ARCHIVED - Part 2: Workshop results

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“YOU CAN UNDERSTAND A LANGUAGE BY LEARNING IT; BUT TO UNDERSTAND THE CULTURE, YOU MUST LIVE IN THAT LANGUAGE.”

THE RIGHT HONOURABLE ADRIENNE CLARKSON, OCTOBER 26, 2007.

Workshop 1

“AS CANADA HAS CHANGED PROFOUNDLY OVER THE LAST 35 YEARS, LINGUISTIC DUALITY AND CULTURAL DIVERSITY HAVE BEEN, IN MANY REGARDS, THE REFLECTION AND AGENT OF CHAGNES THAT HAVE OCCURED…. THESE CHANGES WILL CONTINUE IN THE COMING DECADE, PARTICULARLY BECAUSE OF THE INCREASE IN INTERNATIONAL IMMIGRATION TO THE COUNTRY.”* AS SUCH, WE SHOULD WORK TOGETHER TO IDENTIFY THE FUNDAMENTAL VALUES OF TODAY’S CANADIAN SOCIETY.

*OFFICE OF THE COMMISSIONER OF OFFICIAL LANGUAGES, ISSUE PAPER, OCTOBER 2007.

2.1 Theme 1: Linguistic duality, cultural diversity and the changing Canadian identity

During the first workshop participants were asked to discuss three questions:

  1. In your opinion, what are the fundamental values of today’s Canadian society?

  2. a) How do these values complement Canada’s linguistic duality?

    b) How do these values challenge Canada’s linguistic duality?

Discussion summary:
(1) The fundamental values of today’s Canadian society were identified and discussed by the working groups during brainstorming sessions at the beginning of the workshop. The values identified by the majority of, if not all, groups were the following:

Linguistic duality, bilingualism Cultural diversity, multiculturalism
Canada’s openness to people from other countries Inclusion, mutual respect, tolerance, acceptance of others
Democracy, living peacefully, safety Individual freedoms, such as freedom of expression, religion and movement
Justice for all, applying the rules of law, including equality and equity, gender equality Access and equity for all, the right to be served in the official language of choice

(2)a Participants believe that these values are complementary, in many regards, to linguistic duality, which cannot be separated from cultural diversity; they intersect in many ways.

  • In deciding to adopt two official languages (English and French), Canada opened the door for Canadians to Europe, and then to the world. It offers them the possibility of living in both languages, and from there, accessing two cultures. Bilingualism, with the aim of developing a more harmonious existence between Canada’s two founding peoples, is the basis of today’s cultural diversity, since it has encouraged Canadians to become interested in different cultures and to communicate with people from different backgrounds. In today’s age of increasing globalization, it is a clear comparative advantage for Canadians and for Canada.

  • While bilingualism was a bridge uniting the two founding peoples, it also laid the foundation for multiculturalism, and then cultural diversity. The resulting values of acceptance, tolerance and openness to other cultures became factors that promoted peace across the country. Canada has a role on the international scene as a guardian and promoter of peace. This internationally recognized Canadian value has attracted a large number of immigrants in search of a host country.

  • Linguistic duality fosters multiculturalism, as learning another language is a personal and educational endeavour that leads to an understanding of another culture. Once we recognize the difficulty of learning another language, we learn to appreciate bilingualism, stop focusing on immigrants’ different accents and recognize their serious efforts to integrate into the country. Linguistic duality fosters respect, acceptance, empathy and leads to intercultural dialogue.

  • Multiculturalism is a modern value that is becoming the new standard, particularly for young people who are more accepting of and promote diversity. They have moved beyond just bilingualism, and are now interested in multilingualism, which is an important social and economic advantage for them in a changing, increasingly globalized world.

  • Bilingualism is an advantage for allophone immigrants and their children. It encourages them to acquire communication tools that facilitate their integration and their social and economic mobility, in addition to fostering citizen participation. Official language learning centres and immersion schools foster this kind of learning. Children master foreign languages much faster than their parents; therefore, they are a target group for learning both official languages.

