1st Session, 42nd Parliament
Volume 150, Issue 146

Thursday, October 5, 2017
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker

French Language Learning in British Columbia

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer (Acting Leader of the Senate Liberals): Honourable senators, a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet with some of the witnesses who contributed to the success of the fourth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, entitled Horizon 2018: Toward Stronger Support of French-language Learning in British Columbia. These witnesses are all very grateful for this report.

That being said, they shared some of their concerns with me. In my province of British Columbia, there is a shortage of teachers in every school board. For example, the francophone school board only managed to fill 29 of its 50 teaching positions before the school year began on September 5.

At the end of August, I received an email from Ms. Baril, the principal of École des Voyageurs. She was writing to me in desperation because a teacher from Switzerland who had just been hired would not be able to get her work permit until October 12.

Robert Rothon, the executive director of the Fédération des francophones de la Colombie-Britannique, informed me of the following, and I quote:

The federation has taken a number of steps to avoid losing francophone immigrants who are not even aware of the services available to them in French.

These immigrants are usually young parents with small children or couples who want to start a family here.

This a major opportunity to revitalize British Columbia’s francophone community.

The Association francophone de Surrey also shared with me its concerns about the fact that Surrey does not offer any cultural or early childhood education resources in French.

Honourable senators, there is a major French-language and French immersion education crisis in my province. Young people, immigrants, and all Franco-Columbians have the right to be able to express themselves in the language of their choice. This is not just a matter of education. It is a matter of Canadian identity.

It therefore goes without saying that Franco-Columbian culture, which is part of Canada’s heritage, must not be overlooked or forgotten.

Thank you.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!