ARCHIVED - Vitality Indicators for Official Language Minority Communities 2: Three English-Speaking Communities in Quebec

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Summary Presentation


  1. Objectives 
  2. Methodology 
  3. Conclusions

3.1 Common sectors
3.2 Common indicators
3.3 Renewal
3.4 The drivers of vitality
3.5 Geographic location
3.6 Empowering communities
3.7 The capacity to measure progress


      Vitality Indicators 2

      The English-Speaking Community of Eastern Townships

      The English-Speaking Community of Quebec City

      The English-Speaking Community of Lower North Shore

      Vitality Indicators 1


    In 2006, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages initiated a research study on vitality indicators for official language minority communities in Canada. The first phase examined three urban Francophone communities outside of Quebec (Halifax, Sudbury and Winnipeg), and the second phase looked at three English-speaking communities in Quebec outside of Montréal:1 Québec City, the Eastern Townships and the Lower North Shore (which includes 14 small remote communities between Kegaska and Blanc-Sablon).

    Community Type of Community Population with English
    as the First Official
    Language Spoken
    Québec City Urban 9,780 1.9
    Eastern Townships Urban (Sherbrooke)
    Regional (Memphrémagog)
    Regional (Brome-Missisquoi)
    Lower North Shore Remote
    3,505 82.5
    Source : Statistic Canada, 2006 Census

    This study was carried out because official language minority communities across Canada (English-speaking in Quebec, French-speaking in other provinces) are increasingly mobilizing to maintain their “vitality.” They face real challenges, which stem from their minority context and from demographic trends, to retain their young people, their schools, their employment base and their culture and identity.

    But what is “community vitality,” and how can it be measured to determine whether progress to enhance it is being made or not?2 Indicators have been a coveted, albeit elusive, tool for reinforcing vitality. In recent years, increased government accountability and a more strategically oriented community leadership have been evident. These mutually reinforcing factors have given prominence to vitality indicators, or at the very least, to the importance of measuring progress. In addition, the amendments that were made to Part VII of the Official Languages Act in 2005 now require federal institutions to take “positive measures” to enhance the vitality of linguistic minority communities and to promote linguistic duality.

    This study approaches community vitality from a practical angle. To evaluate the results of efforts, community priorities must first be identified: What are the broad or specific objectives that a community has set for itself? Vitality indicators are not very useful in and of themselves or in the abstract; they are usually linked with a specific result. Moreover, official language minority communities are responding to their own respective challenges and have varying amounts of resources or capital to contribute to community vitality.3 Before a general sense of the most salient vitality indicators can be established, grassroots community initiatives must first be examined, in addition to the results-based activities that are supported by the public or private sectors in the communities themselves.

    The communities are seeking to better understand the factors that affect their vitality and the measures they need to put in place to improve their condition. Community vitality is often a reflection of how the factors contributing to the community’s condition are perceived and how and whether this perception has changed over time. Because vitality is often rooted in such perceptions, its assessment cannot exclusively rely on a quantitative measurement of population and community resources (i.e., census and survey data). While such sources of information remain important in the assessment of certain dimensions of community vitality, notably in the sectors of demography and migration, they are best understood in conjunction with qualitative data.

    For a fuller understanding of community vitality, it is important to analyze the experiences of official language minority communities through the objectives and experiences of community members. Such an analysis was the aim of this study so that courses of action can be suggested to official language minority communities and the federal government, and the tools the communities need to continue to develop successfully can be provided. The logic models, for example, are seen as potentially useful tools for dialogue between the government and official language minority communities.

    1. Objectives

    The main objective of the study was to gather information on community development initiatives in sectors identified by each of the designated communities so that vitality indicators that will be useful to them can be established. The specific objectives were the following:

    • Identify, within each community, keys to success and best practices related to vitality;

    • Prepare logic models, or flow charts, to express the community’s objectives and aspirations for each of the four sectors of community activity under study;

    • Identify, from an evaluative perspective, quantitative and qualitative indicators that can be used to assess the vitality of official language minority communities based on the priorities they have set for themselves;

    • Produce a community study, for each of the three communities, that describes the assets and needs in the sectors of activity studied.