(2)b As for linguistic duality, participants believe that Canada’s main challenge is to resolve its internal contradictions. The country, whose rich history foretells positive things for the future, is plagued by friction between the two language groups, but also with immigrants. In particular, its policies must be brought in line with its fundamental values, and financial resources and means must be made available across the country to carry out language training programs and ensure accessibility to services in French.

  • Canada must learn from its mistakes. Some groups were unable to maintain their languages and customs, such as the First Nations. The challenge is to facilitate and negotiate their integration into Canadian society, where the values of mutual understanding, inclusion and acceptance of others, equal opportunity and equity are fundamental.

  • Resistance to change is another challenge. We resist what newcomers and young people bring us, under the false pretense that we are protecting Canadian values. In fact, these values include understanding, openness to diversity, accommodation and integration of newcomers, freedom of speech and religion, etc.

  • There is a disparity between the aspirations and the reality. There is talk of facilitating access to the other official language both in terms of learning and use. Yet that is the case in large areas of Canada, particularly as concerns French. There are many barriers to learning a second language for children. There is also a lack of access to immersion programs, for which there is an enormous demand. As for adults, would it be possible to fund second official learning programs?

  • The official languages program is governed by legislation and regulations, and its application does not necessarily respect the fundamental values of openness, accommodation and justice for all. The bureaucratic culture needs to be changed, particularly in terms of the definition of Francophone and non-Francophone. The eligibility criteria for access to some services in French are sometimes based on mother tongue. Consequently, many fluent French-speaking immigrants whose first language is not French are not allowed to send their children to a public French school.

  • The presence of Francophones living in a minority context is dwindling, as they assimilate into the English-speaking majority because of the difficulties they face living or even being served in French.

  • Linguistic duality is also affected by regional and territorial realities. While Canada is bilingual, the provinces and territories are not necessarily so, and do not provide their residents, including immigrants, with enough opportunities to become bilingual. Immigrants have to overcome significant hurdles to learn a second language. Nevertheless, second language learning is a question of mobility and accessibility to the economic opportunities that the provinces and territories should be promoting.

  • Preserving heritage languages is also a challenge for ethnocultural communities. In Canada, immigrants are encouraged to preserve their culture; however, no institutional support is provided to help children learn and continue using their parents’ language. Moreover, there seems to have emerged a hierarchy of English, French and then heritage languages. Some children from ethnocultural communities even choose not to speak their heritage language, choosing to use English and/or French instead.

Workshop 2

IN ITS 2005–2006 ANNUAL REPORT, THE OFFICE OF THE COMMISSIONER ISSUED A RECOMMENDATION TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT THAT THE MINISTER OF OFFICIAL LANGUAGES INITIATE A DIALOGUE WITH THE VARIOUS STAKEHOLDERS IN CANADIAN SOCIETY TO IDENTIFY MEASURES TO TAKE IN ORDER TO FULLY INCORPORATE THE FUNDAMENTAL VALUES OF LINGUISTIC DUALITY AND CULTURAL DIVERSITY INTO FEDERAL POLICY.

THE SECOND WORKSHOP ASKED PARTICIPANTS TO DISCUSS THEIR PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH TWO VALUES AND SUGGEST FUTURE COURSES OF ACTION.

As an introduction to this workshop, participants heard from Lorena Ortega, a young immigrant, who was an allophone when she arrived in Canada in 2002. However, she was able to seize the opportunities offered by the Canadian system and quickly learned both official languages by integrating into two cultures: Francophone in Quebec and Anglophone in Ontario. She described her perceptions of linguistic duality and cultural diversity based on her own experiences. The winner of the French for the Future award in 2006, today she can communicate in both official languages. She says she looks to the future, calm and happy in the knowledge that she has options, both in terms of education and employment because she is fluent in Canada’s two official languages and familiar with the two cultures.

2.2 Theme 2: The day-to-day interaction of linguistic duality and cultural diversity: What are the issues and what should we do?

For the second workshop, participants were kept in the same groups. They were asked to answer the following two questions:

  1. In your day-to-day life, does the interaction between cultural diversity and linguistic duality raise any issues for you or your community?

