Bell Media Must Restore Local Sports at CTV Montreal: QCGN

Montreal – June 21, 2017

The Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) today called on broadcasting giant Bell Media to reverse its decision to kill local sportscasts on CTV Montreal. Simultaneously, the federally regulated broadcaster on Tuesday eliminated regional and local sportscasting across the country.

“This is simply about respect and fair play,” said QCGN President James Shea. “This same company eliminated CJAD’s National Assembly news bureau in late 2015. Clearly, the Bell empire has taken cost-cutting too far.”

“Local, professional and amateur sport knits our communities together,” QCGN Vice-president Geoffrey Chambers said. “Enough is enough. This constant erosion is being done to all of our local media. This hemorrhage has to stop.”

Federal Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly and Hedy Fry, Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, have been studying our shrinking media for more than a year. “They are going to have to come up with some effective solutions soon,” Chambers said. “And the Conseil de la radiodiffusion et des télécommunications canadiennes (CRTC) has to step in now to ensure that Bell Media respects both the letter and the spirit of its broadcasting licence conditions.”

“If Bell Media is allowed to devalue local sports into such a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter national operation, then it is clear locally rooted, locally produced TV news is next on the chopping block.”

“This process has already gone too far. We are forced to remind Bell Media that its access to our public airwaves is not a right, but a privilege. Acting as it has, Bell Media has betrayed its responsibility to treat its local audience with respect.”

QCGN Welcomes Creation of new Secretariat in Premier’s Office

Montreal – June 15, 2017

Four years ago, the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) passed a resolution requesting formal representation within the government of Quebec to give voice to the policy-development interests of the English-speaking community. Today, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard shared plans to establish a secretariat within the Conseil Executif – the highest level of government in Quebec.

“This offers our community a door on which to knock to express and explain the potential impact of government policy proposals on our community before they become set in stone,” said QCGN President Jim Shea, who heard the news as he was attending the 22nd annual meeting of the QCGN in Montreal.

“We are both grateful and delighted with the Premier’s decision and we offer our full support and collaboration for the implementation of an effective structure to respond to our community’s needs,” Shea said.

“This is an important first step towards a more inclusive Quebec. Such a structure could have also prevented the community backlash to education reforms that would have trampled the constitutional rights of English-speaking Quebecers.

In addition, the approach the Premier has adopted is likely to have several positive effects, added QCGN Vice-president Geoffrey Chambers. “In particular, we believe this could help unblock the longstanding bottleneck in the hiring and advancement of English-speaking Quebecers in the provincial civil-service. It is a sad and continuing fact that English-speaking Quebecers remain severely under-represented throughout our civil service. We hope this will help change that.”

QCGN Looks Forward to Champion for All Official Language Minority Communities

Montreal – June 7, 2017

The Quebec Community Groups Network is appreciative that Madeleine Meilleur has decided to withdraw her name from consideration as Canada’s next Commissioner of Official Languages. We hope an open, transparent and inclusive process is enacted to choose a Commissioner of Official Languages

“We congratulate Mme Meilleur for her wisdom and grace in withdrawing under difficult circumstances,” said QCGN President James Shea. “Despite years of yeoman service to Francophone minority communities in Ontario and across Canada, it was increasingly evident that she did not have enough of an understanding or a deep commitment to our English minority community here in Quebec.”

The Official Languages Act requires the government to appoint a commissioner after consultation with other parties in the Senate and House of Commons, who must approve the appointment by resolution. The government informed opposition leaders of its choice. No other candidate names were provided.

“It is not consultation when people are informed after the selection process is completed. A serious procedure is one that seeks informed opinions from all interested parties – and that includes us, the end clients of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages,” said QCGN Vice-President Geoffrey Chambers. He noted that the process that led to this nomination included only representatives of government and the civil service – the two groups the Commissioner is called upon to watch over and call to account.

“We look forward to the selection of a new Commissioner who will prove to be a non-partisan champion for all official language minority communities across Canada,” said Shea, adding that the QCGN remains ready, willing and fully prepared to participate.

