Notes for an appearance before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages – Presentation of the 2014–2015 annual report
Ottawa, Ontario, May 12, 2015
Graham Fraser - Commissioner of Official Languages
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Beginning of dialog
Mr. Chair, honourable members of the Committee, good afternoon.
I am accompanied today by Ghislaine Saikaley, Assistant Commissioner of Compliance Assurance, and Mary Donaghy, Assistant Commissioner of Policy and Communications.
I am pleased to appear here before you today to present my 2014–2015 annual report, which focuses mainly on immigration in official language communities. The report 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
Despite the commitments made by the federal government, by communities and by certain provinces, 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.
The new Express Entry system, which aims to speed up the permanent residence process for economic immigrants, was launched last January. However, there are currently no incentives that encourage employers to recruit French-speaking immigrants.
Government agencies must 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, in concert with the provinces and territories, develop a substantive action plan that includes a timetable and targets for Francophone immigration; and
- 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. 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.
English-speaking immigrants who choose to settle in the province’s English‑speaking communities need support to be able to integrate successfully into Quebec society. This is why the federal government must work with the Quebec government to provide enough resources for that purpose.
Complaints, audits and court remedies
In 2014–2015, my office received 550 complaints that were deemed admissible. This is an increase of 74 complaints, or 16%, compared with 2013‑2014.
We also followed up on two audits involving Air Canada and Industry Canada that were conducted in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
In 2014–2015, 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. That decision is currently under appeal.
Again this year, we have seen that when it comes to respecting official languages, successful institutions 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.
The very foundation of the Act is the equality of our two official languages—not that one of the two languages is an accommodation. And that equality must be reflected in every government announcement, on every communications platform. 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.
Thank you for your attention. I would now like to take the remaining time to answer any questions you may have.