Statement to the media for the release of the 2014–2015 annual report
Immigration and official languages
Ottawa, Ontario, May 7, 2014
Graham Fraser - Commissioner of Official Languages
Check against delivery
Beginning of dialog
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you for coming to the presentation of my 2014–2015 annual report. This is my ninth annual report, and it focuses mainly on immigration in official language communities. It also describes complaints that we received and audits that we conducted over the past fiscal year, as well as court cases in which I was involved as official languages ombudsman.
Because of the election timetable, I am tabling this report just seven months after the one I released last October, which is why it is shorter and more focused.
Francophone immigration outside Quebec
Official language community organizations all say that their very future depends on the number of immigrants who choose to settle in their community. However, immigrants tend to gravitate more toward majority communities.
In theory, the arrival of French-speaking immigrants is excellent news in terms of strengthening the vitality of French-speaking communities across Canada. In reality, the situation is quite different, however. Despite the commitments made by the federal government, by communities and by certain provinces, and despite the targets they have set, only 2% of immigrants who settle in provinces other than Quebec speak French as their first official language. That figure is too low to ensure the vitality of French-speaking communities outside Quebec.
I acknowledge the commitment of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to promote the development of official language minority communities, but I also expect to see tangible results.
This past January, the federal government launched the new Express Entry system, which aims to speed up the permanent residence process for economic immigrants. However, the government must ensure that this tool benefits minority communities as well as majority communities. For example, it must be able to identify French-speaking candidates quickly in order to give them the opportunity to establish meaningful contact with organizations in French-speaking communities.
Currently, there are no incentives that encourage employers to recruit French-speaking immigrants. A targeted recruitment strategy needs to be developed, in cooperation with the provinces and territories, to help French-speaking newcomers find host communities across the country. There should also be more pre-departure tools available to French-speaking immigrants who wish to settle in Canada.
Newly arrived immigrants—and those wishing to immigrate to Canada—need to be made aware of the fact that there are French-speaking communities right across Canada and that these communities have many opportunities to offer. Newcomers also need to be informed about the services in French that are available in their region. Government agencies must therefore focus their efforts on using Francophone organizations to receive, train and provide integration support for immigrants.
So that all of Canada’s French-speaking communities can become host communities, I have recommended in my annual report:
- that long-term tools and incentives be developed for Canadian employers to assist in the recruitment and selection of French-speaking and bilingual workers outside Quebec;
- that the federal government develop, in concert with the provinces and territories, a substantive action plan that includes targets for Francophone immigration and a timetable;
- that the federal government rely principally on Francophone organizations to help French-speaking newcomers settle into their host communities.
Anglophone immigration in Quebec
My annual report also addresses the issue of Anglophone immigration in Quebec. This oft-neglected topic is critical for the revitalization of the province’s English-speaking communities. Some communities, especially those outside urban areas, are having difficulty attracting a sufficient number of English-speaking immigrants to revitalize their institutions over the long term.
To integrate successfully into Quebec society, English-speaking immigrants who choose to settle in the province’s English-speaking communities need support. This invaluable assistance is provided by community organizations. They not only make English-speaking immigrants feel less isolated, but they also help them find jobs and learn French. These organizations must have sufficient resources in order to provide these services.
The English-speaking community is part of Quebec’s heritage and its future. To ensure that the community survives and thrives in the province, the federal government must work with the Quebec government to provide enough resources to receive English-speaking newcomers and help them integrate into Quebec’s English-speaking communities and into Quebec society.
Complaints, audits and court remedies
In 2014–2015, my office received 550 complaints that were deemed admissible, which is an increase of 74 complaints compared with 2013–2014. We also followed up on two audits involving Air Canada and Industry Canada, which were conducted in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
In the case of our audit follow-up on Air Canada’s service to the public, I was dismayed to learn that the air carrier has still not taken the measures necessary to correct the situation. I have discussed the matter with the President of Air Canada, and I will be meeting shortly with the advisors conducting the Canada Transportation Act Review.
I am very pleased to report that our Industry Canada audit follow-up showed that the institution implemented all of my recommendations either fully or partially.
In 2014–2015, the Supreme Court of Canada and the Federal Court of Canada both handed down major decisions in cases in which I was involved. In Thibodeau v Air Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada reaffirmed the quasi-constitutional status of the Official Languages Act, which provides for a court remedy. With respect to CBC/Radio-Canada’s budget cuts at CBEF Windsor, the Federal Court determined that Part VII of the Act is a categorical, non-negotiable imperative.
It was the first time that the Court had stated that not only do federal institutions have to support the development of official language communities, they must also “act in a manner that does not hinder the development and vitality of Canada’s Anglophone and Francophone minorities.”
Award of Excellence – Promotion of Linguistic Duality
This year’s Award of Excellence – Promotion of Linguistic Duality went to Mariette Mulaire, who established a number of economic development and Francophone immigration initiatives for Manitoba, including the creation and organization of Centrallia, the first-ever international business-to-business forum in Western Canada. I would like to congratulate Ms. Mulaire on her inspiring efforts to showcase the contributions of French-speaking communities in Manitoba, throughout Canada and around the world.
Although 46 years have elapsed since the Official Languages Act became law, its key objective—the equal status of our two official languages—continues to be problematic for some federal institutions that are subject to it. Once again this year, we have found that when it comes to respecting official languages, successful institutions are the ones who plan their actions. However, a few institutions have shown by their actions that they still do not understand the concept of official languages being equal.
For instance, during the tragic events of October 22 last year on Parliament Hill, a unilingual English alert was e-mailed to federal public servants, with a note that said “
French to follow.” I thought that the “
French to follow” era was long gone and that accommodation was a thing of the past. The very foundation of the Act is not that one of the two languages is an accommodation. Its fundamental principle is equality of our official languages. And that equality needs to be reflected in every government announcement, on every platform—especially during an emergency. Success requires planning, and planning requires leadership.
In addition to honouring the principle of equality of English and French, federal institutions have a duty to protect the vitality of official language communities and not to hinder them. If these two principles were better understood, respected and applied, the issues surrounding the vitality of official language communities would be less critical.
My 2014–2015 annual report is available on our website. I encourage everyone to take the discussion on-line—in both official languages—on our Facebook page and our Twitter feed.
Thank you for your attention.
I would now like to take the remaining time to answer any questions you may have.