Notes for an appearance before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages

Ottawa, Ontario, March 30, 2022
Raymond Théberge - Commissioner of Official Languages

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Beginning of dialog

Mr. Chair, honourable members of the Committee, good morning.

Although today’s meeting is taking place virtually, I would like to acknowledge that I am speaking to you from Treaty 1 territory, the traditional territory of Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene peoples, and the homeland of the Métis Nation.

Immigration has a direct influence on the demolinguistic balance between English and French in Canada outside of Quebec. It’s good to see that your Committee is looking into this key issue. Today, I’d like talk to you about our recent study on the 4.4% immigration target for French-speaking immigrants in Francophone minority communities.

The study primarily consists of a statistical analysis. And I must stress here that it focuses solely on immigration as a factor influencing the demographic weight of Francophone minority communities. It does not include other important factors—like low birth rates, an aging population and interprovincial mobility, for example—which can also have various degrees of impact in different regions.

Our statistical analysis also deals with only one part of the immigration continuum: the selection and admission of French-speaking permanent residents. It does not address their integration into Francophone minority communities or their retention within those communities.

The study shows that even if the 4.4% Francophone immigration target had been consistently met each year since the original 2008 deadline, it still would not have been enough to maintain the demographic weight of the French-speaking population outside Quebec (which was the goal), much less contribute to its growth (which was the ideal). According to the 2001 Census, this population represented 4.4% of Canada’s population outside Quebec. If the target had been met, it could have helped to reduce the decline that we saw in the 2016 Census, when the demographic weight dropped to 3.8%.

Today, almost 20 years after it was set, the target has still not been met. Between 2008—which was the original target deadline—and 2020, the shortfall in admissions of French-speaking permanent residents to Francophone minority communities is upwards of 75,000.

Our study, like many others, noted that Francophone minority communities have been experiencing immigration deficits for decades. We’re already seeing the demographic impact.

There are also current and long-term repercussions on the economic, cultural and social aspects of community vitality.

We’ve seen the impact of an aging population in many Francophone minority communities, where seniors are often older and more vulnerable than seniors in English-speaking majority communities. This is a worrisome effect of immigration deficits within Francophone minority communities.

Extending over more than 20 years—which is an entire generation—this trend of increasing deficits needs to be reversed right now in order to ensure the future of Canada’s Francophone communities out side Quebec.

Meanwhile, Francophone minority communities across the country are keen to attract, welcome and support all newcomers.

It’s time to do more and do better.

In our study, I recommend that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada conduct a full analysis of the current target and its impact in order to help define a new, higher one. I also call on the federal government to adopt a policy on immigration to Francophone minority communities.

I’m very pleased that the new version of the long-awaited bill to modernize the Official Languages Act has been tabled and is now a reality.

Bill C-13 recognizes immigration as one of the factors that contribute to maintaining or increasing the demographic weight of French linguistic minority communities. It also requires the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to adopt a policy on Francophone immigration—including objectives, targets and indicators—to enhance the vitality of French linguistic minority communities in Canada.

Given the importance of immigration for Francophone minority communities, I will be studying the new obligations in Bill C-13 to make sure that they provide the best possible results for the communities.

Francophone immigration is still very much in the news. It’s reassuring to see numerous initiatives being organized across the country to support immigration to Francophone minority communities, and I sincerely hope that all of these efforts will yield results for these communities in their determination to grow and thrive.

Thank you for your attention. I will be happy to answer your questions in the official language of your choice.

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