ARCHIVED - Speaking Points for COMD CDA to Commandants of School, Senior Instructors and Disciplinarians

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Major-General Daniel Gosselin, Commander CDA

2 August 2007


I am here today to talk about delivery of training and the provision of services in both Official Languages here in Borden and across the Forces. The Chief of Defence Staff, General Hillier, has asked me to meet with you today because he knows that there are concerns on this issue, and he wants me to explain to you what we are doing to improve services in this area.

Let me thank the Cmdt of the schools that are not within my chain of command for being here today. Your presence demonstrates your commitment to the Official Language Policy of the CF.

I want to make it clear that, while there have been concerns raised about Official Languages at CFB Borden by the Ombudsman, it is not the only reason that I am here. CFB Borden and CDA have been taking positive action on this issue and I want to highlight both success and areas that require immediate and long-term solutions. I am here so that there is no doubt to my direction and my intent as it relates to the delivery of IT & E in both official languages.

I am speaking to you because you are the leadership and I expect you to support and follow up on my direction and ensure that this message is passed on to all your people.

I will focus my comments on four specific areas:

  • Linguistic rights
  • Attitudes of all school and Base staff
  • Training in language of choice
  • Availability of base services and community support for Francophone students and their families

Strategic Context

Let me first provide you with some context for the challenges we are all facing. I will discuss CF Transformation, Force Expansion, and the Afghanistan campaign to give youa sense of the many issues affecting the delivery of IT & E.

Linguistic Rights

  • Official languages – two of them
  • Ability and support to work in official language
  • Instruction in Language of Choice

First, as you are all aware, English and French are the official languages of Canada. In accordance with the Official Languages Act, DND and the CF are committed to ensuring that English and French have equality of status as to their use in DND and the CF. This means that we are committed as far as possible to allowing civilian and military personnel to work and have a career in the official language of their choice. We are committed to doing this not just because it is the law, but because it is the right thing to do. It also makes good operational sense. A Force that fosters vitality in its linguistic groups is a stronger, more capable force – one that is set to win in the complex, modern, operational climate that we face. By supporting the ability to receive training and services in the language of choice, we are building operational capability. 

Leadership and Attitude

You are the leadership and need to ensure that your organizations and people support the provision of IT & E and services in the language of Choice

Committed to supporting the rights to deliver services and IT & E and making changes to improve

I will not allow poor or intolerant attitudes from staff. Administrative and disciplinary action will happen quickly where required.

I want to emphasize your responsibilities with respect to providing instruction and services in both official languages. I know that the leadership of the Base is aware of its Official Languages responsibilities and is working towards providing instruction and services in both languages, and I will endeavour to obtain the resources needed to support this work. I can assure you that the leadership of the Base is fully aware of both the CDS’s and my commitment to ensuring that Official Languages requirements are satisfied. I also want reiterate that I expect all of you to support the right to all receive service and IT & E in the Language of Choice. I will not allow poor or intolerant attitudes from you or your staff. Administrative and disciplinary action will happen quickly where required. I want all of us here to be very clear on this. Any questions?

The other concern that’s been expressed relates to the provision of services such as medical services, dental services, pay services, and so forth in French here in Borden. This is a legitimate observation and one that I want all of the leadership here in Borden, at CDA HQ in Kingston, and at NDHQ to resolve. So what are we doing?

Immediate Measures

CFB Borden is already instituting a number of immediate measures, which I strongly endorse:

  • Effective immediately, all new students arriving at CFB Borden will receive as part of their orientation an information session on linguistic rights and responsibilities.
  • The Commander CFB Borden has appointed Major Jack Bouchard, the Base Deputy Administration Officer, sitting here at the front of the theatre, as his Official Language Champion. Major Bouchard has direct access to the Base Commander on Official Languages issues and is responsible to him for oversight of the Official Languages programme. He is also responsible for engaging school Commandants, unit Commanding Officers, and CFB Borden branch heads on official languages issues and developing solutions when problems are identified.
  • I will brief students later this afternoon that, while I strongly encourage them to raise any concerns with respect to Official Languages through the Chain of Command so that it can address concerns, they may raise Official Languages observations to Major Bouchard directly. Furthermore, students can expect a response within two working days of submitting a complaint. This information will be included in the orientation/awareness sessions for new arrivals that I just mentioned.
  • The Base is also introducing an out-clearance survey to monitor language of choice issues and address shortfalls. This will help the Base Commander to adjust programs and services to better meet needs.

