Kathleen Weil will keep saying «bonjour-hi»

“La motion invitant tous les commerçants à accueillir leurs clients avec un « bonjour » bien senti, qui a été adoptée il y a une semaine par tous les élus de l’Assemblée nationale, n’y changera rien. À « bonjour-hi », la ministre Kathleen Weil continuera de répondre « bonjour-hi », y voyant « un signe de respect » à l’égard de son interlocuteur.”

The new Minister for relations with English-speaking Quebecers answered questions from media to clarify the motion that was passed a week ago in the National Assembly.  The motion suggesting merchants use Bonjour and not Bonjour-Hi as a greeting is “positive in spirit,” even if the English-speaking community does not see it that way. Since then, many English-speaking Quebecers have taken to social media and started calling the riding offices of Weil, Geoffrey Kelley, and David Birnbaum.

QCGN President James Shea, said he has written letters to Premier Philippe Couillard and Opposition leader Jean-François Lisée to address the situation. He is expressing the surprise of QCGN members had upon hearing about the motion. For Shea, English-speaking Quebecers want to be just as involved than their French-speaking colleagues in Quebec society.

Read the article in Le Devoir

Official languages: doubts on Raymond Théberge’s approach

“Le deuxième candidat choisi par Justin Trudeau pour occuper le poste de commissaire aux langues officielles s’en est mieux tiré que la candidate initiale pour le poste au jeu des questions et réponses à la chambre haute, même si des sénateurs ont émis des doutes sur sa capacité d’assumer pleinement son rôle de chien de garde”

Raymond Théberge, the second candidate chosen by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to be the next Commissioner of Official Languages, has been seen to do a better job than the previous candidate at his appearance in front of the full Senate. However, some Senators, such as Serge Joyal, stated Théberge will lack the punch necessary for a language watchdog. Théberge is scheduled to meet this afternoon with the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages.

Even if the opposition parties are more inclined about Théberge’s nomination, NDP Official Languages critic François Choquette said he will issue a complaint to the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages. The complaint follows Mélanie Joly’s refusal to address recommendations made by NDP former leader Thomas Mulcair asking that she consults with the two national organizations representing official language minority communities.

Read the article written by La Presse Canadienne in Acadie Nouvelle

Bonjour-Hi: English-speakers are surprised by the debate.

“De nombreux anglophones sont surpris du débat actuel sur le «Bonjour-Hi»: ils apprécient l’expression de courtoisie — avec le français en premier — et jugent que l’Assemblée nationale devrait avoir d’autres chats à fouetter.”

Many English-speaking Quebecers are surprised by the political debate that has suddenly sprung up around a common greeting in Montreal. For some business owners, welcoming customers in both French and in English helps make tourists feel comfortable.

James Shea, president of the QCGN, notes that the bilingual greeting opens the door for communication and is a form of respect for the English-speaking minority community in Quebec.

Read the article written by the Presse Canadienne in the Journal Métro

Anglo secretariat lauded, but underfunded

“The man tapped to head the Quebec government’s brand new secretariat for relations with English-speaking Quebecers, needs no introduction, as they say, to the community he is mandated to serve.”

The Minister responsible for Relations with English-Speaking Quebecers, Kathleen Weil, announced the creation of the Secretariat for relations with English-speaking Quebecers during a press conference held at the Morrin Centre on November 24. Weil also announced the nomination of William Floch to head the Secretariat, the public service equivalent of an assistant deputy minister.

One of the preoccupations stated by Warren Thomson, president of Voice of English-speaking Quebec, is the under-representation of English-speakers in the public service. The QCGN also released a statement where they expressed their disappointment at the budget of the new secretariat. It added a shot of politics to its reaction by jabbing the Coalition Avenir Québec leader François Legault.

Read the article on the Quebec’s Chronicle-Telegraph website

Framework of Secretariat for English-speaking Quebecers a Start

Montreal – November 24, 2017 – This is a moment that could and should inspire positive action for and from English-speaking Quebecers. The Quebec government’s freshly proposed framework for the new Secretariat Responsible for Relations with English-speaking Quebecers is but a first and very modest move in the right direction.

“This is a small albeit promising step forward to ensure that the concerns of English-speaking Quebecers are heard throughout the machinery of government, where policies and programs that impact our community are being drafted,” said James Shea, President of the Quebec Community Groups Network.

