Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 9 - Evidence - Meeting of April 23, 2012
OTTAWA, Monday, April 23, 2012
The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages met this day at 5:05 p.m. to study the government response to the report of the committee entitled The Vitality of Quebec's English-speaking Communities: From Myth to Reality (October 2011), as well as the study on CBC/Radio-Canada's obligations under the Official Languages Act and some aspects of the Broadcasting Act.
Senator Maria Chaput (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Honourable senators, I call the meeting to order.
Welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages.
Allow me to introduce myself. I am Maria Chaput from Manitoba, Chair of the committee. Before introducing the witnesses appearing today, I invite the members of the committee to introduce themselves.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: I am Senator Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis, from Quebec.
Senator Comeau: I am Senator Comeau, from Nova Scotia.
Senator De Bané: Pierre De Bané, from Quebec.
The Chair: The committee published a report on Quebec's English-speaking communities in October 2011 and recently received a response from the government on its report. The committee is pleased to welcome the Quebec Community Groups Network to provide comments on the response. The committee is also pleased to hear from the QCGN as representatives of English-speaking minority communities on its study on CBC Radio-Canada's obligations under the Official Languages Act and some aspects of the Broadcasting Act.
On behalf of the committee, I thank you for appearing today. You now have the floor and senators will follow with questions. I believe Ms. Johnston will be starting.
Nicola Johnston, Member of the Board of Directors, Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN): Good afternoon. I am Nicola Johnston, a volunteer member of the Quebec Community Groups Network on the board of directors. With me today is Sylvia Martin-Laforge and Stephen Thompson, also from the QCGN. We also have Guy Rodgers, Executive Director of the English Language Arts Network. Mr. Rodgers has graciously agreed to appear with me today to provide committee members an expert voice from the English-speaking community of Quebec on the two studies you are currently conducting — CBC Radio-Canada's obligations under the Official Languages Act and some aspects of the Broadcasting Act, and your examination of the use of the Internet, new media and social media, and the respect for Canadians' language rights.
During our appearance before this committee on November 14, 2011, the QCGN extended the community's thanks for your report, The Vitality of Quebec's English-speaking Communities: From Myth to Reality. Your historic visit to our communities, personal commitment and the superb work done by committee staff have provided us and our supporting partners with a key authoritative reference. We explained the importance of this critical document in terms of both substance and timing. Your colleagues on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages are currently conducting an evaluation of the Roadmap, a study that greatly influences the Government of Canada's official languages strategy past March 31, 2013.
Organizations representing the English-speaking community of Quebec, including the QCGN, have relied heavily on this committee's report in our collective preparation and presentations to the house committee's study. The recommendation that you made comprehensively reflected our successes, concerns and aspirations.
You are aware that the QCGN is a member-driven organization whose 38 members work to directly benefit the nearly one million Canadians who live in our English-speaking linguistic minority communities, collectively referred to as the English-speaking community of Quebec. We are greatly assisted in this undertaking by the Government of Canada, whose commitment to the vitality of both of our nation's official language minority communities is very much in evidence and certainly appreciated by the English-speaking community.
However, as your report demonstrated, there is room for improvement. Broadly speaking, the relationship between the Government of Canada and this nation's English linguistic minority communities must continue to grow to ensure Canadians living in our communities, in the words of the government, ``benefit from language rights guaranteed by the Charter and the Official Languages Act.''
There are three messages that we draw from your report. First, Canada's French and English linguistic minority communities must be afforded equal voice in the development of policies and programs aimed at enhancing the vitality of our communities. Second, Canadians living in English linguistic minority communities should have equal access to government programs and services that originate or receive funding from the Government of Canada. It is not acceptable that, in the words of the Honourable Dennis Dawson, our language rights become collateral damage or an afterthought in program delivery. This both necessitates and translates into the third broad message. We deserve an equitable share of federal resources devoted to the government's support of our nation's official language minority communities.
Sylvia Martin-Laforge, Director General, Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN): We welcomed the government's response to this committee's report, and we generally support its content. Leading departments, like the Treasury Board, Industry Canada, HRSDC, and especially Health Canada and Canadian Heritage, have increased the government's investment in understanding the needs of our community.
Beginning in 2005, and continuing over the life of the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality 2008-2013, real progress has been made by many federal institutions to improve their ability to enhance our community's development. The accomplishment is being achieved in three ways.
The Government of Canada has made investments in helping the community understand its needs and priorities and plans for its future. For example, Canadian Heritage provided funding for a community priority-setting conference in March. In preparation for this conference, the community consulted internally and with its supporting public and private stakeholders for over six months.
More than 180 leaders of our community, representing communities and sectors from across Quebec, gathered over the weekend of March 24 and 25 to determine our community's future vision and priorities. The conference concluded with the signing of a declaration that identifies priorities to ensure a vital and sustainable future. We have provided copies of the declaration to the clerk.
The Government of Canada has made specific investments in research capacity. For example, federal funding was a catalyst in establishing the Quebec English-speaking Communities Research Network, QUESCREN, a joint initiative of the Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities and Concordia University's School of Extended Learning. Health Canada has provided significant research support to our community through its relationship with the Community Health and Social Services Network, a network of community organizations, resources and public institutions striving to ensure access to health and social services in English for Quebec's English-speaking minority communities.
Third, thanks to the leadership of key departments like Treasury Board and the Department of Canadian Heritage, and institutions including the Parliament of Canada and the Commissioner of Official Languages, a welcome and recently emerging interest in Canada's English linguistic minority communities is developing among federal institutions with which we had not yet enjoyed previous relationships. For example, promising contact has been made with DFAIT, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, National Resources Canada, and even the Canada Border Services Agency. We have even made a collaborative proposal to Air Canada, born out of our last appearance before this committee, and await further discussions.
Yes, there has been an increase in the level of activity associated with federal institutions consulting with our community. There are opportunities and challenges associated with this, which we would be happy to discuss during the question period.
Although the trend towards ensuring an equal voice for our community at the national level is positive, we continue to remind our federal supporting partners that there are systemic impediments to our joining as equal partners without accommodation. We are at once 1 of 13, existing in practice as a regional minority, and 1 of 2, existing legally as a national minority. This calls for a balanced and flexible approach, which we have certainly seen successfully practised by many federal departments. For example, Service Canada is very effective, consulting with our community at a national level on matters of policy and regionally on matters related to program and service delivery. PCH has also demonstrated significant leadership in this regard and is the only department to fund the community for national-level representative activities.
Our internal structure differs from that of our French linguistic minority communities who, because of the interprovincial scope of operations, have developed specialized organizations working at the national level. In addition to providing direct services to their community, these organizations also ensure a strong federal-level voice for special segments of our French linguistic minority communities like youth and seniors. Lacking this capacity and the corresponding national-level scope, it is difficult for us to be heard often as equals.
Ms. Johnston: We would also like to comment on the government's assessment of the vitality of English-speaking communities located in the Montreal region. The metropolis spans 4,300 square kilometres and is home to over 3.8 million Canadians. Access to what the government's response refers to as ``a fairly strong socio-economic base'' and ``institutional base'' or the capacity to participate and enjoy ``a renewed vigour in the areas of arts and culture'' are not universally enjoyed by the 800,000 Canadians who make up the English-speaking community in Montreal.
Members of Montreal's English-speaking community are more likely to be unemployed, living in poverty, lacking in language and technical skills required of the market, face barriers to credential recognition and accreditation, and lack employment equity in the municipal, provincial and federal public services.
Moreover, the security of our community's institutional base in Montreal is not assured. Public support of these institutions is linked to the size of the mother tongue anglophone segment of our community, which is in decline. In addition, public support for our institutions is inevitably tied to the politics of language. Recall that a key difference between Canada's French and English linguistic minority communities is that the francophone outside of Quebec has fought to build institutions whereas the English community in Quebec fights to keep the ones they had. It is a battle we fear we are losing.
