Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 7 - Evidence - Meeting of June 2, 2014
OTTAWA, Monday, June 2, 2014
The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages met this day at 5 p.m. to continue its study on the impacts of recent changes to the immigration system on official language minority communities.
Senator Claudette Tardif (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Honourable senators, I call this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages to order. I am Senator Claudette Tardif, from Alberta, and I am the chair of this committee. I would ask the senators to introduce themselves starting with the deputy chair of the committee.
Senator Champagne: Good afternoon, I am Andrée Champagne, senator from Quebec.
Senator Poirier: Good afternoon, I am Rose-May Poirier, senator from New Brunswick.
Senator Rivard: Good afternoon, I am Michel Rivard, senator from Quebec.
Senator McIntyre: Good afternoon, I am Paul McIntyre, senator from New Brunswick.
Senator Chaput: Good afternoon, I am Maria Chaput, senator from Manitoba.
Senator Beyak: Senator Lynn Beyak, Dryden, northwestern Ontario.
The Chair: We are continuing our study on the impact of recent changes to the immigration system on official language minority communities. The purpose of today's meeting is to form a picture of the situation in the francophone and Acadian communities of four provinces.
We are fortunate to have some tremendous witnesses. They are Danielle Coombs, Coordinator of the Federation of Francophones of Newfoundland and Labrador; Jeanne d'Arc Gaudet, President of the Société de l'Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick (SANB); Mamadou Ka, Chair of the Société franco-manitobaine; and Denis Vaillancourt, President of the Assemblée de la francophonie de l'Ontario.
Thank you, everyone, for accepting this invitation. Ms. Coombs, you may proceed.
Danielle Coombs, Coordinator, Federation of Francophones of Newfoundland and Labrador: Madam Chair, senators, my name is Danielle Coombs, and I am Coordinator of the Francophone Immigration Network of the Federation of Francophones of Newfoundland and Labrador. First of all, I would like to thank you for your invitation to appear before you and for this opportunity for our community to discuss the recent changes to francophone immigration in our province.
I would also like to note that some members of the team from the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadiennes du Canada (FCFA) are here today as well. Our organization has handled the francophone immigration file since 2007, and our Francophone Immigration Network was created with funding from the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality 2008-2013.
The main focus of our work is to provide encouragement to our communities and to increase their awareness of francophone immigration for the ultimate purpose of increasing the population of French-speaking Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. I am pleased to announce to you today that, according to the 2011 Census, our community has grown from 0.4 per cent to 0.6 per cent of the provincial population.
Although that percentage is still very low, it should be noted that we are the only province in the Atlantic region that has experienced growth in its population of resident francophones since the last census. We believe that immigration will be a key factor in continuing to increase our demographic weight.
Turning to the impact of recent changes to immigration, we have observed for several years now that Citizenship and Immigration Canada is moving from a passive offer model to an active model, particularly with regard to skilled workers. Economic labour needs seem to be playing a much more significant role in immigration policy-making.
We have also noticed that demand for newcomers in the past few years has increasingly been coming from the business community. This is a new feature of the economy in our province, which, for the first time in its history, is seeing demand for human resources that is greater than the labour supply.
Few employers, most of which are small and medium enterprises, have any international recruitment experience. They are seeking recruitment assistance and guidance services in finding skilled employees, regardless of their linguistic origins. Newfoundland and Labrador recently experienced a significant increase in the number of temporary foreign workers.
Rising numbers of francophone newcomers are arriving with temporary work permits in hand, although they eventually try to obtain permanent residence. They work in a variety of sectors, such as natural resources, the hotel and restaurant industry, early childhood, the community sector and other areas.
There is a willingness to build bridges between the temporary entry path and permanent residence. Foreign students represent the largest class of newcomers in our province. The Francophone Immigration Network has already carried out a recruitment project in cooperation with a Newfoundland post-secondary institution that was trying to attract more international students and would like to repeat the initiative in future.
We believe that foreign students and temporary foreign workers may represent an opportunity to maximize the use of the Canadian Experience Class and to promote francophone immigration.
I will now present our findings, which will help clarify the realities of francophone immigration to Newfoundland and Labrador. We believe that current recruitment efforts are not competitive with those of other jurisdictions in Canada.
The provincial government has supported the principle of francophone immigration since 2007, when it adopted its first immigration strategy.
The Provincial Nominee Program continues to support the influx of francophone newcomers, and we eagerly await the launch of its first demographic growth strategy.
Unfortunately, a shortage of financial resources prevents them from taking an active part in francophone recruitment activities for the moment.
At the same time, cuts to the funding community partners use to attend Destination Canada has shifted the recruitment of francophone newcomers from active to passive mode. We are still very much encouraged by the fact that the Francophone Significant Benefit Program has been maintained, and we are working with Canadian embassies and our economic partners to promote it.
However, anglophone employers are reluctant to take part in francophone recruitment initiatives unless the province and community partners are involved.
We are also concerned that francophone newcomers to our province have no access to French-language settlement services. All direct services offered to newcomers are designated as English-language services.
We are aware that we must first establish a critical mass of francophone newcomers in order to warrant such services. The fact that French language evaluations for citizenship and for the Canadian Experience Class are unavailable also has an impact on many francophone clients.
To conclude, I will briefly outline our recommendations, which address several strategic immigration objectives. We encourage the Government of Canada to support us in our very close cooperative relationship with our province's economic players; to intervene downstream in the francophone immigration process so that its candidate selection and immigration services reforms take the official language minority communities into account; and, lastly, to work on a community and regional basis in future to promote francophone immigration to small communities.
Madam Chair, on behalf of the francophones and francophone newcomers of Newfoundland and Labrador, I thank you for your attention, I am now at your disposal to answer your questions on this subject.
Jeanne d'Arc Gaudet, President, Société de l'Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick: Madam Chair, I also want to thank you for your invitation. We are pleased to have this opportunity to outline some of our concerns regarding immigration and its significance in the francophone minority community in New Brunswick.
First, I would like to cite a few facts to explain who we are. The Société de l'Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick was founded in 1973; we celebrated our 40th anniversary this year. Our association has 20,000 members, and its mandate is to advocate and promote the rights and collective interests of the Acadian and francophone community of New Brunswick. We act as the official mouthpiece of New Brunswick's Acadian community.
The Acadian and francophone community is not a minority community, but rather an equal-status community. That equality of status, as you know, was entrenched in the Constitution in 1982. According to the last census, the total population of New Brunswick is 740,000 inhabitants, 237,000 of whom, nearly one-third of the population, have French as their mother tongue.
However, the francophone population's declining growth rate is gradually reducing its demographic weight. According to the 2011 Census, New Brunswick has one of the most rapidly aging populations in Canada. We are also dealing with the exodus of our young francophones, who are leaving our regions to go and work in other parts of the country where the economic climate is more favourable than ours. That leads me to the francophone immigration question.
According to Statistics Canada data, from 2006 to 2011, French was the first official language of 12 per cent of newcomers to New Brunswick, English that 81 per cent and both English and French the languages of 4 per cent.
We are afraid that, if this trend continues, New Brunswick's francophone and Acadian population will find it difficult to ensure its long-term future and that of its language and culture.
Francophone immigration is thus a good way for us to strengthen our community and to guarantee its long-term viability.
In 2009, with funding from the federal and provincial governments, we established a francophone immigration network in New Brunswick called the RIFNB, an issue table whose members cooperate to help newcomers fully integrate into our francophone community.
However, we have noted that too many clients from francophone countries who receive services at purportedly bilingual centres do not have access to all the necessary information. For example, many francophone immigrants think they must register their children in an anglophone education system in order to learn English. That is why many choose to settle in anglophone regions or neighbourhoods.
Since 2008, changes have been made to Canada's immigration strategy mainly to support the country's economic development. Those changes focus on improving the efficiency, effectiveness and economy of the immigration system and economic integration by facilitating Canadian accreditation of training acquired outside Canada.
