“As a journalist, a committed federalist and the first female chancellor of McGill University, Gretta Chambers was a multitasking trailblazer. Opinionated, forthright and gracious, this tiny, elegant woman bridged Quebec’s two solitudes effortlessly, explaining each group to the other – especially during turbulent times.”
This obituary written in the Globe and Mail celebrates Gretta Chambers’ many lifetime achievements. Michael Goldbloom, principal and vice-chancellor of Bishop’s University, praised her knowledge of both communities in Quebec, and reminisced about meeting her when attending Selwyn House at five years old.
It’s also where Michael met Geoffrey Chambers, now vice-president of the QCGN. Geoffrey also recounts the many great things Gretta has done for her son, from preparing meal for the entire football team, and the things she has done for her community.
“Le sort du général Jeffery Amherst, commandant en chef des forces britanniques pendant la guerre de Conquête, revient à l’ordre du jour. Le maire de Montréal, Denis Coderre, confirme son intention de renommer la rue qui porte son nom.”
In addition to changing Montreal’s Coat of Arms and official flag, Mayor Coderre wishes to modify street names in the city, like Amherst street, to help with Indigenous reconciliation. Some members of the English-speaking community have agreed with this decision, including city councillor Marvin Rotrand.
He suggested that the City could bring back some names that were withdrew from the city’s streets. Rita Legault, director of communications at the QCGN, mentioned that Amherst named was contradictory to Quebec values, and she also said the city was lacking English names, but also names from Indigenous, women and other communities’ origin.
“Gretta Chambers, the first female chancellor of McGill University and a prominent Montreal journalist for several decades, has died at the age of 90. She passed away Saturday morning at St. Mary’s Hospital in Montreal after undergoing treatment for a heart condition. “
Daughter of a French-speaking mother and an English-speaking father, she saw her role as a builder of bridges between Quebec’s divided communities. For this role, in 2012, she received a Goldbloom Award for distinguished community service.
Sylvia Martin-Laforge, director general of the QCGN, incensed Chambers’ accomplishments and said she embodied what was needed in Quebec to bridge both linguistic communities.
“Simon Berube loves Quebec, its culture, French language and people, but he and his parents decided the best thing he could do for his future was to enrol in one of the province’s English-language junior colleges.”
Many French-speaking Quebecers are choosing to attend Quebec’s English CEGEPs, a choice that could be revoked pending Parti Québécois’s win in 2018 elections.
Geoffrey Chambers, VP of the QCGN, says the English-speaking community of Quebec is used to have its institutions threatened by political parties, and this debate merely is identity politics.
“Gretta Chambers, a prominent journalist and the first female chancellor of McGill University, passed away Saturday morning at the age of 90 at St. Mary’s hospital in Montreal. “
Born in 1927, and a graduate from McGill in policial science, she married former MP Egan Chambers who died in 1994. She was one of the first English-speaking journalist to write extensively about French-speaking Quebec before becoming the first female chancellor of McGill University.
Sylvia Martin-Laforge, DG of the QCGN, which awarded Chambers with a Goldbloom Award in 2012, said that Gretta was a pioneer and role model for women, and for the English-speaking community.
“A Chateauguay mom will have to spends thousands of dollars a year and commute to Montreal to get private speech therapy for her young son because she was told she can’t get medicare-covered services in English close to home. “
A story sent to CJAD their community e-mail presents an injustice from a mother whose son has difficulty learning English. Even the waiting list for French services is 22 months long.
Geoffrey Chambers, vice-president of the QCGN, said it’s a tragic situation, but also a typical one in our healthcare system.
“Access to Quebec’s anglophone CEGEP system cannot be an “open bar,” and financial restrictions may be necessary in the future to protect French, Parti Québécois Leader Jean-François Lisée said Tuesday”
An amendment to a motion up for debate next weekend was brought forward by Eastern Townships PQ members. This measure would affect the anglophone system’s share of the pie by basing it on the community’s demographics.
Gerald Cutting, president of the Townshippers’ Association, said it’s clear the PQ is trying to find a way to accommodate party linguistic isolationists.
“As election years near, the Parti Quebecois has a tradition of playing to its hardline base. This time is no different.”
Quebec’s separatist party is considering cutting the budgets of English CEGEPs to stem the growing enrolment of French-speaking students. This measure follows a rejection from Lisée to extend Bill 101 to post-secondary education.
Commenting on the subject, QCGN DG Sylvia Martin-Laforge said that any coercive measure to an English CEGEP would only be detrimental to Quebec.
This op-ed was published in the Montreal Gazette on August 31, 2017 and co-signed by James Shea, president and Geoffrey Chambers, vice-president.
“Bill 101’s adoption 40 years ago marked a milestone in Quebec language politics. To better understand its significance, we must see it as part of a longer continuum. History, nuance and context will best serve as our lenses.”
The Charter of the French Language did not make French the sole official language of Quebec. Premier Robert Bourassa did that in 1974, with Bill 22. He was, in turn, building off Union Nationale premier Jean-Jacques Bertrand’s Bill 63. That 1969 law sought to establish French as the working language.