    2. Methodology

    This study follows the report titled Vitality Indicators for Official Language Minority Communities 1: Francophones in Urban Settings,4 in which community vitality is defined as follows:

    A community’s ability to take charge of its development based on several types of resources (demographic, political, legal, social, economic and cultural), that are transformed for the benefit of the community through dynamic leadership.

    Another study titled A sharper View: Evaluating the Vitality of Official Language Minority Communities,5 also revealed the importance of a community assessment of vitality, namely an approach that community organizations can use to define development and vitality objectives for their community, in the form of expected outcomes, and to assess the achievement of these outcomes using indicators and a systematic process of data collection and analysis. This study responds to the need to assess community vitality in a practical way by developing and applying a “vitality model,” which is defined as a logic model with indicators and data sources.

    The English-speaking community in Quebec is a long-standing and diverse community that is composed of the large English-speaking population in and around Montréal as well as of the many vibrant urban, rural and remote communities in the regions of the province. These communities are spread out over a latitudinal distance of 2,000 km and it is important to recognize this distinction because it contributes to some of the difficulties encountered by them. Communities in the regions often exist below the threshold of “where numbers warrant” for English-language services and are geographically isolated and disparate in nature. In addition to meeting priorities shared by all official language minority communities (for example, health and social services, education and youth retention), these communities face further challenges (such as transportation, communications and economic development). This study focused on the English-speaking communities outside of Montréal to represent the diversity that is inherent within the official language minority communities of Quebec as a whole, and to examine how community vitality indicators can contribute to development within varied community settings.

    The three communities were chosen because they represent the demographic and geographic make-up of English-speaking Quebec outside of Montréal (urban, regional and remote). Montréal is seen as the centre of the English-speaking community in Quebec and has been the focus of a recent initiative examining the challenges related to its development.6 This study can be considered complementary to that initiative. A great number of English-speaking communities across the province have a very different reality than that of the community in Montréal. The three communities selected are representative of other English-speaking communities that are in urban areas but have a weak demographic density, or are in rural and remote areas where they form an active minority within the region or, in some cases, a majority within local community settings. During recent initiatives, it was observed that these communities were determined to pursue greater vitality and address the range of challenges that they face as official language minority communities.

    The study followed a participatory approach that included the establishment of a steering committee composed of eight leading community stakeholders and representatives from the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages and the Qu’anglo Communications consulting team. An orientation session (via teleconference) with the steering committee was held on April 3, 2007, to present an overview of the project, invite general input from community representatives and determine the process (i.e., timing, manner) that would be used to hold the consultations with the task forces in each of their communities. The orientation session also served to develop criteria for the selection of task force members, assist in the identification of the participants for the community task forces and select the four priority sectors for each region.

    The main elements of the work plan for the community consultations were the following:

    • Define evaluation concepts and terminology;

    • Address key vitality questions;

    • Build logic models for each sector (based on objectives, results and actions);

    • Identify those indicators best suited to assess the degrees of vitality (complete the logic models).

    For the community consultations, a task force of leading community stakeholders and experts from the target sectors was created for each of the three communities. Each community task force comprised between 12 and 21 participants who were active community members or experts in a certain sector. These individuals were selected for their ability to describe the development activities, short-, medium- and long-term results, best practices and needs of their community. The community representatives and representatives from the Office of the Commissioner made suggestions on the composition of the task forces; however, the final decision was made by the consultants.


    Sectors selected for study

    Québec City

    Health and social services
    Arts and culture
    Leadership and visibility

    Eastern Townships

    Health and social services
    Arts and culture
    Economic development

    Lower North Shore

    Health and social services
    Community renewal
    Economic development

    The community task force sessions were held in May and June 2007. A day-long workshop session, facilitated by the consulting team, was held in each community. The sessions consisted of a general discussion to introduce the concept of vitality, followed by a structured discussion examining the main elements of vitality and vitality indicators and how they apply to the various target sectors. Community members were given the specific task of mapping out vitality in each of the sectors by identifying activities (outputs) and the expected results (outcomes) in the short, medium and long terms. Each community task force session was followed by a validation session in August or September 2007, and was supplemented by e-mail and telephone discussions in response to the session findings. Hence, the logic models for each sector were developed to reflect, as closely as possible, the views of community members on the vitality of their respective communities.