The Entry Express Program, formerly known as the Expression of Interest Program, is a system that will expedite matters to a greater degree for people considering expatriating to Canada. However, we wonder how this system can increase the number of francophone applicants to achieve the target of 4.4 per cent by 2033 as set out in the Strategic Plan to Foster Immigration to Francophone Minority Communities.
What criteria will be used to identify future applicants? What importance is attached to the language of applicants for those positions? Over the years, we have noted some reluctance among employers to hire newcomers and skilled workers from outside Canada. How can we ensure that measures are taken so that francophone applicants receive special, differentiated treatment in New Brunswick in order to develop our province's bilingual and francophone character?
We think it is fundamentally important that the Canadian government invest more in human and financial resources to increase awareness among anglophone and francophone employers and support them in recruitment, hiring and the management of cultural diversity in the workplace so they can retain their employees. It must maintain the momentum generated by recruitment and promotional events such as Destination Canada and expand initiatives designed to recruit francophone applicants.
I would like to say a few words about temporary workers. Despite the growing abuses of this program — we have heard a lot about that recently — one of the important operating sectors for the francophone communities in our province is fisheries and the processing of raw materials.
We are experiencing linguistic problems with the influx of temporary workers. Why? For example, the majority of these plant workers do not speak French and are settling in entirely francophone communities.
Many of those francophone communities are situated in regions in which English dominates and which are exposed to the forces of assimilation every day. Our Acadian communities, which are very welcoming by nature — we are known as people who are very welcoming and even more accommodating — make every effort to make these newcomers feel welcome, and we are happy to do so. However, when people are welcomed in English, that unfortunately helps accelerate assimilation in regions already very much afflicted by that problem. That is why we consider it essential that temporary workers come from francophone countries such as Haiti, the Seychelles Islands, Senegal and Congo, to name only a few. All too often, employers choose countries with which we already have agreements to facilitate the hiring of temporary workers, and they are anglophone countries.
Now I will say a few words about the Provincial Nominee Program. This program is the only tool the province has to manage its immigration program in accordance with its needs and specific characteristics. We have therefore strongly recommended that the provincial government create two separate nominee programs: one in which 65 per cent of nominees are anglophone and the other in which 35 per cent are francophone. In recent years, as you have no doubt observed because I have cited some statistics, we have been able to take in only 12 per cent. We therefore recommend that the federal government add a provision to the intergovernmental agreement requiring that the number of nominees accepted be consistent with our province's linguistic profile.
As regards the Canadian Experience Class, which targets international students currently in New Brunswick, there are more than 1,000 international students at the Université de Moncton and at our community colleges.
The opportunity to apply for permanent residence after one year of work undeniably constitutes progress in the work CIC has done. We recommend that incentive programs be established to encourage employers to hire these students, but we are facing problems in that regard.
In the areas of promotion and recruitment, since 2009, SANB has been involved, through its Réseau en immigration francophone and at the invitation of the Province of New Brunswick, in promoting New Brunswick's Acadie via the Destination Canada and Nouveau départ, Nouveau-Brunswick programs and at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient.
We need more resources to assist all these people who will be choosing our regions as their new home.
In conclusion, we believe that immigration enriches our population, opens it up to the world and helps it develop a sense of international solidarity. Immigration is essential to our country's sustainable development and must be an integral part of every federal and provincial regional and economic development strategy.
The Government of Canada must therefore make every effort to implement measures to facilitate the recognition and equivalence of credentials, as well as programs to promote access to employment to ensure the long-term viability of intake and integration services and to improve access to language courses. It must also manage the excessive waiting times for the processing of applications that discourage newcomers from pursuing their dreams and ours.
It will obviously be very difficult to retain immigrants in our region if they are unable to work there. We must create jobs so that they can stay.
Thank you once again for inviting us so that we could tell you about our region and our concerns.
The Chair: Thank you. Mr. Ka now has the floor.
Mamadou Ka, Chair, Société franco-manitobaine: Honourable senators, thank you for inviting us here this afternoon. My name is Mamadou Ka, and I am Chair of the Société franco-manitobaine, but I am not recognized as a francophone. Our senator, Maria Chaput, often says that because, according to the act, I am not a francophone. Fortunately, I am the chair of francophones.
First, I would like to tell you about the recognized success of our immigration system in Manitoba. One of the fundamental keys to that success is political will. Provincial and municipal governments are involved in this immigration policy, not to mention the weight of the federal government.
To tell you a little about the profile of our immigrants, we take in a lot of refugees, but we also have a very economic form of immigration. Our immigrants often come from countries that have been ravaged by war, such Congo and Rwanda. They are already francophone, and we are very pleased to welcome them and facilitate their integration.
As my colleagues said earlier, we have been feeling the adverse effects of the recent immigration changes for some time now. We will talk about that later.
We are fortunate to have a single intake structure, which is called Accueil francophone, and all funding is directed to that single entity to assist all immigrants in integrating. Accueil has developed strategies based on concepts such as intake, settlement and assistance to promote the integration of newcomers in our francophone communities. We offer various follow-up, matching and volunteer programs based on those strategies.
We are able to rely on community will, the direct involvement of the entire francophone community, particularly in our volunteer program. Consequently, all francophone immigrants who arrive in the Manitoba community are welcomed. During the Christmas and Easter Holidays, they are invited to discover Canadian culture, and peace reigns throughout the community. Our immigration system has been very successful as a result of all these aspects.
However, we nevertheless have concerns about the changes recently made in the federal government, which are related to the four pillars: the economy, security, accreditation and effectiveness. Without going into detail, the intent of these changes is definitely noble. They are changes that go together with Canadian foreign policies. With regard to the economy, the federal government wanted to link immigration to the economic development of the Canadian population and to the security of Canadians, and to link this new immigration pathway to increased system effectiveness. However, although these changes have been effective, they were put in place without consulting the communities, especially the official language minority communities.
In Manitoba, the introduction of a quota on the number of immigrants has definitely had a negative impact. The new program sets a quota of 5,000 immigrants per year, whereas Manitoba was banking on 15,000 immigrants in 2014- 15 and nearly 20,000 in 2020.
I agree with Ms. Gaudet that, for the Provincial Nominee Program, a two-level system should be established that takes into account our official language minority communities and Canada as a whole. That may be one of the paths forward.
Ms. Coombs said that, as official language minority communities, we rely to a great extent on Destination Canada and that many of our organizations are no longer funded.
The recent changes to the act reflect a more economic, worker-based aim. That is a noble objective, but our small communities do not have the resources to compete internationally to attract those workers. Businesses are prepared to hire production workers who are already bilingual or who speak English.
Unfortunately, our immigrants already come to us with a certain linguistic deficiency, if I may put it that, to the extent that most of our businesses operate in English. This is a major problem that has arisen in Manitoba.
It should also be said that too many changes have occurred at the same time in Manitoba, making the burden hard to bear. We are talking about changes associated with the reduction in numbers and criteria and with the eligibility of certain groups.
We also had a recruitment system focused on student newcomers, but we can no longer do that. This is an area that is now out of bounds to Accueil francophone. Accueil can no longer offer services to new students, whereas those services used to promote their integration and retention in our communities.
In addition, what has really struck us with regard to bilingualism is that we are asking people to speak either English or French. I agree with this way of doing things to the extent that the best way to fit in when you immigrate somewhere is to learn the language. However, one of the problems is that costs are very high. You are asking people who have just arrived, with all their burdens, to go and take courses for which registration fees are $350 or $400, and that is just so they can take a one- or two-hour test. That is hard on immigrants, particularly since we take in a lot of refugees in our regions.
The last challenge we are facing is that source countries are predominantly anglophone. In other words, all recruitment is done in anglophone countries. It is often said that Africa is the future of the francophonie. That is said because Africa ultimately produces more francophones than any single country in the world.