The Base has also undertaken a number of long-term initiatives in conjunction with my staff in Kingston, and the staff of the Chief of Military Personnel in Ottawa to ensure that the delivery of instruction and the provision of services in both official languages continue to improve over time.

For example, CFB Borden has developed an Official Language Strategic Plan that is consistent with the CF OL Model. This plan has three specific objectives: to ensure linguistically qualified personnel are in the right place at the right time; to enhance Official Language Awareness and Education; and to accurately measure our ability to consistently provide bilingual services and instruction in language of choice so that we can make appropriate decisions. I am working with the Chief of Military Personnel to find the resources to implement this plan.

Training Issues

  • Goal is to get people into operational units as quick as possible
  • Force Expansion has increased recruiting and enrolment and the training system is still catching up
  • Not just a Francophone issue. - PRETC is 1/3 Franco and 2/3 Anglo.
  • Increase in money for translation
  • Need to increase instruction staff who are bilingual
  • COMD CDA will be the only authority (through DPD) who can authorize the cancellation of courses
  • Alternative Training Delivery Services
  • Need for all involved to be creative and innovative

Let me begin by first discussing the training issue.

  • We want all students to receive training and move on to their first unit as quickly as possible. Why then are we experiencing delays in accomplishing this aim?
  • You should be aware that delays in the delivery of training are not primarily a language issue. Of the almost 850 soldiers, sailors and aircrew that are currently in PRETC (Post-Recruit Education and Training Company), approximately one third are Francophone, and two thirds are Anglophones. This overall backlog is a result of greatly expanded recruiting for the Canadian Forces, as a result of Force Expansion, without a comparable increase in training capacity. We have suffered significant downsizing in the mid 1990s, and never recovered in terms of school staff. We are witnessing increased recruiting to replace retiring Baby Boomers, and to expand the size of the Forces; the problem is that our ability to provide instruction – particularly in French – has not kept pace. The result has been a growth in numbers of those awaiting training. In a few minutes, I’ll discuss how we are addressing this problem.

Key Initiatives:

I want to discuss what we’re doing to reduce wait times between BMQ and QL3 training. First, what’s stopping us from expanding our production capacity? Several things.

  •  Firstly, we have a need to increase the amount of material that we have available in both official languages. To address this problem, we are spending over $1.5 million on translation services this year. This is almost double the amount that we spent last year.
  • Second – limited school capacities. This is a more difficult problem to resolve. To increase production, we not only need more classrooms, trucks, tool kits, etc. –we need more staff – bilingual staff. The shortage of military staff is the root of many of the frustrations that have been expressed. Let’s take CFSAL for example. CFSAL has 212 military positions. Of these positions, 134 are supposed to be filled by bilingual or francophone personnel. However, only 63 members with the necessary language qualifications are posted to the school. In other words, I realise that many schools have less than the staff needed to teach. Obviously, this results in delays in scheduling training, but it also has other implications. For example, because virtually all of the Francophone staff is required for instructional duties, few are available for the development of course materials or to proof read material returning from translation services. This results in less than ideal conditions for courseware development.

You will also appreciate that due to the operational tempo, there is a significant demand for bilingual military personnel to work in headquarters and support services overseas. This limits the number of service members who can be assigned to the Schools and CFB Borden. This is not something that the Base can do anything about, so I’ll be working with the Chief of Military personnel to try and increase our numbers in the future.

