ARCHIVED - Infoaction - February 2004, Volume 9, No. 2

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A WORD FROM THE COMMISSIONER The audience's expectations remain the same

The Canadian political landscape has changed since December 12, 2003. A new prime minister and his team have assumed leadership of the country. It goes without saying that I will be closely and carefully monitoring the status of official languages as this new Canadian parliamentary era develops. It is my hope that Mr. Martin and his team will honour their duty and responsibility by complying with the Action Plan for Official Languages, the recovery plan used by the previous government.

In my last annual report, I compared the Action Plan to a musical score or, if you will, a work to be performed by a great orchestra. I had emphasized that, just as an orchestra needs a good conductor, the Action Plan for Official Languages cannot be effectively implemented without strong, consistent leadership. I had also added that the transition from one conductor to another requires careful preparation and close attention to the score. There is no room for false notes.

The conductor has changed since my last report, but the musical score remains the same. My priority, to ensure that the goals of the Action Plan are translated into tangible results for Canadians, also remains unchanged. We must remember that the audience, the general public, has the same expectations for the Action Plan for Official Languages: better provision of services in both official languages, making both official languages an integral part of public service culture, greater support for official-language minority communities, and increased bilingualism among young Canadians. I realize that implementing the Action Plan will require a little daring and that the public's expectations are that much higher as a result. Mr. Martin can count on my full co-operation. As the music is being played, I will be listening carefully, hoping there are be no false notes.

This edition of INFOACTION contains sure-fire proof that many young people want to learn both official languages. I encourage you to read the account of a young woman who recently immigrated to Canada from China, the stories of three Olympic medallists, and an interview with a young public servant in Toronto. There are young people like these all across Canada, and we have every reason to be proud of them-they are making a significant contribution to the enhancement of Canada's linguistic duality.

Enjoy your reading!

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You have doubtless seen or heard them on television or the radio, sometimes speaking English, sometimes French. These young athletes belong to the new generation of increasingly bilingual Canadians. Recently, INFOACTION met with three Canadian athletes who have represented our country at the Olympic Games. For the benefit of our readers, we asked them to share their personal experiences of learning a second language and bilingualism. Marc Gagnon, Catriona Le May Doan and Yannick Lupien most graciously shared their experiences. As you know, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages is very interested in linguistic duality as experienced in the Canadian sports system.

Marc Gagnon, who has won more Winter Olympic medals than any other Canadian, spoke to us about the main steps on his path to bilingualism. Marc was born and raised in Chicoutimi. At a very young age, he made his mark in speed skating. As a teenager, he moved to Quebec City to hone his skills by joining the National Team. It was at Cardinal Roy High School in Quebec City that Marc really began to learn English as a second language. His motivation to learn and speak fluently came from his English teacher, Louise-Andrée Simoneau, who first inspired in him a love of this language and the culture it conveys. Without his teacher, Marc wonders if he would be bilingual today.

As a member of the National Short Track Speed Skating Team, Marc felt the need to communicate with all his teammates, especially the Anglophones. Motivated by his teacher, he quickly made a whole-hearted effort to learn English. Soon, Marc spoke English fluently. The numerous competitions he participates in involve considerable travel, giving him the opportunity to use his second language. As a high-performance athlete, Marc quickly realized the many advantages of fluently speaking both French and English. Being bilingual, he communicates more easily with coaches who do not speak French and he is also able to socialize with the athletes on his team. Following his many victories, Marc is always happy to speak both languages on television or radio. He has also learned Italian, since he has an Italian girlfriend. He quickly learned to get by in this language and now speaks it quite well.

Currently, Marc is still mourning his retirement. Some day, he would like to be a coach but for the time being, he is still finding it difficult to step inside a short track arena.

Catriona Le May Doan, a triple Olympic medallist in long track speed skating, was born in Saskatoon. Her experience learning a second language is different from Marc Gagnon's since she was involved in it from the time she was in kindergarten. Her parents enrolled her in a French-language elementary school in Saskatoon, which she attended for eight years. Catriona went on to a high school that offered an advanced program in French.

Undoubtedly, because she began learning French in early childhood, Catriona did not have any major problems becoming bilingual. She is very grateful to her parents for giving her the opportunity to master both official languages, as this helps her get ahead in sport and professionally. As with Marc Gagnon, she greatly appreciates the advantage of being able to communicate freely with the other athletes. Participating in interviews in both languages is an advantage. She also enjoys communicating in both of Canada's official languages with the Canadian and European audiences and with athletes from the other countries represented at the Olympic Games.

Catriona strongly encourages all young Canadians to learn French and English, which to her are two doors into the world. Travelling as much as she does convinced her of this benefit. She adds that speaking French and English contributes to a better understanding of Canadian society and to developing a sense of belonging in the country. In her case, learning French has even helped her gain a better grasp of the subtleties of her own language. Catriona believes that learning French and English ought to be mandatory in all Canadian schools. Proud of having represented Canada at the international level, she is full of hope for the next generation. The young athletes will definitely be able to achieve their goals and make their dreams come true.

Born in Laval, Quebec, Yannick Lupien grew up and went to school in Aylmer, Quebec. He is currently on the national swim team. Next summer, he will participate in the Olympics for the second time.