We would like to clarify the record regarding what binds our communities together. Nearly 195,000 Canadians, Canada's third most populous official language minority community depending on how you count, live in the ``regions,'' a term used to describe the English-speaking communities outside of the Montreal Census Metropolitan Area. Without the diversity of Montreal, there is no question that these areas are feeling the effects of demographic decline quicker and more severely than in the Montreal community. However, they are not divorced from Montreal; far from it. Like all Quebecers, Montreal's universities and colleges educate their children, its hospitals provide specialized care, and its economic engine provides growth and opportunity. There is a vital link between Montreal's English institutions and the regional communities that has not been adequately studied.
However, it is safe to say that our community must be treated as a whole. It is not helpful, nor does it reflect our reality, to split us into two communities, one in Montreal and one on the outside.
Ms. Martin-Laforge: The QCGN and other organizations representing Canada's official language minority communities have long called for language right protection clauses within federal-provincial agreements. We are therefore heartened by the news regarding the inclusion of these clauses in the federal policy on transfer payments. We look forward to studying the effects of this policy on the delivery of services in English to Canadians living in our linguistic minority communities.
Ms. Johnston: We would also like to thank the Government of Canada for its ever-increasing efforts to understand our unique community and support our collective identity. We, as a community, acknowledge and pledge to continue our reciprocal obligation to work collaboratively with our federal partner, providing clear, evidence-based development priorities that will directly benefit the nearly 1 million Canadians who are proud members of the English-speaking community of Quebec.
Finally, we thank you again for the work that you have done and the support that the committee's work will continue to provide our communities for the years to come. Please come back to see us soon, and we encourage your colleagues in the house to make the trip. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you.
I understand there is a third person who wants to say a few words; am I correct? Mr. Rodgers? No?
Ms. Martin-Laforge: On this piece, we are done, unless there are questions.
The Chair: We are now ready to ask questions. The first question is for Senator Fortin-Duplessis.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Thank you, Madam Chair. First of all, I would like to tell you that we really appreciated the submissions you presented when we held the hearings in the Province of Quebec. We were really impressed.
My question today is about recommendation 15 in the government response. The government provides a general description of how Canada-Quebec agreements work and maintains that consultation mechanisms are available both as part of and outside those agreements. The response focuses more on the Canada-Quebec agreement on education, and does not directly address the implementation of the Canada-Quebec agreement on services.
I can certainly recall the challenges related to service delivery in English, which has always been one of the main sticking points raised in public hearings.
In terms of consultations in the education sector, do you think that the measures described in the government response are satisfactory to the English-speaking community that you are representing? Speaking of recommendation 15, I will have another question later on.
Ms. Martin-Laforge: For the community, the consultations could be more specific in terms of who they are consulting with in the community. The Canada entente with education, like other provinces, consults with the ministry of education. Like in other provinces, at least that I know of, there is little consultation on the ground with the community around what should be considered as part of the government's work in the community.
That said, senator, I would say to you that a good job is being done. We have CLCs as a result of the Canada- Quebec entente on education. There is a lot being done. I believe that a lot more could be done if the community were better heard, if we were asked, invited, if outreach was done to the community to give more insight into what could be done with the Canada-Quebec entente in education in the community.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: My other question has to do with the brain drain. You talked about it a lot, and statistics show that, from 1996 to 2001, 8,000 anglophones left Quebec to go elsewhere in Canada. Of those people, 60 per cent completed post-secondary education and 69 per cent were perfectly bilingual.
Based on what you have observed over the past year, have there been any improvements in terms of young anglophones leaving Quebec or has the situation become worse compared to the situation you described when we came to Quebec City?
Ms. Johnston: I would not say that over the past year the situation has improved. That is probably something that is difficult to assess and to track. Certainly I can still say, from my own personal sphere, that many young, well-educated, English-speaking Quebecers are still leaving the province.
Stephen D. Thompson, Director of Policy, Research and Public Affairs, Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN): If I could add to that, a little while ago, April 3, I believe, Youth Employment Services Montreal provided testimony to the house study. Youth Employment Services Montreal works specifically on entrepreneurship and employment for young people in Montreal to stay in Montreal and to stay in Quebec. They explained the challenges that they have in terms of funding. This gets back to what your report quite aptly studied, which is the problem in the Canada-Quebec accord on employment.
Emploi-Quebec is responsible for employment in Quebec. Emploi-Quebec does not have a good relationship with the community for the provision of services in English, especially for our young people, and organizations like YES are starved for cash and resources and are turning people away.
The problem with that, from Quebec's perspective, is that Quebec, as a whole, as all of us as Quebecers, is trying to attract and retain people to help our economy in the future. Emploi-Quebec is not making the investment in these homegrown human resources that they have. They are well-educated, have family, have roots, are bilingual and want to stay. There is a great deal of pain in the community sector that is trying to keep these young people here, and they do not have the resources to do it.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Madam Chair, I will have other questions in the second round.
The Chair: Another question, Senator Losier-Cool?
Senator Losier-Cool: In line with Senator Fortin-Duplessis' question, I remember reading that a number of English- speaking schools had to close in the Montreal area. Is that because of the out-migration of English-speaking families or because of a decline in the population, as is the case in many areas in Canada? Would you be able to tell us why?
Ms. Martin-Laforge: Senator, one of the reasons that the schools are closing is that we have fewer people who are allowed into the schools because of Bill 101.
The infrastructure of schools was built years ago with an eye, even 30 years later, after 101, to an immigrant population still coming to the schools. That for sure has had an impact on how many people coming into Quebec from outside of Canada can go into the schools. That is one thing. Over the last 30 years, schools have been closing in Montreal and elsewhere because of 101.
The other thing is that, more and more, our community wants to be sure that their kids can speak French. A pretty high percentage of rights-holders are going to French schools. We are losing even though there is immersion in our schools and even though there is lots of opportunity to learn French in our schools. Parents are feeling that they would be better served for their kids to become bilingual, to be able to stay in Quebec and not be the brain drain. It links to the brain drain. Kids are going to the French language schools.
I guess the third thing is that, as the brain drain happens, we are losing people who are making babies and staying in Quebec, so the population is going down. It is complex, not one reason, but the schools are closing for lack of kids in Montreal and elsewhere, and that is it.
Senator Losier-Cool: Like everywhere else.
Ms. Martin-Laforge: Like everywhere else, but for the English-speaking community, even more so because of the engineering of society now in Quebec around the English-speaking community.
Mr. Thompson: I would add one more factor, which is that there is a general anglophone and francophone migration off the island of Montreal.
Senator Losier-Cool: Yes, I read that.
Mr. Thompson: The anglo community tends to be moving north and northwest, so in the areas of Vaudreuil- Soulanges, Laval and Hudson. There is a middle-class movement off the island to those suburbs, and in fact new schools are being built in Hudson, for example. New English schools are being built up there. Those who tend to stay in Montreal are the 30 per cent of our community that were born outside of Canada. Those cultural communities tend to stay on the island of Montreal.
Senator Poirier: About the brain drain, what are the differences between the anglophone and the francophone in that situation of losing your young people? Is there a big difference between the francophone young people leaving Quebec compared to the anglophone young Quebecers leaving?
Mr. Thompson: We are not aware that there is a net loss of young francophones from Quebec. We do know that Canada's French linguistic minority communities are having the same experience. We are losing young people who tend to migrate to Quebec and our young people within Quebec tend to migrate to other places in Canada. It is the effect of being bilingual, being educated and being where the jobs are and where they feel at home.
Senator Poirier: It has been in the New Brunswick media quite a bit in the last few weeks that the Moncton area and other places are finding that we are losing a lot of our young, educated people to other provinces, specifically to Western Canada. Is there a trend occurring in a good part of Eastern Canada now as there was many years ago when people wanted to go to the United States or to Ontario? Right now, it seems to be Alberta.
Mr. Thompson: There is no question that there is an economic shift happening in the country and that young people tend to follow the economic shifts. As far as youth migration, the linguistic minority communities, both French and English, are experiencing this, but I am not aware that the same phenomenon is happening with the francophone majority in Quebec.
Senator Comeau: I would like to come back, Ms. Martin-Laforge, to a comment you made. It was about federal language rights protection being proposed. I am not sure if I got that right.
