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.
“Sun Youth founder Sid Stevens was one of five members of Quebec’s English-speaking community recognized at the Goldbloom Awards. The annual event is organized by the Quebec Community Groups Network.”
The annual event established by the QCGN is meant to honour individuals who have made an impact on Quebec’s English-speaking community. Clifford Lincoln, James Carter, Sid Stevens and Earl De La Perralle, were each winners of the Sheila and Victor Goldbloom Distinguished Community Service Award, while Claudia Di Iorio won the Young Quebecers Leading the Way Award.
“Qui succèdera à Graham Fraser à la tête du Commissariat aux langues officielles (CLO) du Canada? Quasiment trois mois jour pour jour après avoir relancé le processus à la suite de la nomination avortée de Madeleine Meilleur, le gouvernement n’a toujours pas annoncé le nom d’un nouveau commissaire aux langues officielles.”
Trudeau’s government are saying that the selection process to find Canada’s next official languages commissioner is going well, which raises doubts among Official Languages critics Alupa Clarke and François Choquette.
The latter also asked for the Prime Minister to meet with official language minority communities and the designated groups that represent them, FCFA and the QCGN, to talk about the selection process.
“Claudia Di Iorio, an advocate for road safety, won the Young Quebecer Leading the Way Award in 2017. She is only 23, but Montrealer Claudia Di Iorio has known more pain than many.”
After her near-fatal collision, Claudia Di Iorio marshalled remarkable strength and resilience and now serves as a spokesperson for Cool Taxi while sitting as a member of the SAAQ board.
Di Iorio is one of five Quebecers being honoured with awards from the Quebec Community Groups Network. She will receive the Young Quebecers Leading the Way Award. Another QCGN award, the Sheila and Victor Goldbloom Distinguished Community Service Award, will go to four people
“Sun Youth is an organization most people know, however they may not know that the two men behind it knew each other as children, and built it up together. Sid Stevens and Earl De La Perralle are recipients of the Goldbloom Awards being handed out next week. The awards honour leaders in Quebec.”
Sid and Earl are now in their 70s and grew up around Montreal’s Clark Street, where Sun Youth Organization works tirelessly to support the neighbourhood. It all started in 1954 when the two friends found a space to rent and started their own newspaper.
It has gone from a small little newspaper into a large conglomerate organization with a $7-million budget, 1500 volunteers and helping thousands of people throughout the year, states Sid Stevens.
“It’s been 13 years since Clifford Lincoln retired from politics, but the former Quebec environment minister has never given up working on causes he cares about.”
Clifford Lincoln will receive one of the QCGN’s Goldbloom Award on October 26 for his contributions to Quebec’s English-speaking community. Clifford marked the provincial politics after being elected in the wake of the 1980 referendum when he resigned from Bourassa cabinet in 1989 over the premier’s decision to use the notwithstanding clause on a Supreme Court ruling favouring bilingual signs.
He moved on to federal politics, representing Lac-Saint-Louis riding from 1993 to his 2004 retirement. While Clifford Lincoln still calls Quebec home, he hopes to see reversed the trend of seeing children departing their province for a better future.
“Politics is the art of the possible, but for people of principle it can also become the art of the impossible.”
In December 1988, Clifford Lincoln resigned from Bourassa cabinet which had decided to invoke the notwithstanding clause to override the Supreme Court judgement favouring bilingual signage.
He is praised for being a “bridge-builder and consensus maker”, and will be awarded the QCGN’s Goldbloom Award.
“Life in the crowded Plateau Mont-Royal in the post-war years was a time of modest beginnings and big dreams, including those of a young Sidney Stavitsky, aka Sid Stevens, and his friend Earl De La Perralle.”
Sid & Earl’s Sun Youth first started with a local newspaper called the Clark Street Sun, and evolved to become the city’s first food bank in its headquarters in the former Baron Byng High School on St. Urbain. In tribute to their work, Sid and Earl are among the recipients of this year’s Sheila and Victor Goldbloom Distinguished Community Service Award, to be handed out by the Quebec Community Groups Network October 26.