Having grown up in a bilingual region, Yannick began learning English when in day-care. He became bilingual at a very young age and has no difficulty expressing himself in English. As a member of the national swim team, he competes in numerous events in Canada and abroad, which gives him the chance to use his knowledge of English.

As with Marc and Catriona, Yannick sees only advantages to understanding and speaking French and English. "As a bilingual athlete, I can do twice as many interviews on CBC, Radio-Canada and other Canadian television and radio networks", he says. "For a high-level athlete, it is absolutely essential to be bilingual if you really want to communicate with team members and coaches. Being bilingual is not a burden for a coach but an added ability."

Yannick cannot encourage young people strongly enough to learn Canada's two official languages. According to him, learning English or French is a lot easier than staying in shape. INFOACTION took the opportunity to wish him the best of luck in the upcoming summer Olympic Games in Athens.

The message given by these three young athletes could not be clearer: speaking both official languages is as precious as a gold medal.

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CANADA'S LINGUISTIC DUALITY: from the perspective of an immigrant by Nan Xie

Canada is a beautiful country in every way, especially to immigrants who come from countries that are politically constrained, economically deprived and often environmentally damaged. To them, living in Canada would be a dream come true, but for many, it continues to be a mere dream.

Canada is a nation that values human rights and multiculturalism; it welcomes everybody from around the world. Almost ten years ago, at the height of the influx of Chinese immigrants that started in the early 1980s, I was privileged to immigrate to Canada with my parents. We landed in Montréal.

Montréal was observably different from Beijing, where I came from. On the day of my arrival, I looked out anxiously from the taxi window. Snow was still piling up in the middle of March, streets were deserted and, surprisingly, there were no bicycles, which are the single most important tool used by Chinese people to travel around the city. For the unknowing nine-year-old that I was, the world was not the same anymore.

Each day that followed marked my new experiences in Canada, as I watched with awe the big snow removal trucks, the french fries topped with weird sauce and cheese, people of different races and colours speaking a myriad of languages but still living and working in harmony and, most significantly, the existence of two official languages.

To a person who had lived most of her life in a country with only one official language, despite its countless dialects and languages in different places, the equal representation of more than one official language seemed amazing and next to impossible. I was doubtful about how the system would work out, especially when, the third year after my arrival, a referendum for sovereignty almost separated the province of Quebec from the rest of Canada.

Years passed by as I struggled to learn English and French and finally mastered both. During these years, I frequently complained to my parents about moving to a place where I had to learn two languages from scratch. I was frustrated as a teenager.

This effort, although difficult, brought me rewards. A Chinese philosopher once said that it is the things that people do not want to do but still have done that make them proud human beings. I am now proud to be a Canadian citizen who knows both official languages, in addition to my mother tongue, Chinese; it certainly gives me a sense of belonging. Moreover, knowing two languages is better than knowing just one, and more opportunities in life may arise as a result. Even though it was not easy, I am now thankful for having learned both languages. I would not be the person that I am without them.

With the growing use of English around the world, most immigrant parents prefer that their children be educated in English. Therefore, the importance of linguistic duality must be made known to immigrants as soon as they arrive in Canada, or even as soon as they decide to immigrate here. We need to help them see the importance of learning both languages. One Korean girl in my French class told me that she feels the need to learn French because she is in Quebec. Surely a positive thought, but not good enough. The wish to learn French should be shared by all Canadians, not only those living in Quebec. The same holds true for English. I would have preferred if my Korean friend had said that she wanted to learn French because she is in Canada.

Canada's official languages are not only the symbols of the country's past, they are also its present and the hope for its future. I hope we will all work hard together to accomplish real linguistic duality and make Canada an even better country.

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His life began in an archipelago, "the most beautiful islands in the St. Lawrence," he says. A tiny place of dunes, yellow sand, red cliffs, ice, winds that sing and rage, and surrounded and protected by water. These are the Magdalen Islands.

INFOACTION met with Pascal Arseneau, who recently became the representative of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages in Ontario. The topic of our conversation: his journey from the Magdalen Islands to downtown Toronto. He told INFOACTION about his transition. It is beautiful and typically Canadian story.

The youngest of a family of ten children, Pascal Arseneau grew up on Havre-aux-Maisons Island. He speaks of the island where he was born with such reverence that one almost regrets not having been born there. From a very young age, Pascal was intrigued with the mainland, or the "grande terre," as the islanders say. The summer visitors, these strangers who came to the islands with their accents and sometimes speaking another language, also fascinated him.

One day at school, the children received an educational kit. "Explorations" was a game created and distributed by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages - his first contact with this federal agency. The game invited children to discover other languages and cultures. At the age of ten, Pascal had made up his mind. He would learn Canada's other official language and learn more about the world. He took every opportunity to discover the language of Shakespeare, including television, annual family trips to the Maritimes and visits to cousins in the United States. But at ten, he could hardly imagine that he would one day become the representative of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages in Ontario.

By the age of 15, Pascal left his island to attend high school and college in Quebec City. He then enrolled at Glendon College in Toronto to learn English. In learning the language, he also discovered a socio-cultural reality that was almost unknown to him. Total immersion and Glendon College, although he spent just a year there, were formative experiences for him. Upon his return to Quebec City in the early 1990s, Pascal decided to take an honours bachelor's degree in teaching English as a Second Language at Laval University. The study of languages led him to Mexico and Guatemala, where he spent close to a year learning Spanish. After a few years in teaching, he made a move to public relations and marketing for a tourism development agency. His work focussed mainly on the American market and the Maritimes. In 2000, after five years on the road, he settled in Toronto, where he accepted a public relations job and then joined the TFO-TV Ontario management team.