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QCGN Pledges Constructive, Positive Role in Process Launched Today by Premier

Montreal – June 1, 2017 

The initiative launched today by Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard – establishing a non-confrontational process of mature reflection allowing Quebec and Canada to more constructively frame our future as a nation – received a rapid, positive welcome from the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN).

QCGN steps forward to encourage and enable this dialogue and take a constructive role in the process, known as Quebecers: Our Way of Being Canadian / Québécois – notre façon d’être Canadien. We note that the premier’s announcement and its accompanying document is an important but preliminary step in what will inevitably be a complicated, challenging journey aimed at achieving consensus.

“This is a positive first step, without artificial deadlines, presented and framed in a spirit of respect and of refreshing openness,” said QCGN President James Shea. “We look forward to helping develop and amplify this more inclusive, welcoming vision of Quebec that incorporates, recognizes and fosters the English-speaking community. This is a vision geared to enhance, encourage and enable our contributions to the province. Our many stakeholders will be delighted to give this process the time, attention, resources and energy it merits.”

“This initiative demonstrates a welcome degree of openness,” added QCGN Vice-President Geoffrey Chambers. “It provides a promising path for the further evolution of Quebec within Canada. Our Quebec is strong, confident and has all the tools it needs to flourish culturally, economically and politically, with our English- and French-speaking communities working shoulder to shoulder.”

“Strong connections with Canada, and our profound understanding and ability to bridge different cultures and different language groups, has always been one of our community’s core strengths. We will bring that to this process”, he said, “and as a community that finds itself as a minority within a majority, we have a visceral understanding of the Quebec perspective and needs, one that we happily pledge to bring to this process with equal enthusiasm.”

In many different ways, he added, Quebec can and should serve as an inspiration, for Canada and for our troubled planet. “It is so easy to overlook the exceptional degree of quiet harmony in daily life that brings out the best of our English- and French-speaking communities as we work together,” Chambers said. “But we prove every day that our resulting whole is greater than the simple sum of our parts. “

From an organizational standpoint, a special QCGN committee will address the specific constitutional elements presented in the document.

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QCGN Shares Concerns Over Selection Process for Commissioner of Official Languages

Montreal – May 26, 2017 – 

The Quebec Community Groups Network is concerned about the uproar surrounding the nomination of a new Commissioner of Official Languages and suggests once again that official language minority communities should be part of the selection process.

“A questionable process has produced results that can be questioned,” said QCGN President James Shea, noting that the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages confirmed Friday that it had already received two complaints regarding the nominations process. “We will find out next week if the complaints are admissible, but it is certainly uncomfortable that the office may be put in the difficult position of investigating the appointment of their new boss.”

The Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne, issued a statement Friday morning commenting that the appearance of partisanship could impact the ability of the Commissioner-designate to act as a neutral and independent agent of Parliament. They insist that the government must protect the integrity of the commissioner’s role and demanding a meeting with the Prime Minister to be heard on the issue.

“We commend our Francophone counterparts for tackling the issue head on,” said Shea, adding the Commissioner is the watchdog for all official language minority communities and the government must be inclusive of both linguistic minorities when reviewing issues surrounding the nomination process.

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Let’s Shift the Focus to Underlying Issues at McGill University Health Centre

Montreal – May 19, 2017 

The English-speaking community should be reassured this morning that major parties now acknowledge the leadership vacuum that exists within the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and are agreed on the urgent need to resolve it. In particular, the Quebec Community Groups Network warmly welcomes the admission by the MUHC Foundations that such a crisis exists.

Both the Foundations and Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette agree with us that recent developments have opened up the way to a constructive approach. We must all work together to remedy the systemic MUHC problems. The situation cannot simply be allowed to further deteriorate.

“We welcome immediate dialogue to ensure that the MUHC and its partners will be equipped with the needed tools and fresh leadership to provide our community with truly efficient patient-centred continuity of care,” said QCGN Vice-President Geoffrey Chambers. “On behalf of our community we look forward to being able to take these long-festering issues in hand, and resolving them once and for all.”