Ms. Martin-Laforge: Yes, in the Treasury Board. In my last comment, I said ``have long called for language rights protection clauses within federal/provincial agreements. What I meant was les clauses linguistiques. That is exactly what I meant.
We need to see linguistic clauses. Francophones outside of Quebec and anglophones inside Quebec, as there is devolution to the provinces, need to be assured that there are linguistic clauses attached to any kind of program movement outside of the federal sphere and into the provincial sphere.
Senator Comeau: Has your group looked at the issue that is being proposed on Parliament Hill, especially in the Commons, regarding imposing French as the language of work in federally regulated industries? What would your comments be on that?
Ms. Martin-Laforge: We did give our opinions to the NDP and to the Bloc, who were proposing such things. The last three years we have been giving them our opinions.
Senator Comeau: My understanding is that the Bloc did not like it because it did not go far enough.
Ms. Martin-Laforge: That is right. My understanding is that the latest bill, the NDP bill, has been defeated as well.
Our feeling is that while we are being told that it does not have any significance on the English-speaking community because it was not a linguistic minority piece of legislation — that is, it was not within the context of the Official Languages Act — we were concerned that it was once again demonstrating, among other things to the English- speaking, that federal laws could have asymmetrical effects.
Senator Comeau: For fun, I took the law, removed the word ``Quebec'' from every one of the clauses in there, and substituted the ``Nova Scotia.'' I then removed the word ``French'' and substituted the word ``English.'' I showed it to a few people in terms of what is being proposed in Ottawa now and said, ``If it can be proposed in Quebec, it can be done as federal legislation imposing the English language in Nova Scotia.'' I extended it to a few other provinces and gave copies to my friends. They were shocked, of course, because I used the same stationery that is used by federal parliamentarians. It was a bit of fun to do it as a project. However, when I did show it to people, it illustrated the point that we cannot start dictating things from Ottawa without asymmetrical effects.
Ms. Martin-Laforge: Sometimes we would require that policy-makers and legislators in Ottawa consider national policy. If there are asymmetrical implications and implementations in terms of what that they consider official language minority communities, there could be a lot of trouble, as you demonstrated. We expect national policy from our government. If there are asymmetrical nuances, the implications on the official language minority communities have got to be thoroughly reviewed.
Senator Comeau: I could not have said it better myself. Thank you very much.
Senator De Bané: Recently, you identified six priorities. In your view, which is the most important priority for this next year?
Ms. Martin-Laforge: They were not prioritized in that sense. This is toward a vision for 15 years. If we were to imagine the English-speaking community in 15 years, this is the puzzle of priorities that will be required to have a strong English-speaking community. There is not one or the other; they all fit together. I think I would be right. Everyone at this table was at that conference that day and over the weekend. This is our puzzle, yes.
Senator De Bané: One of the main characteristics of our era is an era the media of communications. In that regard, can you tell us both about CBC and about Société Radio-Canada? Are you satisfied with the services of each network for your community so that your activities and your vitality are really communicated to the public of Montreal and the province of Quebec for each of those two networks? Are you satisfied? Is there something that both networks are not doing that they should be doing?
We were told that one of the tragedies is that the English media in Quebec are focused on what goes on in Hollywood more than on the activities of the artistic community, which is quite important in Montreal. Over 800 people are involved in artistic cultural activities.
For those two public broadcasting entities, CBC and SRC, are you happy with what they are doing and, if not, what should they do that they are not doing at the moment?
The Chair: I understand you have not made your presentation yet and we may not have much time for it. We could have a copy.
Guy Rodgers, Executive Director, English Language Arts Network: I would like to clarify two things. The first thing is that I am not talking about the Internet today. I will come back to talk about that in two weeks.
The second thing is that there is a ``D'' in my name, but someone stole it.
I am going to speak in English, if you do not mind.
On behalf of the English Language Arts Network members and board of directors, we commend you for studying Canada's obligations under the Official Languages Act and some aspects of the Broadcasting Act.
During the seven years that ELAN has existed, I have come to realize how important these questions are and how extremely complex. ELAN recently completed its own study on broadcast and media, and I have copies here for those who would like one.
One point that came across again and again is that Quebec's English-speaking community has not represented and defended its interests in decades in the realm of broadcasting. We have no official think tank to devise policy and we have no spokes group to articulate our priorities and concerns.
This could be part of QCGN's role within the community, but it requires a level of investment in professional resources that QCGN does not possess. ELAN has been increasingly active in this domain over the past five years, mainly because we have board members and members who work in film, television, radio and broadcasting.
The Chair: Do you think you could keep your presentation to five minutes? Otherwise, we will not be able to ask the questions we need to ask. We could read your presentation and if we have more questions, we could send them to you in writing.
Mr. Rodgers: The first point I want to get across, which is important to me and perhaps not to you, is the question of representation of the community. The work we do and the QCGN does on these issues is what normally comes under national envelopes. We really need that kind of support and we have had this discussion with PCH. I want to mention here that we work largely with volunteers to be able to provide the services our community needs, which are extremely important.
This study here pointed out that there has been no television production of any major source featuring Montreal as a location in about 20 years. When that was done, it was done by CBC. Although CBC has not done much in the recent decades, it has done more than private broadcasters. One of the aids in producing more content might be the Local Programming Improvement Fund. As you may know, the CRTC created the definition for eligibility. Cities to be considered eligible for local programming had to have populations under 1 million, and we know that the entire English-speaking population of Quebec is under 900,000, if based on first official language spoken; 600,000 if based on mother tongue. CRTC, for reasons practically impossible to understand, chose a definition based on language understood and suddenly inflated Montreal's English-language population to 2 or 3 million, which made us ineligible for the Local Programming Improvement Fund.
I was speaking to the CRTC last Friday. They are reviewing this situation. We are once again complaining that this is a completely egregious definition that does not fit anywhere within official language policy within Canada, that excludes Montreal, that excludes Quebec, and prevents us from having this additional funding.
In our study on CBC television, we pointed out that little work has been done. We pointed out that independent producers have to file annual independent production reports, which CBC does not file, and we have trouble getting the reports. In general, we find that television is controlled from Toronto, and with the exception of a little bit of one- hour specials produced each summer, there is practically no local production by CBC, although Pia Marquard, the managing director of CBC, recently announced a contest in collaboration with QCGN to produce videos called ``My Quebec Roots.'' This is an interesting production but it will be presented on websites. This will not be presented on CBC television.
In terms of radio, we said that, unlike television, the CBC's Radio One, 2 and 3 networks all create significant local content, particularly in arts and culture, music and variety programming. Montreal and Quebec City are quite well represented. Once you get out of those two centres, production is limited.
One ongoing problem with CBC is that the entire Ontario border receives the service from Ontario. Communities like Wakefield do not get a signal from Quebec so they feel completely isolated from the rest of the community. Wakefield was recently involved in a project about young voices that was discussed on CBC, but they could not receive the program because they get programming from Ontario.
To end on a positive note, ELAN spent a lot of time documenting the history of English-language culture in Quebec. We produced it with a PCH project fund that was presented on our website. Guernica publishing decided that the story was so interesting they produced this book, and I have copies here for all of you, if you would like to have one. During last week's Blue Metropolis literary festival, the book was part of a featured panel. The two authors who wrote the sections on music were featured in the panel, talking about the history of music in Montreal, which goes way, way back before Arcade Fire; it goes back 100 years to the beginning of professional art in Canada. This book discusses major anglophone influences in Quebec, filmmaking, music, dance, literature; and even the bilingual, bicultural aspect was always very strong within the artistic community. CBC Radio recorded that panel for future broadcast. This is an example of where community, CBC, the Official Languages Act and the Broadcasting Act converge in a powerful and positive way to develop and strengthen the community.
The Chair: Senator De Bané, before I give you the floor, I would like to come back to Senator Tardif. I think she had a question about the previous topic.
Senator Tardif: I had two questions, one of which is about CBC/Radio-Canada. I can talk about that rather than the previous question.
The Chair: So I will give the floor to Senator De Bané first, and then to Senator Tardif.