If he needs a reason for being at the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages today, it is because every time he hears the Commissioner describe her mission - to be a real agent of change - he feels a great affinity with her vision. What a challenge: to become an agent in the most populous province with the largest Francophone minority community in the country! INFOACTION asked Pascal Arseneau to tell us about his deep motivation. Here are some excerpts from his generous reply, but we could never do entire justice to his enthusiasm and passion.

A teacher by nature, Pascal Arseneau hopes first to understand better Canadians' hurdles and fears with regard to linguistic duality. Once again, it is not the implementation of solutions that poses the greatest challenge, although the messages really resonate in Canadian society in 2004. According to Pascal: "Government messages about official languages must be more closely tailored to urban and rural realities in Ontario. They must address the concerns of minority language groups and also reach the majority community, newcomers, decision-makers and youth. Ontario and Canada are globalizing. Can we really sit idly and watch the train pass us by?"

As an agent of change, he believes that his role should focus above all on attitudes and behaviours. His experience in a bilingual environment has taught him that most Canadians are more interested in a global vision of a country on the move than in the differences that separate them. Increasingly, he encounters bilingual young adults who have a slightly different vision of Canada. While different, this vision is not contradictory. These young people are receptive to a more inclusive approach. This message is consistent with the mission of the Office of the Commissioner, which Dr. Adam describes as "ensuring that linguistic duality remains the glue holding our society together."

The current socio-political environment in Ontario is one of major change and we are all witnessing the renewal of Canada's collective imagination. This requires the development of a new language, which official languages stakeholders have every interest in deciphering and respecting. Pascal Arseneau also considers it essential to explore new paths, dictated on the one hand by reality and, on the other, inspired by ideals. A society cannot be built in a vacuum. The most exciting part is that there is so much left to do and that it is possible and healthy to raise the questions being asked. In his new job, the representative of the Office of the Commissioner is taking his time, not reviewing the mission of the Office of the Commissioner, but reflecting on the messages and the dissemination of these messages. He adds that Marshall McLuhan's idea that the medium is the message is as relevant today as it was more than 30 years ago. It will be a formidable challenge for him and his team. But as the Commissioner recently noted, the winners in society are those who aim high. Twenty-five years ago, the "Explorations" kit already hinted at some solutions for our representative, although he did not realize it at the time.

We had to end our talk since Pascal was returning to Toronto. If you ever pass by 438 University Avenue in the Queen City, why not stop by office 1410? You can continue this discussion with a young government official who is passionate about his work because Canada's linguistic duality is at the heart of his job.

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Before mounting the podium

The Canadian sport system has made great progress in the past few years; however, the Commissioner is not yet ready to award it a gold medal for its performance in official languages. In fact, after extensive examination of the sport system, one finds that French and English still do not enjoy equal status. That is one of the Commissioner's main conclusions in a recently published report. As a postscript to the report, there is a note that should be taken seriously: More Effort Required to Finally Reach the Podium. The document gives a progress report on recommendations that the Commissioner made in the year 2000 within the framework of a study on official languages in the Canadian sport system, which Sport Canada will have to implement.

The Commissioner's recommendations formed a strategic plan to guide Sport Canada in eliminating barriers to the participation of Francophones in high performance sports.

The recommendations fell into three categories:

  • implementing administrative measures to allow national sports organizations and national sports centres to provide an adequate level of service in both official languages;
  • increasing the bilingual ability of national team trainers and;
  • improving Sport Canada's management of the program.

Three of the 15 recommendations have been implemented, and nine others have been only partially implemented. No action has yet been taken on the other three, which led Dr. Adam to state: "With a result like this, Sport Canada is still a long way from reaching the podium. Despite its good intentions, its performance has been less than stellar."

Dr. Adam acknowledges that, in collaboration with its partners, Sport Canada has made some efforts, particularly the clear standards on official languages that it developed for high performance training centres. Sport Canada has also reinforced measures to combine French and English during major games. It also made efforts to make its Internet site bilingual, translate documents and improve the bilingual ability of its staff. There is still much to do, however. For example, 18 percent of high performance athletes preferred French, which is less than the proportion of Francophones in the country. The latest data collected show that, in 2003, their representation was even lower (17.3 percent). This situation is of concern to the Commissioner, who issued a new recommendation:

That by June 30, 2004, Sport Canada produce an independent study on Francophone participation in all sports and identify the conditions conducive to equal access to high performance sports by both official language groups. The study should also examine the impact that the location of high performance training centres may have on this participation.

While acknowledging that progress has been made, Dr. Adam hopes that Sport Canada will raise its standards and assume greater leadership on this issue. That is exactly what she was referring to when she said, "Sport Canada must help the Canadian sport system to find a second wind in order to reach the finish line as soon as possible."

In spite of the gaps that must be addressed, the Commissioner has great hopes for the Canadian Sport Policy, which states that linguistic duality is one of the essential values of the sport system and guarantees Francophone athletes services in their language. She is also counting on the vigilance of the Secretary of State for Amateur Sport, who has committed to stepping up efforts. Dr. Adam considers this issue a top priority.

