ARCHIVED - III Linguistic Duality in Mission Activities

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This section draws attention to the role of Canada’s diplomatic missions in implementing some of the government’s international policy objectives and programs referred to in the previous chapters. The relationship between missions and headquarters takes on special importance in this context. When asked to explain the relationship, one official pointed out that missions are accorded a degree of autonomy, while headquarters plays a validation role.

Our network of 164 embassies and consulates in 114 countries is perhaps Canada’s most familiar and visible international presence. They are staffed by a mix of Canadian-based officials, usually in management and supervisory positions, and locally engaged employees, who promote Canada’s cultural and economic interests.

Our observations are based primarily on visits to 11 embassies and consulates. Although this is a small percentage of the total, our visits covered several continents and a range of mission sizes. Given the importance of Canada’s relationship with the United States, three of the missions visited are located in that country. Our examination of linguistic duality’s integration at the mission level focusses on three activity sectors: culture and society, academic relations, and trade and investment.

Embassy and consulate staffs promote Canadian arts and culture in several ways. All missions respond to requests for financial or other assistance, such as for publicity, by Canadian artists performing abroad or planning to do so. This reactive approach leaves little room for ensuring linguistic duality in annual calendars of events, but officials repeatedly assured us that it occurs as a matter of course because Quebec artists tend to be well established internationally.

At the time of our study, the cultural calendars at several of the missions we visited included representation from both linguistic communities and from across Canada. Officials at several missions said that Public Diplomacy Program funding enabled them to offer a wider range of programming in recent years. However, other missions are far less active in representing Canadian culture and its linguistic duality. This was particularly the case in Chicago, where the cultural officer position was vacant at the time of our study.

The New York consulate general stood out among the missions we visited with respect to its cultural programming. We learned that the mission would not be taking part in regional activities celebrating the 2004 international Francophonie celebrations. Certain officials alluded to an “anti-French” sentiment in the United States to explain the decision. However, other officials informed us that interest in the region in Canada’s Francophone character is very high and pointed to a number of French-oriented initiatives. The explanation is also at odds with the Washington embassy’s extensive program of activities for the March 2004 celebrations.

Our findings match those of the 2003 study commissioned by DFAIT on Canada’s bilingual image in the United States. That study noted major differences among several Canadian missions in that country in promoting Canada’s French fact. Among other things, it noted Canada’s absence in Francophone events in Louisiana, which falls under our consulate general in Dallas. This contrasted sharply with an extensive month-long program of Francophone-related activities by our Atlanta mission. The study also revealed that Canada’s Miami consulate general works closely with the Quebec delegation in organizing a major annual Francophone festival, whereas the Los Angeles mission, like that in New York, has chosen not to participate in annual Francophonie celebrations. These findings take on increased importance in light of the federal government’s commitment to enhance Canada’s representation in the United States through the opening of new consulates and the upgrading of others.

Among other missions we visited in other countries, we noted that Madrid had organized a three-day exposition on Canada’s Francophone community in 2003. Officials at another embassy advised us that its contribution to Francophonie celebrations is steadily declining for want of resources.

Many of Canada’s diplomatic missions take part in La Francophonie celebrations every year, but our review of only a few embassies and consulates reveals a lack of direction, varying commitments and resource issues. Meanwhile, Canada’s absence at celebrations in New York and California shows a curious lack of regard for the potential benefits of reaching out to the significant Francophone and Francophile population in the United States.15 Given the contribution of La Francophonie celebrations to raising the profile of Canada’s linguistic duality around the world and given potential economic benefits, DFAIT should play a larger coordinating and supporting role.

The Commissioner therefore recommends that:

13. a) the Department of Foreign Affairs take steps, by December 31, 2004, to expand Canadian participation in annual celebrations of La Francophonie around the world; and

13. b) review the enhanced representation initiative in the United States to ensure that linguistic duality is effectively integrated in the priorities and operations of new and upgraded missions in that country.