Hopefully, we will see some relief in this area next year. In the meantime, where possible we are increasing the amount of training that we are providing by using alternative providers. We are contracting instructors to come into the schools so we can run more courses, and we are sending a significant number of Vehicle Technicians and Cooks to Community Colleges. First, CFSTG is significantly increasing its production capability by working with community colleges. This fall for example, we will be sending students to colleges to become vehicle technicians, cooks and medical technicians. Also, CFFA will be running a francophone firefighter course early next winter that wasn’t previously scheduled because it’s sending Anglophone students to community college. We have not yet identified a suitable Francophone firefighting school, but we are continuing to look. Next year, resources permitting we will expand alternative training delivery programs even further. These solutions will not solve the wait time problem overnight, but they will move us forward.

I have also directed that the COMD CDA will be the only authority (through my Director of Professional Development – DPD) who can authorize the cancellation of courses for francophones. I want to be engage before we cancel any course, to determine if I can mitigate the reasons for canceling.

Finally, I cannot stress enough the need for you to look at innovative solutions for the delivery of courses. To use a cliché, we need to  “think out of the box.” Be creative, and I will see what I can do to assist you. 16 Wing (CFSATE) has been using contractors for years to assist with course delivery. There is a price to pay, but I need you to look at these options. Force Expansion is not about to stop, and I need you to think of permanent solutions. I do not expect us to see much additional bilingual staff soon.

Base Services & Community Support

The Base Co-ordinator of Official Languages is developing a database to record information from a variety of sources including Official Languages Observation Forms, Out Clearance Student Surveys and other documents. This database will help us to adjust programmes as required.

  • The Base has ordered a significant amount of information on Official Languages. These materials, which include posters, pamphlets, brochures and videos on Official Languages, will be distributed when they arrive, with appropriate contact information and will assist in educating our community on Official Languages rights and responsibilities.
  • To complement this information program, the CFB Borden Web site is being revised and a new BCOL page is being added that will serve as a portal to all types of Official Languages information. As well, an area is being established in the Borden Citizen and Student Citizen where Official Languages information can be provided.
  • The Base Co-ordinator of Official Languages is also planning an information session for early this fall, after new staff arrives. This session will be conducted over a two-day period at a central location on the Base where all Defence Team members, as well as the community, can attend and obtain information on Official Languages. The CFB Borden OL Champion and the Base Coordinator of Official Languages will be on hand to answer questions. As well, local Francophone organizations will be invited to promote their services and we will provide them with display booths.
  • Finally, a number of smaller, but nonetheless, significant initiatives are in the works. For example, banners that promote the use of Official Languages are being produced for the various entrances to the Base. These banners will read,  “English or French... Go ahead, it`s your choice!” and  “Official Languages . . . A Matter of Service.” These are approved slogans of the Canadian Forces’ official languages programme. Similarly, CFB Borden will be introducing English and French language  “Brown Bag Lunches” where those wishing to practice conversing in their second language can do so in a comfortable and social environment. Simple initiatives like these have proven to be very successful in other locations.

While we are making good progress, I will acknowledge that we are not moving forward as quickly as many of us would like. This is not due to a lack of will, but rather because we have some very significant challenges to overcome. For example, you can appreciate that it is often difficult to recruit bilingual and francophone civilians to work on the Base because this region of Canada does not have a large francophone population. Efforts to recruit francophone Reservists from Quebec also have had only limited success. Given a choice between living and working in a Francophone environment, and living and working in a predominately Anglophone region, most Reservists are deciding to stay home. We will continue to try and attract suitable staff, but this is likely to remain a challenge.

Concluding Remarks

In summary, there are legitimate concerns about the ability of students at CFB Borden to receive training and services in the language of choice. We are aware of these concerns and we are committed to resolving them. I know that the staffs here in Borden, in my HQ in Kingston, at 1 Canadian Air Division Headquarters in Winnipeg, and at NDHQ in Ottawa are all working to improve the provision of services as quickly as we can. We do face challenges, but we will overcome them. I trust that you have no doubt about the seriousness of this matter and my position on this issue. I expect all of you and your staffs to support the rights of all CF members to receive services and IT & E in their language of choice. I’m now prepared to take your questions.


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