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You have often heard the name but do you really know what it is? Sport Canada is a branch of the International and Intergovernmental Affairs Sector of the Department of Canadian Heritage. This branch is at the heart of sport activity in Canada and plays a leading role in everything relating to excellence in sport.

Sport Canada's mission is "to support the achievement of high performance excellence and the development of the Canadian sport system to strengthen the unique contribution that sport makes to Canadian identity, culture and society."

Sport Canada helps Canadian athletes to excel at the highest international levels through fair and ethical means. With its main partners, Sport Canada seeks to enhance coordination and integration to strengthen the Canadian sport system. For under-represented target groups, Sport Canada encourages the best possible access to sports and the greatest equity.

In May 1992, Sport Canada released the new Canadian Sport Policy, which cites linguistic duality as one of the essential values of the sport system. The policy stipulates that everyone must be able to participate in the sport system, regardless of language or culture.

This policy is the product of concerted efforts resulting in federal, provincial and territorial agreements. Sport Canada consulted the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages in the course of developing the new policy.

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The right word? The correct translation? In French? In English? Visit this magic site once and you're sure to return. Drafting a text or coming across a word you don't know? Want to translate an expression? Helping your children with their homework? Add this address to your list of favourites:

WORD WIZARDS is an online language toolkit launched by Canadian Heritage in the spring of 2003. This new Internet site offers the Canadian public quick access to numerous language tools that will make writing or revising easier in either official language. Once you have used WORD WIZARDS, you won't be able to get along without it. It allows you to perform searches quickly and easily and will help you to write correctly. WORD WIZARDS is a complete tool kit, offering everything to improve the quality of written material: dictionaries, style guides, grammar checks, verb conjugators, e-business vocabulary, terminology managers and so on.

That's not all. Every day, the site will offer a TOOL OF THE DAY, a new language tool designed in Canada. Through this site, you will become familiar with Canadian organizations active in the language field. A new one will be introduced every day.

In her last annual report, Ms. Adam congratulated Canadian Heritage for having created this unique project in collaboration with the National Research Council of Canada, the Treasury Board Secretariat, the Translation Bureau and Industry Canada. Quick! Turn on your computer! Set off to discover WORD WIZARDS!

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Until recently, one wondered how far the courts must go to grant meaningful and effective reparation for the violation of a right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

An historic decision rendered on November 6, 2003, by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Doucet-Boudreau case stipulated that the court must grant reparation and ensure full respect for the rights guaranteed by the Charter. The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal had overturned the decision of Superior Court Judge LeBlanc's decision in favour of Francophone parents and the Fédération des parents acadiens de la Nouvelle-Écosse. They had demanded that their provincial ministry of education and the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial provide, in five locations, homogenous facilities and programs in French at the secondary school level.

In its decision, the Supreme Court of Canada also confirmed the role of the courts when there is a violation of language rights: "The affirmative promise contained in section 23 of the Charter and the critical need for timely compliance will sometimes require courts to order affirmative remedies to guarantee that language rights are meaningfully, and therefore necessarily promptly, protected."

Dr. Adam applauded the Supreme Court's decision by saying: "In its decision, the Supreme Court confirms that where there is a right, there is recourse. I am delighted with this decision because it clarifies how far the courts must go in granting useful and effective remedy when a Charter right has been violated. This decision will have significant repercussions on official-language minority communities right across the country, over and above education rights."

The Commissioner hopes that this time, governments will hear the Supreme Court's message loudly and clearly. She nevertheless regrets that Canadians have once again had to appeal to the courts to uphold their constitutional rights. The November 6 decision will result in significant gains for all official-language minorities in the country.

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Don't mistake this title for a simple cliché. Two-way communication can be found all over Canada. Information is constantly flowing between the regions and Ottawa. INFOACTION would like to introduce you to the people who ensure ongoing communication between Canadians living in the regions and the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.

As you know, Dyane Adam's mission is to act as an agent of change in Canada - a daring mission if ever there was one! She believes strongly that she must be in constant contact with Canadians if she and her team are to make any real changes. Given the sheer size of the country, five regional offices support her in her principal duties. She looks on the Moncton, Montréal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Edmonton teams as true "antennae." The term was coined by Keith Spicer, the first Commissioner of Official Languages, who, in 1977, used it to refer to the first regional office set up in the Atlantic provinces, in Moncton. The five regional offices establish and maintain close relations with the official language communities, federal public servants in the region and the linguistic majority. This is how they provide a presence for the Commissioner across Canada. But their mini-teams are unable to keep up. Dr. Adam therefore decided to resume a pilot project from the 1980s and 1990s and create regional liaison positions. In other words, she wanted to increase the number of "antennae" that, on the one hand, would enable her to fulfill her mandate better and, on the other, would increase her and her team's awareness of what is going on in the regions.

Over the past year, regional liaison officer positions were created in Moncton, Montréal, Sudbury, Regina and Vancouver. The people in these positions work under the Commissioner's representative in the region.

It is largely because of client-service results that Dr. Adam created these positions. Their responsibilities revolve primarily around regional and local official languages issues. No small feat indeed! The officers are responsible for conveying relevant information that will be used by the Office of the Commissioner, departmental officials and officials from the federal institutions in their region, as well as the private sector, with respect to the implementation of the Official Languages Act, depending on the case and circumstances. They also inform the relevant authorities of the expectations of citizens living in the region and of the rights of the official-language minority.

