[lg policy] Ottawa: StatsCan against language policy shift
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Sun Jul 5 20:00:22 UTC 2009
StatsCan against language policy shift
By David Gonczol, The Ottawa CitizenJune 28, 2009
OTTAWA — Statistics Canada does not support a new definition Ontario
has adopted to count francophones that will effectively boost that
group’s shrinking population by including some people who can’t even
speak French. In essence, the new definition includes as francophones
exogenous immigrants, people whose first language is neither English
nor French, but who could speak French if they wanted to. Proponents
of the new definition include François Boileau, Ontario’s French
language services commissioner, and Ottawa-Vanier MPP Madeleine
Meilleur, the minister responsible for francophone affairs.
Jean-Pierre Corbeil, chief specialist of the language statistics
section at Statistics Canada, said the agency stands behind its policy
of asking people to declare their “first official language spoken” as
the most accurate way to determine how many French and English
speakers there are. More importantly, he says, this question
accurately captures which immigrants are francophone or anglophone.
However, the statistician believes the new definition adopted by
Ontario is taken from a survey meant for a different purpose: to look
at the vitality of minority communities. It was, in fact, designed to
“study the dynamics to see what extent immigrants, for instance,
entered the minority language,” not to accurately count the number of
Previously, Ontario counted people as francophones if they said they
could speak French, or if French was their mother tongue and they were
still able to sustain a conversation, or if it was the most commonly
used language at home.
The new definition will include those who “speak a language other than
an official language as their mother tongue, know both French and
English, and speak either a non-official language or French alone or
in combination with another language most often in the home.”
Corbeil said “activists” trying to expand the official size of
minority groups see reclassifying immigrants as an opportunity to
reverse the perception of declines in their populations.
“All the francophone communities outside of Quebec, obviously because
of low fertility rates, because of assimilation, want to focus on
immigration as maybe a potential source of growth for their
community,” he said.
Boileau and others defend the survey’s wider use by saying Statistics
Canada has given it credibility as a tool to measure minority
The agency has been under pressure for years to change its method of
counting francophones outside Quebec and anglophones inside the
The first volley in this initiative was fired in 2003 in the form of a
research report by Rodrigue Landry, director-general of the Canadian
Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities. The Moncton-based
organization was created in 2002 with a $10-million federal endowment
One of the group’s first initiatives was to produce a research paper
that advised that all children from exogenous families should be
considered francophone if they speak any amount of French at home.
A strategy was soon developed around the idea by the Commission
nationale des parents francophones, which funded Landry’s study. It
called for French-language schools, day cares and other appropriate
resources to be deployed around these newly classified francophones.
The group has worked with its counterparts in several provinces to set
up a number of these support structures, such as Le Coccinelle in
Some want the definition of a francophone expanded even further.
Murielle Gagné-Ouellette, the former executive director of the
Ottawa-based group, wants every child born to couples made up of one
francophone and one anglophone to be classified as only francophone
because “it’s not the anglophone community that is in difficulty.”
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