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Strong, resilient, tireless: Quebec awards celebrate engaged citizens

“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

Read the article in the Montreal Gazette

Kathleen Weil has long history of serving English-speaking Quebecers

“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.

Read the article on Montreal Gazette’s website

Cabinet shuffle: Couillard hopes fresh blood helps rejuvenate Liberals

“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.

Read Philip Authier’s article in the Montreal Gazette

Allison Hanes: Ready for a reset at the MUHC

“The dust has settled since 10 independent members of the McGill University Health Centre’s board of directors quit in disgust two months ago, leaving a gaping hole in the governance of one of Montreal’s most important hospital networks and a major political problem for Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette.”

After the mass resignation of 10 board members and a lukewarm explanation to the English-speaking community, Gaétan Barrette said he has a list of 20 candidates from which to strike a new board. However, Allison Hanes writes that it takes bravery for anyone to step up and fix the MUHC, especially after the tense and toxic relationship between Barrette and the last board.

The QCGN was caught in the crossfire when it was revealed they were working quietly behind the scenes to overhaul the board. She also hinted that Barrette should choose wisely MUHC board members so they have legitimacy in eyes of the English-speaking population, also that this new board should be a way to reset the situation in this institution.

Read the article in the Montreal Gazette

Trailblazing journalist Gretta Chambers bridged Quebec’s two solitudes

“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.

Read the article in the Globe and Mail

 

Former McGill chancellor and prominent Montreal journalist Gretta Chambers dies at 90

“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.

Read the article in the Montreal Gazette

QCGN mourns the loss of Gretta Chambers, une Grande Dame of Quebec

“A funeral service will be held at 11 o’clock on Saturday, the 16th of September at Saint Léon de Westmount. In lieu of flowers, donations to Centraide would be gratefully appreciated http://bit.ly/GiveGretta”

Montreal – September 9, 2017 – The Quebec Community Groups Network is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of community leader and trailblazer Gretta Chambers. She died Saturday morning, at the venerable age of 90.

“Her contributions to Quebec were nothing short of outstanding,” said QCGN President James Shea. The insights Mrs. Chambers provided during more than four decades as a social commentator for The Gazette and the CBC, from the mid-sixties to the early 2000s, helped shape the province’s understanding of itself during some turbulent times. “As a journalist, she explained French-speaking Quebec to English-speaking Quebecers and Canadians,” Shea noted. “In so doing, she became an important bridge builder between Quebec’s Two Solitudes.”

“I just always felt the importance of explaining, English and French, one to the other, of who we were,” Mrs. Chambers said in an interview upon winning the QCGN’s Distinguished Community Service Award in 2012.

“Gretta Chambers was une ‘Grande Dame’ of Quebec,” said QCGN Director General Sylvia Martin-Laforge. “She was a force of nature, blazing trails wherever she went. Chambers was the first female chancellor of a major university in Quebec (McGill) and the author of a seminal report on English education in Quebec that led to the creation of the Advisory Board on English Education, of which she was named the first chair. Many of the recommendations brought forward in her report, which aimed to preserve the vitality of English-language school boards, remain relevant today.”

“She was a woman with influence, vision and power, and a role model for me and many of my contemporaries,” added Martin-Laforge. “She was feisty and did not take no easily for an answer.”

Mrs. Chambers and her late husband, Egan Chambers, a former MP, were models of leadership in many circles, including family. Their son, Geoffrey, is vice-president of the QCGN.

“The QCGN wishes to extend its deepest sympathies to Geoffrey as well as to the rest of the Chambers family and many friends,” said Shea. The style, grace and verve which Mrs. Chambers exemplified, he added, will very much be missed.

 

The Quebec Community Groups Network is a not-for-profit organization bringing together 53 English-language community organizations across Quebec. As a centre of evidence-based expertise and collective action it identifies, explores and addresses strategic issues affecting the development and vitality of the English-speaking community of Quebec and encourages dialogue and collaboration among its member organizations, individuals, community groups, institutions and leaders.

For further information:
Rita Legault, Director of Communications and Public Relations | rita.legault@qcgn.ca
Telephone: 514-868-9044, ext. 223, cellular: 514-912-6555

Bill 101’s track record is one quiet evolution

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.

Madeleine Meilleur withdraws as candidate for language commissioner

“Madeleine Meilleur has pulled out of the running for the job of Canada’s language commissioner, saying the controversy surrounding her candidacy has compromised her ability to do the job.”

Faced with increasingly difficult question about the process of her nomination, Madeleine Meilleur recused from her bid to the Official Languages post via a letter to Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly. Minister Joly expressed her deception for this turn of events.

Her lack of knowledge about the minority situation in Quebec was also questionable. Three complaints were filed to the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, and another was in the plan from the QCGN. The English-speaking group was surprised to learn from Meilleur’s lack of understanding.

Read the article in the Montreal Gazette

 

Anglophones are helping English-speaking newcomers integrate and that’s good for Quebec: QCGN

“Efforts by Quebec’s anglophone communities and institutions to help English-speaking newcomers successfully integrate into Quebec society should be financially and politically supported by the Quebec government, the director general of the Quebec Community Groups Network said Wednesday.”

English-speakers are seen like the poster children of integration in Quebec by Sylvia Martin-Laforge, director general of the QCGN. During the one-day conference hosted by the QCGN and sponsored by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, she also mentioned the Quebec government do not help English-language institutions and groups from helping newcomers integrate.

The conference hosted three panels that addressed how faith-based organizations and municipalities among other institutions helped welcoming English-speaking newcomers. Most of the discussion revolved around the understanding that Quebec was a French-speaking province, but that groups can help newcomers grasp that diversity in a country that recognizes linguistic duality.

Read the full article in the Montreal Gazette.