The liaison officers also act as ombudmen and protectors of language rights in their areas. If, under the Official Languages Act, these rights are not respected, they establish a direct line of communication, either in person or by phone, with the individuals whose rights have been violated. Direct contact will help them to understand better each individual's situation and offer appropriate advice.

The Office of the Commissioner's liaison officers are developing important networks of contacts and establishing ongoing relationships that are becoming invaluable sources of information. This enables us to be on the leading edge of the development of language issues, to conduct in-depth analyses of these issues and to make appropriate recommendations to senior management.

The liaison officers do not work in isolation, surrounded by four office walls. Their duties require a great deal of travel, quite often to remote areas in a range of weather conditions. The regional liaison they ensure is multifaceted: interventions, support and advice, analysis, various presentations to all segments of society, local media relations, development of strategies and action plans, public information program delivery, to name but a few. The liaison officers demonstrate great creativity and adapt easily and quickly to their clients.

To get a better idea of who the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages' regional liaison officers are and what they do, why not contact them directly? They are always willing to make that two-way street as smooth as possible.

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The Official Languages Act was not amended on November 21, 2003, but some of its requirements are to be be enforced more rigorously. That is the bottom line of former Treasury Board President Lucienne Robillard's announcement.

Since the Official Languages Act was passed more than 30 years ago, bilingualism has been required of a significant number of senior federal public servants. Many senior managers still do not meet this requirement. Over the years, the various official languages commissioners, especially Dr. Dyane Adam, have vigorously pointed this out. During a press briefing held on November 21, Ms. Robillard stated that 10 percent of managers in bilingual positions currently do not meet the linguistic requirements of the Act. These positions are mainly in regions that are designated bilingual by the Government of Canada: New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. Stressing the need to tighten the enforcement of certain language standards, Ms. Robillard added, "This is a significant step in the renewal of the Official Languages Program." Ms. Robillard also noted that she has clarified the regulations so that, from now on, no one can be appointed as a deputy minister or assistant deputy minister without being bilingual. Lower-level managers, such as directors, will still have until 2005 and 2007 to comply with the Act, depending on their positions. Ms. Robillard wanted to send a "strong signal" to public servants by advising them that if they want to become senior managers in the federal public service, they should begin their language training early.

The Commissioner says she is happy that imperative staffing will be the norm. On the other hand, she considers it unfortunate that non-imperative staffing has not been completely eliminated. In her last annual report, Dr. Adam recommended that the Clerk of the Privy Council require deputy ministers and associate deputy ministers to have the same level of bilingualism as other public service managers. She is also in favour of implementing a formal language evaluation system. In a recommendation to the President of Treasury Board and the President of the Public Service Commission, the Commissioner asked that the appointment of candidates who do not meet the language requirements be the exception.

The Commissioner will monitor this file with great interest, all the more so since she has often said that she would like Canada finally to have an exemplary public service if it is to uphold the Official Languages Act.

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The first "Come Read with Me!" literacy competition award ceremony was held on September 25, 2003, at Westmount Park Elementary School in Montréal. Organized jointly by Literacy Partners of Quebec, the Quebec Federation of Home and School Associations and the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, the competition promoted reading, the cornerstone of literacy, among students attending Quebec English-language elementary schools. Through this event, organizers also wished to highlight the integral role language plays in cultural identity, and to show that reading is essential to a community's survival.

Roch Carrier, celebrated author and National Librarian of Canada, was in attendance, together with the school's students and the winners of the "Come Read with Me!" competition. To the great joy of those in attendance, Mr. Carrier read from his famous story The Hockey Sweater.

The first edition of this competition, which attracted an unexpectedly large number of entries, was a great success. More than 1300 students from all regions of Quebec expressed through words or pictures how they had felt when they read a book by a Canadian author.

The competition's organizers were all very impressed with the high calibre of the drawings and writing entered. By working closely together, the three organizing partners were able to foster awareness among young English Quebeckers of the need for excellent literacy skills, the basis for effective communication. By holding this competition, the organizers also helped to make young Quebeckers aware of their rich cultural heritage.

The next competition will start soon. For more information, please visit the competition Web site, at site.

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Every year, approximately 250,000 people choose to settle in Canada. Unfortunately, some communities and regions do not benefit equally from the benefits of immigration. Francophone communities throughout the country, including Quebec, are a case in point. According to Statistics Canada, these communities attract only a quarter of the number of immigrants that they should, given the size of their population.

Since she took office in 1999, the Commissioner of Official Languages has taken on the objective of intervening in immigration and exercising her monitoring, promotion, education and liaison roles. Her numerous interventions in this area include a project she feels very strongly about, Agrandir l'espace francophone: Passons à l'action pour l'immigration. That is why, on October 15, 2002, the Office of the Commissioner participated in a symposium organized by the Société franco-manitobaine. The symposium was attended by 150 persons who looked at immigration with a view to producing concerted action. Following the symposium, a committee was created in January 2003 to implement the recommendations. That committee responds to the first of the four major priorities established at the symposium, particularly the development of community leadership and a structure for welcoming newcomers that offers them a wide range of services available in French.

