“We all know, without any doubt, that our future lies in the hands of our youth”. Mantha MPP

Canadians from across the country gathered in Ottawa December 1, 2018. "Today, we are all Franco-Ontarians and we are all fighting for our rights!" Mélanie Joly on twitter. @melaniejoly Ministre du Tourisme, Langues Officielles & La Francophonie| Minister of Tourism, Official Languages & La Francophonie| Députée | MP for #AhuntsicCartierville Montréal, Québec. photo via Melanie Joly on twitter

Some of you will recall that I began last week’s column stating that the Legislature had just concluded one of THOSE weeks. As I explained then, this feeling was due to the bombardment of devastating and demoralizing news that the PCs hit Ontarians with. With so many issues to deal with I chose the one nearest and dearest to all of our hearts; the protection of our children in light of Doug Ford’s decision to eliminate the Ontario Child Advocate’s Office.

This week one of the Legislature’s main focuses was on the announced cutting of the French Language Services Commissioner’s (FLSC) position. Once again, this is an important issue in that it also directly impacts a significant segment of Ontario’s youth. And we all know without any doubt that our future lies in the hands of our youth. So we’ve got to get what we do for them right the first time.

The FLSC’s mandate states that “The Commissioner makes recommendations for improving the delivery of services in French and monitors progress.  In executing his mandate, the Commissioner conducts independent investigations following complaints or on his own initiative, prepares reports and advises the government, government agencies and MPPs to promote compliance with the [French Language Services] Act.” This mandate is meant to be a proactive approach to ensure the Act is respected. On the other hand, the Ombudsman’s Office only investigates complaints after the concern arises.

Rest assured that my offices, as well as many of my colleagues, were flooded with calls and letters from constituents who expressed feeling gob smacked at first and then outraged. I say gob smacked because this decision came seemingly out of the blue, totally unexpected and without real justification.

I dare say that I’m not alone in hoping that our youth will have abundant opportunity to work and reside in the North, close to home. Far too many of our young people are forced to be southward bound because that’s where education, training, jobs and opportunity lay. This fact hit home with me when I received the following email from a Francophone student who is in the 11th grade.

I as a French student in 11th grade, was looking forward to having an option to go to a French, not bilingual, university and am very disappointed that my only opportunity to do so has now been abolished. I was very upset when I heard the news. This French university was a hope for the French community to continue growing instead of diminishing since more than half of Ontario’s French high school students do their post secondary education in English because of the lack of programs and resources. Therefore, the French population continues to diminish.

Despite our good intentions, sometimes as adults we forget how decisions we make today steers the lives of future generations; often with no hope of reversing or changing paths down the road. The current generation of young adults is the most educated generation to date with a job market that is continuously evolving. Since this is the case, we can anticipate that post-secondary enrollment will continue to rise. As such, we should also count on more and more Francophone and Francophile students to formulate their academic dreams in their own mother tongue. But for this to happen, we need to start the planning process now, before it’s too late.

Premier Ford recently stated that there are already 10 universities and colleges in Ontario that offer courses in French. Okay, fine… but what the Premier neglected to also mention is the fact that many of these programs are primarily geared to teaching French as a second language or as a degree in French Language itself. Earning a French Language degree is not overly beneficial for Francophone students wanting to enroll in other programs with hopes of working within Francophone settings in other fields such as social work, political science or medicine.

In addition to this, among Ontario’s 20 public universities, 24 colleges and over 400 registered private career colleges, only 10 institutions offer some French courses. This simply does not cut it. This fact hit home with me when I connected with a recent graduate from Laurentian University who shared that her major was not offered in French at all. Even though she attempted to complete her minor in a program offered in French, she still had to complete half of the required courses in English and was forced to use English resources in her French classes.

Our children have a right to study in the official language of their choice. But in the absence of a French language university, the choice is taken from their hands. Not only does this negatively impact current Ontario students, but students from other provinces and even countries who would like to study in French in Ontario. This was evidenced from the spillover of Doug Ford’s decisions into the news in other provinces. Ford’s actions can heavily influence trends that follow in other provinces in Canada.

Ontario cannot be ‘Open for Business’ if we are detouring future Ontarians from starting their lives here. We must ensure that our youth are prepared for the increasingly global society and economy in which we live. To do so they need to have freedom to follow the paths they need to go.

As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at [email protected] or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.

Michael Mantha MPP/député – Algoma-Manitoulin

Bonus video via twitter.