Renewed QCGN Will Continue as a Leading Voice and Advocate
From the beginning of my presidency in 2020, my intention was to serve for a two-year term. My mandate, which comes to an end in the spring, allowed me to play an active role in the QCGN’s Renewal process. I believe I also played a significant role in the important – in fact crucial – reframing of QCGN as a more genuinely representative voice for our English-speaking community and as an active and vital advocate for the linguistic rights of our Community of Communities.
The past year has proven a whirlwind of activity, with substantial upheaval to both provincial and federal language legislation. The QCGN has and continues to be a critical and constructive voice during emotional and sometimes divisive debates. Unfortunately, Bill 96 became law as my term expired. We were unable to stop it – or to achieve significant change, but the battle will continue. Meanwhile the influence QCGN has grown substantially, and I am confident the organization will continue to thrive.
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QCGN’s Renewal process is about boosting the voice and visibility of QCGN to assist the community’s need to be better understood. Through a robust consultation process, we have engaged our members and many community stakeholders. This an important moment for the QCGN and our members, and for the entire English-speaking community.
On May 26, 2021, the QCGN’s members came together for a special meeting and voted to approve a new mission, vision, values, principle, and pillars and to adopt amended By-laws. This approval completes a two-year process of consultation, consideration, and reimagining what the QCGN will be for years to come. The QCGN is now set to bring these important changes to life.
QCGN’s renewed vision is that English-speaking Quebec is a recognized, respected, and diverse linguistic minority that is an integral contributor to the development of all aspects of Quebec and Canadian society. Our mission is to provide leadership and representation through dialogue, public awareness and advocacy for English-speaking Quebecers and their diverse institutions, organizations, and communities. We also re-iterate our respect for French as the official language of Quebec. We firmly support the protection, support, and enhancement of the linguistic rights of Canadians to thrive in each of our two official languages. We maintain that English-speaking Canadians living in Quebec represent one of the two official language minority communities in Canada and must maintain equality of status, rights, and privileges.
Positive change is grounded in a clear vision and shared values. That is why we have articulated a set of values to guide our organization, our Board of Directors, and our members. These are: respect, collaboration, equality, inclusion, diversity, equity, and innovation. This approach is at the very heart of our members as we work together to achieve what we cannot do on our own. Our vision also includes working together with a wide range of partners and community stakeholders to achieve common objectives.
Looking ahead, the QCGN will provide voice for a broader range of people within our evolving community. We have a clear sense of our collective concerns, our needs, and our hopes. While as a community we will continue to face challenges and limitations on our rights, we have proven that we will stand together to protect the vitality of English-speaking communities across the province. The renewed QCGN will remain a leading voice and advocate for us all for years to come.
I would like to thank QCGN Treasurer Eva Ludvig, who has agreed to take on the role of Interim President until elections at the Annual General Meeting in the fall. I also wish to thank each and every board member for their support and active involvement, as well as the QCGN’s staff for having provided me with a continuous stream of evidence that helped fuel my public advocacy for our linguistic rights. I have truly valued the opportunity to work with this strong and dedicated team. Finally, I want to sincerely thank our member organizations and community partners for their steadfast belief in our English-speaking communities as well as our fundamental linguistic rights. It was an honour to lead this organization at this crucial crossroad.
DIRECTOR GENERAL’S MESSAGE
QCGN Team Unites to Confront Compounding Challenges
Amid especially challenging times, the Quebec Community Groups Network has stepped up to ensure the voice of our community is heard.
Our work this year has been dominated by intense advocacy for the rights of, and access to services for, English-speaking Quebecers. Meanwhile, we took critical steps in pursuing our goal of renewing our organization, ensuring a framework for ongoing community engagement and priority setting, and reinforcing the essential link between advocacy and community development. Active listening and ongoing dialogue has enabled a more grassroots approach to advocacy, strongly and more directly linking our policy work with community needs and priorities.
The language landscape has shifted significantly and adversely over the past year. Both the provincial and federal governments introduced legislation, the fallout from which will undoubtedly have direct and grave impacts on the rights of English-speaking Quebecers and the vitality of our minority communities. In early May, the provincial government introduced Bill 96, which aimed to enforce and reinforce the Charter of the French Language (Bill 101). A month later, the federal government introduced Bill C-32 which seeks to modernize the Official Languages Act.