In this context, the Société franco-manitobaine and the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, together with a number of partners from the community and federal institutions, joined forces on a communications project that will:

  • inform Manitoba's Francophone communities of the benefits of having new Francophone immigrants come to Manitoba, and
  • inform and welcome newcomers to Manitoba, while stressing the importance of the province's Francophone reality.

he agreement entered into by the Société franco-manitobaine included the Office of the Commissioner and the other partnering groups. It gave rise to the BIEN PARMI NOUS campaign. Two awareness-raising workshops were offered in urban and rural areas during the campaign, and a media campaign promoted the contribution of Francophone newcomers to Manitoba. To mark the occasion, seven "former newcomers," who were well-known in the province, shared the secret of their success in articles published in La Liberté and on radio and TV interviews. The seven were:

  • Sidi Yattara from Mali, member of the Association étudiante du Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface;
  • Judith Jardines-Lopez from Cuba, harpist;
  • Youssef Bezzahou from Morocco, teacher at the Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface;
  • Huguette Le Gall from Brittany, communications director at the Société Radio-Canada in Winnipeg;
  • Bintou Sacko from Mali, provincial literacy co-ordinator at Pluri-Elles;
  • Mayur Raval from India, professor at the Collège Louis-Riel; and
  • Josée Théberge from Quebec, director of Francofonds.

A number of promotional tools and various activities contributed to the campaign's success. The entire project was intended not only for Francophones, but also for new Anglophone and bilingual Canadians, encouraging them to get involved in Manitoba's Francophone community.

The implementation committee put great stock in two of the priorities that were established at the symposium: promoting Manitoba internationally and updating government immigration policies.

Ms. Adam was pleased to participate in this co-operative project. As she reminded Canadians in her annual report, immigration must henceforth promote the development of both language groups, including the minority communities. She has taken concrete measures to inform these communities of the benefits that immigration offers. She has organized, and continues to carry out, similar workshops throughout Canada. In 2002-03, the Office of the Commissioner held workshops in Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa and Toronto.

The Commissioner hopes to see Manitoba's exemplary event repeated throughout Canada.

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When the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages resolves a complaint from the public, it is doing thousands of people a favour. This is neither the first nor the last time that INFOACTION will bear testimony to this.

Today's story takes place in Timmins, in northern Ontario, at the Human Resources Development Centre employment office, to be exact, where the computer keyboards available to the public clicked in English only. Believing that this was not in compliance with the Official Languages Act, a client who had used this office's computer filed a complaint, asking the Commissioner to intervene if appropriate.

After an investigator from the Office of the Commissioner had informed those in charge of this centre that posting a list of codes for typing French accents was not sufficient, the centre's manager immediately corrected the situation. She made eight bilingual keyboards available to the public in Timmins and three more in Kapusaksing and Kirkland Lake. This manager also asked employees in her department's offices if they needed bilingual keyboards in these three cities. Nineteen employees immediately made their requests and all these keyboards now click in French and English.

The proof is in the pudding. Complaints are an essential tool for all ombud to work effectively.

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Edmonton, Alberta, is home to a project that could be called the French Immersion Olympics because it is indeed a source of excellence. In June 2003, 94 grade 12 French immersion students from four school districts took the Government of Canada reading and writing tests used to fill positions in the federal public service. Twenty-two students from the Edmonton Public School District and two students from the Edmonton Catholic School District participated in oral interaction tests.

All the students took the various tests as acting public servants. Participants received either a Level A, B or C rating depending on their performance on each test. Level A corresponds to a beginning level, B to an intermediate level and C to an advanced level of French proficiency. To the pride of students, teachers and parents, a few students received exemptions from further testing at the federal level. Before taking the test, the participating students received a brief orientation. Given that this was the first year of the three-year pilot project, only students who volunteered were given the tests. The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages recognized the successful students by presenting them with certificates of achievement.

As part of its French Language Renewal Project, the Edmonton Public School District formed a partnership with the Edmonton Catholic Separate School District, the Elk Island Catholic Regional Division and the St. Albert Protestant Separate School District. The involved partners worked with the Public Service Commission of Canada on a test project that gave the graduating French immersion students a unique opportunity to demonstrate their proficiency in French.

The pilot project has created interest throughout Alberta, with 32 school boards, as well as representatives from Canadian Parents for French and the Alberta School Board Association, attending a one-day information session on the main objectives and methodology of the project. During the second year of the pilot project, the Edmonton Public School Board will attempt to establish more solid benchmarks by broadening its sampling to include between 200 to 300 students from throughout the province. To promote French immersion and core French programs, the board will develop marketing materials for use by other school districts in Canada, as well as a Francophone language and culture kit for schools, a video on French language and culture and a Web site on francophone history.

Dr. Dyane Adam is keenly interested in the development of this unique project and is proud and delighted to be part of it. Once again the Commissioner reminds us that the young people of Canada do give us hope for the future. They are the leaders of tomorrow and they are already convinced of the role and importance of official languages. Some of our future leaders might well be chosen from among the 2003 grade 12 French immersion graduates from Alberta.

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Last November, Dr. Dyane Adam addressed participants from about 50 countries at a major symposium in Paris held by the Réseau francophone du français dans le monde (RIFRAM). The symposium's objective was to suggest various strategies for employing French that could be incorporated into the strategic planning of the Agence intergouvernementale de la Francophonie. The symposium members considered such topics as:

  • French in information and communication technologies and in scientific and technical exchanges;
  • the interaction between French and other Romance languages in specialized communication; and
  • French in international trade.

