ARCHIVED – Speaking notes for Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Launch of the first Francophone Immigration Week
November 5, 2013
I am very proud to be with you for the launch of Francophone Immigration Week, so close here to Parliament, to the heartbeat of our bilingual Francophone country. I am very happy to be with you all. Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Government of Canada and Prime Minister Harper, I am delighted not only to launch this week but also to demonstrate our determination to support Francophone immigration in new ways and to strengthen this support.
I am also very happy to be here with Marie France Kenny, President of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadiennes du Canada (FCFA). I would like to thank her and all the FCFA members for their leadership over the years. We could not do this without you. We could not do this without the networks that you represent. We could not do this without the institutional capacity that you have developed and that you rely on and support.
Today, over 9.5 million Canadians speak French in Canada, and I am among those who started their life not speaking French, but who speak it now. Therefore, the number is growing. We are proud of this result, but we must absolutely continue to develop and grow it further.
Francophones strive to celebrate a unique culture in solidarity with their fellow Canadians. It is our shared heritage and a source of pride for all Canadians.
Our linguistic duality also makes us unique in the Francophonie world. Therefore, the government believes that our linguistic duality provides an invaluable source of economic and social advantages for all Canadians. As a Canadian citizen who had the honour of representing our country abroad, I know how much it counts for us and for Canada to be part of these two great networks in the world, established by the two major global languages–French and English. It is an asset and a strength. It makes Canada unique. By definition, it makes us global.
Immigration helps us ensure that the bilingual personality of our country is preserved and represented faithfully all across the country, and I emphasize this phrase, all across the country, because there is no place in Canada that is not affected by or that does not have a Francophone presence. It is a national reality in all the provinces and territories.
That is why I am proud to officially recognize the important contribution of immigration and newcomers to Canada’s linguistic duality. I think that there are more Canadians than ever who collectively believe in immigration and who are passionate about immigration, and it goes without saying that it exists in the two languages.
In the past, Francophone communities outside Quebec did not benefit from immigration like Anglophone communities did. Currently, only a little more than 950,000 Francophones live outside Quebec. Let us be clear and realistic–we would like this number to grow; but for now, that is where we are, around one million.
With the help of Francophone immigration, we hope to grow this number and help preserve the continued and sustained vitality of our Francophone communities outside Quebec.
Last year, Canada welcomed 3,685 Francophone newcomers in its communities, which represents an increase of four percent with respect to the number of Francophone immigrants who settled outside Quebec in 2011. I invite you to challenge us to increase that number, so that our Francophone immigration continues to grow. One cannot understand Canada—neither its history nor its present day—without referring to this immigration process that might not have been a reality one, two or three decades ago in all regions of Canada. There are some regions, especially rural ones, where immigrants did not go in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
Now, people arrive and go not only to Canada’s large cities but also to the rural areas, small cities and villages, where there are needs and they are welcomed, where settlement is done properly; it is really great to see this renewal in the immigration process.
We were in Alberta on the weekend. One cannot understand Alberta without Father Lacombe. One cannot understand the West and the Canadian Great Lakes without La Salle and the other great explorers. And, of course, in 2013, one cannot understand Ontario without telling whomever and everyone the story of Samuel De Champlain, who arrived here for the first time 400 years ago this year.
Therefore, we have made significant progress, but I know that we can do better with our partners’ and employers’ help. In order to help ensure that the Francophone minority communities continue to prosper, the government will invest $149.5 million into official languages and immigration. You are familiar with the famous Roadmap. Of that amount, $29.5 million will go directly to recruiting and integrating Francophone immigrants, who will contribute to the Canadian economy.
What will this mean?
As an example, the FCFA did excellent work this past September to promote Francophone immigration in provinces and territories across Canada. With the help of their partners, the FCFA held a series of information sessions on recruiting French-speaking or bilingual skilled workers from abroad.
As a result, more than 270 employers, representatives of municipalities and other key economic players received information on the benefits of recruiting these newcomers to our francophone minority communities.
Ladies and gentlemen, jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity remain the government’s priority, but let us promote what we offer here in Canada because, yes, we know that Canada is popular. Yes, we know that people want to come here, but let us be clear to all our audience worldwide—let us be clear about the importance of and interest in living in French anywhere in Canada. It is possible. It is stimulating. It is passionate. People, whether they come from Kinshasa, Algeria, Vietnam or Europe—given the Canada-European Union Agreement—will be extremely interested in coming, settling, working and living in French here, in Ottawa; in Ajax near me, where Francophones represent eight or nine percent of the population; in Fort McMurray; in northern British Colombia; in rural Manitoba; or anywhere.
That is why were are focussing our effort on reforming our immigration system, in order to recruit the most competent and brightest individuals who will be able to help us meet the needs of employers, our economy and our economic outlook.
In 2015, we will introduce the Expression of Interest selection model, which is a new development—the transformation of our immigration system—that will reduce delays and strengthen the connections between expertise, our immigrants’ talents and the needs of our economy. This new selection model will allow us to recruit the skilled immigrants our economy needs from a large pool of prospective immigrants. That is, we will ask a great many people to express their interest, we will look for those who we need because of their talents and experience, and we will invite them to apply to Canada.
Of course, we can target Francophones—and bilingual individuals—much more effectively in this new system. This new selection model will enable us to recruit qualified immigrants whom our economy needs, but we hope that the flexible system will also be beneficial for Francophone minority communities. These communities are like many other English-speaking communities in Canada. They have not experienced immigration, sometimes for a century. However, there is no reason why they would not start to receive immigrants—a new wave of immigration through today’s programs.
Essentially, this new selection model will help broaden opportunities for employers and communities, to attract and recruit skilled French-speaking or bilingual immigrants into Francophone minority communities. In the meantime, we will continue to actively recruit Francophone immigrants is through Destination Canada. This is a series of annual job fairs happening this month in Paris, Brussels and Tunis – and the number of cities keeps growing.
Through these job fairs, we help to connect French-speaking or bilingual skilled workers with employers across Canada. Year after year, Destination Canada has been a phenomenal success with employers and skilled workers abroad. And I would like to take this opportunity today to invite more Canadian employers to participate.
I spoke with organizations funded by our Department in Vancouver, who were working with employers to encourage Francophone immigrants to become entrepreneurs in Vancouver, in French, and it is going very well.
Year after year, the Job Fair takes place—it starts on November 19, in Paris – and there is still time to submit an offer of employment to the Destination Canada website, so be aware of this, employers!
Ladies and gentlemen, the government is determined to support the official language minority communities in all regions of our large country. Francophone Immigration Week recognizes the important contribution of immigration to the linguistic duality of our country and to the energy of our Francophone minority communities.
I must tell you, from my own experience, to what point it just makes sense in Canada to speak, live, breathe and claim to speak our two official languages. I think that we all see the very real and very refreshing willingness of the new generation and of immigrants—people who come from Punjab, Africa and the Philippines—to master our two languages and strengthen their Canadian citizenship in this capacity.
Furthermore, this week encourages all Canadians to think about the effect that our two official languages have on our Canadian identity. We cannot understand the Canadian identity without referring to the founding of our institutions in New France, in Acadia, and to the very dynamic reality of our life in two official languages.
To conclude, I would like to thank once again the FCFA and our 13 Réseaux en immigration francophone. I know that many of you represent these networks. We are happy and proud that you are more numerous than ever today. I think that it is one step towards a future that promises to be very exciting.
And to the Réseaux across the country, we would like to congratulate you on and thank you for your help in launching Francophone Immigration Week, with ten or so events here in Ottawa and across the country that will inspire us further.
Thank you very much. Thank you for inviting me and including me.
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