DIRECTOR GENERAL’S MESSAGE
BOARD OF DIRECTORS 2019-2020
Official Languages Act Squarely in Our Spotlight
On Sept. 7, 2019, Canadians celebrated the 50th anniversary of the coming into effect of the Official Languages Act. This crucial legislation entrenched linguistic duality and bilingualism as identifiable Canadian values. Its pending modernization also provided the focus for much QCGN activity in 2019-2020, as we engaged with federal partners to ensure that the needs and interests of our community were heard and well respected.
Over the past few years, we shared with government stakeholders the vision our communities have brought forward for an equitably and properly modernized Act. This culminated in May 2019, with a national symposium hosted by Mélanie Joly, Minister of Official Languages, at the National Arts Centre. The event provided a platform for speakers young and old, from across the country and both linguistic communities, to share stories, illuminate best practices, provide perspectives, and help chart the next steps.
PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT RELATIONS
Working Towards an inclusive Community Development Plan
During the past year, the QCGN launched a broad-ranging conversation across our communities to better mobilize and exercise collective leadership.
Beginning in June 2019 with our annual members’ convention, the QCGN engaged members and stakeholders in discussions on core policy issues central to our advocacy role. Under the theme “Quebec is My Home: Inclusion and Rights for English-speaking Quebecers,” Raymond Théberge, Canada’s Commissioner of Official Languages, acknowledged what had proven a difficult year for our nation’s Official Language Minority Communities. This was underlined in a panel on modernization of the Official Languages Act, guided by Senators René Cormier and Joan Fraser. A clear consensus emerged that an overhaul of the 50-year-old Act is essential to help resolve many issues that have emerged for our English and French minority language communities.
More than 120 participants then explored significant provincial legislative, regulatory, and legal challenges that loom. These include: Bill 21, the divisive provincial secularism legislation; Quebec government plans to abolish our minority-language Constitutional right to manage and control our school boards; and continuing impediments to access programs and regional and provincial access committees in health and social services. Such Quebec mechanisms remain key to securing proper and fair access to these fundamental government services in our own language. A series of workshops followed to focus on core skills to underpin community sector development. Basics included how to: develop successful grant proposals; achieve optimal volunteer/board recruitment; and create and nurture inclusive organizations. To follow up on our very successful 2018 networking event with federal departments and agencies, we also organized a “second date” fair. This provided opportunities for members and government stakeholders to build deeper rapport and better understand respective needs. A post-convention survey circulated to all attendees drew outstanding results; 90 per cent of respondents expressed high satisfaction with workshops and leaders.
COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP AWARDS 2019-2020
Celebrating the Achievements of our Most Effective Champions
Our Community Leadership Awards provide a valued annual opportunity to express collective and public appreciation for long-term contributions made by our most effective leaders. There is a common thread: the enduring impact of their work, with an emphasis on how these individuals have enhanced the vitality and understanding of English-speaking Quebec.
With the 11th Sheila and Victor Goldbloom Community Service Award, this past year we honoured three such remarkable leaders: Joan Fraser, Senator and influential journalist; Josh Freed, commentator and humourist; and Martin Murphy, outstanding community advocate.
Our fourth honoree – for the fifth Young Quebecers Leading the Way Award – was Joshua Arless, barrier-breaking school commissioner.
Joan Fraser has proven a perpetually fearless advocate, during her high-profile 33 years at the Montreal Gazette and subsequently in the Senate of Canada as a staunch advocate for, among other causes, minority language rights. Most recently, she has rallied the defence of our imperiled school boards.
Josh Freed has for decades brought Quebecers of all origins together with wit and warmth. He has illuminated, explained, celebrated and bemoaned the daily challenges that dog English-language life in Quebec. In multiple ways, his consistently perceptive insights have helped transcend Quebec’s traditional solitudes.
Martin Murphy has long devoted his powerful voice and exceptional talents to benefit Quebec’s English-speaking minority – before and after his service as first President of QCGN, from 2002 through 2007. He has been a remarkable fighter to ensure equitable federal funding for Quebec’s official language minority community and to secure greater access to health and social services in English.
While still under the age of 30, Joshua Arless has already broken barriers and smashed stereotypes. During six years as a commissioner at Lester B. Pearson School Board, he has worked to ensure full recognition and respect for LGBTQ rights throughout the education system. In earlier years, he helped nurture and showcase arts education outside the typical classroom environment.
Advancing our Community’s Voice, Visibility and Impact
Since it was founded 25 years ago, the QCGN has taken great strides to be recognized as the go-to organization for information and expert commentary about issues that affect Quebec’s English-speaking community. We speak out on issues that matter. Our Communications work serves as much more than a primary information and policy-development resource. We also bring issues important to English-speaking Quebecers to the forefront in a timely and strategic way. This reinforces our community’s visibility.
We have positioned the QCGN as a credible, responsive, and professional organization that effectively expresses and explains the needs and concerns of English-speaking Quebec. A proactive communications strategy amplifies and broadens public understanding of our community’s positions, perspectives, and rights.
As a result, the QCGN has established a significant and growing presence in newspapers, on television and radio outlets, on the web, and across social media. During the past year, we have particularly strengthened our community’s profile and visibility on editorial pages, which blend editorials, regular columnists, guest commentaries from groups such as ours, and letters to the editor. These pages can wield tremendous sway over readers, thus exerting influence over political officials and leaders.
We use fresh news or policy developments with an impact on English-speaking Quebecers to craft engaging and persuasive op-eds and letters that explain and illuminate the concerns of our community. A steady increase in recognition for the QCGN and our advocacy mission is one of the benefits. Our positions and perspectives are frequently echoed in editorials and columns, and cited in news stories. This also helps pressure and sometimes persuade legislators toward greater understanding of and support for the vitality of our Community of Communities.
During the past year, we made effective common cause for the issues that unify Canada’s linguistic minority communities. Ahead of the fall 2019 federal election, we joined forces with our Francophone counterparts in Ontario and New Brunswick to meet with the editorial boards of more than a dozen media outlets, both French and English, in Quebec and in Ontario. We shared a wide range of concerns that cut across our official language minority communities. These meetings paid off with subsequent strong news coverage and editorials that reflected greater media understanding of the importance of linguistic duality across the Canadian federation. This coverage proved especially helpful as our representative organizations extracted pledges from all parties to commit to strengthening the Official Languages Act.
While we remain more active and visible than ever with traditional media, the QCGN of course continues to increase our presence on the web. We make the most of such social media tools as Facebook and Twitter to attract, inform and engage with new audiences, particularly younger people. These tools provide immediacy. They also offer powerful and compelling ways to build community on a shoestring. In tandem with the rapid evolution of the media landscape, we continue to expand our social media footprint.
True success in raising awareness about not just the tribulations but also the triumphs of English-speaking Quebecers requires the interest and involvement of our board, our members, and our stakeholders. Organizational behaviour specialist Meg Wheatley sums it up well: “There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.”