Responding to the first part of the recommendation, the Government of Canada stated: “In recent years, the Department of Foreign Affairs has launched a support program to enable our embassies to celebrate the Journée internationale de la Francophonie. More and more missions are using the program each year. Over 60 missions in 2003, and over 80 missions in 2004, organized activities to celebrate the Journée internationale de la Francophonie.

“This support takes the form of funding to enable our embassies to develop their own initiatives (performances, symposia, literary contests, film festivals and spelling bees) or to join in similar initiatives by a group of representatives of Francophonie countries; awarding books by Francophone Canadian authors to contest winners; providing French-language CDs to radio stations and videocassettes to television stations and/or cinemas; and providing flags and other promotional material.”

Regarding the second part of the recommendation, the Government of Canada replied that all Canada-based positions in the new offices in the United States respect official-language requirements and that services will be offered in both official languages.

The Commissioner recognizes the important involvement of the Department of Foreign Affairs in the Journée internationale de la Francophonie. She nonetheless calls upon the Department of Foreign Affairs to review its embassy support program in light of weaknesses identified both in our study and in its own study of the situation in the United States. While noting the commitment for bilingual services at new offices in the United States, the Commissioner asserts that effective integration of linguistic duality requires a comprehensive approach that includes priorities and all aspects of operations.

Another side of a mission’s cultural program encompasses activities promoting a better understanding of Canadian society and government. Such activities include exchanges and visits by politicians, journalists, experts and young people. Officials at several missions cited these activities as making an important contribution to raising awareness levels of Canada’s linguistic and cultural diversity. Visits by foreign journalists to Canada are considered to have a particularly significant impact, given the resulting media coverage. As suggested by one official, missions should organize such visits with a theme related to our linguistic duality.

Discussions with officials at all levels in the missions we visited point to leadership within each mission as a determining factor in the degree to which linguistic duality is actively promoted in cultural programs. Missions tend to draw from departmental programs to the extent that such activities are deemed important by the head of mission and section manager.

An example of positive leadership in this area can be found at Canada’s embassy in Paris, which has launched a multi-year series of major projects promoting Canada’s close relationship with France since 1604. Our examination of the plans and projects revealed a heightened sensitivity to projecting the national character of our linguistic communities. We also found that Canadian Anglophone cultural productions are well represented at the embassy’s cultural centre.

Cultural officers at several locations nonetheless advised us that their mandate can change dramatically with each change of head of mission or supervisor. Given that Canadian-based staff are posted abroad on a rotating basis every three or four years, it is important that senior staff and supervisors in our diplomatic missions be highly sensitized to the importance of linguistic duality in promoting Canada’s identity and interests worldwide. This need can be addressed by Recommendation 5, which the Government of Canada has agreed to implement.

Several of the missions covered in our study were located in countries where Quebec has established its own cultural promotion office. Federal officials explained that Quebec’s support for its own artistic community abroad complements the federal government’s own promotional efforts. Overall, federal–provincial relations at this level were reported to be positive and constructive, with few exceptions.

In our discussion of the federal government’s Canadian Studies Program in Chapter Two, we referred to the close relationship many missions have with educational institutions in the region under their jurisdiction. These relationships have evolved because Canada’s diplomatic missions are responsible for delivering many forms of direct support available under the Canadian Studies Program. Support includes travel assistance, provision of educational material, recommendations of academics for teaching and conferences and arrangements for financial contributions to national Canadian studies associations and study centres.

Our study revealed numerous initiatives at many of the missions we visited that reflect Canada’s linguistic duality. Canada’s embassy in Berlin recently announced a youth literature project that includes alternating the choice of books each year between English-Canadian and French-Canadian titles. The embassy in Mexico City previously funded the publication and distribution in Spanish of an anthology of short stories by Quebec authors, and the Washington embassy, under DFAIT’s Education Marketing Program, has taken steps to promote Canada as an alternative destination to France for American university students studying French. We also note that the Washington embassy provides funding to the American Association of Quebec Studies as well as to the American Association of Canadian Studies.