  2. What measures can or should be taken to improve the interaction between cultural diversity and linguistic duality?

Discussion summary:
(1) The issues
Participants stated at the outset that the issues related to the day-to-day interaction of linguistic duality and cultural diversity are in many regards very similar to the challenges identified during Workshop 1:

Ability to mobilize ethnocultural communities

  • There is strong support for linguistic duality in ethnocultural communities, but they do not have the capacity to mobilize themselves to take appropriate action and express their vision of linguistic duality. Participants feel that they need to get organized in order to be recognized as an invaluable contribution to English and French Canadian culture, since they offer new perspectives and new values to be shared. Moreover, they must position themselves in Franco-Ontarian communities and forge strategic alliances to make use of their power (given their significant increase in numbers) to negotiate the availability of adequate public services.

Lack of promotion among and information about ethnocultural communities

  • Lack of information is also an important issue because both the government and community organizations use available information on ethnocultural communities to identify and implement services that meet the specific needs of these communities. It is difficult to circulate the information and the media outlets that could facilitate this process seem unwilling to relay the information to the communities, particularly Francophone communities. They could better contribute to circulating information on organizations working in the communities and the services they offer to citizens and immigrants. They also play an important role in promoting ethnocultural community success stories. Unfortunately, sensational stories too often steal the spotlight and project a negative view of ethnocultural communities.

Funding for multiculturalism

  • The federal government’s commitment to funding official language policies demonstrates support for official bilingualism, while funding for multiculturalism has steadily been declining in recent years. In terms of government policy, there is support for linguistic duality, which is seen as a gateway to intercultural acceptance. But the funding and tools are not available to link the interests of bilingualism with those of multiculturalism. Members of ethnic communities would really like to become bilingual, but they also have other priorities such as economic integration and preserving their linguistic heritage. The desire is there but the mechanisms to facilitate the consolidation of these values are ineffective.

Why French?

  • For many Anglophone or allophone immigrants, there is no economic interest in learning French. There is no obligation to learn a second language to become a Canadian citizen. This obligation exists only for those who want to work in the public service at a certain level of responsibility or those who settle in official language minority communities. The private sector requires immigrants to speak English. Furthermore, the funds are not available to help immigrants learn French once they have become Canadians.

Education in French

  • There is a need for better access to the public education system in French. Section 23 of the Charter is seen as being too limiting in its definition of a Francophone. Consequently, it drastically and unfairly limits access to education in French for many children.

Teaching French as a second language

  • Programs that promote French as a second language, such as immersion programs, are not sufficiently supported. For example, only 6% of students in English-language schools in Ontario are enrolled in such programs. There seem to be major gaps between the offer and the demand for immersion programs in Ontario.

Fragility of French

  • The low availability of services in French is a major issue. In Ontario, government services to the public are not always available in French.

  • Some participants raised the fact that French is almost non-existent in Toronto as an integration tool for newcomers. Francophones integrate into the English-speaking community where services are more widely available and better distributed across the region. Community organizations working with Francophone immigrants indicate that the unavailability of services in French that exist in English creates uneasiness towards the individuals making the request, as they must be referred to the service in English. Since we already know that French is vulnerable in Ontario, it is truly disappointing to have to refer clients to services in English.

  • Furthermore, where French services do exist, too often they are of poor quality. Thus, many Canadians who believe that services in French are not as good as those offered in English do not request these services. All levels of government should review their service delivery systems and ensure that the linguistic profiles of their clients are considered.

  • The methods used to evaluate the number of Francophones in Canada do not take into consideration the fact that, for many immigrants, especially from French-speaking Africa, French is not their “mother tongue.” They are counted as Anglophones or allophones, and this has a negative effect on the visibility of Francophone communities in Toronto. Therefore, this creates a lack of opportunities and limitations to living in French.

Changes in government priorities

  • Government priorities change over the years, as do the funding programs that are required for their implementation. The citizens and communities that mobilized to ensure success have seen their efforts wasted because of a lack of means owing to the fact that the government has not provided any financial support. Participants believe, however, that with consistent citizen commitment, they can ensure that nationally recognized and protected priorities (such as linguistic duality and cultural diversity) continue to be funded by the government.