“The QCGN is pleased that the Secretariat has been provided with a sweeping mandate to establish a working relationship with sectoral, regional and provincial groups representative of English-speaking Quebecers,” said Shea. “This is essential to ensure that the concerns of our linguistic minority community are taken into consideration during the development of government policies and programs.”

There remains, however, a fundamental issue. “It is clear that the start-up budget of $1 million mentioned by Kathleen Weil, the new Minister Responsible for Relations with English-speaking Quebecers, will not support this project on an adequate scale. It is far too modest to accomplish the government’s stated goals,” said Geoffrey Chambers, QCGN Vice-President and head of the group’s Government Relations Committee.

After Premier Philippe Couillard announced in June he would create a Secretariat, the QCGN mobilized a blue-ribbon panel. It consulted extensively and invested numerous hours of research to examine models from other provinces that long ago established comparable offices in support of their minority French-language communities. QCGN also looked at other Secretariats within the Government of Quebec.

What the QCGN then proposed to the Premier’s office is a Secretariat which would eventually be staffed by more than two dozen people—mostly English-speaking Quebecers who are knowledgeable about the community. This Secretariat would work in three main areas:

  • A Policy and Research Directorate, to maintain links with key ministries such as health and social services; education; culture; justice, public security, and economic development;
  • A Communications and Community Liaison Directorate, to foster links with English-speaking community organizations and media, providing a venue that would encourage all elements of the community to fully contribute to public discussions and consultation; and
  • A Community Development Directorate, to work in partnership with community organizations to develop and coordinate a policy framework and action plan to enhance the vitality of English-speaking Quebec.

“To be comparable to the operational structures granted for other Secretariats addressing similar mandates our proposal would require significantly more funding than what was cited,” said Chambers. “We had sincerely hoped and expected to see something substantially closer to that vision today.”

“We anticipate this new Secretariat will be robust and capable and that it will be able to withstand the test of any change in government,” he said, expressing the hope that further staff to be hired in the coming months will largely come from the English-speaking community: “It’s about ‘le par et pour’ as the French minorities outside Quebec are fond of saying.”

“It is significant that Coalition Action Québec leader François Legault has staked out a position that his party opposes any increase in the presence of English-speaking Quebecers in the civil service, calling it a bureaucratic response.” Chambers said. “We need to be involved when policy is developed, not considered as an afterthought when it is implemented.”

“Our new Secretariat must work within the complex and multi-layered administration of Quebec to ensure we have full and fair access to all of the tools to participate fully in the province’s social, political, economic and cultural development,” he added. “This will require positive measures and an appropriate government investment to ensure the community’s capacity to represent itself in the public space.”

“This new Secretariat will provide a vital mechanism to channel serious and sorely needed policy input from across our community,” said QCGN Director General Sylvia Martin-Laforge. The QCGN, she noted, welcomes the nomination of William Floch, who will be leading the Secretariat: “Bill has a long association with English-speaking Quebec and he has been a dedicated and enthusiastic supporter of our community. His years of experience at the federal department of Canadian Heritage have given Floch deep knowledge of our community and its challenges. We very much hope he can bring that experience to a new environment in the Quebec civil service and be an effective advocate and agent for the development of a strong Secretariat.

“Our goals and those of the government are in full harmony,” QCGN president Shea concluded. “We expect Minister Weil, and her staff at the Secretariat, will work in close partnership with our community leaders to develop wide-ranging, results-oriented and above all pragmatic action plans that can be implemented effectively. We need mechanisms to provide concrete measures ensuring English-speaking Quebecers can obtain the programs and services they require to be full-fledged participants in all dimensions of the day-to-day life of our province.”

Download a copy of our press release in PDF

Couillard says Liberals are ready to rumble as election countdown begins

“The Liberals have 312 days ahead to prove they merit the renewed confidence of Quebecers and the party is up to the task, Premier Philippe Couillard said Friday.”

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard appeared in campaign mode as he addressed voters and his party at the Quebec Liberal Party convention. Couillard said the Liberals are prepared to create a Quebec that is modern, welcoming, able to overcome obstacles and without limits in his opening speech. The party convention begun the day after Couillard delivered on the promise of creating a Secretariat dedicated to English-speaking Quebecers.