Canada’s linguistic duality can sometimes be seen as well in the mix of English-language and French-language study centres and courses in many countries, including Germany, Spain and the Czech Republic. A publication of the French association of Canadian studies includes articles in English as well as French, accompanied by bilingual abstracts. Although these situations arise from decisions taken independently by the institutions in question, our diplomatic missions can, as suggested previously, play an effective, influential role in favour of Canada’s linguistic duality.

The picture was not the same at all locations, however. At the time of our study, there was no academic relations officer at our Chicago consulate general, although this was expected to change soon. At the New York mission, we were told that there is little interest in local academic circles in Canada’s Francophone community, a situation that, if true, should represent an opportunity rather than an excuse for inaction.

In its response to a recommendation in the preliminary report, the Government of Canada explained that Canadian studies activities at the mission level are regularly monitored. The study’s findings indicate that monitoring is not always as effective as it should be.

The Commissioner therefore recommends that:

14. the Department of Foreign Affairs review, by December 31, 2004, existing monitoring mechanisms for Canadian studies activities at the mission level with
a view to enhancing their effectiveness and encouraging, where needed, a proactive approach consistent with Canada’s linguistic duality.

Much of the routine business of our embassies and consulates is devoted to promoting Canada’s economic development. Essentially, this is achieved by helping Canadian companies market their products and services in other countries and by attracting foreign investment to Canada. Services are provided through a network of more than 500 Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) officers in Ottawa and 140 locations abroad, in partnership with various federal departments and agencies, provincial governments and industrial associations. Most TCS officers working out of our missions are hired locally.

Canada’s linguistic duality receives widely divergent interpretations in the commercial side of mission operations. At one end of the scale are officials who question its relevance on the grounds that “English is the language of business.” Several officials stated that Francophone businesspeople need to speak English to market their products abroad and that their Francophone clients prefer to deal with them in English.16 It was therefore perhaps not surprising to find that, despite an overall high bilingual capacity among TCS staff, this was not the case in two locations, where some officers are unable to deal with their Francophone clients in their own language.

At the other end of the scale are TCS staff who consider bilingualism essential to understanding not only the needs of Canadian clients but also the social and cultural context of each client’s business. They pointed out that this is all the more important because TCS officers are often sent to Canada to meet businesspeople and government officials at all levels. Several officials assured us that their Canadian clients include those who prefer to deal
with them in French.

The real and perceived relevance of Canada’s linguistic duality in the commercial sector is perhaps most subtle on the investment side, where commercial officers and managers attract foreign investors to Canada. Officials explained that this work requires understanding the culture of the host country and, ideally, speaking the local language. They also stressed that the federal government cannot favour or be seen to favour communities or regions in Canada when encouraging foreign companies to invest here.

Various factors come into play in how foreign investment is distributed in Canada. Foreign investment tends to follow the regional make-up of a given industrial sector, but the responsiveness of provincial and municipal partners is a major factor as well. Some provinces, including Quebec, Ontario and Alberta, seek foreign investors through provincial trade missions and their own trade officers, housed either within Canada’s diplomatic missions or separately.

Although provinces compete with each other for foreign investment, they tend to regard the federal role as complementary to their own efforts. Federal officials explained that each party offers different sets of services to potential foreign investors. As such, provincial efforts to attract foreign investment enhance the effectiveness of federal efforts. Officials at our embassy in Berlin recalled an initial meeting with a German company to which they invited representatives of two provinces.

The economic well-being of a linguistic community can be linked in part to the effectiveness of all levels of government in foreign investment promotion. In its response to the preliminary report, the Government of Canada said that the challenge lies in coordinating federal, provincial and municipal activities in both trade and investment promotion. It provided many examples of ways in which the Department of International Trade in particular meets this challenge. The examples range from regular contact and meetings and information sharing to joint funding of events and direct support.

