Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

3rd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 147, Issue 98

Thursday, March 24, 2011
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Official Languages

French Language Training in British Columbia

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate on French training in British Columbia.


My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate and has to do with teaching Canada’s official languages. The B.C. Ministry of Education recently proposed a new curriculum for language teaching in the province that I have the honour of representing here.

Unfortunately, in the draft curriculum, French is no longer presented as one of Canada’s official languages, but rather it is included in the “other languages” category.


Dr. Réal Roy, the president of La Fédération des francophones de la Colombie Britannique, stated:

We are very pleased by the solid anchoring of the new IRP in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages and its aims to develop pluralingualism among B.C.’s elementary and secondary schools students.

In this context, we would like to enthusiastically support, in any way possible, the implementation of a French language curriculum with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

Madame Claire Trépanier, the Director of the Office of Francophone and Francophiles Affairs at Simon Fraser University adds:

The introduction of this curriculum places French on an equal footing with other languages, regardless of its stature as an official language in Canada, and gives school districts wide options in choosing which language they can offer.

This could seriously erode the presence of French in the B.C. school system. My question to the leader is:


The federal government has a duty to ensure that children in British Columbia have the right to be educated in their first official language. Would the Leader of the Government agree that the federal government has a role to play in promoting and developing the Francophonie in British Columbia?


Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the honourable senator for the question. Obviously, Senator Jaffer is referring to a situation that has something to do with the Government of British Columbia. I support training in both official languages. The Minister of Heritage, the Honourable James Moore, is fluently bilingual as a result of his attendance in school in British Columbia where he learned to speak the other official language. The government’s support of official languages is clearly demonstrated, and we fully support Canada’s linguistic duality and the Official Languages Act. Our support is underscored by the fact that we have invested an unprecedented amount of money in the Official Languages Program and made a five-year commitment known as the Roadmap for Canada’s Linguistic Duality. Today, over 71 per cent of the commitments we made in that roadmap have been confirmed and funded to the tune of over $792 million.

Honourable senators, in answer to Senator Jaffer’s question, the government fully supports and our actions prove that we fully support Canada’s linguistic duality and the Official Languages Act.

Senator Jaffer: Honourable senators, I thank the leader for her response. I am from British Columbia and proud of the achievements of the Minister of Heritage. However, we need many more ministers from that province who speak both official languages. We must ensure that French is offered as a very strong language in my province.

Honourable senators, I ask the leader what role she sees the federal government playing in ensuring that French is not part of all the languages that are offered but is offered as a very important part. English and French should be offered to every child. That should be our aim, and then we should offer other languages.

Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for the question. I believe I have made our commitment to Canada’s official languages and linguistic duality very clear. I must confess that I am not aware of the particular report that the honourable senator cites. I could be wrong, but it sounds like it is something that was generated by the Government of British Columbia.

Honourable senators, my son lives in British Columbia, and I am fully aware that many languages are being taught in schools to reflect the demographic of British Columbia writ large, and also the demographic of the city of Vancouver and environs.

The government is fully committed to our linguistic duality and the Official Languages Act. I will, though, refer the honourable senator’s comments and questions to my colleague Minister Moore and ask that he enlighten me further on the topic to which the honourable senator referred. I will be happy to table a written response when we return next week.