(2) Action to be taken
Participants’ proposals regarding the action to be taken were divided as follows: those addressed to the government, the community and OCOL.

For the government

  • Support leadership development in ethnocultural communities and identify and implement new strategies to support linguistic duality through increased cooperation between the government and communities.

  • Encourage the Ontario Ministry of Education to take new Canadians more into account. Also promote the recognition and funding of French schools in order to meet the needs of the Francophone population that is growing and that would benefit from becoming more visible and ensuring greater advocacy.

  • In partnership with government organizations, encourage the creation of a national umbrella agency that would coordinate the actions of ethnocultural communities and organizations to promote linguistic duality.

  • Ensure that linguistic duality is encouraged and promoted not only by the federal government but also by provincial, territorial and municipal governments.

  • Encourage the federal government and organizations acting on its behalf to enhance linguistic duality promotion programs in order to take linguistic duality into account when developing policies and programs and to increase the visibility of linguistic duality across the country.

  • Enhance programs promoting Canadian history.

  • Provide adequate funding for programs on linguistic duality, the promotion of French and the availability of services in French across Ontario.

  • Continue to encourage bilingualism and take positive action to reward both the acquisition and use of both official languages in the public service and in public service delivery.

  • Make it one of the responsibilities of Canadian ambassadors and immigration officers abroad to promote bilingualism as a fundamental Canadian value.

  • Ensure stronger application of legislation and regulations to require organizations such as government service centres to comply with the Official Languages Act.

  • Allocate funding to create more second language learning opportunities for Canadians from different backgrounds.

For the communities

  • Community organizations and government institutions can do more to develop community commitment and leadership with regard to linguistic duality in ethnocultural communities. This would help established Canadians to fully contribute to building a bilingual society and facilitating the integration of newcomers.

  • Ethnocultural communities need to commit themselves to meeting the needs of the citizens they serve, and defending their interests. They also need to get organized to provide advice on and direct government action, and to play an effective role as a government partner in carrying out linguistic duality programs.

  • They must enhance their institutional capacities and organize themselves in order to raise awareness and make suggestions and serve as a credible partner in the implementation of language training programs and the economic and social integration of their members.

  • Participants believe that community organizations are closer to citizens and can reach them more effectively in delivering components of government programs. Many people live in isolation, especially women. Therefore, a way must be found to bring them out of their isolation to provide language training. This could be done through the public schools located in the communities.

For OCOL

  • Increase its role in promoting linguistic duality; the issue is not only about learning a language but also becoming familiar with a culture. To that end, Canada’s Francophone community must be made accessible to all Canadians so they can become familiar with it. This means celebrating the Francophonie not just in places where French has a strong presence, but also across the country.

  • Encourage the Ministry of Education to adapt the curriculum and language teaching to the changing Canadian society.

  • Encourage the government to develop target programs to facilitate second language learning in ethnocultural communities. Encourage the identification and implementation of tailored approaches to facilitate learning and arguments to convince certain communities to invest in French acquisition.

  • Encourage the government to monitor statistical practices to ensure that Francophones who have settled in Canada are properly counted.

  • Monitor the offer of government services in French across Canada and encourage the government to promote French-language service centres.

  • Strengthen its education role and focus on groups such as youth and newcomers, who are likely to advance bilingualism in Canada in the future. To that end, new cooperative strategies need to be developed with the community agencies that are closest to residents and that can reach less accessible and available groups, such as women.

  • Conduct social marketing to promote the beauty and richness of being able to speak both official languages and offer everyone the opportunity to live in the language of their choice, regardless of where they live in Canada. For example, highlight successes and publicize linguistic duality success stories in ethnocultural communities, such as the example of Ms. Ortega.

  • Encourage use of the media and new technologies. They are powerful tools and a cost-effective way to learn languages and become familiar with different cultures.

  • Educate and inform residents and raise their awareness. The idea is to create a culture of official languages learning in communities, while not excluding other languages.


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