    3. Conclusions

    Although each of the three community studies focused on different vitality sectors, a certain number of general observations can be made about the experience of the English-speaking communities in Quebec outside of Montréal. The general conclusions of Vitality Indicators for Official Language Minority Communities 2 speak to some of the similarities between the communities.

    3.1 Common sectors

    When building their vitality model and independently of each other, all three communities selected, from a list of 12 possible sectors, youth and health and social services as two of the four priority sectors to be reviewed. Further, while using slightly different wording, the three communities identified the same objective for both sectors: the retention of youth and a healthy community over the long term. Such consistency in selection clearly indicates the capacity of the logic model to help identify similarities among communities and enable a more general vitality model for the official language minority community as a whole to be built. This model could then be used effectively to help secure program support and policy implementation at the macro level for specific sectors.

    3.2 Common indicators

    Along with common sectors, a number of common indicators were identified by the three communities as important markers of their vitality. The most prominent of these indicators is awareness, which, although it is a basic component of community development, was elaborated on extensively in the vitality models. Community representatives strongly underscored the importance of raising awareness: that of youth about the programs in place to support them, that of the general English-speaking population about the arts and culture of the English-speaking community around them and that of the French-speaking community about the minority community and its leaders, its participants and its activities. Media presence was also identified as an important overall indicator of awareness. In general, many of the short-term objectives described in the logic models appear to be steps in generating more awareness in many areas in order to contribute to progress in the medium and long term.

    3.3 Renewal

    Renewal was an overarching theme throughout the discussions in all three communities during this study. More specifically, renewal was mentioned in relation to institutional capacity (health and social services), identity (arts and culture), investment in economic growth and, of course, youth—the need to maintain a vital community in which youth can see a future in terms of employment, community and family life in the place where they grew up. Even with the solid base of community organizations and infrastructure of English-speaking communities in Quebec outside of Montréal, a long-term and continued decline in demographics can only have one outcome. A community that loses its critical mass ceases, at a certain point, to be a community. Renewal is a particular challenge for these communities due to their regional, remote and often isolated locations. Preventing volunteer burnout, providing a positive setting for engaging leadership and countering demographic trends by ensuring youth involvement in all sectors are all critical to the development and vitality of a community. It is clear for these communities that, without measurable progress in the area of renewal, there can be no short-, medium- or long-term enhancement of community vitality.

    3.4 The drivers of vitality

    Although they were only present in two of the three participating communities, the arts and culture and economic development sectors represent the “drivers of vitality”—sectors that, while also viewed by the communities as being inherently beneficial, were considered essential to the overall development of the community. The arts and culture, for example, was not simply viewed as important for its intrinsic values of culture and identity, but was also considered important because it represents an opportunity for intra-community engagement and the prospect of employment for community members. Economic development, while important for job creation, also represents an opportunity to retain youth and build skills within the community, and it can be a cornerstone of a healthy community in the long term (within the population health model). These sectors contribute to community vitality. They are significant contributors identified in part by the vitality model and they can be used to plan a course of action from which the community can draw maximum benefit.

    3.5 Geographic location

    The impact of geography or location on the vitality of the three official language minority communities was evident. In the Lower North Shore, the predominance of the English language in local communities is offset by their isolation (no road access, expensive transportation, etc.). In Québec City, the advantage of an urban setting supported by the government resources afforded a provincial capital is offset by the small and shrinking size of the English-speaking population that risks being assimilated. In the Eastern Townships, a relatively large English-speaking population is spread out over a vast rural area that encompasses multiple regional and administrative jurisdictions. Each community faces its own challenges that inform its perception of, and potential responses to, becoming a more vital community.

    3.6 Empowering communities

    A definition of community vitality and the question of how it might be measured to determine whether progress is being made were discussed earlier in this section. As these points have been addressed, at least within the limits of this discussion, the question can then be asked: How will a better understanding of the state of community vitality enable change in the sectors that contribute to the enhanced vitality of official language minority communities?

