Statements & Speeches

My question to the Minister of Canadian Heritage (Senate Question Period – November 29, 2016)

November 30, 2016

Senator Seidman: Minister, thank you for being with us this afternoon. Quebec’s English-speaking communities are a diverse, dynamic and respected national linguistic minority that has actively participated in and contributed to Quebec and Canadian society. Anglophones in Quebec, numbering 1,058,000, face linguistic, social and economic challenges. Francophone minority communities living in the rest of Canada, numbering 1,065,000, face similar challenges and struggle to maintain the vitality of their communities. The Department of Canadian Heritage has recently completed cross-Canada public consultations toward the development of a new multi-year action plan for official languages in Canada. These consultations will provide the information needed for priority setting regarding new challenges and investments for both the English and French-speaking minority communities. During roundtable discussions organized in Quebec, members of the English-speaking minority communities presented recommendations to you on the role of the federal government in supporting their vitality.

Minister, what priorities were set for the English-speaking minority communities in Quebec, and how will they be able to benefit equitably from the new multi-year action plan?

Hon. Mélanie Joly, P.C., M.P., Minister of Canadian Heritage: Thank you for your question, senator. It’s an important one. Of course, as you mentioned, we had the chance to meet with the linguistic minority in Quebec. I had the chance to be there in Montreal, and my colleague, Jean-Yves Duclos, along with my parliamentary secretary, had the chance to meet in Quebec City. My colleague, Marie-Claude Bibeau, who is also a minister, met the community in Sherbrooke.

The challenges with all of the linguistic minorities are much the same, in the sense that there is an anxiety toward the vitality of the official languages minorities. We heard issues when it comes to having a strong community media, as I said in answer to Senator Tardif. Also, in terms of community infrastructure, it is important to have access to community buildings as well as schools. What we also heard clearly is the importance of immigration in keeping that vitality. You can be sure that I’m dedicated to this important file. Our government has had a pan- governmental approach when it comes to our official languages strategy.

I’ve worked with John McCallum at Immigration to make sure that we relaunch an important immigration program for linguistic minorities.

I’ve worked with Harjit Sajjan to make sure that we were reopening the collège de Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, in French and in English, at the university level.

I’ve had the chance to work with Jody Wilson-Raybould when it comes to making sure that we have bilingual judges at the Supreme Court. I’m also working, right now, on relaunching a new — in French I would say Programme de contestation judiciare — within the Department of Canadian Heritage. These are just, within a year, new steps that were not taken over the past 10 years but that we’ve taken as a government.

Senator Seidman: Thank you, minister. I do hope that, in your plan, you will consider the specific needs of the many English- language minority communities in the regions of Quebec. For example, the community in Quebec City is quite different from that in the Gaspésie or that in Sherbrooke or that in Îles de la Madeleines or even that in Montreal.

Ms. Joly: I will take into account, of course, the reality, as we always do. You have to understand that the plan that was developed by the former government ends on March 31, 2018. We have done our public consultation. According to the Official Languages Act, we had to do public consultation. We decided to conduct them as openly and transparently as possible. We went to 22 cities. Now that these public consultations are done, we will be developing the plan, talking, of course, with all of my counterparts throughout the country and different provincial leaders, and ministers of education as well in order for it to be ready by April 1, 2018.

To see the debates