Mr. Ernie Epp (Thunder Bay-Nipigon):
Mr. Speaker, I rise with pleasure to join in the second reading debate of Bill C-152, a Bill to establish the Canadian Heritage Languages Institute. With my colleague, I readily accept the absence of the Minister for Multiculturalism (Mr. Weiner) this afternoon who I am sure is with his family celebrating the Jewish New Year, as are other persons across the country and around the world. That is only one manifestation of a multicultural Canada. I am sure the Minister would have liked the Bill to come forward in late August, a time when his office did consider the possibility that it might do so, because I am sure the Minister would have liked to speak to the Bill. I am sure no one will take it amiss if I observe that if he had been here, a Member of Parliament from Montreal, and a speaker of Hebrew, to some extent, taking part in the debate this afternoon on this heritage language institute, there would have been a completeness or a certain symmetry in terms of appropriate representation in the debate.
The debate on the Canadian Heritage Languages Institute this afternoon is a little heavy with Epps. When there are two people whose first language is German speaking to the Bill this afternoon, it leaves it a little incomplete. You, Mr. Speaker, may well represent one of those other Canadian realities, Ukrainian, or Polish, 1 am not quite certain of your capabilities, your presence in the Chair, and your membership in the House. If the Minister had been present there would have certainly been three of the leading heritage languages of western Canada represented, which are well practised and well taught in the Cities of Edmonton and Winnipeg, and particularly represented in a certain sense of the debate.
I would never wish to slight my colleague, the Hon. Member for York East (Mr. Marchi), who represents the Italian speaking realities of this country in this debate. At one point I spoke to some of the persons involved in heritage languages in this province, persons of Italian origin, and said to them quietly, and I trust this will not upset anyone, that what the Ukrainians have done in the West the Italians have done in Ontario in terms of establishing the importance of heritage languages. I say that quite readily because aside from the fact that my father and the father of the Minister would have understood and spoken Ukrainian, there is obviously no ancestral pride in my stating that particular recognition of the role of some of the communities in asserting the importance of heritage languages.
I did not look at that particular aspect of the topic in preparation for this afternoon, but I was interested in having my colleague, the Hon. Member for York West, scan heritage languages across the country and note some of the instances. In a few moments I want to explore more carefully what some of the situations are in various provinces of Canada, so that we will have a better sense of the situation into which this institute
will be injected, the situation which the institute will be required to work with, to transform, to develop.
He mentioned in British Columbia, a province which would surely exemplify, as its name might well suggest, as perfectly as any province has the desire to create a unilingual Englishspeaking Canada, a desire that prevailed for so long, to the detriment of French-speaking Canadians and the Quebeqois, and of course to the detriment of all of us and our ancestors who came to Canada with languages that we now call ancestral or heritage languages and who found themselves being discouraged from using the languages, encouraged to forget them and to merge into the Canadian English-speaking mainstream.
In recognizing that reality, the first program in British Columbia was brought to my attention, because having lived for nine years just down the road from Castlegar, British Columbia, when I was teaching at Notre Dame University in Nelson in the interior of B.C., I thought immediately, of course, that is a bilingual program. It is also in Russian, with the Doukhobors who live in the area.
That took me back 16 years to the misfortune of a broken knee suffered in the faculty-student football game. I was in the Trail Regional Hospital that fall of 1972, during the Canada-Soviet hockey game. I must say, I do not suppose that there were many places, many hospital wards in Canada, where the four patients in that ward were all persons who, if history had taken a different course, would have been happily cheering Tretiak and his team-mates on the Soviet team. As it happened, in that particular hospital ward the four of us-two Doukhobors, one of white Russian ancestry and myself of Mennonite stock; all of us from parts of the Soviet Union, now Canadians-were cheering the Canadian team on. This particular incident is just a reminder of the multicultural realities of Canada in which we have been involved in this Parliament over the years in trying to recognize, and to which we have, surely, in the multiculturalism Bill of these last months, given statutory statement, though not, I would assert, anything like adequate institutional roots.