The QCGN welcomed the initiative and applauded the choice of William Floch to head the new Secretariat. However, they calling it “a small, albeit promising” first step to ensure the concerns of English-speakers are heard in the government machine. They thought the $1-million budget allocated to its operations might not be enough to make an important step forward.

Read the article in the Montreal Gazette

William Floch to head new secretariat for English-speaking community

“Kathleen Weil is the first minister responsible for English-speaking Quebecers in the history of the Quebec Liberal Party and she’s delivering on a promise made by Premier Philippe Couillard”

Kathleen Weil, new Minister for Relations with English-speaking Quebecers, is poised to deliver on a promise made by Premier Philippe Couillard. William Floch, a former Canadian Heritage specialist in official languages, is being named to oversee the newly formed Secretariat for the English-speaking community. The Couillard government will officially launch the Secretariat Friday in Quebec City, at the Morrin Centre, an English-language cultural centre.

The Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) has long lobbied for a secretariat dedicated to the province’s English-speakers.

Read the article on CTV News’ website

Ensuring English-speaking Quebecers’ voices are heard, heeded

By James Shea and Geoffrey Chambers

English-speaking Quebecers have long been striving to convince successive Quebec governments to acknowledge and help mend a gaping democratic deficit — one that for decades has quietly been hindering our community and our province.

We have long called for a mechanism for the voice of our linguistic minority community to be both heard and heeded throughout Quebec’s complicated, multi-levelled machinery of administration.

Until recently, our efforts met with rhetoric and denial. With the recent appointment of Kathleen Weil as minister responsible for relations with English-speaking Quebecers, however, Premier Philippe Couillard has taken a significant and encouraging step forward. Even prior to this appointment he promised to create, within his office, a secretariat empowered to look out for — and speak up for — the interests of our community.

Our government has long needed such a pragmatic mechanism, which is both perfectly reasonable and genuinely required. This secretariat must be appropriately staffed — largely by members of our community — and provided with adequate resources. It would contribute our community’s perspective, providing high-level input and insight to help shape inclusive government policies and programs. Too many times in the past, the needs of our community have been left to fall through the cracks — ignored, unacknowledged or unheard by a provincial bureaucracy in which our community is notoriously underrepresented.

For years, the Quebec Community Groups Network had been pushing hard for exactly this type of approach. Initially, Premier Couillard told us that all cabinet ministers and MNAs represented English-speaking Quebecers. A year ago, he began to acknowledge that while we should be treated like all of our fellow citizens, there are areas where this is simply not the case. One flagrant example: jobs in the civil service. Fewer than 1 per cent of our government employees belong to our community. Our premier realized that we cannot be equitably represented without some support.

Even today, our community’s full participation in and contribution to Quebec remains hobbled by multiple myths — notably, of course, those ruling Westmount Rhodesians and la minorité la plus choyée au monde. In truth, English-speaking Quebecers have lower median incomes than French-speaking Quebecers and francophone minority communities in all other provinces, as measured by first official language spoken. We face higher unemployment. The most vulnerable members of our community have a difficult time obtaining basic government services in their own language.

Election in the air? Quebec Liberals to debate anglo-centric resolutions

“First we got an anglophone relations minister; now Le Devoir reports that at the upcoming Quebec Liberal policy convention, delegates will be debating five resolutions focused on anglos.”

Indications of an upcoming provincial election are tantalizing journalists. Geoffrey Chambers, vice-president of the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN), welcomes the Quebec Liberal Party decision to debate five resolutions focussed on English-speaking Quebecers.

You can also listen to an audio clip of an interview of Chambers by CJAD Radio. It aired Wednesday, on the Leslie Roberts show.

Read the article on CJAD website

Quebec community groups hail visionary leaders

“Activists and supporters of Quebec’s English speaking community groups, including politicians from three levels of government, gathered last month to pay tribute to five people for their extraordinary contributions to improving the lives of community members and the broader society.”

Published in the November issue of the Senior Times, this article addresses the Community Awards ceremony organized by the QCGN that took place on October 26, 2017 at the Saint-James Club. Some 180 leaders and stakeholders of the English-speaking community of Quebec, as well as family and supporters of our five distinguished individuals attended the ceremony.

Read the article in the Senior Times