Archived - Notes for an address at the release of the vitality indicators study for the Francophone community in British Columbia
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Vancouver, April 15, 2010
Graham Fraser - Commissioner of Official Languages
Check against delivery
Beginning of dialog
I am very happy to join you today to present the results of an initiative that my office has worked on very closely with the Francophone community of British Columbia. It is the third in a series of studies on vitality indicators in official language minority communities. Each of these studies is unique and adapted to the specific situation of the region studied.
These vitality indicator studies are born of two trends that have developed in recent years.
On the one hand, federal institutions have informed me that they need tools to help them enhance the vitality and support the development of official language communities, as well as to promote linguistic duality. They know that they have this obligation under the Official Languages Act, but they do not always have the information and know-how necessary to have a positive influence on the vitality of the communities and to measure their success in doing so.
On the other hand, English-speaking communities in Quebec and Francophone communities elsewhere in the country have duly noted the evolution of Canadian society and the progress made in recent decades. The lessons of the past have helped build a new momentum, but traditional development models have to be re‑evaluated. The British Columbia Francophone community is representative of this progress.
The purpose of the vitality studies is therefore to help the communities and their partners. The goal of these studies is not to target communities in a better situation than others, but rather, to find concrete vitality indicators in specific areas of activity.
These vitality indicator studies have three objectives:
- Identify, within each community, keys to success and best practices related to vitality;
- Prepare logic models indicating, for each community, the activities and objectives related to certain sectors;
- Identify vitality indicators based on the priorities that the communities set for themselves.
This last point is very important. For British Columbia, Francophone leaders asked us to include all regions of the province. This approach enabled us to benefit from the participation of a large number of people working towards the development of their respective communities.
The resulting picture highlights the relatively self-reliant and self-sufficient communities, often organized around a community centre. The majority of Francophones were not born in the province and a significant proportion of them are newcomers to Canada, or second-generation Canadians. Recruitment and retention of new members of the community is an overall concern.
The community demonstrates a high level of inclusion: more than elsewhere, the "Francophonie" here is referred to in the broader sense, which promotes synergies. The community welcomes those born in the province or elsewhere, for whom French is their mother tongue or their second language. Organizations such as Canadian Parents for French are full-fledged partners and get to have their say.
This openness is demonstrated through the activities in the community. The current success of Maillardville's Festival du Bois is a result of sharing the region's Francophone heritage with the rest of the population. The Place de la francophonie, which was located on Granville Island for the Olympic Games this past spring, promoted Canada's Francophone character to the entire world.
I hope that the outstanding contribution of Francophones to the vibrant atmosphere that delighted the whole world at the Olympic Games will help boost relations with all of their citizens. Francophones in this province care about making a unique contribution. Municipal authorities, the political world and the media would do well to fully recognize the role that the French fact plays, not just from a historical perspective, but especially in the growth of a diverse and fascinating society on the Pacific coast.
The West coast Francophone community has considerable potential. However, our study has identified significant challenges.
If the local communities are self-sufficient, they can sometimes suffer from isolation. The small size of the community can pose a significant challenge. In particular, the services within the community depend on a relatively limited number of people, and there is limited access to resources. Many have reported staff burnout within their organizations.
A lot of hard work and new approaches are required to overcome these obstacles. This also means that the institutions mandated to support the communities have to demonstrate the same sense of innovation. Official language communities are undergoing transformation; organizations that support their development will need to keep up. British Columbia’s Francophone community must take charge of its own development by becoming the decision-maker in the region’s social and economic development. However, the community should not be left to fend for itself. It must be able to benefit from the support of the provincial and federal governments. Governments, especially federal institutions, must remain open to the priorities established by the communities, in order to meet their needs and contribute to their development. It is in this spirit that my office has contributed this study.
British Columbia's Francophone community knows its objectives: it benefits from solid strategic planning, which this study will enhance and support. The study proposes paths to explore and ways to measure the progress made. The study also serves as an excellent tool for dialogue between British Columbia's Francophone community and its government partners. Community leaders and government institutions must ensure that individual actions lead to positive results for the entire community.
I am proud to add my office's contribution to this effort. I am convinced that British Columbia's Francophone community will continue to promote the French language in every corner of the province and across Canada.