The problem is that all the immigration sources are anglophone countries, whereas we receive a lot more immigrants from countries such as Senegal and Mauritania.
In conclusion, these are factors that I wanted to point out to you today to tell you that we are facing many challenges and in the hope that our appearance here this afternoon can help us all find a solution for our minority communities.
Denis Vaillancourt, President, Assemblée de la francophonie de l'Ontario: Thank you, Madam Chair, honourable senators and members of the committee. It is a pleasure for us to be here. Considering the changes that are taking place, we appreciate this invitation to share with you some of Ontario's perspectives on immigration.
First of all, I would like to note that I am here with Peter Hominuk, Executive Director of the Assemblée de la francophonie de l'Ontario, who has come as an observer. In his role at the AFO, he represents our organization on the Ontario provincial steering subcommittee of Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
It should be noted at the outset that, in its role as the central agency and mouthpiece of the Franco-Ontarian community, the Assemblée de la francophonie de l'Ontario does not claim to have a monopoly on immigration expertise. However, we are very much interested in francophone immigration, and we welcome many immigrant organizations and individuals represented by various francophone racial and ethnocultural minority groups in our organization.
For us, the reception, inclusion and integration of francophone newcomers in our great Franco-Ontarian community are priorities. We have extensive unifying and coordination capacity, which we want to use for the benefit of francophone immigration.
As you know, Ontario has the largest francophone minority community outside Quebec. According to the last census, there are 611,000 francophones in the province. The population of our community has increased in large part as a result of the influx of francophone immigrants. That means that francophone immigration is of major importance to French-speaking Ontario.
According to the 2006 Census results, immigrants represented 13.7 per cent of Ontario francophones, and, according to Statistics Canada's latest census, Ontario takes in more than 50 per cent of francophone immigrants who settle outside Quebec. Many organizations offer reception and integration services to immigrants in Ontario. We have counted 540 points of service across the province, 25 of which provide services mainly in French. These figures come from a study commissioned internally from Ronald Bisson in 2013.
One particular characteristic of Ontario is that it has three regional immigration networks, one for the eastern part of the province, a second for the centre and southwest and a third for the north.
In Ontario, as is no doubt the case elsewhere — except in Quebec — immigration is a jurisdiction shared by the two orders of government through the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration and Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
In the past few years, the province has expressed an interest in playing an increasing role in immigration. In March 2012, the Ontario government announced that it had developed its very first immigration strategy by establishing an expert roundtable on immigration in Ontario. Your committee has no doubt seen Ontario's report on immigration.
The target that Ontario has set for francophone immigration is 5 per cent of the total number of immigrants. Last February, the Ontario government passed, at first reading, a bill to establish programs to promote the settlement and integration of immigrants and other individuals in Ontario.
What is appealing to us is that one of the goals stated in the preamble to the bill is to enable all communities across Ontario, including Franco-Ontarian communities, to attract, welcome and integrate immigrants. This is clearly an important act for Ontario francophones since it clearly states that it is important to protect their immigration interests. Note that Canada has also set a target of 4 per cent for French-speaking economic immigrants nationally by 2018. As you will therefore understand, we attach considerable importance to francophone immigration as a way to ensure the sustainability of our language, to enrich our culture and to strengthen the linguistic duality of our province and Canada.
Our thinking and actions are inspired by two key concepts that we have adopted from a national conversation moderated by the Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones as part of the implementation of a strategic French-language education plan.
The first concept is inclusion, which is defined as follows: "provisions put in place by a host society to ensure that individuals and communities with immigrant backgrounds are full-fledged participants in the community in which they live, act and exist, particularly in the economic, social, cultural and political areas of that community."
I would remind my colleague from Manitoba that we in Ontario have an inclusive definition of francophones under which any immigrant who speaks French may be classified as francophone and have access to our French-language schools. You could be a chair in Ontario and a Franco-Ontarian.
The second measure that Ontario took, last fall, as part of this inclusion effort was to offer immigrants training in English as a second language, free of charge, because we acknowledge the importance of employability.
The second concept addressed is integration, which is defined as follows: "a process whereby an immigrant undertakes to understand, adapt to, take part in and contribute to the institutional, economic, social, cultural and community life of the host society."
We have adapted these two concepts to our situation so that we can talk about the host community's duty of inclusion and newcomers' duty of integration. In other words, in order for an immigrant citizen to be engaged in a process of integration into the host society, that society must put in place conditions of inclusion.
If Quebec represents the fort of the Canadian francophonie, francophones outside Quebec are the buttress that prevents Canada from being composed of two linguistic groups attached solely to specific territories: a French- speaking Quebec and an English-speaking rest of Canada. Francophones outside Quebec are essential to the construction of Canada's identity, which is based on the two official languages. They are the face of a bilingual Canada from sea to sea, one that permits the mobility of citizens who speak one of Canada's official languages.
It is in that perspective that we present the following few comments. The AFO requests that there be better coordination among CIC, Ontario and Ontario's francophone community. Difficulties arise as a result of a lack of provincial coordination and of coordination among Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Ontario and the Franco- Ontarian community.
The AFO also feels it is important that all immigration initiatives be a part of a more comprehensive action plan that would include the provision of health and social services, language training and other services.
This comprehensive action plan should be taken over by the francophone community, which is in a better position to understand its own needs. This will be done by its representative organization, the AFO, which will thus ensure overall coordination of the francophone immigration file. The AFO is thus asking to play a larger role on the provincial steering subcommittee struck by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
In particular, the AFO would like to chair that committee and assume general coordination of the implementation of the provinces' francophone immigration action plans. The AFO emphasizes that it is necessary to have francophone or bilingual agents at ports of entry in Ontario and CIC service links with the francophone community groups, which at times are lacking in the southwestern part of the province.
The AFO observes that there is a significant need to improve community structures in order to successfully include and integrate newcomers in our community. Although it takes into account the need for English as a second language, the AFO requests that training and employability services be provided by francophone or bilingual institutions capable of including immigrants in the francophone community. Otherwise, if anglophone institutions take charge of these initiatives, they will counteract the objective of including and integrating newcomers in the Canadian francophonie.
The AFO requests that better support be considered for secondary immigration. By that I mean that reception resources should follow immigrants to their new destination province. For example, many francophone immigrants arrive in Quebec and subsequently move to Ontario after spending a few months in the country, and CIC financial support does not follow.
For immigration to become an asset in developing the vitality of the French-language community in Ontario and Canada, we must foster an approach involving four main players, including, obviously, federal and provincial government bodies. This would make it possible for programs to be coordinated with a view to integrating newcomers into the francophone minority group.
This entails negotiations to establish framework policies for immigrant selection, and that involves evaluating the extent to which we achieve quantifiable objectives such as the number of newcomers who can speak French, the Canadian location and requests for services tailored to immigrants' specific needs.
Host organizations must be able to introduce newcomers to the francophone reality and to help them look for economic and social opportunities. That includes, for example, the opportunity to use French in the workplace and in obtaining government services.
Community stakeholders must take an active part in developing connections between newcomers and the community where they settle. This involves developing social policies and putting resources in place to assist community stakeholders in taking part in the francophone community. This very often begins with sports for young people and in the schools, hence the importance of schools in integrating newcomers.
Lastly, before newcomers are selected, we must make them aware that it is possible for them to live in a French- language community. We must expose them to the reality of Canada's linguistic duality, of official language minorities, and to the benefits of communicating in Canada's two official languages. Lastly, we can say that the AFO supports the 32 recommendations contained in the September 2012 Final Report by Ontario's Expert Roundtable on Immigration.
Thank you for your attention. I will be pleased to answer your questions.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Vaillancourt, and thanks to the other witnesses. We will now move on to questions. Senator McIntyre will ask the first question, followed by Senator Poirier.