Similarly, the operation of the Charter of the French Language has evolved significantly through the four decades that followed its adoption in 1977. Bill 101 initially restricted the use of English in the courts and the National Assembly. It asserted that laws must be adopted only in French. Those limitations were stuck down by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1979.
Restrictions preventing English schooling in Quebec for the children of Canadians educated in English in other provinces were ruled unconstitutional. Rules governing signs and many other provisions have also been the subject of successful court challenges. The second government of premier René Lévesque substantially amended the Charter. Other significant changes were made on six subsequent occasions.
Bill 101 remains a perennial prospect for judicial review. For example, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Art. 26.3, grants parents “a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” To protect the French language in Quebec, the Supreme Court has allowed this right be abridged for most Quebecers, a group that includes all francophones and all non-Canadian migrants. However, this suspension of civil liberties for the vast majority of Quebecers can only be temporary and transitional. Their underlying rights are not erased forever. Instead, these rights are suspended, to allow a period of adjustment. Current rules that govern access to English schools could and should eventually be changed by the courts, without any change in Bill 101 itself.
So while the Charter may have brought language peace, or at least a climate of much reduced strife, it is not a carved-in-stone defining instrument of language practices. Rather, it should be viewed as one of the controlling elements in an evolving discussion about social practices.
Even Bill 101’s most basic asserted principle — its ringing declaration that “French is Quebec’s only official language” — is on closer examination a resounding statement of intention that flies in the face of constitutional, legal and practical reality. The right to use English is constitutionally guaranteed in the courts, in the legislature and in English schools. Further, it is legally guaranteed in health and social services legislation, whenever citizens deal with Revenue Quebec and in hundreds of other circumstances protected by various Quebec statutes.
The federal Official Languages Act recognizes official language minorities in all provinces. The English-speaking community of Quebec is by far the largest and in many ways the most complex.
The government of Quebec has denied and ignored the existence of an official language minority. How can there be such a thing in a jurisdiction with one official language?
Now, however, a dialogue has begun to create a secretariat in the premier’s office to address the needs of the English-speaking community and to begin to remedy the profound ignorance and indifference of the Quebec civil service to the fact of English Quebec.
Yes, our four decades under Bill 101 and our roughly half-century of language legislation have given rise to very real and relevant grievances. But this evolving process has also fostered discussion, provided us opportunities to engage and presented us venues to argue in our interest. Things don’t ever stay the same. And they don’t always get worse. Let’s work to make them better.
“A venerable English-language nursing home in the Eastern Townships that was fighting for its survival has struck a funding agreement with the Quebec government to continue to care for more than 80-long-term residents.”
Wales Home will receive $5.6 million a year from the Quebec Health Department which insure the survival of the oldest nursing home in Quebec.
Rita Legault, spokesperson for the QCGN, hailed the agreement as a breakthrough for the English-speaking community of the Eastern Townships.
“L’erreur de Statistique Canada sur la langue maternelle des Québécois ne doit pas faire oublier que le français est en recul au Québec, même si le phénomène est moins prononcé qu’on ne l’avait annoncé précédemment, disent des organismes de défense de la langue française.”
The federal agency has revised their language numbers following their initial release on August 2nd. The initial error consquently augmented French decline as mother tongue in Quebec.
The QCGN, an English-language advocacy group, also mentions that their linguistic minority is in decline. Their director general Sylvia Martin-Laforge specifies that English-speaking Quebecers speak French since they know it’s important for them to live in Quebec.
“Statistics Canada has published revised Census numbers after admitting an error in language stats for Quebec.”
After releasing numbers earlier this month showing a massive spike of anglophones in Quebec, Statistics Canada now presented data which shows only a very slight increase in Quebec since 2011.
The Quebec Community Groups Network says the revised data proves English-speakers are not a threat to French in Quebec.
“Statistics Canada has officially set the record straight on a computing error that led it to publish false information on the decline of native French speakers in Quebec last year.”
An error which impacted a specific subset of questions from the census was corrected by Statistics Canada. The data shows a small decline in native French speakers, although the situations remains stable both in Quebec and Canada-wide.
For the English-speaking population of Quebec, the data reveals that Quebec residents who learned English as their official language increased. Sylvia Martin-Laforge welcomed this as a sign of growth which means potential more social services to meet the demand.
“Statistics Canada has corrected itself when it comes to the linguistic breakdown of Canadians. Earlier this month the agency incorrectly reported that the number of mother-tongue anglophones in Quebec had increased by 57,325 people between 2011 and 2016.”
News of the increase inflamed worries among “protectors” of the French language, but the increase was reduced with corrected figures from Stats Can. English has even decreased when looking at the numbers of people speaking solely English at home.
Sylvia Martin-Laforge hopes this increase goes in-hand with augmented social services.
“Even though revised census figures show the number of mother-tongue Enlish-speakers in Quebec is declining, a leading Anglo advocacy group has found a sliver of good news in the updated numbers.”
The number of English-speakers only went up by about 2,000 people. According to QCGN, these numbers seem more reflective from what we’ve been hearing in our community. Sylvia Martin-Laforge continued by saying this minor bump could mean more funding for services in Quebec.