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The QCGN led the response with a major, multi-year advocacy and awareness campaign to help English-speaking Quebecers more fully understand and defend our language rights. We hosted more than a dozen educational webinars and forums; organized and held a well-attended background briefing for local, provincial, and national media; and conducted multiple briefings for federal, provincial, and municipal leaders. We provided the framework for a No2Notwithstanding letter-writing campaign that generated some 9,000 letters to Quebec Premier François Legault, Quebec Language Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, and other government officials. And we spearheaded an open letter campaign that rejected Premier Legault’s ill-advised decision to label members of our community as “historic Anglophones” and thus brutally limit government services in English. This open letter was signed by some 7,400 individuals and endorsed by more than four dozen groups.
When the National Assembly’s Committee on Culture and Education ruthlessly restricted the number of representatives from the English-speaking community invited to present their views on Bill 96, the QCGN responded by hosting community consultations. We provided a public platform for more than 30 groups and individuals concerned about the negative impacts of the bill. Their briefs and letters were appended to the QCGN’s main brief to the Committee, and thus made it into Quebec’s Parliamentary record. Meanwhile, the QCGN reached out beyond our traditional network to foster common cause with allies who, like us, are firmly opposed to the Quebec government’s pre-emptive use of the notwithstanding clause to suspend the fundamental freedoms, legal, and equality rights of Quebecers. These included suburban mayors; the Conseil du patronat du Québec; the Chambre de commerce du Montréal métropolitain; and the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse.
In a year marked by legislation that negates rights for English-speaking Quebecers, we were able to make significant progress on the Access to Justice in English file. Our project team launched of the Access to Justice web presence to better inform English-speaking Quebecers about their rights to receive services in English. The webpage also provides information and resources that enables access justice in English where possible, and for individuals to obtain support and guidance where needed. In addition, team members provided support and knowledge as we monitored the hearings process for Bill 96. The QCGN’s expertise on the legislation’s intricacies and potential impacts is in no small part due to this extensive body of work.
As a team, we look forward to continuing to serve and to grow. We pledge our continued focus on improved support for the mission, vision, and principles of the QCGN; the capacity of our members; and the vitality of our community. Looking to the future, our organization must continue to carry out our mission with passion and purpose. With guidance from Board members and our committee members, support from members and stakeholders, and growing engagement and mobilization from individual Quebecers, our organization is focused on meeting the challenges ahead.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS 2021-2022
QCGN Steps Up to Defend Community During Upheaval in Provincial and Federal Language Policies
The federal Speech from the Throne in 2020 signaled an historic shift in official language policy. It foreshadowed an asymmetric approach that would treat one official language differently from the other. For the first time, it deemed Quebec separate from the rest of Canada regarding language rights. This shift was further defined in the early 2021 language policy paper, English and French: Towards a substantive equality of official languages in Canada, which proposed changing the purpose of the Official Languages Act to abandon equal language rights for English and French Canadians.
In the spring, two legislative projects were launched. Bill 96, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec was introduced in the National Assembly in early May. In June, Bill C-32, an Act for the Substantive Equality of French and English and the Strengthening of the Official Languages Act, was tabled in the House of Commons. While C-32 died on the order paper when Parliament was dissolved for the fall 2021 election, the Liberals promised to reintroduce similar legislation within 100 days of a new mandate. This timeline was pushed back by a Federal Court of Appeal decision in January 2022 in the case of Canada (Commissioner of Official Languages) v Canada (Employment and Social Development). This case – in which the QCGN intervened – contributed significantly to the legal understanding of Part VII Advancement of English and French of the Official Languages Act. In March, C-13, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act, to enact the Use of French in Federally Regulated Private Businesses Act and to make related amendments to other Acts, began its legislative journey through Parliament. The QCGN was quick to provide a comprehensive evidence-informed perspective of how the provisions in these bills would wreak havoc on the language rights of English-speaking Quebecers and impair the future vitality of our communities.
The QCGN led advocacy efforts against proposed changes to language regimes at both the federal and provincial levels. We organized and held a parallel community consultation on Bill 96 when the National Assembly limited the number of groups it would hear from. In addition, provided forums in which Constitutional law experts, policy leaders, active and retired political journalists, statisticians, other social scientists, and leading English-speaking Quebecers all expressed their concerns with the shifting official languages landscape. These opinions helped immensely in shaping the QCGN’s advocacy response on behalf of Quebec’s English-speaking community.
