Thursday, May 17, we had a debate on a resolution on french language education and french language services in the Manitoba. The debate arose because the Pallister government has made major cutbacks in french language education. In part these cuts have reduced the status and funding for le Bureau de l'éducation française which is the division of the Department of Education which deals with education in french.
Several items are notable:
The Pallister Conservatives block a motion to have the normal full hour of debate.
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): I have a question. Before I ask it, this is a pretty important subject and I'd like to have leave to make sure that we have a full hour of debate, and so the debate would go 'til about 12:15.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Has there been leave to go to 12:15?
An Honourable Member: Agreed.
An Honourable Member: No.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: No. I hear a no, so denied. [It was the Pallister PC MLAs who denied this request].
The NDP will not admit that the shortage of french immersion teachers is partly their fault.
Today, as the demand for french immersion education is growing, there is a shortage of teachers for french immersion. Because it takes a number of years to train teachers, this shortage is partly a result of poor planning under the former NDP government and partly the result of a lack of action by the current Pallister PC government. I asked a question on this to the MLA for St. Johns.
Mr. Gerrard: I would ask the member for St. Johns (Ms. Fontaine) to comment on the shortage of French immersion teachers.
Ms. Fontaine: Miigwech, Deputy Speaker, and I say miigwech to be–merci to the member for River Heights. Certainly, I think that the shortages of French immersion teachers is a reflection, again, on the Premier (Mr. Pallister) and the minister's lack of commitment towards French languages.
Instead of supporting and recruiting and retaining French immersion teachers, we–the Premier's created a situation in Manitoba where, actually, school divisions and schools are being forced to cut particular positions.
And here we are talking about French immersion, which, if our children don't have access to their language and contribute to the overall official languages–
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The honourable member's time is up.
My Comments during the debate:
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Monsieur le président, c'est triste quand nous avons des coupures aussi sévères dans l'appui du gouvernement du Manitoba pour ceux qui sont francophones et ceux qui veulent parler français dans notre province.
Mr. Speaker, it is sad when there are such severe cuts to the support of the government of Manitoba for those who are francophone and those who want to speak French in our province.
We've built a multicultural society in Manitoba and in Canada in good measure because the francophone community, in our province and across Canada, has been ready to fight for its rights. The leadership has resulted in a Manitoba and a Canada which is much more accepting and understanding of the French language and culture and this, in turn, has resulted in a Manitoba and Canada in which we, as a province and a country, have developed to respect and understand a very broad range of cultures and languages.
From our indigenous cultures and languages to the many cultures and languages around the world, and that has built a society which today is diverse, which is able to reach out and work with people around the world. It is encouraging that more attention's being paid to indigenous languages and cultures in Canada today. It is encouraging when we have a federal government which is paying more attention to the support of French language and culture in Canada.
C'est difficile quand nous avons une province qui coupe les services de langue française et coupe l'appui de la–pour la culture francophone au Manitoba. Après la coupure du gouvernement Pallister, le Bureau de l'éducation française a perdu des personnes. Maintenant, le sous-ministre adjoint qui était responsable pour le Bureau de l'éducation française et pour l'éducation française au Manitoba est parti et n'existe pas. Le budget pour le Bureau de l'éducation française a été diminué par 300 000 dollars. C'est des temps difficiles pour les Manitobains qui demandent un Bureau de l'éducation française qui est fort.
It is difficult when we have a Province that cuts services in French and cuts the support for francophone culture in Manitoba. After the cuts from the Pallister government to the Bureau de l'éducation française–two people were lost. Now the deputy assistant minister, who was responsible for the Bureau de l'éducation française and for French education in Manitoba, he is gone. That position does not exist. The budget for the Bureau de l'éducation françaisehas decreased by $300,000. It is very difficult times for francophones in Manitoba, who are asking Bureau de l'éducation française to be a strong representative.
There's a shortage of French immersion teachers. Why is this? Pourquoi? [Why?] We've had governments for two decades which haven't provided sufficient attention to ensuring sufficient numbers of French immersion teachers are being trained and ready to participate in promoting French immersion in Manitoba. This, at a time when we have a 4 per cent annual growth in the number of students wanting to attend French immersion.
We have, sadly, cuts to Actionmarguerite. We have a situation where the St. Boniface hospital ER is in difficulties because of premature closures of the Misericordia Urgent Care Centre and the Victoria Hospital ER.
We have a rich history of French language and culture in this province. We have important organizations like CDEM who are doing an amazing job.
Mr. Speaker, I'm sitting down now so there can be a vote. [My comments had to be shortened because the Pallister PCs would not allow the normal full hour of debate.].