QCGN Sharpens Focus on Mission and Vision
This past year – our 25th anniversary – has proven pivotal for the QCGN. While consistently at the forefront of public policy debates, we have simultaneously been taking important steps to strengthen our capacity as an effective and representative advocate for Quebec’s diverse English-speaking community.
Education has been a hot topic. We have repeatedly defended our right to manage and control our school system. We are a driving force behind the creation of APPELE-Québec, the Alliance for the Promotion of Public English-language Education in Quebec. This broadly based alliance, devoted to promoting the continued existence of elected English school boards, has spearheaded opposition to Bill 40.
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Coming months and years will be challenging. We face a Quebec government that appears determined to create divisions among Quebecers, relaunch an unnecessary language debate, and limit access to public services in English.
We would prefer to focus on promoting our community’s contribution to Quebec and collaborating with others to strengthen our province. But we appreciate that ensuring the vitality of our community depends to a significant extent on maintaining a strong and effective voice in both Ottawa and Quebec City. With this in mind, we launched last fall our Renewal Committee – with a mandate to revisit our vision and mission as well as our governance structure.
As the pandemic was taking hold in March, the QCGN was on the verge of completing an independent, facilitated process to collect information to guide the development of a strategic Community Development Plan. While the public health crisis over COVID-19 required us to postpone our Community Collaboration Forum and our Annual General Meeting, our review process continues under the guidance of the Renewal Committee, the Executive Committee, and senior staff.
The Renewal Committee will complete its work over the coming months and bring results to the AGM for members to consider. The feedback it has received to date points to a community consensus on the QCGN remaining the primary voice for English-speaking Quebecers. But we must lead by consensus, and actively listen to the concerns of all communities. In so doing, the QCGN needs to recognize the diversity of the community and better engage with our constituent parts. Our engagement strategy will take different forms, from Town Hall meetings to sectorial round tables. It must involve cultural communities as well as regional and institutional representatives.
Looking ahead, the QCGN is determined to face our multiple challenges head-on. We will do so by continuing to live up to our mission: “As a centre of evidence-based expertise and collective action, the QCGN 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.”
The QCGN is entering an exciting new chapter in its history. With your help and support, we will ensure that our community’s voices are heard and heeded.
DIRECTOR GENERAL’S MESSAGE
Strong steps to a More Resilient, More Diverse Community
As the QCGN marks our 25th anniversary, we have been reflecting on the opportunities, trends, and threats making an impact on the future of the organization, our Network, and our community. Thanks to substantial increases in both federal and provincial support in recent years, the organizational network that supports English-speaking Quebecers has been experiencing a remarkable growth spurt. This has been a time of transition. The QCGN is taking advantage of this shift to take stock – and to re-focus our mandate. We are accompanying our community sector as it reassesses its priorities and determines a clear path to build a new Community Development Plan and a forward vision for 2020-2025.
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A sharp increase in QCGN activity this past year matched an almost twofold increase in revenue and resources. With some $900,000 in new funding for projects and programs, we are taking on exciting new mandates in the fields of Education, Health and Social Services, and Justice. These efforts are linked by a single common thread: the clear need to solidify and strengthen our community’s exercise of our minority rights. These fresh resources are proving indispensable for assuring our community’s future vitality. We are continuing to defend our Constitutional right to manage and control our school boards. We are trying to ensure that the health care and social services system creates and operates the access programs enabling more English-speaking Quebecers to use such services in our own language. We are engaging with the justice system in a pragmatic way to improve access to justice in English – especially for targeted areas and marginalized communities where access to services and rights remain weak or, in some instances, have proven operationally non-existent.
While taking on new pursuits, QCGN has placed a heavy accent on demystifying the Official Languages Act and how it provides firm legislative footing for minority community language rights as well as support for our community organizations. As Canada celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Act, we used this opportunity to help our members and stakeholders achieve a greater understanding and appreciation of why this significant piece of legislation is so critical to Official Language Minority Communities in Quebec and all across Canada. We also partnered with our Francophone counterparts in the rest of Canada to lead discussions on how the Act needs to be modernized to meet changing needs and shifting realities.
The actions and accomplishments of the QCGN continue to be nurtured by an exceptional staff of professionals and a robust roster of active, dedicated volunteers on our Board of Directors and our numerous committees and work groups. We count on all to help us sustain growth over the coming year and foster future development.
It takes broadly based teamwork – community groups, stakeholders and institutions working together – to provide the indispensable support and necessary fortitude to achieve our vision of an English-speaking Quebec that is diverse, confident, recognized, and respected, a national linguistic minority that actively participates in and contributes to the social, economic, cultural and political life of Quebec and Canadian society.
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.
Working to Improve Access to Justice for English-speaking Quebecers
Our Access to Justice in English in Quebec project is designed to ensure that public authorities within the justice system take on their full obligations to respect the rights – and respond to the needs – of our Official Language Minority Community.
A people-first framework was endorsed during QCGN’s “No Justice Without Access: Working Together to Ensure Access to Justice in English” community forum in April 2018. The project is guided through three volunteer-driven working committees – Administrative Justice; Youth and Family; and Seniors. With generous support from Justice Canada, the project targets five areas for system-level improvement. They are: policies and procedures; service infrastructure organization; service delivery; system navigation; data collection and analysis; and performance evaluation.
Groundwork completed during the past year includes development of a database to fully encompass the broad legal, policy and administrative framework governing the justice area. In the context of the Charter of the French Language, this database includes language policies operating within each of Quebec’s administrative agencies, bodies and tribunals; municipal courts; notary and stenographer services; and labour arbitration organizations.
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.
10 Exceptionally Promising Projects Poised for Launch
The Community Innovation Fund (CIF) 2.0 is poised to launch 10 new and exceptionally promising projects over the next several months.
With the onset of the coronavirus, most of the organizations selected for this second round physically shut their offices in mid-March, pivoting their programming and services to online platforms to address the immediate needs of their clientele.
The CIF is managed by the QCGN to assist the most marginalized across our communities – our young people, and seniors who need to find jobs, overcome isolation, or learn necessary skills.
Each of these projects is grassroots-led. The leaders of each of these groups design their own approach to foster vitality, to more effectively tackle social issues that both challenge and hinder their members. The QCGN’s mandate is to empower this work by ensuring these community groups are provided with resources, tools and on-the-front-lines leadership training.
This is our second round of such social-innovation funding. As with the first round, it is financed 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.
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.”
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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.