Where have the Francophone children gone?

For Immediate Release October 30, 2003 Press Release WHERE HAVE THE FRANCOPHONE CHILDREN GONE? OTTAWA – Results from the 2001 Census have confirmed a linguistic trend among young Francophones in Canada. A study produced for the Commission nationale des parents francophones (CNPF) notes a troubling reduction in the number of children (right holders under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) who constitute the potential clientele for French schools in minority environments. The Executive Director of the Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities, Rodrigue Landry reported these results in a study entitled Releasing the Hidden Potential of Exogamy, published this week in Ottawa. In fact, the potential number of students from 5 to 17 years of age has dropped from 285,205 in 1986 to 237,825 in 2001. Among children aged 0 to 4 years, the numbers fell from 98,640 in 1986 to 71,780 in 2001. This equates to a reduction of 16.6% for the 5-17 age group and 27.2% for those aged 0-4 years, in a span of just fifteen years. “For some time now, we’ve known that the statistics are going from serious to critical,” explains Ghislaine Pilon, chairperson of the Commission nationale. Obviously, birth rates are falling within our communities. However, our education systems at the preschool and school levels are generally not equipped to compete, in terms of either programs or facilities, with other options students might have. It is clear there are significant gaps in terms of quality. The CNPF notes that there is a general lack of preparation in schools as well as a lack of awareness amongst parents in terms of services offered to facilitate their inclusion in the Francophonie. “These decisions are made at the birth of a first child,” underlines Ghislaine Pilon. The choice is even more complicated by the fact that 63% of children less than 18 years old have exogamous parents. “Not only do we lack the tools to locate and inform these families, but we have very little to offer them at the preschool level.” The CNPF is in full agreement with the solutions put forward by Professor Landry. In particular, the parents’ movement has mobilized in favour of the creation of a network of family and preschool centres, linked to each of the elementary schools in minority environments. These centres would have the triple mandate of coordination of day care, dissemination of educational resources and outreach for families in the home. “What we’re looking for is universal access to high quality services,’ explained the chairperson. Our challenge is to promote linguistic, social and identity awareness among families, even before children commence schooling. ” La Commission nationale is encouraged by the priority given to preschool issues in several federal initiatives, including the Action Plan on Official Languages launched in March 2003 by the Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien. “Here’s our message to the Federal government: if we can help exogamous families value both official languages, there is hope for the linguistic duality of Canada. We could double the numbers, rather than lose half of them. However, we are still a long way from having the resources needed to reverse the trend observed today.” The study by the Institute carries the sub-title Where numbers warrant…IV, as it represents for the CNPF the fourth study of its type in as many censuses taken in Canada. La Commission nationale represents provincial and territorial parents federations and also speaks on behalf of national organizations in matters concerning preschool Francophones in minority environments.

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Information: Murielle Gagné-Ouellette, Executive Director Tel: (613) 288-0958 Email : mgagneouellette@cnpf.ca