Senator McIntyre: Thanks to our witnesses for their presentations. I listened to you carefully, and it is clear that the federal government, provincial governments, municipalities, employers, educational institutions, universities of the Canadian francophonie and community organizations will all play a role in the recruitment, selection, reception, settlement and retention of immigrants in minority communities. This is a bit like a theatre play in which each actor is required to play his or her role.
Do you think these players are doing a good job of cooperating with each other, or are they instead acting individually? Would it be necessary to establish a joint national strategy on this entire question?
Ms. Gaudet, you talked about the importance of developing a francophone immigration strategy in New Brunswick and of the need to increase the Acadian community's demographic weight. All of New Brunswick's stakeholder, whether they are from New Brunswick's Commissioner of Official Languages or are representatives of the Acadian community, are now in agreement.
François Gravel summed up the situation very accurately in an article dated May 9, 2013, entitled, "The Failure of Francophone Immigration to New Brunswick." That being said, do you think it is time to establish a national strategy on this entire question? Otherwise, we will be headed in different directions.
Ms. Gaudet: Initiatives have been put in place in New Brunswick. Mr. Gravel used the word "failure" in his article because the francophone immigrant percentage had been set at 33 per cent in the 2006-2013 strategy. He had obviously studied the statistics showing that only 13 per cent of the immigrants we had attracted were francophone, and that figure showed in quantitative terms why that constituted a failure. We are working on the 2014-2018 initiative, and the provincial government, for the first time, has targeted francophone immigration, through its demographic service, as a main issue for Acadian and francophone community development.
We at SANB are working with CIC and the provincial government. We are coordinating the initiative, and all the players are at the table, but we are short of immigrants because we ultimately need financial and human resources so we can put the host organizations in place to attract them across the province.
Consider this example. Approximately 15,000 francophones live in the Saint John area, and the host organization is anglophone. We have two francophones who have a mandate to assist newcomers once they are on the ground, but, when these people come to New Brunswick on exploratory visits, we need francophones on site to welcome them and to tell them about the reality of the province. So we are lacking a lot of resources.
Some initiatives are praiseworthy, and we cannot say that nothing is being done. There are things that are being done, but we lack the resources to guarantee the success of the next initiative. Of course, we will have to work in close cooperation with the federal government because joint action is required. As you said, everyone has to work together.
For the moment, we are working toward that, and much remains to be done. We recently submitted a brief to the government, and we are awaiting the new strategy, which has not been launched. We are told that it will be very soon, and we will see what has been retained from that brief.
The Chair: Was that a brief presented to the provincial government?
Ms. Gaudet: Yes. They have targeted francophone immigration as a main issue in the new initiative. We will see how that translates into action.
The Chair: I believe Mr. Vaillancourt wanted to respond.
Mr. Vaillancourt: To answer the question as to whether there is enough cooperation among the players, I can give you a view from Ontario, which is the province with the largest population, and where the Franco-Ontarian community is dispersed. I like to say that we have concentrated communities and dispersed communities across the province. Is there cooperation? There is a certain amount of cooperation. You understood from my remarks that the AFO wants to play a bigger role because there is a need for coordination. Many good things are being done by educational institutions, school boards and ministries. Ontario took a first step by establishing its expert roundtable and introducing the bill, which is currently on hold because of the election. There is definitely a need. There are three networks. There is the provincial subcommittee for the Ontario region, and there is the act. The points of entry in Ontario are Toronto-Pearson, often Windsor, and Ottawa to some extent, but the biggest point of entry is Pearson. We have a great need at the points of entry for bilingual immigration officers who understand that there is a Franco- Ontarian community. Nearly 220,000 francophones live in central and southwestern Ontario, and that is where there is the biggest increase. Once newcomers have seen that the Franco-Ontarian community is a possibility, the challenge is to retain them. Our community groups are finding it hard to obtain CIC's support. It always requires a somewhat repeated effort, an effort that has to be renewed. There is no stability in the assistance we receive. Recruiting and receiving immigrants are part of the challenge. The real challenge for a minority language community is to ensure that these people integrate into it, and services must be provided by community groups. We need coordination. We understand that there is a federal-provincial partnership on this issue and that structures must be developed, but it might be useful to do a better job of coordinating or proposing frameworks. We need to look at two factors when we examine immigration projects. In economic immigration, on the one hand, we want people to contribute to the economy or not to be a burden on the economy. On the other hand, we want the francophone minority to integrate into our minority language community because, at our natural birth rate, we will not replace our population. That is an important point. We are able to take them in, but when it comes to integrating them into the community, if there are no community players to show any interest, we risk losing them to the majority community.
Is there cooperation? Yes. Could there be more? Could it be orchestrated more effectively across Ontario? My answer is yes. We have a challenge in our population size and numbers. Sometimes I would like this to be a less populous province because that would make cooperation easier, but there are challenges and a need for targeted resources to achieve that. That is why you heard me say we wanted to play a more active role as a unifying organization in this area.
Ms. Coombs: As Mr. Vaillancourt mentioned, cooperation is much easier in a small environment. It is necessarily easy among the francophone organizations that are part of the immigration network because we are all in the same building.
The challenge is related to the anglophone community, the settlement organizations and so on. We have to compromise and work in English. We frankly do it a lot because we are part of the local immigration partnership, chambers of commerce and committees of settlement organizations, which necessarily operate in English since French is really the minority language in our province.
We are interested in the government's developing a national strategy, but one that takes the specific needs of the regions into consideration. You always have to consider the subtle differences and not just where the francophone population mass is.
Mr. Ka: In fact, from the moment we talk about immigration, there are always shared jurisdictions between the federal and provincial governments. Cooperation is necessary when the major decisions have to be made. Committee stakeholders must also be seated around the table with the federal government. Making major decisions in this area based on the concept of equality will often penalize the small minority communities. We want to be fair with everyone, but it does not work that way. Two concepts are important: equality and fairness. From the moment the government wants to create services for all of Canada, it has to be fair in one way or another. It must take into account the fact that we are minority communities. Only from that point on will there be justice and equality.
I remember there was an outcry back home when the government eliminated the Nominee Program in Manitoba. The provincial governments ultimately learned about it at the same time as everyone else. Our immigration minister said his deputy minister had phoned him to say that the program had been changed, and the Premier of Manitoba tried to contact Ottawa several times, but in vain. I entirely agree with you: there has to be cooperation from the outset to make the new programs much more equitable for our communities.
Senator Poirier: Thank you all for being here today. You currently represent four of Canada's francophone communities. Do you exchange best practices and strategies for improving francophone immigration? Do you hold annual meetings or conferences? If so, can you share with us the results or points that have emerged from them?
Mr. Vaillancourt: I mentioned that Ontario had three regional networks devoted to integrating immigrants. They are part of a national network that meets periodically and is moderated by our colleagues from the FCFA. The three Ontario networks meet periodically. We are starting to take a greater interest in them as a unifying assembly and organization. These networks meet at the national level. There is national coordination and an exchange of expertise. The particular feature in Ontario is that there are three networks. In the other provinces, there is one network per province, if memory serves me.
Mr. Ka: Yes, it is one network per province, and I believe it is time to acknowledge the work that the FCFA does in this area because that coordination work with the networks at the national level is really important. It is ultimately on that platform that best practices are shared. That is an important point. It also has to be said that best practices are shared through the conferences. We saw that at the Metropolis immigration conference, where francophone days are held every year. It is at those conferences that all the participants share the best practices in what is being done in Ontario, Manitoba and elsewhere. I think that is how it works.
Ms. Gaudet: I will not repeat what was just said about the FCFA, but we also have the Société nationale de l'Acadie, the SNA. It is the organization that represents francophones from the four Atlantic provinces.
Yes, we work together in the province. We are partners, but we are also part of a network with the four Atlantic provinces. The SNA organizes an annual symposium that everyone attends and where we have an opportunity to share best practices and our concerns. We also have researchers who come and provide us with information. Francophones thus have a good network in that sense.
