Notes for the Release of the Joint Report on Immigration in Francophone Minority Communities
Ottawa, Ontario, November 18, 2014
Graham Fraser - Commissioner of Official Languages
Check against delivery
Beginning of dialog
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
I am pleased to be here with you this afternoon. I would like to thank our guests, Mr. Appolinaire Yengayenge and Ms. Léonie Tchatat, for their personal accounts. I would also like to thank you for attending this official release of the joint report by my office and the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario. This report on immigration in Francophone minority communities highlights our shared concerns and also reflects the close collaboration between our offices.
Canada is changing. We are welcoming more than 250,000 newcomers every year. Despite this significant immigration, Francophone minority communities have benefited little from the inflow of newcomers in comparison with majority communities. As the host society, we have to expect our linguistic landscape to change, just as Canadian society is changing. We adapt, and our public policies must also adapt. The people who develop these policies must make sure that they reflect the society we live in.
Since the beginning of my mandate, I have been making immigration a priority. Immigration is instrumental to the development of our country and communities in all regions of the country, in terms of both increasing the population and strengthening the vitality and identity of official language communities. This subject is also a major concern of the French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario and the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick. That is why we issued a joint news release in October pressing governments to step up their efforts so that Francophone minority communities can truly benefit from immigration.
Today, Commissioner Boileau and I are releasing this report, which sheds light on some of the main challenges concerning immigration: the importance of learning both official languages, a lack of awareness of the potential opportunities in Canada’s Francophone communities and the importance of building relationships with both French- and English-speaking employers. The report also contains several recommendations addressed to both levels of government.
Many representatives of Francophone communities are apprehensive about how the changes to the immigration system might affect their vitality. They recognize that the new system can provide new opportunities to their communities, but they are also aware of their high vulnerability to government policies on immigration. When implementing the new system, federal and provincial governments must include a Francophone perspective in analyzing immigration strategies, programs and initiatives. They must use a targeted approach and better plan their actions to turn immigration into a powerful development tool for Francophone minority communities. These communities are host communities, just like Canada’s two language majorities.
We believe that governments can, and should, dedicate more energy and resources toward improving the integration of Francophone immigrants into Canadian society, which is why we have formulated recommendations to that effect. We must ensure that Francophone newcomers are directed to Francophone communities and institutions. Only then will lasting relationships develop between newcomers and these communities.
For Francophone immigration programs to be effective and beneficial, it is important that they take into account the particularities of each Francophone community in the country, because they are all different and therefore have different needs.
The federal government is currently making several changes to Canada’s immigration system, but any action taken to bring about those changes must comply with the obligations set out in the Official Languages Act, including those in Part VII. While federal institutions are required to take positive measures to enhance the vitality of official language communities, they are also required not to undermine it. Decisions made by federal institutions with no consultation process often have long-term repercussions that are generally difficult to overturn.
Linguistic duality and cultural diversity are important values and symbols in Canadian society that play a role in defining how Canadians see themselves and how they are perceived around the world. After meeting Canadians of different backgrounds from all across the country, I can say that many minority groups are very open to learning the two official languages. Immigrant families are choosing to encourage their children to master several languages and are stressing the importance of multilingualism due to national and international market forces.
As we heard earlier, in the personal accounts given by Mr. Yengayenge and Ms. Léonie Tchatat, Francophone immigration has many positive impacts on minority communities and on the quality of life of our new citizens. That is why we must dedicate more resources to it.
The future of Canada’s linguistic duality depends in part on our ability to foster a coherent linguistic environment where English and French both have a place in every region of the country. We must make Francophone immigration a priority in our government policies. I invite you to listen to my counterpart from Ontario, my partner in this initiative and my friend, French Language Services Commissioner François Boileau.
I am also available to answer your questions.