Senator De Bané: I was struck by the fact that you made no allusion to la Société Radio-Canada, the French network. As you know, if there is something we all complain about, it is the two solitudes. When we look to the Broadcasting Act, one of the raisons d'être of those two networks is to allow each community to be aware of the others.
Should I infer from what you have said that you are, essentially, completely ignored by Société Radio-Canada?
Mr. Rodgers: I would say that CBC English goes to a lot of trouble to try to educate its audience about what is happening in French. I do not think the reverse happens a lot. There are some exceptional artists, such as Arcade Fire, that get attention, but in general I do not think we are of any particular interest.
Senator De Bané: That is a big tragedy because the whole raison d'être of this CBC/Radio-Canada is precisely to make all of us acquainted with the other communities and you are totally ignored by Société Radio-Canada.
The Chair: Senator Tardif, you can ask your two questions, if you wish.
Senator Tardif: My first question has to do with recommendation 9 in our report, the one about the media. I think one of our recommendations was that the Consultative Committee take into account the role of media, given that you are very present in ads and that your place is recognized in the media.
Are you satisfied with the government's response to our recommendation? You can send us your answer, if you prefer.
Ms. Martin-Laforge: To do justice to that, I think we should confer with the folks who have that responsibility in our network and come back to you.
We will send you more details on that issue.
Senator Tardif: I would appreciate it. You can forward your comments to the chair and the members of the committee.
Ms. Martin-Laforge: Absolutely.
Senator Tardif: My next question has to do with the federal budget and the anticipated CBC/Radio-Canada cuts. At this time, do you know what impact these cuts will have on your community? As for the development fund, you stressed the importance of the Local Programming Improvement Fund. You also made a presentation before the CRTC about the importance of keeping the fund. Do you know whether this fund is going to be affected by the budget cuts?
Mr. Rodgers: They are in the process of reviewing the fund and we will know in two months. We gave a presentation last week. As I said earlier, the English-speaking community in Quebec is not eligible because the definition used for population and language knowledge excludes us. So that is quite a challenge. First, we would like to have access to the fund, and, second, we would like it to continue.
Senator Tardif: What are the criteria used to determine who is eligible?
Mr. Rodgers: The fund is for small cities with populations under one million. And instead of being based on the mother tongue or the first official language, the definition is based on language understood. In Montreal, two million people know English. We have been trying to have the definition changed for two years. It is ridiculous.
Senator Tardif: In your view, does the language criterion penalize you?
Mr. Rodgers: Yes. We are not eligible.
Senator Tardif: Do you think that the budget cuts will affect the programming?
Mr. Rodgers: There are two things to keep in mind. CBC said that they will focus more on the region, which is very good news.
In terms of cuts, we still do not know how they are going to be applied. If more money is earmarked for the regions, in addition to the cuts, things might come out even. We still do not know how things are going to turn out because this is recent.
Senator Tardif: Some of your regions do not receive digital broadcasting. Are you affected by the change in the way TV programs are broadcast?
Mr. Rodgers: Quebec Community Groups Network did a study on that.
Ms. Martin-Laforge: In the Eastern Townships and Quebec City, we know there are people who will be affected. Is it a large population? Not really. It depends on how wide you want your net to be in terms of how many people is a critical mass to make a pitch to CBC to maintain the status quo.
At the QCGN, and in consultation with other folks in the community, we determined that, given cuts and given the situation, we would prefer to see accommodation where it was possible but that we were not going to make more representation around those issues of numeric, because we felt that the critical mass was not there. There are people who are disadvantaged, for sure, but in this economy, in this situation, would we go further on that? We decided that we would leave it to the forces of demand to see if the community would ask for more, so we did not go any further on that.
Senator Tardif: So what will your priorities be in terms of media, communications, arts and culture?
Mr. Rodgers: We are going to try to work more in the area of linguistic duality. We have a great deal of content that is produced in various areas. I am speaking specifically about the area of arts and culture, one area where there is a lot of vitality. Even in terms of your earlier question about the brain drain, because Quebec is such a welcoming environment for culture, we actually see people staying and returning at a much higher level than in other domains. It is a welcoming environment.
Can we maintain the infrastructure and the critical mass? We are going to be taking the stories about artists that exist in radio, television, web, print, and trying to communicate with the francophone majority, with our neighbours, to create an audience but also to change some of the negative stereotypes with which we constantly struggle. Artists present as positive, integrated and highly bilingual.
We often forget that 50 per cent of anglophones are married to francophones, which is all about schools closing. If you want your kids to stay, you want them to be fully bilingual. If you put them in a French school, then they become maybe not so much anglophones anymore. It is complex. However, this relationship in the media with the francophone majority, with Radio Canada, is definitely a priority.
Senator Poirier: I am curious to know the following: Of the programs for Radio Canada and CBC, which programs are the most important for you, which you would like to maintain or see happen?
Mr. Rodgers: Obviously the news is important, the idea of having more regional. There are two levels of regional. There is the region of Quebec. Certainly Montreal would have more news, and Montreal is important. To have all the regions better represented. Just as the rest of Canada has a ``Montreal-ization'' of the media, we have this ``Toronto- ization.'' We are trying to get away from that. Within the rest of English Quebec, there is something of a ``Montreal- ization.'' Also, more products that reflect our reality. At the moment, there is a certain amount of arts and culture, which is very positive; however, there are many other local stories in Montreal and in the regions that we want to promote and see in the media, and CBC seems to be the best vehicle for that to happen.
Ms. Martin-Laforge: I might add that, with regard to visibility, we want to see ourselves in the news. To go back to Radio-Canada, for example, I look at Radio-Canada news every night, but they never talk about us. They never come to our events.
I watch television in French, but I do not identify with it.
Then, if CBC becomes so ``Toronto-ized'' that there is nothing around me in Montreal or in the regions, we are orphans. Radio-Canada Montreal, Quebec, does not talk about us and does not show us the way we are, nor does CBC. Who do you look to?
Senator Comeau: Welcome to the club.
The Chair: Before we move to the second round, I have a question for Ms. Martin-Laforge or Ms. Johnston.
You received a copy of the government response to the Senate committee report. Overall, are you happy with the federal government's response? Are there some items in the response that do not seem satisfactory and that you would have liked the government to elaborate on? Have you had an opportunity to examine the government response? Generally speaking, are you satisfied?
Ms. Martin-Laforge: Absolutely, in the sense that we are so happy that the Senate came, that there was a report, that it was put out and that there was a government response. Most of us were just happy for that. You have to think about the process. You have to think about what we all learned about ourselves, even by presenting to you. The government response, of course, could have been more fleshed out in certain areas, or they could have given us more ideas around what they would do more specifically, but I think just the fact of having a government response was a major step for the English-speaking community on which we will be able to build. It does say in the government response that they will take into account the senators' report in considering the road map and other programming. That is a blanket statement, of course, but I think that it is a tool for us. It has become a tool for us and for our community to go back to the government and say, ``The senators said such and such.'' Mr. Thompson, do you have something to respond to?
Mr. Thompson: The one thing in analyzing the government's response that we might have seen was a response to recommendation 3. Our community has three messages that we outlined today during the presentation as to an equal voice in policy, access to services in our official language and an equitable share of federal resources allocated to Canada's linguistic minority communities. Recommendation 3 dealt with that head on. The government's response did not deal with that at all. They did not respond to recommendation 3. We still do not know what criteria the federal government uses in the allocation of resources to Canada's linguistic minority communities. We still do not know how much money is spent. It is still very difficult to get a handle on that, and we would like to know. We would like to know what criteria is being used to establish an equitable share of resources for Canada's linguistic minority communities.
The Chair: Thank you.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: My question has to do with Radio-Canada. At the end of March, it was announced that the CBC/Radio-Canada budget will be cut by $115 million in the next three years. Our public broadcaster made a commitment to compromise its strategy under the five-year 2015: Everyone, Every Way plan as little as possible. It released the details of its action plan on April 4.
If I understood correctly, you feel that they are not trying to achieve their goals.