Senator Poirier: In New Brunswick, I imagine you work in partnership with the francophone university and the colleges. According to the comments you made, Ms. Gaudet, the population of New Brunswick is aging, and that is definitely troubling, particularly when it affects economic development and job creation.
Do you know what percentage of foreign students who come to study in New Brunswick subsequently stay there?
Do you also know the percentage of francophones who come to New Brunswick who are still there five years later? And do you know how many have left us as a result of a shortage of jobs?
Ms. Gaudet: I have to say that is a very good question. I will begin with the question on our cooperation with the Université de Moncton and the schools.
Yes, we have a good network. I do not have the statistics, but I know we have managed to attract approximately 12 per cent of the population in the past five years.
As you know, we represent 33 per cent of the population of New Brunswick, but the percentage has just fallen below the 33 per cent level, and that is dangerous because the level is eroding. Why? A number of factors are involved. The first is the declining birth rate, and the second the incredible exodus of young people who leave to work in the west, followed by their families.
There is also aging. Yes, we are the Canadian province with the oldest inhabitants. We are achieving critical mass. Ontario is said to have the largest francophone population, which is true, but we have the largest percentage of francophones in our province; 33 per cent gives us political power. We are the only officially bilingual province in Canada. To my mind, that is a unique model that distinguishes us.
We are definitely concerned about this erosion factor. As you know, science has determined that the critical mass varies from 28 per cent to 35 per cent. If we fall below 28 per cent, I am not sure we will still have an officially bilingual province in 100 years. That is very, very important for us. We must meet the challenges we are facing with francophone immigration.
As regards statistics, I cannot tell you how many students we have managed to retain. We have requested those statistics, but they are not available. We are compiling them, and I hope I will have statistics to present to you the next time we come before the committee, but they are not yet available.
Senator Poirier: Mr. Vaillancourt, you mentioned that Ontario takes in more than 50 per cent of French-speaking immigrants outside Quebec. Of that 50 per cent, how many have said their first port of entry was Ontario? And how many of those who came from another province came to Ontario because there were more job opportunities?
Mr. Vaillancourt: As Ms. Gaudet said, that is a good question, but I do not have the statistics. We could get some answers. . .
Senator Poirier: Could send them to the committee?
Mr. Vaillancourt: We will try to find answers to those questions.
However, with your permission, I would like to add two points. I cited the example of the regional immigration network, which is part of the national network. The centre-southwest network includes the Toronto-Windsor corridor, the peninsula and the Sarnia region. When we talk about collaboration in this network, we have to work with 108 municipalities over an area of 400 square kilometres. I say that with some assurance because I was assistant deputy minister of education in another life, and the school boards in that region have to work with 108 municipalities. Try to imagine coordinating the implementation of best practices for immigrants, because we have francophones in those 108 communities. It is not easy to work with majority anglophone communities. In Ontario, the AFO has been more interested in playing this role in the past few years in order to promote coordination because many community groups need to be supported and brought up to speed. It is a major challenge to work with municipalities.
The last point concerns the francophonie of tomorrow, and here I am going to repeat the remarks that you no doubt heard the Commissioner of Official Languages make: the francophone host community in Ontario, and across Canada, is working to recruit, retain and integrate francophone immigrants in the communities. The fact nevertheless remains that, if we say that linguistic duality and official languages are part of our Canadian identity, governments have a leading role to play, and the majority group has a leading role to play, in ensuring that the linguistic minority takes its place and prospers over the years.
The Assemblée de la francophonie de l'Ontario celebrated its 104th anniversary in early June. We want to be around to celebrate our 200th and 300th anniversaries with a vibrant community, and I offer the same wish for my colleagues from the other provinces.
Ms. Gaudet: I forgot to answer your question on the potential pool of students. You wanted to know whether they want to stay. A new trend has emerged since the changes were made because they know very well that it may now be easier for them to work and subsequently to apply for permanent residence.
Since I am a professor at the university, I live there and see what goes on there. There is increasing interest among students who come from francophone African countries and elsewhere. However, our employers are at times somewhat reluctant to hire them. We have trouble placing our students for work terms. We have a lot of education and awareness-raising to do.
New Brunswick is not a traditional immigrant host province. This is quite a recent phenomenon. Consequently, as you will understand, there is a lot of work to do. It is not like Ontario, which has been welcoming immigrants for a long time.
We have a lot of work to do to increase awareness among our employers and to invite them to open their doors a little wider to our students so that they can eventually find work. Consequently, we must create jobs. We know we cannot attract, much less retain, immigrants if they cannot find work. They will go wherever they can find it. On that issue, we are working in close cooperation with the Réseau de développement économique et d'employabilité du Canada to try to find solutions to this problem.
Senator Chaput: I have a specific question for each of the witnesses concerning their initial presentations.
I will start with Mr. Vaillancourt. In your presentation, you talked about second-language training, English- language learning that is offered free of charge to newcomers.
When did you start that practice in Ontario? Who is responsible for it and who pays for it?
Mr. Vaillancourt: It started in fall 2013. It was announced by the government and it is under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education, and colleges and universities.
Senator Chaput: So every francophone immigrant. . .
Mr. Vaillancourt: Every francophone immigrant wishing to learn English as a second language may do so at an institution.
The school boards can give this course, as well as the colleges and universities. The course is free for francophone immigrants.
The downside to this strategy is that the anglophone institutions can give the course as well, and the community issue is a problem that we have reported to the ministry. This is a very recent initiative.
Senator Chaput: How many francophone immigrants would you say are taking advantage of this offer?
Mr. Vaillancourt: That is a good question. We do not really have the figures. We could give you an idea, but this is coordinated by the colleges and universities through their programs and by the Ministry of Education for the school boards.
Senator Chaput: Thank you. Ms. Gaudet, you mentioned in your presentation that incentive programs to encourage employers to hire immigrants would be a good idea. That was even one of your recommendations. Does this concern economic immigration?
Ms. Gaudet: Yes, absolutely.
Senator Chaput: Would that also involve university students?
Ms. Gaudet: Yes.
Senator Chaput: Do you have any employer incentives to suggest? Do you think the language factor may be a disadvantage if immigrants do not speak English?
Ms. Gaudet: Yes. The majority of employers in a province like New Brunswick are obviously anglophone, and English is the language of work. That is a piece of information that we give immigrants when we recruit in foreign countries. We advise them to start taking language courses immediately to assist in their integration. They can also take language courses once they have arrived in Canada.
It is possible to live in French in certain regions, and completely if you go to the Acadian Peninsula region and the Edmundston area. In some regions, people can live entirely in French. In many cases, these people speak no English. However, if they settle in English-dominant centres, the more urban centres such as Moncton, Miramichi, Bathurst and Saint John, they have to learn English, and we give language courses.
In general, immigrants speak some English when they arrive. Whether we like it or not, English is the international language, the language of technology. Consequently, they already have a certain base. Some of them obviously need to take courses in order to fit into the community to a greater degree.
Senator Chaput: What incentives do you suggest should be used to interest employers?
Ms. Gaudet: First of all, we should offer training on diversity in the workplace. We should also inform employers about how to welcome immigrants, give them information on the people they are welcoming as well, and inform them about the attitude they should adopt in helping their immigrant employees integrate. Some immigrants have skills and a much higher level of education than the people working in those businesses. Employers must be given resources so that they can offer training to their employees.
Perhaps we could offer tax incentives as well.
Senator Chaput: I am asking these questions so that the committee can make recommendations to support the communities across Canada.
Ms. Gaudet: You are asking good questions.
Senator Chaput: Ms. Coombs, you mentioned that students — I think you said "foreign" students — constitute the largest class in your province. Did you say that?
Ms. Coombs: Yes.
