Discussion Guide — 2022 Cross-Canada Official Languages Consultations

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Introductory message

Welcome, everyone, to the 2022 Cross-Canada Official Languages Consultations!

The purpose of these consultations is to solicit your views and reflections on official languages in Canada. As we prepare to renew our strategy in support of the official languages—the Action Plan for Official Languages—we want to hear from you about your priorities, your ideas and any initiatives you would recommend to the Government of Canada, and progress made over the past five years!

The next Action Plan, for the period beyond 2023, will be crucial in that it will support, give concrete expression to and implement, by way of programs and funding, the full range of official languages reform proposals put forward in the reform document entitled English and French: Towards a Substantive Equality of Official Languages in Canada.

In this document, you will find a series of ideas for further consideration and discussion that are intended to guide and stimulate dialogue during the consultations. We invite you to read this document and contact us thereafter with any considerations and perspectives you may have on any of the themes and issues addressed. Share your views and thoughts with us by sending us an email, a written submission, or any other document of interest to the following email address: Consultations_LO-OL_Consultations@pch.gc.ca

Five key mechanisms for engaging Canadians in consultation and dialogue over the coming months

To better grasp the official languages challenges, realities, and priorities of Canadians, we will be making use of five consultation mechanisms between now and the end of August 2022:

1. In-person discussion forums: May 24 (announcement and launch) to August 2022

Duration:
2 hours each
Participants:
By invitation

2. Formal consultation of the provincial and territorial governments

Mechanisms:
  1. Official ministerial letter to be sent May 24 with a reply anticipated by late July;
  2. Ministers’ Council on the Canadian Francophonie (MCCF) on June 22-23
Participants:
Concerned Provincial and Territorial Ministers

3. Online public consultations open to Canadians

Duration:
From May to August 2022; to be launched May 24
Participants:
All Canadians

4. Virtual thematic dialogue sessions: June 2022

Duration:
2 hours each
Participants:
By invitation

5. Closing summit in hybrid format: Late August 2022

Duration:
To be determined
Participants:
By invitation

The above information is subject to change during the consultations

Major issues discussed

In-person town hall forums: Regional tour

During the 2022 Cross-Canada Official Languages Consultations, the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, will conduct a Canada-wide tour to meet in person with key stakeholders, members of official language minority communities, government officials and representatives of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages. Members of the general public will also have an opportunity to make themselves heard directly through our online consultations.

Regional tour – regions and cities for the in-person forums

The plan is to visit the following regions and cities:
Expected Date City
May 24, 2022 Vancouver, British Columbia
May 26, 2022 Winnipeg, Manitoba
June 10, 2022 Toronto, Ontario
July 6, 2022 Montreal, Quebec
July 7, 2022 Sherbrooke, Quebec
July 13, 2022 Sudbury, Ontario
July 18, 2022 Iqaluit, Nunavut
July 19, 2022Table 1 note * Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
July 20, 2022Table 1 note * Moncton, New Brunswick
July 21, 2022Table 1 note * Whitehorse, Yukon
July 26, 2022Table 1 note * Saint John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador
July 28, 2022Table 1 note * Edmonton, Alberta
July 29, 2022Table 1 note * Regina, Saskatchewan
August 4, 2022Table 1 note * Summerside, Prince Edward Island
August 9, 2022Table 1 note * Halifax, Nova Scotia
Table 1 notes
Table 1 note *

Dates and cities are subject to change

Return to table 1 first note * referrer

The Government of Canada is committed to developing a new plan for official languages that will:

  1. improve the compliance of federal institutions and organizations with the Act;
  2. strengthen our support in order to assist the development of official language minority communities (OLMCs);
  3. stimulate learning and appreciation of the two official languages; and
  4. promote and protect the French language across Canada, including in Quebec.

In this way, we will be ensuring the vitality and sustainability of both official languages and the communities that speak them across Canada.

Action Plan for Official Languages 2018–2023: Investing in Our Future reaffirmed the Government of Canada’s commitment to protecting and promoting the official languages. It sought to strengthen our official language minority communities, improve access to services and promote a bilingual Canada. The Action Plan represented $500 million in new funding on top of the permanent funding from previous years. The Plan had two specific, ambitious targets for 2036:

The next Action Plan will build on the work carried out over the past five years. The purpose of this Action Plan is to support, give concrete expression to and implement, by way of programs and funding, the full gamut of proposals put forward in the reform document entitled English and French: Towards a Substantive Equality of Official Languages in Canada. The Plan will serve to renew government action on official languages.

The mandate of the Minister of Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency includes two key priorities that are relevant to our consultation activities:

  1. Introducing a bill to amend the Official Languages Act, to enact the Use of French in Federally Regulated Private Businesses Act and to make related amendments to other Acts; and
  2. Introducing a new Action Plan for Official Languages.