We are now, certainly in this Bill to establish a Canadian Heritage Languages Institute, in this particular case, moving to establish one of the vital institutions of the federal Government, established by and supported by the federal Government, to ensure that all of our talk about multiculturalism, ever since the beginning of the last decade, is not simply talk.
That, of course, takes us back to the context that I have already alluded to, the long decades during which immigrants to this country, wherever they came from, were encouraged to become English-speaking Canadians. As a nation pressed its nationalism on all the citizens of Canada and urged them to merge, a pressure or a tendency developed which was only arrested in the 1960s, in the context of the quiet revolution in Quebec, the work of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism which led to the Official Languages Act, the recognition of French as well as English, as fully the official
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languages of the federal Government and the federal institutions and which led two years later to the enunciation of a policy not of bicuituralism but of multiculturalism.
In the midst of all of that development, it is surely more than just appropriate this afternoon to remember the work of one of the Royal Commissioners, Dr. J. B. Rudnyckyj, who is surely, among all the scholars and the public figures of Canada in all those years, the person who in his insistence on the importance of recognition of the languages other than English and French in Canada deserves to be remembered in this Chamber and thanked for his efforts.
I have been informed that he is disappointed time after time by the very, very limited recognition in the multiculturalism Bill, in the broadcasting Bill, and in the legislation brought forward of the multilingual realities of Canada as they were, as they might be, as they should be, if we were only prepared to see funds put in, if we were only prepared to put national support behind the efforts of communities to maintain their languages, to build up the culture to which language is so integral, in order to ensure that the multiculturalism of Canada, the mosaic that we have talked about, the diversity that is there and yet is so often still under challenge, is really fostered and built up.
What has happened, of course, in province after province, as communities recognized from the beginning of the 1970s, is that the Government of Canada was no longer hostile to culture and language-other than the English speaking and the French-but was prepared to encourage, and some funding was made available-a bit here and a bit there-enough to do it very impressively.
In Saturday schools and in various ways through continuing education programs, languages have been encouraged to some extent. I think that the reality remains, and that is what makes the Castlegar school development important.
We have the pioneering efforts in Edmonton and the achievements in Winnipeg, and wherever it is possible to move beyond the voluntary effort, the community effort, the Saturday school, into the establishment of schools in which it is possible not just to study another language, as I did to some extent as a high school student in Manitoba, where German was my foreign language, if you will, and on into the university. To do that goes some limited way toward what we are talking about. The real achievement in the use of heritage languages is the possibility of studying subjects in that language. We have the bilingual school, in which half the day is in English and the other half may be in Ukrainian or in Hebrew or in German, to take them in reverse alphabetical order. In those realities on the Prairies, we have the most important developments that we could imagine, in the way of ensuring that heritage languages are more than just something that we work at desperately on a limited or no-pay basis, doing our best to pass the language on to the next generation.
In that context, of course, the western achievements in the Provinces of Alberta and Manitoba certainly deserve to be
Canadian Heritage Languages Institute Act
recognized first and foremost. It is saying something about the question of how the institute would be well established.
I say, without any hesitation at all, that Edmonton deserves to be the place to establish the centre. If one is going to have one institute with obviously one head office, the challenge would be in how the whole country could be served in this way.
In contrast to that, I want to refer to the sad experience still in this province of mine, my adopted province now, if you will, having had to practise as an Ontario MP for a couple of weeks in the Edmonton area. I still find that a bit ironic. It was not the context in which to make very much of my years of growing up in Manitoba and my years of teaching in the West, when people had me cast as an Ontario MP. I say, bluntly, that Ontario disappoints one so very often. In a few areas, I suppose it is more than in the area of heritage languages.
It is very much regretted that across this province languages are still being taught in Saturday schools and by voluntary efforts, and that that is all that we can achieve.