The Commissioner had been asked to explain how to set language policy equitably in bilingual or multilingual organizations and administrations in which French is one of the official languages. Dr. Adam focused her presentation on linguistic equality in Canada, explaining how public institutions incorporate linguistic duality into their operations.

She offered an overview of the Canadian model of language planning and set forth some institutional conditions and administrative measures essential for the delivery of bilingual services. Throughout her speech, she emphasized the importance of political and administrative leadership.

The members of the RIFRAM symposium were very interested in the Commissioner's address. Based on more than three decades of Canadian experience, the Commissioner was very pleased to be able to round out her presentation with realistic and practical solutions. The symposium participants described Dr. Adam's presentation as an inspiration.

You may read the text of the Commissioner's speech on the Office of the Commissioner's Web site at

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John Newlove

John Newlove, one of Canada's most accomplished poets, died in Ottawa from a brain hemorrhage on December 23, 2003, at the age of 65. A poet and editor, he received the Governor General's Award for Poetry in 1972. He had been Senior Editor at McClelland & Stewart Publishing, as well as an English editor at the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for many years.

John Newlove was known as a leading voice in Canadian Prairie poetry in the 1960s and 70s. On December 26, the The Globe and Mail said of his work, "His poems often portrayed the quiet of the land, while also uncovering the seemingly incidental details, a sense of constant transition and the sheer weight of history." Writer and editor John Metcalf described John Newlove as a "towering" figure in Canadian poetry.

The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages wishes to extend its their most sincere condolences to his wife Susan and his family.

Gysel Laflamme-Morin

Our dear friend and colleague Gysel Laflamme-Morin passed away peacefully on December 16, 2003, at the age of 50, surrounded by those close to her, after bravely fighting an incurable disease.

Gysel had been kept busy for almost three years as an assistant administrator in the Montréal region of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, after having worked for Human Resources Development Canada.

Her main interests were her family, reading and camping. Gysel will be fondly remembered by all her colleagues for her good humour, joie de vivre and friendliness.

Her colleagues join the Commission in offering her family their most sincere condolences.

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On March 2, 3 and 4, 2004, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, in partnership with Canadian Heritage, Privy Council Office and Canadian Parents for French, will organize a symposium on official languages. This symposium, entitled Vision and Challenges for the 21st Century, will bring together stakeholders from various sectors of Canadian society to discuss issues, and propose solutions, with regard to achieving one of the objectives of the federal government's Action Plan for Official Languages. This objective is to double by 2013 the number of young Canadians with knowledge of their second official language.

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In every region in the country, there are Councils of Senior Federal Officials. On November 17 and 18, 2003, the Councils of Senior Federal Officials of the four western provinces met in Regina, Saskatchewan. For the first time, about one hundred participants used this session to reflect on the theme of leadership and its importance in changing organizational culture regarding the official languages.

In addition to senior federal officials, middle managers from the four provinces came to Forum 4-2-1, as did representatives from the Privy Council, Treasury Board and the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages. The territorial and provincial governments had delegated officials who participated as observers. The official language communities also took part in the sessions.

In addressing the members of the Forum, the Commissioner reminded them that they must set an example of leadership: "The task of initiating changes in customs, suggesting new ways of doing things, conveying values and mobilizing employees falls squarely on the shoulders of managers. They must show exemplary leadership to convey the changes and values they endorse at all levels of the organization." Dr. Adam took the opportunity to present the 2002-03 Léon Leadership Award, thereby drawing attention to the extraordinary leadership of John Ryan, President and CEO of Farm Credit Canada (FCC).

The Forum 4-2-1 sessions involved exchanges, dialogue and reflection, which led to developing a strategic plan for official languages. This plan is based on both the specific needs of each region and on active collaboration among all the participants. The government officials in attendance examined the most effective way to improve services to the public in the minority language, language training for staff and the support that their respective departments provide for community development. The strategic plan that was outlined sets out new approaches and more appropriate steps to make the various official languages programs a priority within federal institutions.

At the conclusion of Forum 4-2-1, the Commissioner pointed out that this event was an example of leadership. She believes that the results from the Forum will lead to the outstanding provision of services in both official languages by federal institutions in the West, as well as steadfast motivation to maintain their excellence.

Federal officials and representatives of the territories and provinces appeared to be very pleased with the Forum, which strongly encouraged them to ensure that the official languages take their rightful place in their institutions' organizational culture.

Forum 4-2-1 was a first in Western Canada, but it will certainly not be the last.

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The Quebec Writers' Federation (QWF) recently awarded its literary prizes for 2003. The Translation Prize sponsored by the Commissioner of Official Languages went to David Homel and Fred Reed. The two well-known writers shared the prize for their co-translation of Monique Proulx's novel The Heart Is an Involuntary Muscle (Le coeur est un muscle involontaire). Homel is a writer in residence in Bordeaux, France, and could not attend the ceremony to accept the prize. His wife, writer and illustrator Marie-Louise Guay, accepted the award, which was presented by Eva Ludvig, the Commissioner's representative in Quebec.