Mr. Rodgers: That is not quite true. I think they are making efforts. We have seen this over the past 12 months or so.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: All the better if you think they are making efforts.
Mr. Rodgers: I feel they are trying to do more, that they are focusing more on what is happening in English-speaking areas, including Quebec.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: When we were in Montreal, I remember you were complaining about never getting any coverage, about not having news in English from everywhere in the province. Do you think that Canadian Heritage has the power to effect change so that service is provided even if there are not one million anglophones in the province? Based on what you said just now, you are under the impression that there is a lot more being done, but that it is not necessarily properly accounted for.
Do you think that Canadian Heritage can exert pressure to help you get news in English from everywhere in Quebec? Senator De Bané already said that it is appalling that we do not get news in French from other francophone regions in the country. That is a real problem and I am not sure how we can fix it.
Mr. Rodgers: To be honest, we are not sure either. It cannot hurt to have Canadian Heritage exert a bit of pressure.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Perhaps they are the only ones who can do it.
Ms. Martin-Laforge: I would just like to add that it is my understanding that the Official Languages Act, at least Part VII, does not apply to programming. Programming is ``le nerf de la guerre'' in some ways, so we can get initiatives out of CBC, like the Quebec roots is an initiative, but when it comes to programming, it is hands off. The difficulty here is how do you get more programming on English speaking?
In Quebec, for example, there are a lot of soap operas. There is a wealth of content in Quebec about Quebecers. I do not know what the situation is in terms of the community outside Quebec; Ms. Kenny will talk to you about it in a moment.
For us, it is about programming, and so Part VII does not apply to programming, to my understanding.
Mr. Rodgers: The Commissioner of Official Languages does not entirely agree. He contests that.
Ms. Martin-Laforge: I know, but we need Radio-Canada and CBC to agree with him.
Senator Losier-Cool: If there has been progress, I would say that they are making an effort to make Radio-Canada less Montreal-centred. We get the statistics from quite an in-depth study that the Université de Moncton conducted in 2007 or 2008. Has a similar study been done for the CBC? I listen to Peter Mansbridge; he talks about Montreal from time to time. Montreal is certainly in the news these days.
Mr. Rodgers: Yes, we are making headlines everywhere at the moment.
Senator Losier-Cool: Has a study been done to find out the extent to which anglophones in Quebec are represented in the news, for example?
Mr. Rodgers: Not that I know of. It would really surprise me. No.
Senator Losier-Cool: Would that be a project for your group?
Mr. Rodgers: It would be a good project.
Ms. Martin-Laforge: A couple years ago, we asked the commissioner's office, as part of their strategic research priorities, if they would consider doing a review of how anglophones were portrayed in Quebec in media and news. Now, we did not go down that route, and they were not able to do it, for lots of different reasons, but I certainly think that that would be somewhere where we need to know more about this, know more about what we are watching, who we are watching and how it is being portrayed in the newspaper. I think that is a great idea.
The Chair: As you know, there are soon going to be CRTC hearings about renewing CBC's licences. I am not sure that the date has been set yet. Do you intend to submit a brief?
Mr. Rodgers: Yes. We have been preparing it for 12 months already, because the date has been postponed.
The Chair: So, you are going to submit a brief?
Mr. Rodgers: Yes, we certainly are.
The Chair: So, if there are no further questions, I would like to thank you sincerely. I made you cut your presentation short. We had a number of topics to discuss with you and they were all very interesting.
On behalf of the members of the committee, I would like to thank you both for your presentations and your flexibility. You are going to provide us with some more information and, if committee members have any more questions, we will get them to you. Thank you very much.
The committee has begun a study on CBC/Radio-Canada's obligations under the Official Languages Act and some specific aspects of the Broadcasting Act.
As part of that study, the committee now welcomes representatives from official language minority communities. On behalf of the committee, I thank the representatives from the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada for accepting our invitation to appear today. Ms. Marie-France Kenny and Mr. Serge Quinty, welcome.
The members of our committee are looking forward to hearing your comments on our topic; after your presentation, there will be some time for questions. You have the floor.
Marie-France Kenny, President, Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada: Honourable Senators, it is always a pleasure to come to meet you and to share our views with you. With me today is Serge Quinty, our director of communications. Thank you for inviting us to appear before you as part of your study on CBC/Radio- Canada's obligations under the Official Languages Act and the Broadcasting Act.
Considering the difficult situation that the corporation is going through at the moment, this discussion is occurring at just the right time. I should also mention that, last Thursday, we appeared before the CRTC as part of its review of the Local Programming Improvement Fund, the LPIF.
That fund has allowed regional stations of Radio-Canada to produce more local content for our communities. We have asked the CRTC to maintain both the fund itself and the corporation's access to it. Even with the recent cutbacks, Radio-Canada has maintained its regional presence all over the country. We are convinced that this is in good part because of the LPIF.
The question of regional presence leads me to the first of the important questions you ask in your study. This is whether CBC and Radio-Canada provide coverage of equivalent quality in both official languages all across the country and on all their platforms.
In television, francophone and Acadian communities have access to seven regional stations of Radio-Canada: one for each province in the west, two in Ontario and one for the four Atlantic provinces. In radio, we have four stations in the west, three in Ontario and one in Atlantic Canada. I am not counting the locally produced morning shows in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Windsor or the re-broadcasters in more remote regions. It is important to know that, generally, the service to our communities is quite satisfactory, with two exceptions that it is important to share with you.
First, the signal from Radio-Canada in Edmonton does not reach Jasper National Park. This is an irritant for the community, which has made several representations to Radio-Canada about the matter over the years. It is important to point out that, though Radio-Canada has no signal there, CBC does.
The lack of a Radio-Canada presence in the north is also a significant shortcoming. You know as well as I do that the Arctic is a region that is developing rapidly and the French-speaking population is increasing with every census. The population is professional and highly educated; it wants to be informed and entertained in its own language. Of the three communities, the only one that is at the moment connected — in a minor way — to the corporation's French- language services is in Yukon, which has the services of a television journalist working for Radio-Canada in British Columbia.
For years, that community has also been producing a radio program called Rencontres from the studios of CBC North. The French-speaking communities in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut get their information from CBC North or the Radio-Canada signal from Montreal. In the context of equal coverage, you will surely agree that there should be a Radio-Canada Nord, just as there is a CBC North.
Some observations about the other platforms. In the last decade, we have seen a spread of the Espace Musique offerings into a number of areas. In the last three years, we have seen some regional hosting. But with the budget cuts announced on April 4, regional hosting will be cut in half. Espace Musique's regional presence was incomplete already. In my home in Saskatchewan, we still do not have it. So it is being held back just as it is getting going.
The Internet and online platforms are also part of Radio-Canada's ``Everyone. Every Way'' strategy. I bring this to your attention because, in its desire to serve the regions better, the corporation has made it part of its strategy to launch web-based hyper-local microsites on the Internet in order to improve service to poorly served area. The intent is commendable. The first two hyper-local sites, launched last year, cover Montreal's south shore and north shore respectively. But there is still only one site for all of Acadia, a region that extends over four provinces.
We have to wonder about the corporation's definition of ``hyper-local'' and ``regional coverage''. Please do not misunderstand us; in general, the regional stations of Radio-Canada do excellent work and our communities recognize that. The producers, the hosts, the reporters and the administrators maintain excellent relations with the communities and listen to them. But the stations have too few resources, given their mandate and the area they have to cover.
In Saskatchewan, where I live, the station in Regina and the Saskatoon bureau cover the entire province, and it is a big province. When we ask our communities to identify the weaknesses in our regional coverage, the answer very often revolves around the ability of Radio-Canada to travel in order to cover an event in Prince Albert, in Lethbridge, in Prince George, or in St-Pierre-Jolys in Manitoba.
The situation is much better because of the LPIF, but there is still a huge amount of work to do. For example, Yukon and Newfoundland and Labrador have only one reporter, working out of a station in another province. In addition, where there once was a radio newscast for New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, and another for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, they have for several years been folded into one newscast produced in Moncton. It goes without saying that, with a change like that, items of local interest lose out.