Senator Chaput: What happens to those foreign students, who represent the largest class in your province? Are they students who already speak French or anglophone students who speak no French? What do you do with those students, particularly if they fall into the largest class? What does the francophone community do?
Ms. Coombs: That is something we should focus on even more. The only university in Newfoundland and Labrador is anglophone. We have no information on the number of students who speak French. There are some, because we meet them.
There is also an agreement with the Université de Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon to make spaces available to those students, who will pay the same tuition fees as Canadians. That is a measure that was taken to make foreign students aware of the possibility of coming here. The other aspect is that they would like to go to Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, which is located 25 kilometres off our shores, and where the francophone population of the archipelago is twice as large as that of Newfoundland and Labrador.
I believe that anglophones still work in the recruitment field, and they need the help and guidance of the francophone communities and provincial government representatives who speak French.
Senator Chaput: Are you in touch with the anglophone university in your province? Do you work closely with it?
Ms. Coombs: Yes, we work with it, particularly with the department of French and Spanish studies, but also with the international recruitment department. Unfortunately, we have not resumed the project we conducted two years ago because provincial funding was cut, and our CIC funding will not allow us to travel outside Canada, even though it is just to Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon. It is not a matter of funding for us, but rather of flexibility and of what we can do with it.
Senator Chaput: I obviously must not neglect Manitoba. Mr. Ka, you said something that really surprised me. You said that Accueil des immigrants francophones in Saint-Boniface is no longer allowed to offer services to international students, that the international students arriving in Manitoba who study at the Université de Saint-Boniface no longer have access to certain reception services. Can you explain to us what kinds of reception services it previously offered them and, if you know, why it can no longer offer them to international students?
Mr. Ka: First, they have not been allowed to offer them since the four pillars were introduced under the new policy that the government has implemented. People are now specially trained to do that. Reception is no longer allowed to do it. The same is true in the universities. It is the new rule.
Senator Chaput: Where is it done now?
Mr. Ka: People are trained for that.
Senator Chaput: Where are they?
Mr. Ka: In the communities. That is to say that the communities can pay to be accredited. I have to say I think it is a good policy. Why? Because there was a lot of fraud; there were a lot of immigrant consultants who cheated, and consultants must now be accredited under the new act. I believe it costs between $5,000 and $10,000 to qualify. The price includes training. In short, international students now have to take this program, if I am not mistaken. What is certain is that no one in the universities is allowed to do it. It used to be easier because, when immigrants had problems, they went to reception and we helped them complete their forms, all to facilitate their process until they had earned their degrees and found a job.
These changes penalize the communities to the extent that this was one way for us to make these students aware of the possibility that they could stay. Although we have a lot of other things, with a nod to Ontario, we have been giving the English course for nearly 10 years. It is called the Entry Program. It is a kind of bridge that all immigrants can take, wherever they come from. They have to take a provincial government French and English test to determine their proficiency levels. Everyone whose levels are not up to scratch is placed free of charge. We are much more advanced in Manitoba. Although they have the numbers, we have the quality.
Mr. Vaillancourt: Well said.
Ms. Gaudet: On the reception question, we at the university are allowed to welcome students and offer them services. What we are not allowed to do is recruit outside Canada by using the immigrant base and inviting candidates to come to New Brunswick, telling them they can eventually become citizens or permanent residents. Of course, we have a reception service for international students who choose to come and study at our universities, but we are not allowed to sell the idea of immigration.
Mr. Ka: Exactly.
Senator Champagne: Mr. Ka, I have a question that takes us back to the first sentence, or nearly so, that you spoke today. You are Chair of the Société franco-manitobaine, but you are not considered a francophone?
Mr. Ka: That is correct.
Senator Champagne: Explain that to me. I do not understand.
Mr. Ka: That is because the way in which francophones are counted has an impact on me. To be francophone, according to the provincial government's new laws, French has to be your mother tongue. French is not my mother tongue, but the official language of the country I am from.
When I complete the Statistics Canada forms, where they ask what your mother tongue is, I do not select French. Instead I indicate Wolof, since I come from Senegal. French is the official language in my country. Consequently, Manitoba has one less francophone, and that has an impact on the grants we receive in this area. There are a lot of similar cases across Canada, people who are not considered francophones based on that criterion. There is French, mother tongue, and French spoken in the home, whereas I went to a French-language day care and I work in French. Everyone works in French where I am from. It is the official language, the langue of work.
Senator Champagne: I went to a meeting of the Assemblée des parlementaires de la Francophonie, the APF, in Senegal, the home of Abdou Diouf and many others. Senegal is a country where French is spoken everywhere, or virtually everywhere.
At an APF meeting in Winnipeg two or three years ago, Manitoba government representatives came to see us. Even the premier joined us. They explained to us that Manitoba has a special program under which it even brings in people from overseas to show them what it would be like if they came and settled in Manitoba. So, they could inquire about the economy, employment and so on. They are brought in so they can see everything that can be offered to them.
Mr. Ka: Those are exploratory visits to Manitoba. When we recruit, we invite you to come and see what we have in Manitoba. We organize hundreds of exploratory visits every year. When people come on an exploratory visit, the provincial government strategy is to put visitors in touch with employers and universities and to explain to them what they can do. They come for three or four weeks and are housed. Then they return home and everyone comes back to Manitoba. That is why I was talking about qualifications earlier; that is one of the strategies.
Senator Champagne: That surprised me because I had no idea that kind of program existed, and it was the premier and one of his ministers who came to meet with all the people. There were people from all the provinces of Canada, parliamentarians from everywhere. I was very surprised that people were invited so that they could be given a good idea of what life would be like here if they decided to come. When you said shortly afterward that you were not considered a francophone, I really had no idea what you meant, but now you have enlightened me.
Mr. Vaillancourt, the Assemblée de la francophonie de l'Ontario does a lot of work. You did me the honour of putting me on your list of people to whom you send information on everything you do, and not a week goes by that nothing happens at the AFO. The AFO representative did an excellent job. I wanted to thank you. I consider it an honour that you have put me on your list, and I want you to know I carefully read what you say every time.
Ms. Gaudet, you talked about the importance of job creation in retaining people who come to Canada.
I am going to blow my own trumpet by telling you that my son will be creating jobs in Moncton. He has had a company in Montreal for many years and has had a lot of time on his hands over the past 8, 9 or 10 months. He owns a post-production company. So he was doing colour corrections, editing and so on for films and television programs and had a lot of requests from various companies in New Brunswick. He took one exploratory trip and then a second one, and I know that he is there today and will be renting an office and then trying to obtain assistance to put the necessary equipment in place so that he can do part of the work there, even if it means sending the rest back to the Montreal office, which is well equipped. That will create jobs.
The reason why Moncton has become an attractive place for him is that the universities in the region offer no film or editing courses. Consequently, work was being sent to Montreal, and he found the situation a bit complicated. Then he came up with the idea of opening an office there, and that is what he is doing. This will create jobs, but he will have to train people, because they do not graduate from university with the necessary degrees, or else he will enlist people in Quebec and take them there. That will not create jobs, but it will take other francophones or bilingual people to Moncton.
You said that job creation is one way to keep and retain your immigrants and perhaps to attract others who have skills that citizens normally would not have? Am I right?
Ms. Gaudet: Yes, there is no training in that field. Some people go to study at Quebec universities to acquire the necessary skills, but much remains to be done, and we are barely scratching the surface in that field. However, we have a very dynamic artistic community in film and other artistic fields.
I would strongly suggest that your son contact the Association des artistes francophones. We have a very good network of francophone organizations in New Brunswick.
The SANB manages a forum for Acadian organizations and a citizens' forum. The organizations forum consists of 31 francophone organizations from all sectors. So, yes, there is definitely room for people like him in the artistic community.
As you know, Moncton is a city that is developing at quite a good clip. I do not think I need to remind you that New Brunswick is going through tough financial times. The province is facing a lot of challenges in that area, and people who want to come and create jobs are obviously welcome. Quebec can relocate to New Brunswick and create jobs if it wishes; we will welcome it. We will also welcome people, regardless of where they come from.