“Dans la foulée du dernier remaniement ministériel du gouvernement de Philippe Couillard, la ministre Kathleen Weil hérite du nouveau secrétariat dédié aux Relations avec les communautés anglophones du Québec.”
In this radio interview to CFIM, Helena Burke, director general of the Council for Anglophone Magdalen Islanders (CAMI), presented her beliefs that the new Secretariat will help English-speaking minority communities, especially in isolated sectors, to access Quebec government services in their language.
The creation of a new Secretariat is an action sought by the Quebec Community Groups Network for a few years. It was suggested by Premier Philippe Couillard that its creation was forthcoming.
Listen to the interview on CFIM’s website (in French)
“For Kathleen Weil, it was one of those ‘Mom would be proud’ moments of her life. The mother who made her daughter wear green ribbons in her hair to school on St. Patrick’s Day was very proud of her family’s Irish and Scottish roots, Weil said in an interview with the Montreal Gazette.”
Following the nomination of Kathleen Weil as minister responsible for relations with English-speaking Quebeckers, political columnist Philip Authier interviewed her to get a better sense of her expectations on the job. She had to defend her credentials to take on the job, especially since it’s the first time a Liberal government has created such a position.
Her past experiences as director of legal affairs at the now-defunct anglophone rights group Alliance Quebec was also mentioned. Geoffrey Chambers, vice-president of the QCGN, said it’s important for the English-speaking community to have someone that they can talk to.
“Carter has devoted the last thirty years to championing the rights of English-speaking Quebecers to receive care in English”
CTV’s Caroline Van Vlaardingen interviews James Carter, winner of the 2017 Sheila and Victor Goldbloom Distinguished Community Service Award. Carter has been a tireless and effective advocate for improved access to health and social services in English in Quebec. Carter will receive his award at the QCGN’s Community Awards evening which takes place on October 26 at the St. James Club.
“Later this month, Claudia Di Iorio will be honoured by the Quebec Community Groups Network for her leadership in road safety education and the work she’s done to enact change in Montreal.”
Seven years after being injured from a high-speed collision, she shared her story in the documentary “Dérapage”. She also served as spokesperson for the Cool Taxi initiative and now sits on the board of Quebec’s automobile insurance board (SAAQ). She’s been chosen for the QCGN’s third annual Young Quebecers Leading the Way Award to recognize and celebrate outstanding achievements of English-speaking Quebecers under 30.
“Quebec’s new minister for relations with anglo Quebecers says don’t expect her to spearhead changes to Quebec’s language law.”
Kathleen Weil spoke with Leslie Roberts on CJAD 800 on Thursday morning for the first time since being given the job in Wednesday’s cabinet shuffle.
“Premier Philippe Couillard’s Wednesday cabinet shuffle, designed to give the aging Liberal regime a mix of new youthful panache and sage management, is in reality a calculated attempt to put out the numerous brush fires endangering the Liberal brand.”
Quebec’s anglophone lobby, the QCGN, wanted a greater direct voice in decision-making. They now have a minister in the cabinet, Kathleen Weil. Although Couillard’s shuffle seems to be solving most problems he had during his mandate, it’s seen as a rejuvenated technique to boost on Quebecers’ desire for change.
One big news in the shuffle was Couillard’s decision to act on a promise he made and give the English-speaking community a greater voice in his government. The QCGN welcomed Weil as a “strong advocate” while former Equality Party Leader Robert Libman said it was nothing more than a symbolic gesture.
“Kathleen Weil is calling her appointment as minister responsible for relations with English-speaking Quebecers ‘historic.’ “
Premier Philippe Couillard had already promised to create a secretariat to deal with English-speaking Quebecers’ issues. Now, following his latest cabinet shuffle, the government will have a minister dedicated to the task. Kathleen Weil, of Scottish-Irish descent, studied at McGill University. She said her office will relay concerns and priorities of Quebec’s English speakers to the government.
Community groups hope this cabinet shuffle means a fresh start in the province’s approach to the English-language minority. Michelle Eaton-Lusignan commented about the specific situation of the community while Helena Burke from CAMI asked to adapt programs to account for the realities of smaller communities. On Twitter, the QCGN welcomed and congratulated the new minister.