Now let us turn to the network. In that aspect, francophone and Acadian communities are certainly not able to acknowledge that the public broadcaster is their broadcaster. In the communities' eyes, Radio-Canada often seems to be content with the notion that the network is for Quebec. For things that interest francophones elsewhere in the country, they have the regional stations.
Certainly, some effort has been made. The Acadian artist Lisa LeBlanc was on Tout le monde en parle a few weeks ago, as well as Radio Radio. Damien Robitaille was a guest on the show previously too.
We are also well aware that La petite séduction has been to Chéticamp, to Maillardville and even to Gravelbourg, my home. Considering the fact that our communities represent 14 per cent of the francophone population of Canada, this presence on the network is still nowhere near strong enough. News items from Quebec and Montreal still have a disproportionate place on Le Téléjournal and it is still rare to see news that would show Quebecers that there are francophones anywhere else in the country. We remain all but invisible.
But there is reason to be optimistic because reflecting official language minority communities is on the CRTC's radar more and more. We are sure that this will be a consideration in the upcoming renewal of Radio-Canada's licence. However, there is still the perception on the Radio-Canada network that whatever interests Quebec is relevant for the whole of French-speaking Canada. Or perhaps the perception is that the audience that the hosts and reporters are talking to is automatically made up of Quebecers.
Last month, when Michel Cormier — an Acadian — was appointed head of Radio-Canada's information programming service, the columnist Jean-François Lisée surely said aloud what a lot of others were thinking when he pointed out the fact that, for the first time, the service will be headed by someone who is not from Quebec. We also hope that the appointment indicates a willingness for a change in culture.
There are also signs that Radio-Canada wants to transform last month's budget cuts into an occasion to modernize the public broadcaster and to do things differently. We would look very kindly on Radio-Canada if, in a desire for efficiency, it were to look to the regions as a way to breathe new life into the network.
I want to spend the last part of my presentation on CBC/Radio-Canada's respect for its obligations under the Official Languages Act. I will not say much about Part IV except that you are not greeted in both official languages in all of the Crown corporation's offices. I sometimes travel to Regina for interviews, and I cannot remember the last time I was greeted in both official languages. They do not try very hard to find me someone who speaks French, other than the reporter interviewing me.
As for Part VII, there is still a long way to go. Following the cuts at the CBEF station in Windsor, in the spring of 2009, the official languages commissioner initiated legal action against the Crown corporation. The issue came down to defining CBC/Radio-Canada's responsibilities under Part VII. The FCFA is of the view that, as a federal institution, the corporation has a duty to consult official language minority communities.
For years now, we have been calling for a formal mechanism at the national level, as well as a formal consultation forum at the regional level. In recent years, the corporation has established a regional panel, made up of French- speaking individuals from across the country. The problem with the panel, however, is that the francophones on it are there as individuals, not as community representatives.
Furthermore, this panel is hardly an accountability mechanism requiring the corporation to show how it took the needs and priorities expressed by francophones into account. In our view, the need for a consultation mechanism has in no way been satisfied, despite the fine partnerships in a number of communities.
As you know, Part VII does more than just support the development of official language minority communities. It also sets out the government's commitment to foster the full recognition and use of English and French in Canadian society. This commitment to linguistic duality applies just as much to CBC as it does to Radio-Canada. But the fact that there are still two solitudes in a number of regions cannot be denied. When it comes to the CBC, it is as though our communities do not exist, most of the time. And yet, if ever we had an ideal agent to build bridges and foster a better understanding between English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians, it is indeed CBC/Radio-Canada.
We would look very favourably on local programming that bridged the gap between Radio-Canada and CBC. In closing, I know it may sound like we have taken a tough love stance when it comes to CBC/Radio-Canada. Our seemingly harsh attitude, however, merely reflects how desperately we need its services, how important its local and national programming is as a vehicle for our communities' expression.
After the federal government announced in its budget, on March 29, that CBC/Radio-Canada would face $115 million in cuts over the next three years, francophone and Acadian communities generally felt they had come out relatively unscathed, so to speak. Even though a certain number of jobs are being cut, even though Espace Musique's regional broadcast slots are being cut, it could have been much worse.
Our communities still remember the budget cuts of the late 1990s and the attempt to consolidate the four stations in western Canada. Radio-Canada's local stations have meagre resources, and so we are not ready to let down our guard. When the government decides on the Crown corporation's parliamentary appropriation or discusses the significance of that appropriation, rarely does the discussion focus on the critical role that Radio-Canada performs for 2.5 million French-speaking Canadians who live in linguistic minority communities.
We are depending on you, honourable senators, to shift the focus back to that important fact. Thank you, and we would be happy to answer your questions.
The Chair: The first question will be from Senator Fortin-Duplessis.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: After the federal budget announcement, CBC/Radio-Canada disclosed the details of its action plan to address the budget cuts to be made over the next three years. What is your reaction to the action plan announced by CBC/Radio-Canada? Did Radio-Canada consult you when it was preparing its action plan?
Ms. Kenny: On the first question, as I said earlier, we feel as though we escaped unscathed. We sincerely appreciate Radio-Canada's efforts to maintain its local presence and to focus more on network reductions. As far as consultation goes, we were not consulted on what form the cuts would take. Obviously, there were discussions between Radio- Canada and the community, but nothing in the way of formal consultations.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: You said that the impact of these measures had been announced. What would be the worst impact, in your view?
Ms. Kenny: Of course, it would be a station closure. We went through it with the Windsor station, which broadcasts a few local morning programs. When it comes to building our identity, we need to see and hear our communities, we need to see ourselves reflected in that programming. It would be devastating if the regional or provincial news no longer covered what was happening in our communities. That would be one of the worst effects, but Radio-Canada has assured us that would not happen.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: If there were too many cuts, could it actually have the effect of undermining your communities' development?
Ms. Kenny: Yes, the best example of that is Regina. There, Radio-Canada works with the community and belongs to a number of coalitions and committees. The work being done in cooperation with the community is quite significant. I would go as far as to say that is case just about everywhere. I do not see any exceptions, that is the case in our regions.
Radio-Canada is a partner that broadcasts, records and does a lot for the community. If it disappeared, a partnership would disappear, not just the regional news or a reflection of society. It would mean the loss of a major partner in the communities.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Thank you very much.
Senator Tardif: It is always a pleasure to have you appear before the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages. Ms. Kenny, you talked about the important work Radio-Canada does with the communities. In my region in Edmonton, Radio-Canada is a key partner of the Franco-Albertan community. Radio-Canada participates extensively in the activities of a number of organizations.
Sometimes we are extremely hard on Radio-Canada. Perhaps the reason is that we have such high expectations when it comes to the Crown corporation's potential, but those expectations are often incompatible with the resources it has. Unfortunately, there are even some who would prefer to see CBC/Radio-Canada lose all public funding.
You touched on it in response to Senator Fortin-Duplessis's question, but what would it mean for francophone minority communities at the end of the day if CBC/Radio-Canada were to disappear?
Ms. Kenny: Obviously, we heard there was talk of eliminating CBC/Radio-Canada altogether. I would think an anglophone would be quite disappointed by that attitude. On the flip side, some stations such as Global and CTV do broadcast across the country, in the regions.
French speakers in Saskatchewan like myself have only one station they can turn to for local news, and that is Radio-Canada. That is the only channel where I can go to find out what is happening in my province, not just in my community. It gives me information about what my provincial government is doing, what the federal government is doing, in French, where I live, in a one-hour news program.
I would lose access to all that information, whereas anglophones might have other options, other media outlets they could turn to. Just imagine for a moment, if you would, that you could no longer access your local news in your language. As I see it, that would be catastrophic in terms of the community's sense of identity. As I said, it would also mean the loss of an essential partner in our communities.
As a francophone living in Saskatchewan, I cannot picture myself waking up one morning and not being able to tune in to Radio-Canada because it does not exist. I cannot even wrap my head around the idea; it is just unfathomable.