Senator Champagne: With your permission, I will put him in touch with you. I think that will facilitate matters for him and provide you with someone who is qualified. He graduated from Ryerson University in Toronto.
Ms. Gaudet: Yes, absolutely. We can match him with people in the field.
Senator Rivard: This is a question period, but these are more comments and remarks that I would like to make. However, that does not prevent you from asking me questions and telling me whether I am out in left field. I would like to go back to something that Mr. Vaillancourt said and that struck me. I am going to reread a few lines:
If Quebec represents the fort of the Canadian francophonie, francophones outside Quebec are the buttress that prevents Canada from being composed of two linguistic groups attached solely to specific territories: a French- speaking Quebec and an English-speaking rest of Canada.
Now we can see that immigrants come here to settle and earn a living. Quebec has been responsible for its immigration system for several decades now, and the first condition for immigrating to Quebec is adequate knowledge of the French language. The second criterion is that applicants have 11 years of education or the equivalent, and the third is that there be a labour shortage.
In Canada, language is important, but it is less important for francophone immigration because you are here to point out that you are not getting the quota of francophones you would like to settle in your provinces. As a Quebecer, I observed you as you asked that the federal government introduce programs to facilitate immigration. I think it is entirely legitimate to request that. I would even go as far as to say that I share your opinion, even though it goes somewhat against the interests of Quebec, which has a power to attract francophone immigrants.
You can focus on students whose mother tongue is French. I remember that, two years ago, we met some French citizens who had come to Moncton to study. They told us they had fallen in love with someone and with the province that had taken them in and that they had decided to pursue careers there.
Perhaps you are luckier because you are nearly equal to Quebec in that respect. You attract students who very often fall in love with someone and the country. However, you represent four provinces. Correct me if I am wrong, but there is the University of Ottawa, which is a bilingual university, the francophone university in Saint-Boniface and the Université de Moncton in New Brunswick.
Ms. Gaudet: Yes, the Université de Moncton, with its campuses in Shippagan and Edmundston.
Senator Rivard: If there were four or five francophone universities in Ontario, perhaps French, Belgian or Senegalese students would choose them. It is hard to take university-level courses in a language other than your mother tongue. Quebec will always have the advantage in that respect, but the fact remains that foreign students find opportunities there and may well stay after they complete their studies. In addition, the Canadian government has amended its legislation to make it easier for foreign francophone students and others to work, which was not previously the case.
That is what I wanted to tell you. If you do not agree with my comments, do not hesitate to say so because this is a discussion.
Ms. Gaudet: I would like to add to your remarks. It should not be forgotten that there are community college campuses across the province, and we also have a lot of international students. I would say that the post-secondary institutions are important as well.
Mr. Vaillancourt: We have more than one bilingual university in Ontario. There is Laurentian University in Sudbury and the Université de Hearst. There are also Glendon College in Toronto and the Dominican University College in Ottawa, which are bilingual, as well as two community colleges in the province.
These institutions recruit international students. You have reminded me that young men and women who study together often form relationships and settle down in Canada. What is new in Ontario is that at least one school board, which includes both elementary and secondary levels, recruits internationally for its secondary programs.
This is common practice in the anglophone school boards. If you follow the media at all, the major school boards in Toronto and even Ottawa recruit secondary students in China. The Ottawa Catholic School Board offers a program designed to interest students in coming here because that is a way to generate interest in the community and among parents. Those students qualify for university admission, and that represents potential.
It may obviously take more time to see a return on investment when you take those actions at the secondary level, but that is the kind of thing that is currently happening in Ontario.
Mr. Ka: You are right since 33 per cent of students at the Université de Saint-Boniface in Manitoba are international francophone students. If we had two or three universities, we would have many more.
Senator Rivard: Thank you for your details. I share your opinion that Quebec is the fort and the rest of Canada the buttress. We have to balance the situation and ensure we remain a bilingual country so that francophones move circulate across Canada and Quebec, where a lot of anglophones contribute to the richness of the province.
Senator Beyak: My question follows up on that of Senator Rivard. As an anglophone living in northwestern Ontario, we have immigrants from Scotland, England, many Aboriginal communities and very few francophones at all, but just west of us in Winnipeg is St. Boniface and St. Vital. I was concerned with the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, but I would like a comment on this: She said that the Canadian Constitution is clear that the francophone and anglophone communities of New Brunswick have equality of status.
I agree with her and I understand it, but how does that comment relate to businesses that are already a bit concerned about how they are going to hire new francophone immigrants and give them services they deserve without it costing them an arm and a leg? If you could each comment on that I think it would be educational for other anglophones who don't live in francophone communities.
Mr. Vaillancourt: I will try to answer that question. First, I understand you're from the Dryden area. You should know that not far from there, in Thunder Bay, there is a vibrant francophone community and they work hard at it, working with the majority language groups.
On the question of how do businesses support francophone immigrants, I talked in my presentation about the work community groups can do. I look at northwestern Ontario, and I know the north quite well, my wife being from up there. I understand that the language of work will be mostly in English, and that's understood. There is in northern Ontario and northwestern Ontario, even in Dryden, a respect for the minority group. We should sell the employer on a couple of things, the first being the benefits of having bilingual staff down the road. There is a return for the investment.
Where I think there is work to be done with both provincial and federal levels of government is the support to community groups to allow that particular worker or immigrant to integrate into the community around him and into the francophone groupings. We forget oftentimes that the immigrants coming to Ontario, and I meet some of the people, most likely will need to work in both official languages. There are French language community groups that thrive, and we need to support community groups to give them the opportunity to take with them their language, especially if they come from French-speaking Africa or Haiti. There are ways and means. Support programs from Immigration Canada and from our ministry in Ontario could go a long way in allaying any fears the employer may have.
Ms. Coombs: Just to address this question a little bit, the francophone immigration efforts in Newfoundland and Labrador have become more and more centred around the business community. We are an active player not just in francophone immigration but in economic immigration. We believe that this is really the angle to take in a place that is so minority francophone, as we are. However, even though we are very minority francophone, we still have French as the second most popular language in the province, and there is still a big community, an education system, relatively speaking, and a common community that francophones can come into. We don't have anything larger or bigger than that in any other respect. There is no Chinatown in St. John's, Newfoundland, as you might have expected.
We believe that we're able to leverage our economic situation, which happens to be favourable, knock on wood. The angle they are taking now is that there are already recruitment efforts going on, organized in part by the Government of Canada, and they want to take advantage of existing recruitment fairs and things like that. The significant benefit of hiring a francophone is a large incentive for them as well, for hiring in skilled classes, and they want qualified workers. They will have to be at least a bit bilingual to work in St. Lawrence or Burin or even in St. John's. We come at it from that angle. We believe that the francophone community can be a big player in immigration in general, to the point of enriching our community and growing our population.
Mr. Ka: In Manitoba, as a francophone, we know that bilingualism is part of my franco-Manitoban identity. When we bring immigrants, basically I tell them first thing, English number one. That is the thing. Even though we have francophone institutions, sometimes where you need to get hired, they ask you first if you speak English. For us, this is part of the strategy. Bring immigrants who can learn English, but the big one is that we have to manage to give them some community life in French, to get them involved and to have their kids go to francophone schools. That's the strategy we have in Manitoba.
Ms. Gaudet: The New Brunswick business community is also very dynamic. I must say that the new businesses that have been created in the Moncton area in the past 20 years have been established by francophones because they are university graduates who have found a lot of opportunities there. The community is well networked and very dynamic. People can work in businesses, small and medium enterprises, across the region. There are no major cities in New Brunswick because our inhabitants live mainly in rural areas, in villages and municipalities.
There is an association of francophone municipalities in New Brunswick. There is also a francophone economic association. It is possible to live 100 per cent in French in some regions of New Brunswick.
