:
What the people of Quebec have never understood is that the French communities outside Quebec are the first line of defence and if they fall, Quebec will fall next.
Do you agree with this ignoring of the activities of francophone communities in the other provinces which means that ultimately, Quebecers are not aware of their existence and their dynamism? Do you agree that this does not fulfil one of the important missions of Radio-Canada?
Mr. Fraser: Madam Chair, I am not in a good position to criticize Radio-Canada's programming. One thing I can tell you, however, is that Frédéric Arnould, a Radio-Canada correspondent in Vancouver, is working very hard. When I was in Vancouver, I knew I was being interviewed by a very serious journalist.
Also do not forget the extraordinary work done by the journalists on local and regional Radio-Canada programs. They are unifiers who play an important role, who are social animators on some programs. I have not studied the coverage of Téléjournal. That is why I am hesitant to state an opinion on the subject.
I think it is very important that francophones be able to see themselves reflected on the radio and television. But I am not in a position to agree or otherwise with Senator De Bané's analysis of the situation. It would be anecdotal on my part.
Senator Mockler: With everything that has been said, we can agree on the fact that we will not always agree.
That said, if we look at the modern history of Canada and its prime ministers, we can say that our present Prime Minister was a unilingual anglophone and he is now bilingual.
Mr. Fraser: He is not unilingual at all. He is very bilingual.
Senator Mockler: When he started, he immediately learned the second language. And today, whether he is in Acadia or in Canada, he always starts his press conferences in French. He does the same in the United States, President Obama can testify to it. That represents the Canadian image well. It is laudable and I can tell you that in Canada, everybody talks about it.
I would like to point out that the Prime Minister starts all his press conferences in French.
If you have comments, I would be glad to hear them; if not, I have one last question. Does your office want to play a bigger role in social media?
You brought it to our attention that we have a role to play, but how could your office play a bigger role in relation to social media, to alleviate the concerns about assimilation or knowledge of the language of Molière?
Mr. Fraser: When I tabled my first annual report, I made a comment that I have repeated many times since: I said how exemplary the public conduct of the Prime Minister in terms of official bilingualism was. He starts his speeches in French and he starts his statements in French. He does it outside Canada, at G8 meetings, for example, and even outside meetings. He did it in Australia, for example.
When he was first starting out as Prime Minister, six years ago now, the fact that he did this generated some comment. But now, it is taken for granted. I have noticed recently that when a public demonstration of duality is successful, it becomes invisible.
I am going to give you another example: the state funeral of Jack Layton. In my opinion, it was a national ceremony that was very respectful of both official languages. Nobody talked about it. It was a controversial ceremony; some people said it was too politicized and there were speakers who embarrassed the Prime Minister and the Governor General by being too political. Others replied that he had the soul of a politician.
But no one mentioned the fact that the ceremony was entirely respectful of both official languages. In my opinion, it was a great success as a national ceremony. I am not talking about individuals or the content of the speeches by the people who gave eulogies.
What is sometimes frustrating for people who work in this field is that when there is a success, it becomes invisible; the Prime Minister's actions are an example of that.
That is why I am sometimes a bit frustrated about the Vancouver Olympic Games experience.
In terms of language, the Olympic Games were, in my opinion, with a few exceptions, a great success. I was able to register in French and to register for events that were announced in French. But there was one big exception: the opening ceremonies, which cast a shadow over a great success.
When people say that linguistic duality at the Olympic Games was terrible, my answer is they were not, and I was there. I think there were small problems here and there and there were not bilingual volunteers everywhere. When the bilingual volunteers were concentrated where francophones were more likely to be, there were fewer bilingual volunteers elsewhere. The city could not be transformed into a bilingual city overnight. The success therefore became invisible and it was the failure that was visible.
To get back to the question of social media, it concerns us and we are in a difficult situation when it comes to venturing too far into it because our own system is very fragile. This is what has delayed our ability to play a leading role ourselves in the new media.
It is apparent, however, that we are trying to remedy the situation. As well, we are monitoring it very closely and we are going to make as strategic decisions as possible in terms of the most effective possible way to be involved in this area that is going to determine the future of the language landscape and government communications.
In a way, some elements are very positive. One of the reasons why the number of complaints is declining is that it was possible, with the telephone system, for the government to direct people to employees who could answer them in French. It is therefore easier to systematically organize a technology to connect francophones or anglophones rather than necessarily organizing staff at a specific counter.
Senator Champagne: Mr. Commissioner, if you see us with our bags ready, you must not think it is from lack of interest in what you have to tell us. It is because we have been summoned to a special caucus meeting in the Parliament building at 7:00 p.m.
Mr. Fraser: I had to apologize for talking too much in answering your questions.
The Chair: I would like to remind you that we have another meeting this Thursday. We will be hearing from the President of the Treasury Board.
Mr. Commissioner, I would like to thank you very sincerely on behalf of all the senators for being available and being so open. I had concerns as a Franco-Manitoban about what the impact might be of the cuts by federal departments on the roadmap. The discussion was very healthy and open on the part of the senators and yourself.
Thank you, Mr. Commissioner, until next time.
(The committee adjourned.)