Mr. Quinty: I just wanted to add that during last week's public hearings on the Local Programming Improvement Fund, various stakeholders including Shaw Cable said local programming solutions were best left to the market.
Serving francophone minority communities holds no appeal for private broadcasters because there is no money to be made. Our communities are not synonymous with audience ratings and large market shares. Market forces alone are not enough to express our voice or deliver local news and programming to francophones.
Senator Tardif: Do you think it would be important for us to mention what you just talked about in our committee report?
Ms. Kenny: Absolutely. We said the same thing to the CRTC, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages, and we are saying it again here. A Canada without a national television broadcaster delivering provincial news in both official languages is no Canada of mine.
Senator Comeau: You mentioned the Radio-Canada site in New Brunswick that covers the entire Atlantic region.
Do you know whether Radio-Canada or others have measured the ratings among audiences outside New Brunswick, Acadians outside New Brunswick, in a manner of speaking? Has anyone tried to measure those ratings?
Ms. Kenny: I could not tell you whether Radio-Canada had undertaken such a study. But I can tell you about all the unhappy people there were when the decision was made to consolidate two radio broadcast slots into one. People were clearly unhappy and complained.
Senator Comeau: We are talking about radio, then?
Ms. Kenny: Yes, radio. People felt they were not hearing their community's voice very much as it was, and now it is even worse. We are losing the local perspective when it comes to Nova Scotia reporting, provincial reporting, French- language coverage of what our government is doing, what our community is doing. We are losing all of that because of the consolidation, and yet there are still four provinces to be covered.
Senator Comeau: You raise a very valid point. Radio-Canada represents two sources of information: radio and TV. I was more focused on TV. But from what I have seen, radio programming has gone to great lengths to cover every Atlantic region. I do not get the same sense that Radio-Canada's TV programming has made as much of an effort to cover the other regions, including New Brunswick. Have you ever looked into that phenomenon?
Ms. Kenny: No, never.
Mr. Quinty: I might be able to speak to that. Last year, the CRTC issued a call for submissions for the renewal of Radio-Canada's licences and subsequently, the process was, of course, postponed. Nevertheless, we had started working on our submission and, in so doing, consulted with our members including our four Atlantic members. I can tell you that as far as Newfoundland and Labrador goes, the contrast is quite striking. They said they feel as though they are just as much of a minority vis-à-vis Moncton as they are vis-à-vis Montreal. Clearly, having one video journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador does not exactly result in comprehensive coverage.
Senator Comeau: That would be a great project in terms of finding a solution for those regions. I know something is going to happen at Radio-Canada at some point and we have telephone conversations to that effect amongst ourselves. It is often said there are no Acadians outside New Brunswick. A few years ago, I attended the Acadian world congress in Caraquet, and I was introduced to someone who welcomed me to Acadia. I thanked the person. But I am part of Acadia, in Nova Scotia, and I was welcomed to Acadia, which is of course in New Brunswick. That would be a worthwhile examination, in my view. Do those in Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia receive Radio-Canada coverage? The history in terms of radio is different. Perhaps a study could be undertaken to examine how successful radio, primarily Radio-Canada, has been in reaching our communities.
Ms. Kenny: Indeed.
Senator De Bané: Thank you, Madam Chair. And thank you for pointing out the crucial role Radio-Canada plays in those provinces that are predominantly English-speaking.
Ms. Kenny, you said there was just one journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador, and very few elsewhere. You will no doubt be intrigued to learn that Radio-Canada has more journalists in Quebec than CBC does in Ontario, a province that is otherwise more populated with nearly 13 million inhabitants. When they tell you they do not have the money, you might want to remind them of that fact.
The Chair: Do you have a question?
Senator De Bané: Yes, Madam Chair, I do have questions, but I wanted to give Ms. Kenny an argument the next time they feed her the old ``we cannot afford it'' line. I wanted her to know that Radio-Canada has more reporters across the entire country than the CBC. That information will serve her well.
Ms. Kenny, as far as Radio-Canada's role in the provinces goes, obviously it is a crucial one. The rub, however, is, as you pointed out, that while you may be very present in all the regional programming, you are equally as invisible on the network. Personally, that pains me greatly. Of course, it is no big deal to speak French in Chicoutimi, but preserving one's language in Regina or Gravelberg, hats off to you, that is admirable. You are invisible, there are millions of francophones outside the region — because in addition to native French speakers, there are millions of French speakers outside Quebec, let us not forget — and your activities, which obviously receive good coverage in every province, are virtually banned from any coverage when it comes to Radio-Canada, the national network. All of these things prompted some francophone leaders to launch the Canadian Foundation for Cross-Cultural Dialogue. Could you tell us about it? What made francophone leaders want to establish an organization that brings together francophone communities in English-speaking provinces so they can get to know one another and engage in discussion? Tell me about the Foundation.
Ms. Kenny: I am a member of the board of directors of the Fondation canadienne pour le dialogue des cultures and the board of directors of the Accent channel, which is the channel you are talking about. I sit on those boards as the president of the FCFA and not as an individual. That seat is reserved for the presidency. I should point out that the Accent channel is not meant to replace Radio-Canada, but rather to complement it. The idea is not at all to minimize Radio-Canada's obligations in terms of the network reflection. Even if the Accent channel went on the air, it truly would be as a complement, such as TFO or other media. The more French media outlets there are — the more we are culturally represented and reflected in our media — the better it is for our communities. It is an addition, and it is a channel made for and by the communities.
It also goes without saying that the Accent channel will work with partners like Radio-Canada. The channel is not supposed to have offices in the regions but rather partnerships with local producers, including Radio-Canada, to provide programming.
That is not to say that the Accent channel would free Radio-Canada of its obligations; that is not the case. Radio- Canada will have to continue meeting its obligations. We have been assured by Radio-Canada — which is prepared to form a partnership with the Accent channel — that doing so will not reduce its obligations. In fact, we think that will actually help Radio-Canada strengthen them.
An example comes to mind regarding our invisibility in the network. On the evening of the election, I was in Montreal. I had to rely on an anglophone media outlet to find out who was elected back home, in Saskatchewan, since Radio-Canada was covering the eastern and Atlantic region. Its coverage barely reached the Ontario border and then focused on Quebec.
However, some program hosts, like Pierre Craig who is the face of La facture, make sure to end each show by saying, ``have a good week, wherever in Canada you may be'', or, ``have a good week, wherever in Canada you may be, from Vancouver to Newfoundland and Labrador''. So some of those professionals have worked in the regions and now understand the lives of francophone minorities.
A while ago, we talked to Radio-Canada about the idea of educating hosts, journalists and researchers, so that they can understand those communities. We even said that — if needed — we were prepared to work with them and develop that aspect of television and radio host education. However, that suggestion was not implemented.
Social media indicates that almost all the hosts are on Twitter or Facebook. Being able to directly communicate with those people has an impact.
During the election campaign, when a politician appeared on Tout le monde en parle, they would receive Facebook or Twitter messages asking them what they would do for francophone and Acadian communities. We asked that question each time a politician appeared, since it was something that came up countless times on Facebook and Twitter.
Contacting hosts directly has an impact. People like Dany Turcotte, who hosts La petite séduction, have a better understanding of things. Therefore, our television personalities and researchers have to be educated. Many of them are. However, once we are back in the Montreal bubble, we quickly forget that francophones also live in places like Regina, Edmonton, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
Senator De Bané: You said earlier that you had to tune in to Newsworld to find out what was happening in your community. I have heard francophones who live in Quebec or in other provinces say that so many times. When they want to know what is happening in Canada, they have to tune in to Newsworld. The Université de Moncton carried out a study that indicates that The National covers Canada and Le téléjournal covers Quebec. The fact that francophones from Quebec and elsewhere must turn to the English network if they want to know what is happening in the country says a lot about what needs to be done in order for the crown corporation's key mandate to be maintained.
In British Columbia, I was told that English listeners have their newscast at 9:00 p.m., whereas the community that tunes in to the French network of the Société Radio-Canada has their newscast much later. Have you heard about that issue?