The QCGN had made its position clear in a more detailed opinion piece published this morning in The Gazette.

Chambers noted that the fact that the Foundations of the merged institution were the ones that had to stand up and speak for the beleaguered MUHC is a disturbing sign of how the current internal leadership of the MUHC has been crippled by managerial issues and grave shortcomings from both governance and accountability standpoints.

“There is a crisis. Everybody now, finally, recognizes there is a crisis. Let’s shift the focus to the underlying issues and get on with the job, rather than casting blame, raising anxiety in the community or trying to battle this out in the media,” Chambers counselled.

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QCGN Invites Meilleur to Become Acquainted with English-speaking Quebec

Montreal – May 16, 2017

The Quebec Community Groups Network extends its congratulations to Madeleine Meilleur, who has been nominated to be the next Commissioner of Official Languages by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. She is slated to replace Graham Fraser who retired at the end of last year after more than a decade a yeoman service.

Recognized for having participated in the battle to save Ottawa’s Montfort Hospital in the late 1990s, Meilleur was Ontario’s Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs between 2003 and 2016. As Minister, she oversaw the expansion of Montfort Hospital; the creation of Ontario’s Commissioner for French Language Services and the establishment of a provincial Advisory Committee on Francophone Affairs; as well as an increased number of provincial institutions and regions designated to provide French language service. She also oversaw the designation of September 25 as Franco-Ontarian Day.

“As Commissioner of Official Languages, Mme. Meilleur will be our foremost federal advocate for English- and French-speaking minority communities all across Canada,” commented QCGN President James Shea, noting that an important part of her job will be to have an equal understanding and commitment to both of Canada’s official language minority communities. “We count on her to come and visit our communities and get to know us.”

Traditionally held alternately by a French-speaking and an English-speaking Canadian, Meilleur is the third Francophone and second woman to be appointed to the post since it was created in 1970 to ensure the application of language laws and to promote bilingualism and linguistic duality. The Commissioner of Official Languages, which reports directly to Parliament, is responsible for the full recognition and widespread use of English and French within Canadian society, as well as within federal institutions and other organizations subject to the Official Languages Act.  The Commissioner of Official Languages is appointed for a seven-year mandate.

Under the Official Languages Act, Meilleur’s appointment must be approved by the House of Commons and the Senate. The Standing Committee will have 30 days to examine the nomination and report back to the House of Commons which will vote on the appointment. The Government will also table a motion in the Senate seeking its approval.

“Sadly, official language minority communities do not have any input into the nomination or appointment process,” said Shea. “Going forward, this is something we would like the government to consider.”

“After six-months the QCGN is pleased the government is moving ahead with a nomination and we look forward to working with the new commissioner. In the meantime, the QCGN extends its thanks to Deputy commissioner Ghislaine Saikaley, who will continue to serve in an acting role until June, and her remarkable team,” Shea added, noting the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages contains a sizeable group of public servants committed to the vitality of our official language communities.

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Social Initiatives to Address Needs of Vulnerable English-speaking Youth, Seniors and Newcomers

Montreal – April 27, 2017 – 

The Quebec Community Groups Network today announced the selection of 10 projects that will improve employability or secure basic socioeconomic security for vulnerable youth, seniors/caregivers or newcomers in Quebec’s English-language communities.

These projects will be financed under the Community Innovation Fund (CIF), which will invest $1 million in federal funds between May 2017 and March 2019 for social initiatives  that build job skills and develop partnerships across the non-profit and private sectors.

“This innovative approach will spur dynamic and sustainable partnerships between community organizations along with corporate, governmental and commercial enterprises that will lead to strengthening the vitality of our communities,” commented CIF Governance Committee co-chair Ian Kott, President of Jormian Capital.

“I’m pleased to support the projects being offered by the Quebec Community Groups Network. By bringing together 53 English-language community organizations across the province, QCGN plays an important role in identifying, exploring and addressing strategic issues affecting the development and vitality of the English-speaking community of Quebec,” said Marc Miller, MP for Ville-Marie-Le Sud-Ouest-Île-des-Soeurs, speaking on behalf of the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.