In the previous Legislature of Ontario a member of my Party, Mr. Tony Grande-and I say this with considerable pride-proposed a motion, which got support from all the Parties, to have the heritage languages incorporated in the curriculum of the public schools of Ontario. It was an initiative that got support at that point but which the Peterson Government has not really followed through on, although a study goes on to determine what kind of assistance the Province of Ontario will give to the heritage languages in this province.
That, of course, is the kind of contrast that I put forward with regret but may, in fact, provide the justification for concern about how the new institute will be able to develop the teaching and the study of heritage languages in Canada. A great deal of effort is required across the country and in our communities where persons want to study the language.
What we have had up to this point is really fairly halfhearted efforts. I say that from the perspective of government in terms of resources put in. I have no doubt about the determination and dedication Dr. Jim Cummins of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and his colleagues, to whom the Hon. Member for York West has already alluded, have brought to this subject.
This has been with very limited resources. There was a certain amount of funding from Employment Canada at one point, an application to the Government for assistance by the Department to provide additional funding and a proposal for $250,000, something which becomes relevant in further consideration of the funding to be provided. Those efforts have gone on far more by the determination of individuals matching that of efforts of the various ethnocultural communities. Those efforts and some efforts along the same line in the Province of Quebec to develop a unit, a centre or whatever at Laval, matched by the efforts of Professors Kreisel and Batts who
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Canadian Heritage Languages Institute Act
were invited to partake by the previous Secretary of State in July, 1987, pointed to having three institutes established.
We should not gloss over the fact that Professors Kreisel and Batts were looking at a national institute for heritage languages in western Canada. Although they carried their research beyond western Canada to Toronto and Montreal, the report is oriented in its organizational structure and surely in its funding, proposals and so on to the establishment of an institute which would provide for western needs. It would then be a co-ordinate, I would think, with the expansion of activities at OISE presumably given the work already built up there and quite likely at Laval University in Quebec City.
This would still leave Atlantic Canada having to look where? Toronto is a fair distance away. Laval might conceivably assist. Experience would show the possibilities, but we have in Bill C-152 the acceptance of the Kreisel-Batts report and a generalization of it for the entire country. That will point the way to certain questions that need to be asked.
In this one institute with limited human resources we will have the responsibility to support the training of teachers, the development of resource materials and texts-all the effort required to advance heritage language teaching in communities. As I was saying, talking to Dr. Cummins this morning, the existence of a centre is the merest beginning. The unit at OISE does not really amount to very much because the efforts are needed in Hamilton, Thunder Bay, Sudbury, and Windsor to single out only a few communities in Ontario. Teachers, after all, are doing this as volunteers. They are not being paid. There is no board with great resources to send them somewhere for instruction. They have no kind of reward, and one can hardly expect that taking some instruction will advance their credentials and give them more salary. That is not the nature of a system which is still outside the public school system of the Province of Ontario. Those are the brute realities that face us when we set out to do something as important and as admirable as establishing an institute to ensure heritage language teaching in this country and the study of it is as advanced as it should be.
The fact that education is a provincial responsibility poses questions which in the legislative committee we shall have to explore with care. I wonder to what extent Departments of Education will respond. I say that without any prejudice as far as any one place is concerned because I would imagine the Department of Education for the Province of Alberta would have limited interests in something coming out of OISE. I am concerned that the Department of Education for the Province of Ontario may need the persuasion of activities in the Province of Ontario to put the kinds of resources into the institute that will certainly be required.
That may well suggest that what the Bill proposes to do is to get a brain or a heart or whatever the right organ might be for the institute. Then we will have the limbs across the country. The Kreisel-Batts report envisions that almost half the moneys each year should be spent for program activities, namely,
$200,000 out of the $454,000, the suggested annual cost. It is in those programs that the institute would be a reality in its activities across the country.
Having said these things, let me say categorically again that the choice of Edmonton for the centre or the institute is certainly one place that is more than just appropriate.
