Commissioner of Official Languages—Madeleine Meilleur Received in Committee of the WholePublished on 5 June 2017 Hansard and Statements by Senator Joan Fraser (retired)
Hon. Joan Fraser:
Welcome to the Senate, Ms. Meilleur. If I may, I’d like to revisit something you said earlier. Please be assured that no one here doubts your passion or your experience; we are simply trying to get to know you better, and understand your positions.
Ms. Meilleur, I am an English Quebecer, so I read with particular interest your references to English Quebec before the committee of the other place, when you appeared there on May 18.
You said that in addition to your familiarity with francophone communities, you are also familiar with Quebec’s English-speaking community, its challenges and its aspirations. A little later, in comparison to your extensive knowledge of francophone minority communities, you also said:
I know less of the core of the anglophone community, which is in Montreal, in Quebec.
You also indicated that you were interested in learning more, which was good to know.
Have you taken any steps since you appeared before that committee to reach out to English-speaking Quebecers or their representatives to find out more about their concerns and needs?
Ms. Meilleur: Thank you, senator.
Since I am not in the position yet, I did not contact any of the anglophone communities. However, I was invited by the Quebec association not very long ago to go to an event. They invited me because they knew I was interested in the position of Commissioner of Official Languages. They have seen what I have done in Ontario for the francophones, so they said, “If you become the commissioner, we would like you to help us do what you have own for the francophones in Quebec.”
We have a house in the Gaspé Peninsula, and there are quite a few anglophones there. My husband’s father was an anglophone, so we are very familiar with their concerns and their preoccupations and their aspirations there. I know there’s more than the Gaspé Peninsula. There is the Montreal group and the Eastern Townships.
I’ll say it here and I’ve said it before: If I am confirmed in this position, the first group that I will meet with are the Quebec anglophones because I want to make sure that they see my passion for official languages. I will work with them, and I hope that they will feel comfortable. I had a good feeling talking to them at my event in Montreal.
Senator Fraser: When you say meeting with “them,” was that the Quebec Community Groups Network, the QCGN?
Ms. Meilleur: The event was with the Quebec group. Yes, it was an event with them. I knew the executive director because she used to work for the Ontario government, and she introduced me to many of the leaders in that group.
Senator Fraser: On a slightly different tack, I’m sure you know that there are as many anglophones in Quebec as there are francophones outside Quebec in this country. You may not know that Quebec anglophone groups — Quebec anglophones in general — receive from the federal government only a small fraction of the per capita funding that goes to francophones outside Quebec. Perhaps historically there was a view, mistaken even then, that all anglophones in Quebec were rich. That’s certainly not the case now.
Would you be prepared to champion the cause of better funding for English Quebec?
Ms. Meilleur: Thank you, senator.
Yes, I would. When I say my passion is for official languages, in Ontario of course it was francophone because that was the minority group. But there are a lot of issues that are similar in the minority situation of the anglophones in Quebec. Usually they are in a small community, and it’s more difficult for them to get the services in their language.
I would be delighted to, and I can tell you that I would, go out and visit these smaller communities, listen to them and work with the authorities to help them improve their situation and get the support, financial or other, they require.
But there is a part that is government and another part that is the responsibility of the Commissioner of Official Languages, but what’s important is to work together. That’s what I have done in Ontario. You can talk to the opposition in Ontario. I see former Minister Frances Lankin here.
That’s my approach and that’s what I’m going to bring to my job if I have the opportunity to be the next commissioner.