These two priorities go hand-in-hand and lie along a continuum. The next Action Plan will be central to finalizing and implementing the full range of proposals in the reform document.

The official languages reform document contains six guiding principles that will inform our efforts over the coming years:

  1. Recognizing the linguistic dynamics in the provinces and territories;
  2. Providing opportunities for Canadians to learn the two official languages throughout their lives;
  3. Supporting key institutions of official language minority communities (OLMCs) across Canada;
  4. Protecting and promoting French throughout Canada, including in Quebec;
  5. Having the Government of Canada lead by example by strengthening horizontal coordination of official languages and federal institutions’ compliance with the Act; and
  6. Reviewing the Act at regular intervals.

The Government of Canada wants to hear from as many Canadians as possible in order to develop an Action Plan that reflects the diversity of our communities. To that end, an effort will be made during these consultations to listen to a variety of voices and solicit ideas and proposals from traditionally underrepresented groups reflecting the rich diversity of Canada. The goal is to hear from participants about the state of the official languages in their communities, to better understand how they experience these languages in their lives, and to learn about their successes, issues, challenges and future outlook for the official languages.

General discussion questions

To kickstart and guide the discussion, we sent you the following general questions in advance of today’s meeting:

Topics for targeted discussions with Canadians

As part of the public consultations to be conducted by the Minister of Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency from May to August 2022, certain thematic events are anticipated.

This section of the discussion and pre-consultation paper seeks to flesh out certain themes to be covered by specific sessions.

Below is a tentative schedule for these thematic sessions, including the means and media through which to access them.

Introduction of themes
Expected DateTable 2 note * Theme
June 2, 2022 Francophone immigration: Francophone immigration strategy and immigration continuum, demographic weight and vitality of French-speaking minority communities, and recognition of credentials
June 8, 2022 Educational continuum: Early childhood, post-secondary, professional training, linguistic security, sense of belonging
June 16, 2022 Appreciation of English and French: Arts and culture, youth, seniors, key institutions
July 4, 2022 Official languages, diversity, and inclusion
July 4, 2022 Second language: Second-language learning and promotion, French immersion
July 5, 2022 Protection and promotion of French: Private sector (including federally regulated private businesses), international and cultural diplomacy, scientific knowledge
July 5, 2022 Government leading by example, research and knowledge about official language realities in Canada

Table 2 notes

Table 2 note *

The dates above are subject to change during the consultations

Return to table 2 note * referrer

Theme 1: Francophone immigration: Francophone immigration strategy and immigration continuum, demographic weight and vitality of French-speaking minority communities, and recognition of credentialsFootnote 1

Background

Canada is a country that relies on immigration for its economic development and population growth, but Canada’s various communities do not all benefit equally from this asset. French-speaking minority communities have been seeking an increase in Francophone immigration outside Quebec, in order to maintain or increase their demographic weight. However, promoting Francophone immigration abroad has its challenges. To strengthen our recruitment approach, we need to further work on our integration efforts.

In 2019, a Francophone Immigration Strategy was launched to strengthen the immigration continuum, from attraction to selection and retention, for French-speaking newcomers outside Quebec. The Strategy was implemented and has already yielded interesting results: in 2020, admissions of French-speaking permanent residents outside Quebec rose to 3.61%, compared with 2.82% the previous year, which itself was up 1.77% and 1.82% from 2017 and 2018, respectively. There was a recorded 2% decline in 2021 as a result of the pandemic. The Strategy is scheduled to undergo an evaluation in the near future.

Given that immigration is expected to remain a key lever for socio-economic development in Canada, we need to reflect on how immigration can also help bolster Canada’s language regime and achieve its ultimate objective of advancing the equality of status and use of English and French in Canadian society.

Questions for discussion purposes

Theme 2: Educational continuum: Minority-language instruction, early childhood, post-secondary, professional training, linguistic security, sense of belonging

Background

While education is a provincial/territorial jurisdiction, it has been the focus of a fruitful partnership between the Government of Canada and the provinces/territories for decades. Federal financial support in education has made it possible to exercise the right to minority-language instruction guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (section 23). Furthermore, this financial support has bolstered English and French second-language learning across the educational continuum, from preschool to post-secondary.

Bill C-13 includes a Government of Canada commitment and a number of provisions that would increase opportunities for learning the first language in minority settings, from early childhood to post-secondary.

Nonetheless, educational settings are not merely places of learning: They are also places that contribute to the transmission of cultures and to a sense of belonging to those cultures. Moreover, they are places where communities are rooted and where cohorts of future social and community leaders are trained. Schools are often seen as the foundation and core of official language communities, which is why the Government of Canada considers it of utmost importance to maintain these strong partnerships with the provinces and territories.