Ms. Kenny: If you are talking about the regional newscast, it probably airs at 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m., as is the case in most provinces. As far as the national newscast goes, I cannot say and I do not want to mislead you. In British Columbia, Radio-Canada definitely has an antenna in Vancouver. Therefore, local news is probably broadcast at the same time as in the rest of the country. Back home, the newscast airs at 6:00 p.m., and then again at 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m.
Senator De Bané: That complaint concerned network news. I was being asked why The National is broadcast on Newsworld at 9:00 p.m. while Le téléjournal has to come on later.
Ms. Kenny: My understanding is that Radio-Canada is time-shifted everywhere. The newscast that airs at 10:00 p.m. here will also air at 10:00 p.m. back home, even though we are two hours behind you. I think that is also the case for British Columbia. However, I cannot answer with absolute certainty. I would not want to mislead you, but I know that Radio-Canada time-shifts most of its programs.
Senator De Bané: The way the issue was explained to me is that, on the English network, the broadcast aired on time, whereas it aired later for francophones. Could you look into that and provide us with an answer through the committee clerk?
Ms. Kenny: Yes, we could certainly look into that.
Senator Poirier: I want to thank you for your very useful presentation. If memory serves me correctly, you said that Radio-Canada is of crucial importance to the francophone population, and I completely understand that. You also mentioned that Radio-Canada staff have to cover a very vast territory. As a result, coverage of regional events in small communities is virtually impossible.
In New Brunswick, we have Radio-Canada, like you. In addition to Radio-Canada, we have several community radio stations, such as CJSE in the Moncton region. That station covers most of the province and even reaches as far as Prince Edward Island. In Miramichi — which is more anglophone, but does have a francophone minority — they at least have Miracadie.
Those stations provide not only regional news, but also provincial and, occasionally, even national news. Do your communities have those kinds of local radio stations that could help improve the situation?
Ms. Kenny: The Alliance de radios communautaires, the alliance of community radio stations, is a Canada-wide organization. I would not say that the service provided is equal. New Brunswick probably has the most community radio stations with nine. I am an avid listener of Radio Beauséjour when I am in Moncton. However, the situation is not the same everywhere.
Back home, the community radio station broadcasts from Gravelbourg, but its coverage is not as extensive. The situation varies from one province to the next. Second to New Brunswick is Ontario. Mr. Quinty, who has worked with the alliance, could talk to you about that.
Mr. Quinty: This topic stems from my past life. I once worked for the Alliance des radios communautaires du Canada. So this is an area I am very familiar with.
There are indeed many resources available in New Brunswick. As far as television goes, there is the Télé Inter-Rives, which operates television stations such as CHAU-TV and TVA in the Acadian peninsula. They are also able to serve the local population. So some options are available.
As we head toward Western Canada, we come across fewer community radio stations. There is one in Manitoba, and five or six in Ontario. There is one in Saskatchewan, and two in Alberta. Projects are of course always being implemented, but they are not of the same scale as Radio Beauséjour, whose sale figures are considerable given the population base. So there are much fewer options in those regions of the country.
Senator Poirier: I will ask you the same question I put to previous witnesses. In your opinion, what program is the most important when it comes to Radio-Canada or CBC?
Ms. Kenny: Are you talking about television programs?
Senator Poirier: Which project or program do you feel is the most important?
Ms. Kenny: Every consumer, every listener, has his or her preferences. I am very interested in current events. That is what I get from Radio-Canada, RDI.
Actually, I am probably the number one listener of the CPAC station. I cannot claim to be speaking for all our communities, but I am most interested in current events. However, I am not a one-dimensional person. I also want to see cultural shows. In our regions, we also have public affairs programs.
The Local Programming Improvement Fund greatly contributes to our ability to have a program like Oniva that is produced at home, in Saskatchewan. Other similar programs are produced across the country.
You talked about distances earlier. You know, in Sherbrooke, they may manage to produce six hours of local programming. The same amount of money might be used to produce only 20 minutes of programming back home. It takes two and a half hours for a journalist from Saskatoon — which is the closest office — to reach Prince Albert. For the same two-minute segment, a team will have to spend five hours on the road and then come back to set up — all of that for two minutes of programming. In Sherbrooke, things are a bit closer.
All that has to be taken into consideration. Those are the kinds of costs Radio-Canada must absorb when producing local news and programming.
Senator Poirier: Has any progress been made over the past few years?
Ms. Kenny: Yes. Some progress has certainly been made in terms of local production. I would be lying if I said no progress has been made on the federal level. However, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. During the election campaign, all questions came from Quebec, and there was a question about the Champlain Bridge. The complaints were loud and clear, and that is what made us realize that one of the best ways to change things is to go through television personalities. And we have seen this sensibility develop in entertainers. We are convinced that, if we could provide entertainers and television personalities with an orientation session, and if we could meet with them and educate them about this issue, things would once again change tremendously.
Senator Comeau: You were not pleased with Ms. Tremblay's questions?
Ms. Kenny: I do not recall whether the questions came from Ms. Tremblay.
You will agree that what we mostly hear about these days, on Radio-Canada television, are student protests. Between you and me, the Marchildon family back home, in Zenon Park, does want to know more about the student protest, but they do not want their evening newscast to focus solely on student protests, or on the Champlain and the Jacques-Cartier bridges.
Senator Tardif: I would like to go back to the importance of the Local Programming Improvement Fund. How much money are we talking about? How is that money distributed across the country?
Ms. Kenny: For Radio-Canada, we are talking about an investment of $40 million. What the CRTC is currently examining is a fund that was created during a crisis, when all broadcasters, not only Radio-Canada, started closing regional stations owing to cuts. That fund — which allocates money to cable operators — was created to continue protecting that regional footprint.
Senator De Bané: That is a CRTC initiative.
Ms. Kenny: The CRTC was in charge. At first, the program was supposed to last a few years — a three-year period was planned. Currently, we are looking into — most importantly — whether that program should be renewed, whether it is still necessary and relevant today.
The second issue that comes up and to which many cable operators are opposed, is Radio-Canada's capacity to raise funds. Since Radio-Canada is a crown corporation, raising money for that fund would require making taxpayers contribute twice. However, unlike other public broadcasters, Radio-Canada provides me with local news.
Senator De Bané: That program helped the Société Radio-Canada with their stations in Trois-Rivières and Sherbrooke. That program made it all possible.
Ms. Kenny: The same goes for the stations in Regina, Edmonton and across Canada. The fund has been a tremendous help, and we are talking about a considerable amount of money. Therefore, I am not sure that Radio- Canada could continue maintaining the same regional presence without that $40 million.
Senator Tardif: That is what I wanted to show.
Mr. Quinty: I would like to add something very factual to this. The Local Programming Improvement Fund currently collects 1.5 per cent of the cable and satellite operators' income. Most companies are against the renewal because, naturally, they do not want to pay for that service.
Senator Tardif: Does that cover production and broadcasting? Is the money available for production as well, or is it intended only for broadcasting? What kind of criteria are we talking about?
Ms. Kenny: It is intended for local programming, so I think it covers both. There is certainly an investment there. If the FAPL was eliminated tomorrow morning, Radio-Canada would continue to meet its obligations in the regions — that goes without saying. However, I have a one-hour newscast each evening, as well as newscasts on the weekend. That is something I did not have before. I am not sure that I would be able to hold on to that. It would be very difficult for us. It would be very difficult for us to take a step back once we have already made some progress.
Senator Tardif: I also see that, owing to budget cuts, Radio-Canada will have to reduce the number of programs on cultural events and initiatives, and on major events. I assume that could also have an impact. Am I right?
Ms. Kenny: Yes, most certainly, since even if we were talking about a network, ballet would still be ballet, and an opera would still be an opera. However, at the same time, our understanding is that this will not have an impact on regional matters but rather on the whole network.
Senator Tardif: Thank you.
The Chair: Ms. Kenny, Mr. Quinty, I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to you on behalf of the members of the committee. It is always a pleasure to hear from you. Thank you for the presentation and for answering our numerous questions. Thank you very much and good luck.
Ms. Kenny: Thank you.
(The committee adjourned.)