Forum on Vulnerable Young Francophones in Minority Communities

2. Background

Part VII of the Official Languages Act (OLA), and more precisely Section 41, sets out the commitment of all federal departments and agencies to enhancing the vitality of official-language minority communities as well as fostering the full recognition and use of both English and French in Canadian society. Section 42 of the Act states that the Minister of Canadian Heritage shall encourage and promote a coordinated approach to the implementation of this commitment by federal institutions.

In 2007, Canadian Heritage asked federal institutions to establish the Justice and Security Network. The following federal institutions are members of the Network:

  1. National Defence;
  2. Royal Canadian Mounted Police;
  3. Justice Canada;
  4. Canadian Heritage;
  5. Public Safety Canada;
  6. Public Prosecution Service of Canada.

The Department of Justice Canada is the federal institution that oversees and supports the Network.

All federal departments and agencies are subject to the accountability and coordination framework established under the Government of Canada's Action Plan for Official Languages announced by the Prime Minister on March 12, 2003. Among other things, the accountability framework describes the steps that every federal institution must complete when developing their strategic plans and fulfilling their mandates with respect to official languages:

  • make employees aware of the needs of minority communities and the government's commitments described in Part VII of the Official Languages Act (OLA);
  • determine whether its policies and programs affect the promotion of linguistic duality and the development of official language minority communities (OLMCs), from the early stages of their development to their implementation, as well as during the transfer of services;
  • consult affected publics as required, especially representatives of OLMCs, in connection with the development or implementation of policies or programs (our emphasis)
  • be in a position to describe its approach and show that it has taken into account the needs of these communities; when it has been determined that there are impacts, plan the following year's activities accordingly, as well as those for the longer term; present the anticipated results, taking into account the forecast budget to the extent possible, and provide frameworks for evaluating the results.

Following discussions with stakeholders from the federal institutions involved, the Network identified a priority client group within Francophone minority communities (FMCs), i.e. vulnerable young Francophones at risk of becoming involved in the justice system.

To meet the requirements of the accountability framework, the Network subsequently met with the Francophone minority communities with regard to this issue. The communities were participated to a forum held in Ottawa on October 26, 2009.

The Network created a working group to organize a forum. The list of group members is shown in Appendix 1.

Forty-eight participants attended the forum. There were 25 officials from federal institutions and 23 representatives from various community organizations in the field of justice, including associations of French-speaking jurists and organizations that work in the field with young people who are vulnerable or at risk. (The list of participants is presented in Appendix 2.)

The forum had three objectives:

  1. Enable federal institutions to better understand the needs of vulnerable young Francophones in minority communities who are at risk of becoming involved with the justice system.
  2. Enable representatives of community groups to better understand the mandates and programs of federal institutions in this area.
  3. Give representatives from federal institutions and community groups the opportunity to discuss potential collaborations and initiatives that could be implemented to reach these clients.

The forum's agenda is shown in Appendix 3.

This report presents the highlights of the presentations and discussions at the plenary session, the potential collaborations developed by each sub-group, the proposed follow-up measures; and the results of the meeting evaluation.

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