A Presentation by the Literacy Coalition to the federal by qfc86623


									The Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick Limited
Presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance October 2003

        A Presentation by the Literacy Coalition to the federal standing committee
       on finance held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, October 2003, by LCNB President
                   Cheryl Brown and Executive Director, Jan Greer Langley

       The Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick Limited is a provincial not-for-profit charitable
   organization that has been in existence since 1988. It is funded federally through the National
   Literacy Secretariat to carry out literacy projects in partnership with others. The Coalition is
   made up of representatives of the federal departments of Human Resources Development
   Canada and the Department of Justice and Corrections Canada; the provincial departments of
   Education - the public library system, and the New Brunswick Department of Family and
   Community Services; community-based literacy programs that include family literacy programs,
   the Learning Disabilities Association, Laubach Literacy, Frontier College, the Saint John Learning
   Exchange and the Community Academic Services Program; as well as learners, adult literacy
   practitioners, representatives of labour groups and two Universities.
       The Literacy Coalition works provincially and nationally to promote literacy as a basis for a
   better quality of life for all. Statistics Canada tells us that twenty-nine percent of adults over
   the age of sixteen in New Brunswick have extreme literacy challenges. This is called Level-one-
   literacy in the International Adult Literacy Survey. The challenges faced by these citizens are
   serious enough to keep them from working and progressing in their lives. An additional thirty
   percent, in what is called Level-two-literacy, have literacy challenges serious enough to keep
   people from adapting to an ever growing, sophisticated, information-based society. New
   Brunswick's low literacy rate is one of the worst in Canada.
       We believe that addressing literacy challenges is an investment in a more prosperous,
   innovative, healthier, safer and more democratic society.
       Although many organizations have worked side by side for a number of years to meet the
   literacy challenges head on, we face a literacy crisis in New Brunswick. Research from a recent
   study called Comprehensive Training Needs Assessment for Literacy in New Brunswick tells us
   that literacy delivery structures in our province are disintegrating. The volunteer sector, which
   works primarily with those in Level one is increasingly stressed. Financial support from the
   provincial government is waning and volunteers are burning out under the pressures of ever
   increasing burdens. Those in Level 2 are steered into a provincially mandated program called
   Community Academic Services Program or CASP, a classroom setting located in communities
   across the province.

The Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick Limited
Presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance October 2003

       This program is impoverished in human and material resources. Family literacy and
   workp lace literacy programs are almost non-existent due to lack of funding. And, there is an
   emerging trend in New Brunswick. Youth are graduating from high school with diplomas from
   modified programs and are entering our adult literacy programs. In some cases they are being
   counseled to do so by staff at the school. Our colleagues across the country tell us they are
   seeing the same trend.
        We therefore urge the Standing Committee on Finance to support the creation of a pan-
   Canadian strategy on literacy and essential skills development as recommended by the
   Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with
   Disabilities in June of this year. In particular we ask for support for the Minister of Human
   Resources Development Canada to me et with provincial and territorial ministers of education
   and labour market ministers to develop a pan-Canadian accord on literacy and numeracy skills
   development. (pages 75-83, Raising Adult Literacy Skills: The Need for a Pan-Canadian
   response, June 2003.)
       We are heartened to learn that there is a proposed strategy for a strong investment in
   Atlantic Canada called "The Rising Tide," that stresses literacy and lifelong learning as part of
   an investment in human skills infrastructure as well as investment in improved communications
   structures, transportation, research and development, immigration and capital and financial
        We would call on the Standing Committee on Finance to support this investment initiative.
   It is our plan to work along with our literacy colleagues in the Atlantic Provinces and with the
   federal government in the development of the literacy and lifelong learning cluster of this
   initiative to ensure that resources are wisely put to use. We believe that this investment, used
   properly and funneled into the right hands will produce a pay off in the ten-year investment.
       New Brunswickers are no longer hewers of wood and drawers of water. Technology in our
   province is advancing. However, due to its rural nature and low literacy skills, technology is
   being underutilized. We believe that investment in the area of computer technology will
   enhance New Brunswickers' access to learning opportunities.
       As an example, the Literacy Coalition has just set up an adult learners network. In a few
   short months, four of the twelve learners on the network have become computer literate. They
   are utilizing their newfound literacy skills using the tools of internet and e-mail. We opened the
   doors by providing access and training. We need to be able to do more of this on a much
   broader scale which is why we are happy to see the Rising Tide support internet access in rural
   areas accompanied by programs that support their use. We hope that the federal government

The Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick Limited
Presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance October 2003

   will work with non-governmental organizations like ours to further electronic access to people
   with low literacy skills.
       Literacy and health is another area that we would like you to look at. With almost 60% of
   adults in our province facing literacy challenges, imagine the missed appointments and ill
   preparation for procedures. For many procedures at a hospital there is a text-based instruction
   sheet. Most citizens do not have the literacy skills needed to read these. Therefore, we believe
   that clear language programs with health institutions would at least help to alleviate some drain
   on the system.
       It might be interesting to note that people with literacy challenges are more than twice as
   likely to be hospitalized (Council on Scientific Affairs) and patients with low literacy skills cost
   the system 4 ½ times more than the average person. (Journal of the American Medical
   Association.) Because of low self-confidence and limited resources, people with low literacy
   skills often wait to seek medical help until a health problem has reached a crisis state. (How
   does literacy affect the health of Canadians?)
       The Correctional Services of Canada should be supported to enhance literacy and education
   services in federal institutions. It is our understanding from discussions with our partners that
   there have been cutbacks to education within the correctional system. We believe that
   education is a key to preventing criminal activity and re-offending.
       It would benefit us if the National Literacy Secretariat had greater access to funds to
   distribute to provinces like New Brunswick where literacy challenges are the greatest so that
   effective programs could be funded and carried out for more than one year and would also
   include a research component. An example of this is the Family Learning and Health Literacy
   Program. The setting was a public housing neighbourhood. The program addressed issues of
   low literacy, violence and health. The program was set up to specifically to look at barriers and
   obstacles to learning and how to overcome them. We could not access multi-year funding. We
   had a one-year federal pilot grant and then the program ended with no further opportunities for
       There are many examples of programs with positive outcomes that go dormant because of
   the one year funding issue but we do not have the time to discuss them all today.
       It would make a positive difference for our colleagues across the country and us if the
   National Literacy Secretariat could provide core funding instead of project funding with a policy
   change that would see successful projects funded for more than one year. We feel that
   resources are being wasted by NOT doing so.
       And finally, all government departments should examine their policies through a literacy
   lens. Often policies are developed with the best of intentions but once implemented are flawed

The Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick Limited
Presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance October 2003

   with institutionalized barriers. For instance, people on EI should be able to attend educational
   programs without penalty and people receiving disability payments through CPP should also be
   able to attend educational programs.
       Literacy is a key to attaining a better quality of life for adults, children and whole families.
   Improved literacy skills will often lead to work and a pay cheque. It is imperative that we
   ensure that all Canadians have opportunities to reach their fullest potential. By doing so, more
   Canadians can contribute to the social and economic well being of the nation.
       We want to take thank the Standing Committee on Finance for holding these important

       Works Cited:

      Literacy, Economy and Society. International Adult LiteracySurvey (IALS). OECD. 1995.
      Comprehensive Training Needs Assessment for Literacy in New Brunswick. Landel Inc.
   October 2002.
      The Rising Tide. http://shawnmurphymp.ca/sub.cfm?source=249. Downloaded 10/20/03.
      Raising Adult Litracy Skills: The Need for a Pan-Canadian Response. Report of the Standing
   Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. Judi
   Longfield, MP, Chair. June 2003.
      Movement for Canadian Literacy. Advancing Literacy in Canada: An Urgent Call to Action.
   Recommendations for the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. September
      How Does Literacy Affect the Health of Canadians? Burt Perrin. Health Canada. 1998.


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