What we have to be concerned about is the way in which this decision will work out, recognizing that others have been in the field and recognizing the costs incurred. I have already alluded to the proposals in the Kreisel-Batts report which suggest that the annual cost of a national institute for heritage languages in western Canada could well amount to $454,000. One rather odd thing about this Bill is that it is far more specific than is commonly the case. We are actually told in Clause 23 of the Bill how this institute will be endowed over the first several years of its operation. After providing for an initial establishment payment or investment of $250,000, Clause 23 goes on to provide for five fiscal years. The first $250,000 will be for the current fiscal year and then in the next fiscal year we will have $800,000 going toward the capital of an endowment fund and we shall have $500,000 to be expended for the purpose of the institute.
I want to raise one of the most important questions about this admirable initiative. That $500,000 annual cost operating allotment compares rather poorly-this is $500,000 for the country-with the $454,000 in the Kreisel-Batts report for a western Canada institute. Put that beside the proposal to the Department of the Secretary of State for $250,000 to support the efforts of the unit at OISE in Toronto. That amounts to $700,000 which is significantly more than the Bill envisions this particular institute having. Taking these applications and proposals at face value, that would still not provide for efforts in the Province of Quebec or in Atlantic Canada. There I feel very real concern about the limited resources, the straitened resources, the institute is actually being given through the Government's Bill.
It will be necessary to obtain the co-operation of all concerned with the matter across Canada and to do so very rapidly. It will be desirable to have the director and his or her program officers at work very quickly establishing connections with communities and with provincial Governments and other organizations to ensure that provincial assistance is also obtained so that the work of the institute is successfully carried out in the communities.
I should recognize that the Bill also provides, in Clause 22, for the new institute to be deemed a registered charity within the meaning of the Income Tax Act. For the new Canadian Heritage Languages Institute to be a charity in this sense means that the fund raising possibilities will be larger than those that are sometimes the case for multicultural organizations. We might expect to have resources increased from donors. The donors would probably like to build up the
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endowment fund, and if that is done quickly, the additional resources that might be available could be used for the operations of its institute and the carrying out of its programs across Canada.
Although the funding in this Bill does not compare very well with that suggested by the Kreisel-Batts report, I find it ironic that when so much of the report has been taken up, one of the specific recommendations made about how an institute should be established was not, and that is it should not be done by a Bill of the Canadian Parliament. Elere we are this afternoon debating Bill C-152 which establishes this institute by legislation.
I have been assured by officials of the Department of the Secretary of State that this had to be done through a Bill in order to provide the proper context for federal funding to be provided. Without meaning to reflect in the least on their integrity, I find myself a little suspicious about that particular assertion. 1 am sure that a context could be provided in which federal funds might go to an institution that was not established by Act of Parliament. It is quite possible to do that to achieve this goal very quickly. I know that the Government, in these days, weeks or months, whichever it may happen to be, before the next federal election, is interested in moving very quickly. I am sure it is not only a Bill that can allow that to be done with the proper speed.
There is one additional aspect of the new institute on which I would like to comment, and this is the nature of its board of directors. I have already said a good deal about the challenges that will face the executive and obviously the board as well in ensuring that this institution is well grounded, established, and accepted across Canada. The Bill proposes a board of perhaps 21 appointees, 13 to be appointed by the Governor in Council, and another 8 to be drawn in by the members of the board. This would provide 21 board members. The Kreisel-Batts report recommended a detailed membership structure of the board. Of course, the report was talking about a western Canadian institution.
The Kreisel-Batts report recommended as many as 23 members of the board including the director. If the director were to be ex officio and would not vote, that would bring us down to 22 members on the board plus the chairperson. The recommendation was for a board of about 24 people drawn only from western Canada. They were looking to a couple of people from heritage language associations in each of the western provinces, a representative from a university in each of the western provinces, a couple of representatives from the community colleges which are concerned about heritage languages, and up to eight persons appointed from provincial Departments of Education and/or culture and multicultural-ism, depending on how the provincial Government is organized. That was clearly designed with representation from the provinces, from universities and colleges, and from heritage languages associations which would ensure that from the provincial level down through to the grass roots, the board would be aware of what was going on and would be able to
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carry back to those organizations news of the activities of the institute.