Francophones form 40 per cent to 45 per cent of the population of the Moncton area. The percentage is increasing because all the people from the north are moving to Moncton. It is a north-south exodus. Many francophones from the north have moved to the Moncton area.
I live 100 per cent in French. My spouse, who was a Russian immigrant when he arrived in Canada, learned French. He is perfectly bilingual. He has been in Canada for 20 years and has learned both languages.
It is possible to live entirely in French because we have francophone institutions and organizations in all fields. Now, that does not mean there are no challenges, because some people want to work in fields where skilled people are sought after.
There are obviously a lot of anglophone businesses, and you have to learn English in some instances if you want to work in your field. That depends where you work.
Mr. Vaillancourt: With regard to employers and the majority language community, I would like to add that people often talk about the francophone reflex in Ontario. At the national level and among our employers, when you promote francophone immigration, you should also be thinking that one day Canadian society will value linguistic duality more, that it will become a natural impulse and that there will be no barriers to it. I dream of a Canada where that is second nature in all parts of the country and where no one thinks twice about it: signage will be in both languages and people will acquire the skills to work in both languages. We will establish the capacity for people to learn a second language and so on.
When you believe in a national identity based on linguistic duality, the act of welcoming francophone immigration is something that everyone promotes, anglophones and francophones alike. We should express that with pride. That would make it possible for every group to find its place, to have its fair share of Canadian society and to make Canada a more dynamic and globally competitive country.
Senator Beyak: What you just said really summed up what I was trying to ask. If attraction and promotion work so much better than a statement perhaps like that, that might be misunderstood in other parts of the country. I understood what she said completely, but you summed it up perfectly. Thank you.
The Chair: Before moving on to the second round of questions with Senator McIntyre, I would like to ask a question about a comment that two of you made — I believe it was Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba — that cuts have been made to the services offered by the Destination Canada.
What was the nature of those budget cuts and what effects have they had?
Ms. Coombs: The cuts to funding for Destination Canada caused the perfect storm in Newfoundland and Labrador. First, cuts were made to the funding provided by CIC to attend the job forum. After that, cuts were made to the provincial government department responsible for immigration. Our community partners did not have enough funding to support our involvement in that event. I think that is really unfortunate because the profile of Newfoundland and Labrador outside Canada, particularly in francophone countries, is virtually non-existent.
We nevertheless had employers, for example, who went there and had a lot of difficulty communicating with francophone applicants. We hope we can obtain provincial funding in future so that we can attend the fair again or use our CIC funding in a more flexible way, at least a percentage of it.
The Chair: Mr. Ka, you said you had also experienced funding cuts?
Mr. Ka: Yes. Exactly the same thing happened. Cuts were also made at the federal level. That means that community organizations that were previously able to travel to Destination Canada can no longer do so because they cannot afford it. In fact, all that is related to the new options, the new immigration laws, in which the emphasis is on the employer.
In fact, the majority of immigrants who came to Manitoba were selected through the Destination Canada network, especially the Nominee Program. That program worked well for us. I must say it is true that we do not have the numbers in Manitoba, but nearly 60 per cent of all the people who have come from the Nominee Program in the past few years have wound up in Manitoba. That gives you an idea of how important that path was for us.
The Chair: We will have a chance to hear from Destination Canada representatives next week and thus will definitely be able to follow up on what you have presented to us here.
Senator McIntyre has the floor for a second round of questions.
Senator McIntyre: Very briefly, Mr. Vaillancourt, I would like to speak to you about Bill 161, which died on the order paper when the Ontario election was called. The purpose of that bill was to enable "all communities across Ontario, including Franco-Ontarian communities, to attract, welcome and integrate immigrants."
This is the first time our goal has been to protect the immigration interests of francophones in Ontario. I thought that was a promising bill because it recognized a linguistic group that has a cultural history in Ontario. The bill would also have made it possible, and this is important for me as a lawyer, to guide the courts in interpreting the language rights of Franco-Ontarians. First, we have the bill, which is very important, and, second, its interpretation by the courts.
My question is this: do you have any hope that the next Ontario government, regardless of it political stripe, can resuscitate this bill?
Mr. Vaillancourt: Good question. That is still our hope. We are optimistic in Ontario. You may be assured that, for the Assemblée de la francophonie de l'Ontario, in our role as representative of the francophone community, this is one of the first issues that we will be discussing when we visit the next government and put it on the table. Action has been taken because the community spoke, and our French-language services commissioner has also made submissions. You may be assured that, once a new government is formed, whatever it may be, we will be there to insist that this bill be put back on the table in one form or another.
You are right, there were very promising precedents for the Franco-Ontarian community. This is one of the rare bills, together with the French-language services legislation, in which we acknowledge this notion of a Franco-Ontarian community and the fact that it must be protected. Consequently, we will definitely be bringing it back.
Senator McIntyre: The federal government plans to establish the expression of interest system next year. That system will help establish a direct connection between immigrants and employers. If I am not mistaken, applications will be submitted online. This is a system that is already in effect in Australia and New Zealand. Do you have any comments on that subject?
Mr. Vaillancourt: I cannot comment on that. I have not looked at it closely. Earlier I said we were not experts, but this is something we would like to examine. What interested us about the Ontario government, and which is not currently the case, was that, for the first time, it was setting a target and that gave us options. Consequently, all I can tell you for the moment is that we will continue along those lines to ensure we achieve those goals.
The Chair: Ms. Gaudet, do you want to comment?
Ms. Gaudet: The same is true for us. I do not have all the information on this matter, but we are definitely very much interested in it. However, I would not be able to respond to you now about the nature of those relationships.
Mr. Ka: With regard to the expression of interest, we in fact expect a minor problem to the extent that this is a business matter, as you are aware. You know that, in Manitoba, for example, the majority of entrepreneurs that recruit from a pool in the field are, in most cases, unilingual people. Consequently, that means that, in most cases, we as a community will be penalized in that people will have a greater interest in focusing on the anglophones they recruit in the field.
That is not to blame the entrepreneurs because you create a business in order to produce and make a profit. An entrepreneur will not go out and get an immigrant and tell him, "Come back with me and I will give you language training." That is the problem.
Consequently, we are penalized from the outset in this expression of interest matter, before the program even starts. We know that already. Consequently, we will have to find another way. Earlier Ms. Gaudet said that sometimes it might be good to make two-tiered laws for our communities. I do not know.
Ms. Gaudet: On that point, we were mainly asking questions to determine what criteria would be used. That is our main concern. The other question is what importance will be attached to language. It has to be a criterion. We cannot just tell people they are entering our francophone minority communities. We will have to communicate with each other about the criteria that are used and ensure that applicants' language is an issue and a concern.
Senator McIntyre: If I am not mistaken, we will be selecting immigrants based on desired skills. That is where the emphasis will be placed.
Ms. Gaudet: Language is also a skill. I think it has to be a skill that must be considered.
Senator Champagne: I have a brief comment for Mr. Vaillancourt. In early August, and I am getting back to this bill that Senator McIntyre mentioned earlier, the presidents of all the Americas branches of the APF, the Assemblée des parlementaires de la francophonie, will be meeting in Toronto. That may be an opportunity for you to look for support when you address the new government, whatever it may be. Unfortunately, I will not be there because my parliamentary life will be over, but Senator McIntyre will be president, and you will therefore be in good hands.
The Chair: Colleagues, I remind you that, next week, our meeting on June 9 will start at 2:00 p.m., not 5:00 p.m., because we will be hearing from a witness via video conference from Paris. We will therefore have to adjust our schedules.
Thank you for taking the time to come and inform us about the various situations you are experiencing in four Canadian provinces. Thank you for sharing your concerns, challenges and also your best practices with us. Your contribution to our study really is invaluable and will be of great use to us. Thank you very much.
(The committee adjourned.)