Questions for discussion purposes

Theme 3: Second language: Second-language learning and promotion, and French immersion

Background

The Government of Canada values bilingualism and devotes significant financial resources to implementing partnerships with provincial and territorial governments to promote the learning of the official languages as a second language. When surveyed over the years, more than 80% of Canadians expressed a positive view of bilingualism. Despite this strong support for our official languages, the overall bilingualism rate across Canada has historically fluctuated between 17% and 20% of the total population, and recent censuses show that Canada’s overall bilingualism rate never exceeds 20%. Our national goal for 2036 is to reach a bilingualism rate of 20%, largely by raising the bilingualism rate among English speakers outside Quebec from 6.8% to 9%.

A closer look at the statistical data reveals that members of official language minority communities are by far the most bilingual of all Canadians: French speakers outside Quebec are 89% bilingual, followed by English speakers in Quebec at 66%. French speakers in Quebec are 42% bilingual, while English speakers outside Quebec are 7% bilingual.

While members of Canada’s English-speaking majority are also crucial to the acceptance and appreciation of Canada’s two official languages, by and large the exposure of the English-speaking majority outside Quebec to the French language and its cultural expressions remains limited. What is more, even among bilingual people, language skills are not always matched by a solid knowledge of the cultural expressions and practices of the other language community.

On a positive note, the growing popularity of French immersion programs across the country demonstrates an accentuated interest in learning French. Graduates of immersion programs, however, are failing to maintain their skills, largely because of a lack of ongoing opportunities for exposure to the other language beyond and outside of those programs. The language-learning sector is also heavily impacted by labour shortages.

Questions for discussion purposes

Theme 4: Appreciation of English and French: Arts and culture, youth, seniors, key institutions

Background

English and French are the threads that bind together the social dialogue and national conversations of Canadians. In fact, 98% of Canadians speak English and/or French. In terms of perception, 86% of Canadians believe that having two official languages sends a clear message that linguistic diversity is an important value in Canada. In addition, 78% of Canadians say that having two official languages is one of the defining features of Canada and its collective identity. However, only 43% of Canadians are interested in consuming cultural products in the other official language: 79% of French-speaking Canadians want to consume English-language cultural products, while only 34% of English-speaking Canadians want to consume French-language cultural products.

Here, we need to remember the historical and periodically rekindled tensions between Canada’s two major linguistic communities. More often than not, these tensions stem from a misunderstanding of the legal guarantees and policies that benefit Canada’s English and French speakers as a whole. These tensions can also be rooted in challenges related to linguistic well-being, which involves being able to make oneself understood in one’s first language, having a sufficient command of one’s second language and, for French speakers, being confident about the future of the French language in Canada or in their immediate community.

This is why one of the objectives of Bill C-13 and of the proposed reform of Canada’s language regime, as presented publicly in February 2021, is to promote the “learning, acceptance and appreciation of both official languages, in collaboration with the provincial and territorial governments … [being mindful that such efforts] must not be conducted to the detriment of the French language, which is in a minority situation in Canada.” Furthermore, the proposed reform document recognizes “the importance of measures and strategies aimed at youthFootnote 2 (living together, linguistic security, linguistic and cultural exchanges, etc.).

If we recognize the importance of working to strengthen the ties between English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians and of providing them with more venues to come together and discuss the common project that is Canada, we will need to support a variety of initiatives that will bring these two linguistic communities closer together, taking into account their diversity and plurality. This rapprochement is a multi-faceted societal project that will require careful planning in order to effectively target the appropriate audiences and ultimately ensure results and successful implementation.

Questions for discussion purposes

Theme 5: Protection and promotion of French: Public and private sectors (including federally regulated private businesses), international and cultural diplomacy, scientific knowledge

Background

Since 1969, the Official Languages Act and the rights enshrined in the Canadian constitution have established the equality of English and French within federal institutions, and have served as the basis for advancing the equality of status and use of English and French in Canadian society. This federal linguistic framework is complemented by various provincial and territorial statutes and policies. Together, these provisions constitute a solid foundation for Canada’s linguistic duality. However, there is more work to be done in this respect in terms of protecting and promoting French, which is a minority language in Canada and North America. The shrinking demographic weight of persons for whom French is a mother tongue or the language used most often at home has led French speakers to question the extent to which English speakers and allophones are using French. Given the significant world-wide appeal of the English language and the importance of immigration to Canada’s population growth, measures need to be adopted to secure a foothold for French in the public realm by way of political, cultural, and economic status.

