A non-profit working to make quality of life in French better in the Yukon is targeting its ongoing recruitment campaign to get more French-speaking workers where urgent needs lie: health, education, early childhood and tourism.
An Aug. 1 press conference held at Association franco-yukonnaise provided insight on the campaign to fill job vacancies and help businesses offer services in both official languages.
President Lorraine Taillefer of the Association franco-yukonnaise noted the growing French community in the Yukon has needs for a variety of services from young children to the aging population. Taillefer said the Yukon is the third most bilingual region in the country per capita next to Quebec and New Brunswick.
The territory has seen an upward trend in the proportion of the population that can conduct a conversation in French, according to a recent Statistics Canada report. Data from the 2021 census suggests more than 14 per cent of Yukoners can speak French. In 2021, 5.5 per cent of the population spoke French at least regularly at home and 3.8 per cent used French at least regularly at work.
“We need to be able to offer services that will meet the needs, hence the need for a bilingual labour market,” Taillefer said.
The territory’s unemployment rate is only 2.8 per cent, compared to 5.2 per cent nationally, as of data released in May by the Yukon Bureau of Statistics.
A representative from the non-profit said anecdotally, the project is seeing success, although it doesn’t have the numbers.
“I think we’re doing a great job at offering [French language] services, especially within this building,” Taillefer said.
Taillefer indicated the Yukon can’t keep up with demand for French language services.
“You have to be careful not to try and commit yourself to too much and then not being able to deliver, and we’re seeing that a bit — that trend — within our school system at the moment, especially in French immersion,” Taillefer said.
Spring session briefing notes prepared for John Streicker, the territorial minister responsible for the French Language Services Directorate, indicate a new French services strategy was intended to be in place in April, but that hasn’t happened yet. The previous strategic framework ended on March 31, 2022. Nancy Power, who works in communications for the directorate, told the News by phone Aug. 3 the new strategy is expected to be released in the fall.
A “what we heard” report released by the Yukon government in June found that French services are rarely actively offered, the onus is on the users who are requesting the service and the service often cannot be provided beyond an initial greeting. The report notes that the Yukon government should have mechanisms in place to ensure that French services are offered, and priority areas include health and safety, women’s groups, Hospice Yukon and the Whitehorse Food Bank.
The association relies on government money to carry out its work.
The $240,000 going to the Association franco-yukonnaise to fund the campaign is coming from the federal government’s Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency through the economic development initiative, according to an Aug. 1 press release. The Association franco-yukonnaise will work with its counterpart francophone associations in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, aimed at recruiting from colleges, universities and job fairs in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick.
Yukon MP Brendan Hanley was on hand at the press conference to announce the funding for the project, which has been funded by the feds for the past two years of a three-year agreement and has been running for eight years.
“Small businesses and local tourism service providers are struggling to find staff capable of offering services in both official languages. Building capacity in this and other hospitality sectors will enable local entrepreneurs to offer their services to more people and continue our economic growth,” Hanley said.
“By making our services more accessible, we’re creating more inclusive economies.”
Hanley said bilingual recruitment is important for two main reasons: addressing French language rights and labour shortages.
Contact Dana Hatherly at firstname.lastname@example.org