Reaction to the Commissioner of Official Languages' Annual Report



    MONTREAL, May 26 /CNW Telbec/ - In his 2008-2009 Annual Report, the
Commissioner of Official Languages Graham Fraser reports that Quebec has the
highest proportion of bilingual people in Canada and that more than one third
(36 per cent) of Francophones and more than two thirds (69 per cent) of
English-speakers stated in the last federal census that they speak both French
and English. That percentage rises to 80 per cent among English-speaking
Quebecers aged 18 to 34. "While that is good news, we wonder why so many of
our English- speaking youth believe they do not speak it well enough to stay
in Quebec. Unfortunately, the question of language skills is often one of
perception and self-confidence," said Sylvia Martin-Laforge, Director-General
of the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN). "Many youths are sufficiently
bilingual, they just don't know it."
    Commissioner Graham Fraser notes that leadership is key to creating
cultural change, and we agree. But financial support for Official Language
Minority Groups is also needed, commented Robert Donnelly, President of the
QCGN. In his short list of recommendations, the Commissioner suggests that the
Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages implement, as soon as
possible, the commitments announced in the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic
Duality 2008-2013: Acting for the Future to support second official language
learning.
    Commissioner Graham Fraser also recommends that Canadian Heritage
develop, by March 2010, appropriate coordination mechanisms to bring together
all partners involved in English or French second language learning in Canada.
"While these are important first steps in the right direction, they are baby
steps and more action to ensure the French language is recognized as an
essential job skill will be needed if we want to stem the exodus of young
English-speaking Quebecers," said Donnelly, remarking that he was pleased to
see the Commissioner referred to Creating Spaces, the document prepared by the
QCGN's Youth Standing Committee. The report, which is quickly becoming an
important reference on the issue, was also quoted in a weekend article in the
Montreal Gazette which discusses the need to create a biliterate generation.
    In his Annual Report in 2008, Commissioner Fraser recognized that
Quebec's English-speaking community is one of the two official language
minorities, and he noted that federal institutions should recognize the status
of the QCGN and act accordingly. "While we were pleased with that
acknowledgment we consider that the "national" standing of the ESCQ has been
largely ignored by many departments. For the Official Languages Act to be
effective in Quebec and for our community, this standing has to be recognized
and acted upon" said Donnelly. "That being said, we are happy to learn that
Canadian Heritage met with regional senior management to raise their awareness
of the importance of prioritizing Part VII and making clear commitments in
their business plans to more actively support federal institutions in their
region," he added.
    The Commissioner boldly hits on another theme that is near and dear to
the QCGN, that of Demographic Vitality. "Community renewal is of major
importance to English-speaking Quebec, which has a rich history of integrating
newcomers to Quebec and Canadian society," remarked Martin-Laforge. The
network's Director General recalled that this past weekend the QCGN and its
Greater Montreal Community Developmelant Initiative (GMCDI), in partnership
with the Association for Canadian Studies and Concordia's fledgling Quebec
English-speaking Community Research Network, held a major forum on
Understanding Diversity in Montreal's English-speaking community. It was the
first of a two-part symposium, which is looking at the diverse and evolving
identity in English-speaking Quebec and how a sense of community belonging and
a feeling of inclusion can best be attained. "The Commissioner's comments show
that we are not alone in our concern for ensuring that English-language
newcomers, who make up 20 percent of new arrivals to Quebec, are integrated
and actively contribute to the development of Quebec and Canadian society."
    "The QCGN is pleased that the Commissioner continues to play the
all-important role of challenging federal departments to not only implement
the letter, but the spirit of the Official Languages Act and Official
Languages policy throughout the country," concluded Martin-Laforge. She said
that the QCGN was thrilled that the Commissioner prefaced his report with a
reference to Blue Metropolis Founder Linda Leith, winner of the Award of
Excellence - Promotion of Linguistic Duality. Furthermore, the Quebec-based
Foundation and its annual Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival are
shining examples of a multicultural meeting place where writers and readers
can share their love of literature not only in both of Canada's official
languages, but in the diverse languages that make up our community.

    The Quebec Community Groups Network (www.qcgn.ca) is a not-for-profit
organization bringing together 32 English-language community organizations
across Quebec for the purposes of supporting and assisting the development,
and enhancing the vitality of the English-speaking minority communities
throughout the province.




For further information:

For further information: Rita Legault, Director of Communications and
Public Relations, (514) 868-9044 ext. 223, mobile (514) 912-6555, rita.legault
@qcgn.ca


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