Behind the scenes, the QCGN actively tracked the Parliamentary hearings on Bill 96 conducted by the Committee on Culture and Education in the National Assembly. We also closely monitored the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages (LANG) as it conducted its study titled Government Measures to Protect and Promote French in Quebec and in Canada.
On the provincial front, the QCGN also expressed critical concerns about the fate of the Provincial Advisory Committee (the Provincial Committee for the Provision of Health Services and Social Services in the English Language). This body reviews and assesses programs developed by regional health authorities to ensure English-language health services are available throughout the province. While it kept long-awaited Access Programs on the back burner, where they remain, during the summer break the government quietly introduced a new regulation ousting community organizations from the selection of committee members and undermining its independence from the government. Just before Christmas – and despite strong objections from the English-speaking community that included a 4,500-name petition to the National Assembly – the new regulation was decreed, and all committee members were terminated. The government took this problematic pivot at a time when regional Access Programs reviewed by the disbanded committee had been sitting on the minister’s desk awaiting ministerial and then cabinet approval before they could go into effect. These programs, which have not been updated for a decade, specify the health and social services to which English-speaking Quebecers have a right to access in any given region. Without access programs we have no right to health and social services in our own language. The government failed, as well, to publish much of the advice the committee had provided during its mandate. To ensure public access to this and other information not readily available on the government’s portal, the QCGN made it accessible on its website.
In addition to extraordinary efforts in the face of immense legislative changes, the QCGN continued its work federal departments and agencies to represent the interests of English-speaking Quebecers. We held frequent meetings with our primary funder, Canadian Heritage. We also met regularly with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and with Employment and Social Development Canada – two key institutions mandated to take positive measures to improve the economic vitality of our community. We also began working with Treasury Board to assist federal institutions to better attract and retain English-speaking Quebecers in federal Quebec-based workforces. Finally, the QCGN worked closely with Elections Canada and Inspire Democracy, distributing non-partisan information, facilitating the recruitment of election workers, and helping Quebec’s English-speaking community prepare for the federal vote.
Partners Working Together Build Community Capacity
After nearly two years of extensive consultation with community stakeholders, the QCGN began mobilizing community partners to develop a mechanism to bring stakeholders together to develop a renewed community development plan as a framework for collective action. Interviews with community stakeholders during spring 2021 explored mechanisms for community priority-setting to meet three goals: to be inclusive, accessible, and accountable to the English-speaking community. Supported by the QCGN with funding from Canadian Heritage through the Strategic Growth Plan, the Community Roundtables process was initiated over the summer to respond to shared challenges faced by community organizations serving English-speaking Quebec.
Meeting for the first time in November, dozens of organizations established the Community Roundtables. Four Roundtables focused on four sectors: Funding, Data, Representation, and Organizational Health. In addition to providing a structure in which organizations can address these issues directly, the roundtables provide participants with valuable opportunities to network, share knowledge, and develop new skills. Working towards a March 2022 community forum, the Roundtables met three times, performing a SWOT analysis to identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats for Quebec’s English-speaking communities. This series of actions contributed to the outline of an action plan that defines the issues faced by the community and proposes potential solutions.
At our Taking Action for a More Vital Community Forum on March 15, the new federal Minister of Official Languages, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, spoke to our community for the first time. After warmly welcoming the minister, community stakeholders worked together to begin drafting a Community Development Plan for English-speaking Quebec which would achieve together what we cannot accomplish on our own.
As well as encouraging community cohesion, the work of the Roundtables solidifies QCGN’s community development actions intrinsically paired with advocacy. Strategic collective action and group advocacy are vital to ensuring that the needs of our linguistic minority community are both heard and heeded by decision-makers. The Roundtables provide a space for stakeholders to work together to build community capacity while advocating for the community’s needs and priorities. In this multi-faceted environment, the QCGN provides backbone support to the Roundtables.
As we continue to develop, evolve, and fine-tune this process, we invite more community advocates to get involved. Community organizations providing services to English-speaking Quebecers in any community, any region, or any sector anywhere are eagerly invited to come and work with their peers to help bring about positive change for their communities.