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To celebrate the New Year in Ontario, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages is opening a brand-new office in Sudbury, in the northern part of the province. This new satellite office will be headed by Mireille Groleau, the new liaison officer. Ms. Groleau will provide liaison services between northern Ontario (northeastern and northwestern Ontario) and the Toronto regional office. She will also represent the Commissioner in the region, where she will maintain a dialogue with the institutions subject to the Official Languages Act and with the agencies that play a crucial role in assisting the development of official-language communities. With 15 years of experience at Radio-Canada, Ms. Groleau is very knowledgeable about the cultural, economic and social issues facing this vast and beautiful region of Canada. She appreciates the challenges with which its linguistic communities must contend. Our warmest welcome to Mireille Groleau!

Sudbury's Office
10 Elm Street, 4th Floor, Room 403
Sudbury, Ontario
P3C 5N3
Tel.: (705) 671-4101
Fax: (705) 671-4100

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Public servants contribute tremendously to Canadian society. Treasury Board recognizes their excellent work, exemplary conduct and positive results through the Head of the Public Service Award program, which officially recognizes such contributions through its various awards of excellence.

The Commissioner asked the Clerk of the Privy Council and the Secretary to the Cabinet to add a permanent form of recognition for official languages in the Public Service. The Treasury Board Secretariat shared this interest.

The first award of excellence for official languages was presented in December 2003 to the Western Economic Diversification of Canada section 41 official languages team. This team's outstanding work led to the successful delivery of the program known as La Stratégie francophone, an initiative that fostered the economic development of Francophone communities in Western Canada.

The La Stratégie francophone program established partnerships and gathered funds to create a network of provincial organizations dedicated to the economic development of Francophone communities in the West. Each regional centre now offers the expertise of Francophones to entrepreneurs in Western Canada by offering a wide range of services in French, including business development services, consultation, training and access to procurement.

The members of this dynamic team have shown tremendous initiative and creativity in establishing the Stratégie francophone, with the utmost respect for the two official languages. Their efforts and enthusiasm have no doubt furthered the status of the official languages among the public in Western Canada.

The successful implementation of the Stratégie francophone eloquently illustrates how linguistic duality is at the heart of the public service. In presenting this Award of Excellence, Dr. Dyane Adam paid tribute to the outstanding contribution that this team from Western Economic Diversification Canada has made to promoting the official languages in federal institutions.

INFOACTION congratulates the following team of public servants: Marie Bouchard, Kiran E. Cahoon, Martin Connolly, Dean Dring, Judy Ferguson, Noreen Gallagher, Norman L. Grenier, Jean Laberge, Denise Lécuyer, Lisa Legault, Anastasia M. Lim, Yves Lussier and David Prud'homme.

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To be an ombudsman or mediator is to be a beacon of more equitable, more transparent governance that is sensitive to the needs of citizens. It's a job with a great future. As protectors of individual citizens at a time when governments are becoming both increasingly distant and increasingly all encompassing, we must develop every facet of our mission. It will be easier to accomplish our mission if we do everything in our power to do a better job of persuading and convincing.

Third Statutory Conference of the Association des ombudsmanset médiateurs
de la Francophonie, Tunisia, October 15, 2003.

In Canada, we aspire to create this kind of magic, whereby all Canadians could communicate and hold a dialogue through the music of our official languages.

As Commissioner of Official Languages, my role is not limited to that of steward of the Official Languages Act. I am also an agent of change. As such, I propose ways to enhance the vitality of linguistic communities, especially official language minority communities. Culture is certainly one of the sources of vitality for these communities. It casts a bright light on these communities that can be seen from afar.

États généraux de la chanson et de la musique franco-ontariennes, Ottawa, October 31, 2003.

You explored the topic of leadership and its importance in creating a change in organizational culture with respect to official languages. The task of introducing changes in customs, suggesting new ways of doing things, conveying values and mobilizing employees falls squarely on the shoulders of managers. They must show exemplary leadership to convey the changes and values they endorse at all levels of government.

Presentation of the Léon Leadership Award, Regina, Saskatchewan, November 18, 2003.

An administration may often seem like a "black box." We know what goes in and what comes out, but operations are in a grey zone, comprised in large measure of bureaucratic routines and complex organizational relationships. It is up to senior managers to introduce any change in customs, to suggest new ways of doing things, to convey values and to mobilize employees to achieve tangible results.

In Canada, making bilingualism one of the essential components of the structure of how our institutions are run is of vital importance because linguistic equality is the glue that keeps our society together.

Symposium of the Réseau francophone du français dans le monde. Paris, November 5, 2003.

We can all exercise influence and become agents of change. Change begins within us and our own convictions. It starts in the mind. People must have confidence in themselves and in their ability to shape the future.

Often, we think that only an authority can initiate changes or make decisions that affect society. This is not the case. Regardless of where you are in the hierarchy, you can make a difference. Decision-makers often need other people to show them the path to change and provide them with innovative and motivational ideas. An agent for change knows how to be persuasive and helps those in power to envision avenues for change.

It is not necessary to have formal power over others to stimulate the people around us to grow, bring a project to maturity, or see something through to the end. You must have motivation and a winning strategy. As well, real authority is not in the power to give orders, but in allowing you to influence others positively so that they can successfully complete a project together.

Everyone can take up the torch in a given situation, knowing that small actions and small changes can be the seeds for great achievements!

Speech by the Commissioner to the National Capital Region Managers Forum, Ottawa, December 3, 2003.