More broadly speaking, the dominance of English in North America would appear to represent a permanent challenge to the defence and vitality of the French language. This reality is of concern to the Government of Canada, which wants to see the specific situation of French taken into account in the modernized Act. To this end, the Government is committed to promoting the dissemination of the knowledge, culture, and heritage of French-speaking communities in order to strengthen the status of French in Canada and on the international scene. Canada enjoys unique opportunities to affirm its bilingual character and to showcase the richness of its linguistic duality. These opportunities include a wide range of activities in the political, cultural, sports, academic and scientific arenas, as well as in trade and international diplomacy.

The Government of Canada also believes that the private sector has a role to play in ensuring the vitality and promotion of French, both as a language of work and as a language of communication and service to the public, especially within federally regulated private businesses (banks, airlines, rail carriers, airports, telecommunications companies, etc.). Moreover, Bill C-13 seeks to create a new statute specifically covering the use of French in these businesses.

Questions for discussion purposes

Theme 6: Government leading by example, research and knowledge about official language realities in Canada

Background

The Government of Canada leads by example largely through the manner in which federal institutions implement the Official Languages Act. Some 200 federal institutions are subject to Part IV of the Act (Communications with and Services to the Public), Part V (Language of Work), Part VI (Participation of English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians), and Part VII (Advancement of English and French). While Parts IV, V and VI deal with institutional bilingualism and the federal government’s capacity to provide service to the public and a work environment in both official languages, representative of linguistic communities, Part VII focuses on Canadian society. More specifically, Part VII of the Act requires federal institutions to take positive measures to enhance the vitality and support and assist the development of official language minority communities and to foster the full recognition and use of both English and French in Canadian society.

The proposed reform and the modernized Official Languages Act would specify how positive measures are to be taken. From now on, such measures would have to be concrete and taken with the intention of having a beneficial effect on the English and French linguistic minorities and on the two official languages in Canada. Measures would also have to be based on rigorous analysis of the realities, specificities, and priorities of the communities, with a better evaluation of the expected outcomes. Institutions would also have to base their decisions and positive measures on consultations and dialogue with minority communities and stakeholders, or on research and data. They would also have to take into account potential negative impacts on communities and consider options for mitigating those impacts. This means that additional efforts will be required within institutions to properly—and more effectively—implement the strengthened Official Languages Act.

In recent years, the federal government has adopted an approach based on making federal institutions—and their deputy heads—accountable for properly implementing the Act within their organizations, and empowering them to do so, by streamlining and clarifying their duties. However, it is clear that the number of admissible and founded complaints filed with the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages has been growing over the years. What is more, the issues of federal public servants’ language-of-work rights and institutions’ duties with respect to communications with and services to the public are increasingly being raised and discussed in the public arena.

Questions for discussion purposes

Theme 7: Official languages, diversity, and inclusion

Background

The Government of Canada considers our two official languages to be key components of Canadian identity and diversity. They are an integral part of our country’s history, culture, and national identity, and they are an asset for the development and prosperity of Canada. Similarly, Indigenous languages are an essential and fundamental component of Canadian identity, which is why the Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that the modernized Official Languages Act does not undermine the reclamation, revitalization, maintenance or strengthening of Indigenous languages in Canada.

Proudly home to a diverse population, Canada has a duty to develop legislation, policies and programs that are inclusive. Statistical data and research in support of our Official Languages Support Programs have identified many instances where specific populations are overrepresented in minority settings. For example, persons aged 65 or over account for 20% of the population of French-speaking official language minority communities (OLMCs) outside Quebec, a figure that far exceeds their share of the Canadian population as a whole (16%). This age group is growing faster there than in Canada as a whole.

In Quebec, persons who report having an Indigenous identity account for a higher share of English-speaking OLMCs (4%) than of the French-speaking majority (2%). In addition, immigrants are overrepresented in English-speaking OLMCs, making up 32.9% of those communities, but only 10% of Quebec’s French-speaking majority.

In general, racialized people make up a significant proportion of official language minority communities. Accordingly, there is a need for adequate representation and consideration of their needs in local organizations, given the Government of Canada’s focus on supporting diversity and inclusion in Canadian society in all its activities, including the official languages reform.

Currently, some 2% of Canadians speak neither English nor French, and it is important to include them in these policy-making process in order to better help those who wish to learn one of our two official languages and thereby participate fully in the social dialogue.

Given the above observation that certain groups or populations are overrepresented in communities that may already be linguistically disadvantaged or minoritized, it is essential that their views be solicited in developing the new Action Plan for Official Languages. We will therefore strive to incorporate ideas and proposals for initiatives and projects from traditionally underrepresented groups and other groups representing the rich diversity of Canada.

Questions for discussion purposes

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