The CIF is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Social Development Partnerships Program – Children and Families Component and is part of the Roadmap for Canada’s Official Languages 2013–2018: Education, Immigration, Communities.

“CIF will empower community groups through knowledge-sharing activities focused on providing the skills needed to build collaborative partnerships with a diverse range of stakeholders,” said QCGN Board member James Hughes, who sits on the fund’s Governance Committee. “Through these activities, the fund will create conditions for communities to increase their social impact.”

Hughes explained that QCGN’s role is to administer the project and to help the community sector make links with private partners. The next step will be to bring representatives from the governance committee and funding recipients together to share information and lessons learned. The QCGN will also develop an evaluation framework in collaboration with an academic institution to assess data gathered during the projects.

An independent selection committee reviewed 43 letters of intent and shortlisted 11 applicants which were invited to submit a full application. A total of 10 projects are being funded.

View the list of funded projects

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Tradition Allows MNA Coiteux to Speak English in National Assembly

Montreal – April 25, 2017 – 

After being parachuted into a safe majority English-speaking riding in the last provincial election, Municipal Affairs Minister Martin Coiteux refused to speak the language of his constituents in the National Assembly this afternoon.

“I am going to stick to tradition in this Assembly and I will answer in French,” Coiteux said after being asked a question in English by opposition MNA Amir Khadir.

“This is an affront to his constituents and to the English-speaking community of Quebec,” said QCGN President James Shea. “The tradition in the National Assembly is Section 133 of the 1867 Constitution Act which clearly states that French or English may be used in debates in the National Assembly.”

“It would be worth reminding Mr. Coiteux that some 44,980 of his constituents in the West Island riding of Nelligan, and more than 1 million Quebecers, have a tradition of speaking English,” Shea commented.

Quebec’s constitutional obligation to legislate in French and English derives from section.133 of the Constitution Act, 1867, which requires that the Acts of the Parliament of Canada and of the Legislature of Québec be printed and published in both languages.

According to the National Assembly’s Parliamentary Procedure, since 1964, the Journal des débats, or Hansard, provides a faithful record of all that is said by Members of the National Assembly and anyone else who takes the floor, whether in the House or in committee. Statements made in French or English are transcribed in full in the original language and not translated. When another easily identifiable language is used, that fact is noted but the words are not transcribed.

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French Language Study Program: Immigration and Education Officials Need to Find Solution, Not Cast Aspersions on Students and English School Boards

Montreal – April 18, 2017

It’s unacceptable that the future of hundreds of immigration candidates is in limbo despite graduating from French courses that were approved by Quebec’s Ministry of Education. It is up to the provincial Ministries of Immigration and Education to find a remedy rather than sacrificing the future of would-be Quebecers and tarring the reputation of Quebec’s English school boards.

The Programme de l’expérience québécoise (PEQ), a vocational and French-language study program, provides foreign students with a Quebec selection certificate – the first step towards becoming a permanent resident. But 18 months after passing their classes, many of them are being called in for interviews by Quebec’s Ministry of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness (MIDI) to evaluate their French. Hundreds of those who graduated from the Lester B. Pearson School Board and the English Montreal School Board have had their immigration applications rejected.

“Just testing some of the graduates is discriminatory,” commented QCGN Vice-President Geoffrey Chambers who co-chairs the QCGN’s Education Working Group, noting that if the program needs to be reviewed, it’s the responsibility of Education and Immigration Ministries.

One Montreal law firm has filed an application for a review in Quebec Superior Court on behalf of four students who had their selection certificate rejected. The students were called in for an oral exam because “the MIDI has motive to believe they supplied false or misleading information or documents regarding their level of French knowledge.”

“If they – MIDI and MELS – believe fraudulent certificates are being issued, they should take that up with the school boards and not be discussing it in the media without offering proof,” Chambers said. “They should not be throwing the students under the bus, and portraying English school boards as corrupt. They should go in and fix it.”

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