Earlier this month, the Senate Committee on Official Languages met with government officials, schools staff and young students to learn more about the opportunities to learn French as a minority language in British Columbia.

For many years, Senators heard Canadians raised concerns about the limited access to French services and immersion programs.

The Senate Committee chose to focus on British Columbia first because the province is a typical case where both French-language schools and French immersion schools are facing challenges. The fights for education equality and access to French immersion programs are set against a background of a lack of available spaces, a shortage of qualified teachers and enrolment that outpaces funding. The federal government is transferring several million dollars to the Government of British Columbia to promote learning French as a second language.

After a week of hearings, our committee heard many stories, concerns and ideas. One in particular stood out to me. I heard many people talk about the need for more resources so that Canada can truly become a bilingual country. Even though it takes a lot of work, one way to do so was to better equipped our governments, its employees and our schools with French learning opportunities. That being said, our government should play a leadership role by setting the example.

I would like to share with you photos of places we visited and people we’ve met with:

First, we truly appreciated the enthusiasm of the teachers into providing French learning opportunities. We were particularly impressed with the music program. At l’École Rose-des-Vents.ollo1

We also visited l’École Jules-Verne, the only French high school in Vancouver.
Visiting this school and speaking to children, was one of the highlights of my trip. It was very sad to hear that they have to travel hours to go to school and I’ve learned that their passion to learn French does not meet with our present leadership. Our politicians have to show more leadership in providing French learning opportunities.

The Senate Committee on Official Languages was then welcomed by Burt Frenzell, Principal at l’École Bilingue, an immersion school.ollo3The highlight there was hearing from 2 young people from multicultural communities about their commitment to learning French. Those stories really touched my heart.

We then visited l’Éducacentre, where we learned about the challenges of expending French in British-Columbia.ollo4The Éducentre is providing French learning to adults from all paths of life. What impressed me about them is that they are working hard for French to be provided in our hospitals, government services and schools.

We also got the meet with the students from Simon Fraser University. We met incredible young Canadians working hard and committed to keeping Canada bilingual. ollo5

Our committee then met with the staff of the only francophone school in Surrey.ollo6When visiting this school, I was impressed by the commitment from the staff, but was sad to hear that they had to drive hours to go to school and learn French. It’s very sad to hear stories like this in a bilingual country like Canada.

The Senate Committee on Official Languages also met with young British Colombians on how to increase French knowledge in our province.
ollo7We had presentations from 3 amazing young people. They spoke about their struggle to continue to stay true to their francophone route even though every day is a battle. They gave us hope that we could one day become a bilingual country.

Finally, we also visited Victoria, and heard about the lack of French services, both in schools and hospital. ollo8

The committee has heard from many people about the lack of services both in education training and services. After our week of hearings, we are even more committed to reach out to Canadians who truly want to become bilingual. We believe in unity and harmony in our country. To become a fully bilingual country, we have to do more, especially us, politicians.

I would like to thank everyone who shared their knowledge and helped us better understand the issue, as well as the members of our Committee.