    The answer to this question lies in the further application of the assessment formula. Using the combined parts of the vitality model (the logic model, indicators and data sources), members of a community can set goals for the community with a view to improving its vitality. This exercise is based on a participatory approach that ensures meaningful engagement by communities as well as accountability in the measurement of change. Change comes from power, and empowerment comes from effective organization. Integrating community input into a monitoring framework creates a powerful tool that is well grounded in the community’s reality and that has the appropriate indicators to measure outcomes. Such a process helps to empower communities by bringing stakeholders together to set common development goals and by substantiating the claims of these communities to governments and partners regarding the extent and type of support needed for development initiatives.

    3.7 The capacity to measure progress

    The community response to creating a vitality model was very positive,7 and the community consultation process was relatively efficient: a community could easily carry out the creation of a logic model for a priority sector within a day. Measuring progress once the vitality model is created, however, is another matter. Doing so requires communities to face the challenge of collecting and analyzing data effectively. Because much of the current financial support for community development is in the form of project funding, the capacity within communities to continually monitor and manage change is very limited. In addition, most community organizations do not have the expertise to then sort and analyze the collected data without the assistance of hired consultants, which further strains already limited budgets.

    The ability to measure progress is as essential to the concept of community vitality as the creation of the initial vitality model. Without the allocation of sufficient resources and the development of supporting expertise, the use of any assessment tool, no matter how well intended and designed, will be limited and less than empowering for official language minority communities. As indicated in Vitality Indicators for Official Language Minority Communities 1: Francophones in Urban Settings, official language minority communities need to build their research and evaluation capacity through training and information sharing initiatives, and these initiatives should be supported by access to external (expert) resources and government assistance.


    The following is a non-exhaustive list of references on the vitality of official language minority communities:

    Jedwab, Jack. Going Forward: The Evolution of Quebec’s English-Speaking Community. Ottawa: Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, 2004. Online:

    Johnson, Marc L. and Paule Doucet. A Sharper View: Evaluating the Vitality of Official Language Minority Communities. Ottawa: Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, May 2006. Online:

    Maynard, Hugh. Economic Renewal for the Rural English-speaking Communities of Quebec: Potential and Possibilities for Economic Development in the Natural Resource Sectors. Ottawa: Industry Canada, 2004.

    Pal, Leslie A. Interests of State: The Politics of Language, Multiculturalism, and Feminism in Canada. Montréal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1993.

    Pocock, Joanne. Social Support Networks in Quebec’s English-speaking Communities. Québec City: Community Health and Social Services Network, 2006. Online: site.

    Quebec Community Groups Network. Community Development Plan for the English-speaking Communities of Quebec 2005–2010. Québec City, 2005. Online: les/QCGN/aCDP_Brochure_EN.pdfExternal site.

    Scowen, Reed. A Different Vision: The English in Quebec in the 1990s. Toronto: Maxwell Macmillan Canada, 1991.

    Scowen, Reed. Time to Say Goodbye: The Case for Getting Quebec out of Canada. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1999.

    Stevenson, Garth. Community Besieged: The Anglophone Minority and the Politics of Quebec. Montréal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1999.

    Walling, Richard, Louis Hanrahan and Jennifer Johnson. The Holland Centre Experience: A Community Development Model for Minorities. Québec City: Holland Resources Development Corporation, 2001.


    1 The Montréal area was the subject of an extensive community outreach and assessment activity in 2007 under the Greater Montreal Community Development Initiative, which was conducted by the Quebec Community Groups Network.

    2 Further details on the various elements of community vitality can be found in a variety of reports published by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.

    3 Marc L. Johnson and Paule Doucet, A Sharper View: Evaluating the Vitality of Official Language Minority Communities, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, 2006.

    4 Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, Vitality Indicators for Official Language Minority Communities 1: Francophones in Urban Settings, Ottawa, 2007.

    5 Marc L. Johnson and Paule Doucet, A Sharper View: Evaluating the Vitality of Official Language Minority Communities, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, 2006.

    6 Greater Montreal Community Development Initiative, Building upon Change and Diversity within the English-speaking Communities of the Greater Montreal Region: Pursuing Shared Development Goals and Strategies, June 2007. Online: site.

    7 Over 80% of task force participants in the three regions rated the sessions as being “very good” or “excellent.”

    Vitality indicators 2

    The English-Speaking Community Eastern Townships

    The English-Speaking Community Quebec City

    The English-Speaking Community of Lower North Shore