There will be a very great challenge to the Governor in Council in constructing anything like a board as good as the one suggested by the report with only 13 persons from across Canada. It will clearly be necessary to make selections. As I know, with my slip of the tongue about Edmonton in my reaction to a place when I was thinking of an institute, these are invidious selections. The Cabinet will have to make many invidious selections in choosing which of the persons involved with heritage languages associations, universities, and provincial Departments of Education and/or culture will be selected. It will not be possible for there to be two persons from each provincial Department of Education and culture in the context of the Canadian Heritage Languages Institute Bill. I do not envy the Secretary of State (Mr. Bouchard) or the Minister for Multiculturalism the nice job of making these choices.
If the patronage barrel is rolled out one more time, a number of Tory hacks will be appointed. The word "hack" is not really fair to those who have been active in political Parties, as many of my friends have been. I would not necessarily call them hacks just because they chose to be active in a partisan context. However, this means that the expertise of those persons may be in Party work but that they are not necessarily equipped to direct an institute of this sort.
I will not go into the sorry history of patronage in this Government or previous Governments at this point. We all know what a sad thing it is, based on the greediness of individuals and leading to ineffective leadership. The Canadian Heritage Languages Institute deserves better than that.
That is why concerns were raised in the recommendations made by the report of the Standing Committee on Multiculturalism and even more strongly in my minority report of 16 months ago entitled A Living Diversity which emphasized the importance of a genuinely representative structure to the advisory council to Government and to a research centre for multiculturalism. I think the Heritage Languages Institute deserves to be representative in that way. It will be a very great challenge to have anything remotely resembling that in this particular institute through the structure the Government has given us.
There are a number of questions to be asked, and there are a number of serious concerns to be explored in the legislative committee as we consider Bill C-152 and move ahead what remains to be an important initiative. Because it is so important, this initiative deserves to be as well constructed and as well begun as it possibly can be. It is because of my concern that it be effective in the communities of every province that I have expressed the concerns I have felt in the past and do so again this afternoon.
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There remains only one point I would like to make since I do not suppose there will be any more debate on the Bill before it goes to the legislative committee. That concerns the question of aboriginal languages and how they are going to be supported by this institute. There was some discussion at the press conference, following on the Government giving first reading to this Bill last month, which suggested that this institute would not be constrained in its activities other than recognizing the official languages of Canada are English and French and they have abundant support. Therefore, the institute will be responsible for all the other languages. I was looking at the Bill again and it may be unfortunate that in Clause 2, as is customary in these Bills, heritage languages are not defined. There is then no recognition of the fact that aboriginal languages might well be treated as heritage languages of still another sort and this institute might do something to advance them.
It is to the credit of Professor Kreisel and Professor Batts that they looked at this matter. It is worth putting a paragraph of their report on the record. They say:
Finally, a word about a special problem, namely, the place of aboriginal languages in the plans for the Institute. Our view is that, while native groups have special needs and special programs designed to meet these needs, they should certainly be able to approach the Institute for helping in the teaching of aboriginal languages, the creation of teaching materials, et cetera.
Certain other, and no doubt pressing, issues, like the preservation of native languages that are in danger of extinction, will presumably fall outside the mandate of the Institute.
I find those last two sentences somewhat contradictory because any support given to ensuring aboriginal languages are taught and learned in Canada, one would expect that would happen in the native communities across the country. It could also apply to others, however, as was nicely demonstrated over the last few days by this German immigrant living in Manitoba. He has finally found the spiritual home he has been seeking all his life. He found it on an Indian reserve in Manitoba. That deserves to be taken quite seriously.
Topic: PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic: CANADIAN HERITAGE LANGUAGES INSTITUTE ACT