Our study nonetheless suggests that some provinces and municipalities are more active in this area than others. Through its coordinating activities, the federal government is well placed to encourage and support the responsiveness of other levels of government to ensure that all regions and both linguistic communities share the benefits.

Canada’s linguistic duality and international commerce are perhaps most closely linked in our cultural industries. DFAIT, Canadian Heritage and Industry Canada have established a series of programs to promote Canada’s arts and cultural industries in foreign markets. One of the most recent initiatives was a major international cultural trade forum organized by Canadian Heritage in Paris, which was specifically targeted at Francophone markets in Europe and Africa and open to Canadian cultural entrepreneurs from across the country. Among other goals, the event nurtured contacts and partnerships between our entrepreneurs and their Francophone counterparts in other countries.

Our study found that links between the cultural and commercial sectors at the mission level depend largely on individual attitudes and resources. In Chile, the embassy’s trade side is taking advantage of that country’s interest in second-language learning to promote Canada’s language industries. However, trade officials in another embassy advised us that cultural industries are not a priority, while noting that the Quebec office in the same country was very active in this sector. Elsewhere, we were told that it is Canadian Heritage’s responsibility to take care of cultural industries. Other officials were more sensitive to the mutual benefits to be gained from stronger links between cultural and commercial promotion, suggesting enhanced training opportunities related to Canada’s cultural industries for officers in both sectors. Canadian Heritage is helping to build bridges at the mission level by planning to increase the number of cultural trade experts posted abroad, but a broader strategy is needed.

We also learned of foreign trade shows and expositions where limited resources were said to have prevented missions from ensuring a strong federal presence to match provincial participation. These situations should be closely monitored by headquarters, which should ensure levels of federal participation consistent with Canada’s linguistic duality. The recent separation of DFAIT into two departments must not diminish the government’s ability to effect positive change in this area.

The Commissioner therefore recommends that:

15. the Department of Foreign Affairs, in cooperation with the Department of International Trade and Canadian Heritage, develop an action plan by December 31, 2004, designed to ensure closer integration of the cultural and commercial activities of our diplomatic missions.

The Government of Canada stated that it “supports the goal of ensuring closer integration of the cultural and commercial activities of our diplomatic missions.”

It added, “Canada’s arts and cultural products and services help to express our diversity, values and identity, but also are an important element of Canada’s new economy and an essential part of our export story.

“Because of extreme variations in the staff and funding available to each mission, [the Department of Foreign Affairs’] network for promoting cultural and commercial activities is necessarily hybrid. The same holds true for promoting education services. Some missions are fortunate enough to have employees assigned to those duties in separate divisions. Others have to incorporate those activities into the same division, be it a general relations division, a cultural or academic affairs division, a public affairs division, or a communications or trade division.

“Activities are already seamlessly integrated on several levels, and affected employees in missions and the Arts and Cultural Industries Promotion Division and the International Academic Relations Division work in close consultation. The exceptions highlighted in the report are not representative, and the means to remedy problems that arise are already at hand. With respect to relations between [the Department of Foreign Affairs] and [the Department of International Trade] in terms of promoting arts and cultural industries, the possibility of a memorandum of understanding was already being examined before the report was received. The MOU would be designed to strengthen and continue that integration process.”


>15. According to DFAIT’s 2003 study of Canada’s bilingual image in the United States, 12 million Americans are of French heritage and almost two million speak French at home, including more than 200,000 in New York alone. French is the third most spoken language in the United States, after English and Spanish.

16. The use of electronic communications in this sector may sometimes be a factor in language choice. TCS clients often initiate communications by completing electronic forms in an interactive database known as the Virtual Trade Commissioner Service. The Internet site and the forms are available in both English and French and the site indicates the language or languages spoken by TCS officers at each mission. Despite these measures, at least two officials recalled instances where clients realized that they could truly deal with the mission in French only after making direct contact with a TCS officer, either by phone or in person.

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