Community Innovation Fund
Despite the challenges imposed by the pandemic, 10 Community Innovation Fund (CIF) projects continued to operate successfully this year. These innovative grassroots ventures equip some of Quebec’s most marginalized English speakers with a variety of skills to address key social gaps across diverse sectors and regions.
With the support of the CIF, organizations are carrying out a variety of exciting projects that have reached more than 1,000 English-speaking Quebecers. These include: a micro-grants program that supports young artists; skills-development and workforce training for vulnerable youth; after-school literacy programs in English schools in Montreal; an organization raising awareness of and fighting isolation and exclusion of seniors in the LGBTQ+ community; and a co-operative artisanal market in the Gaspé which contributes to the economic development of the region.
In addition to supporting these projects, the CIF is investing in the long-term sustainability of these organizations. With the help of tools, coaching, and networking opportunities provided through the CIF, organizations have been able to raise funds and diversify their revenue streams, hire new staff, and establish permanent spaces in which to hold their activities.
Now in its second round, the CIF is financed by Employment and Social Development Canada through the Social Partnership Initiative in Official Language Minority Communities, a component of the Roadmap for Canada’s Official Languages 2013-2018: Education, Immigration, Communities.
Justice Project Advances Research, Launches Web Presence
The year 2021-2022 provided significant progress on the Access to Justice file, with the successful development and launch of the Access to Justice web presence. This valuable resource helps inform English-speaking Quebecers of their rights to government services in English in the areas of criminal justice; employment and labour; family and youth; housing; and immigration. Sections on education and discrimination will be posted soon.
Our interactive website invites community members to share their access-to-justice experiences via a short survey. The site provides updates about the project and its research, along with a comprehensive directory of legal and community resources. For instance, it details the intervention strategy developed for ensuring the equitable delivery of English-language services for English-speaking inmates in federal correctional facilities in Quebec. Project staff contacted some 70 organizations and held 25 informational interviews to validate research findings before initiating dialogue with the Correctional Service of Canada to discuss potential solutions.
Some 1,750 English-speaking Quebecers were surveyed in September to further identify access-to-justice issues of concern to the community. Survey results documented many public services where rights to services in English are not easily accessed. After extensive research and consultation, the project’s steering committee unanimously selected two issues requiring further research and advocacy in 2022-2023: senior care and Quebec government services offered online.
During this second year, an independent assessment of the project’s activities was undertaken. The evaluation included a thorough review of documentation, an analysis of administrative data, and telephone interviews with project stakeholders. This evaluation, which produced recommendations on how to optimize chances for success, is an important milestone for the project.
Communications Tools Spread the Word About QCGN Advocacy Efforts
Throughout this tumultuous year, the QCGN maintained an exceptionally active media presence explaining and advocating for our community’s interests and framing the challenges faced by English-speaking Quebec. Our leadership engaged in multiple broadcast and print interviews, and we delivered persuasive opinion pieces to community, regional, and national news outlets.
With more than double the number of visitors compared with the previous year, our website was a hub of action. This followed frequent updates to our new Language Rights page to which we added a new Policy Matters Blog to deepen our understanding of – and appreciation for – minority language rights. The large number of visitors to our newly developed Access to Justice in English subdomain also boosted traffic.
Meanwhile, the scope of our reach and influence on social media continued to expand. We gained 524 fresh followers on Twitter, where we connect with politicians, journalists, and thought leaders. Some 1.7K posts led to some 26,000 engagements. Meanwhile, we added 401 new fans on Facebook, where most of our community continues to congregate. Responses included some 3,000 likes and almost 1,000 shares. And we expanded our presence on YouTube with QCGN-TV where we streamed an abundance of relevant content including our webinars, town halls, and community consultations on Bill 96.
While Twitter remains a space where some trolls find, follow, and disagree with us, social media provides an important venue that strongly connects us with stakeholders and supporters. It helps us in a timely way to share news, information, and insights – through a fast-paced medium that operates quickly and directly. At the same time, it nurtures a sense of belonging within our community.
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We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada and the Roadmap for Canada’s Official Languages 2013-2018: Education, Immigration, Communities through the departments of Canadian Heritage, Employment and Social Development Canada, and Justice Canada; as well as the support of the Government of Quebec through the Secretariat for Relations with English-speaking Quebecers and the ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux.