Wading Through Language Issues

(VIDEO) Kevin Shaar, constitutional lawyer at the Quebec Community Groups Network, talks about languages acts and different jurisdictions with CTV news anchor Mutsumi Takahashi.

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Montreal and special interest groups’ reactions mixed after Quebec budget

An unexpected area of funding was the $4 million for English-speaking Quebecers, money the Quebec Community Group Network (QCGN) expects to help get English speakers better access to government services.

“To gather actual statistical data that can be used to determine where the gaps are, where we need help,” said QCGN president Marlene Jennings.

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QCGN Pleased with New Spending to Support English-speaking Minority

Provincial Budget Prioritizes Health, Education, and Economic Recovery

Montreal, March 25, 2021 – The Quebec Community Groups Network is pleased that Quebec’s budget will strengthen the capacity of community organizations to serve Quebec’s English-speaking minority community by, notably, maintaining and enhancing the network of wellness centres and implementing an employability strategy. The 2021-2022 expenditure budget for the program to strengthen the vitality for English-speaking communities is set at $10.5 million – an increase of $4.0 million from the projected expenditure for 2020-2021.

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Opinion : Bilingual Juges… Almost

In this opinion piece by Patrice Garant, a public law professor, explains the principle of judicial independence mentioned by former Quebec Court Judge Claude Laporte in a recent article. M. Garant also supports the constitutional right Quebec citizens have to use either French or English in courts.

Langue française : Appuyons Simon Jolin-Barrette et Mélanie Joly!

BILINGUISME INSTITUTIONNEL

Alors que tout le monde s’entend sur l’importance de renforcer le français, vouloir imposer systématiquement le bilinguisme aux juges francophones de districts majoritairement francophones, sous prétexte que certains de leurs résidants sont anglophones, laisse pantois.

Rappelons que cela aurait pour effet d’interdire aux avocats unilingues francophones d’accéder à la magistrature dans la plus grande partie du Québec.

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Corey Hoare: To be Free to Protest in your Own Language

To focus on the language of protest placards when they are written in English is merely a side issue and a distraction when the premier of the province continues to minimize systemic discrimination as a fact of Quebec life, writes Corey Hoare, a Montreal university admissions administrator.

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Job Posting: Legal and social Policy Researcher (2 openings) – Access to Justice in English Project

Start Date: as soon as possible
Term: up to March 31, 2023 (approx. 2 years depending on start date)
Salary: 45,000 CAD to 55,000 CAD depending on experience

ABOUT THE ACCESS TO JUSTICE IN ENGLISH PROJECT

The QCGN considers access to justice in English in Quebec as essential to strengthening community vitality and representation. The Access to Justice in English in Quebec (AJEQ) project is a community-based initiative developed by the QCGN with support from Justice Canada. The project seeks to:

  • Better understand access to justice in English issues affecting the Official Language Minority Community (OLMC) in Quebec.
  • Develop effective ways to address identified access to justice in English issues.
  • Engage the justice system in improving access to justice in English.

Reporting to the Access to Justice Project Director, the Legal and Social Policy Researcher (hereinafter Researcher) is required to support the work of the Access to Justice in English Initiative by conducting research on language rights and policies across Quebec and developing strategies to better organize justice services for the Official Language Minority Community.

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Sector Portraits

Policy Gap Portrait: Arts, Culture and Heritage Sector 

The strength of this sector is critical to our community’s sense of belonging and in providing recreational and cultural activities in our languageIn mobilizing community stakeholders to promote the culture and heritage of our Official Language Minority Community (OLMC) we sensitize the larger community to the value and importance of our community vitality. 

Are the unique needs of the English-speaking community properly accounted for in the legislative, regulatory and policy frameworks in this sector? 

  • Many organizations are not involved in high-level policy discussion. This fact alone speaks to a gap when it comes to the legislative frameworks (ELAN would be a notable exception). Few ACH organizations have a policy director or capacity to do policy work (Labour Unions such as ACTRA have the capacity for this work). 
  • There is a lack of access to information about pertinent legislation. Stakeholders in the sector do not feel sufficiently informed. 
  • Communications feel “a bit one-sided”, there is a perceived lack of consultation. 
  •  Recent policy (new Cultural Policy, change in policy re Artists in Schools) from Quebec Government has not addressed these gaps sufficiently. 
Are decision processes used to fund organizations, programs and services allowing for funds to be distributed equitably to the ESC? 

  • Organizations in this sector that are funded by PCH find the programs difficult to figure out. Organizations that are not sure if they fit criteria “fall between the cracks.” It would be nice if there were more options for core funding that were less restrictive. 
  • One organization “struggled for years to get core funding. Then it all came at once.”  
  • Some organizations state a preference for project funding, in some instances, as the project parameters are highly targeted and allow for focus on specific challenges in the community. It allows for more creativity, but on the flipside it’s often a “one-and-done”-not sustainable. 

 

 

Representation 

  • There is a working relationship between the sector federal government via the ACH Working group.  
  • Representation of the sector can be improved with sectoral and multi-sectoral organizations, notably the QCGN where ACH representation is currently lacking.  Three of the major ACH groups resigned from QCGN in 2019 following disagreements with then-current leadership.  
  • Some organizations who are bilingual notice a gap in OLMC funding and policy, not sure where they fit in. There seemed to be an opportunity for alignment with Culture Montreal, but criteria were too restrictive.  
  • Convincing the larger ESCQ of importance of ACH is challenging, leading to a lack of resources in the sector if ACH is not recognized as an ESCQ priority. 
Data 

  • Of the four major language communities, ESCQ has highest % of artists. 
  • We lack a significant database for tracking arts funding.  PCH has previously compiled data on federal cultural spending for the Francophone OLMC, with plans to update that data in 2020 and collect equivalent data for the ESCQ 
  • Work and resources are necessary to collect and organize data. Organizations often start the work but lack the capacity to carry out projects-subsequently the work often starts over. There’s a need for more tools and more capacity support. 

 

 

Policy Gap Portrait: Education Sector 

A strong education sector is critical to our sense of belonging and in providing opportunities for economic and social integration. Ensuring that we can continue to provide education in English is essential to ensuring the vitality of our Official Language Minority Community (OLMC). 

Are the unique needs of the English-speaking community properly accounted for in the legislative, regulatory and policy frameworks in this sector? 

  • Language laws mean communication between the Ministry and English sector is exclusively in French. This includes information pertinent to COVID-19 as well as for special needs students. 
  • ESC feels like an “afterthought” in policy-making. We are not addressed in certain policy documents. Bill 40 undermines Section 23 rights of ESC. 
  • Regional challenges include low population which reduces access to transportation, support staff and special courses. 
  • The SRQEA builds capacity but is undermined by government position that French is the only minority language in Canada.  

 

Are decision processes used to fund organizations, programs and services allowing for funds to be distributed equitably to the ESC? 

  • Students in English sector represent 10% of the student population and are funded per capita, but the arrangement is not equitable.  
  • There is a lack of transparency around federal transfers with 2/3 of federal funds not accounted for. 86 million in federal funding for OLMC but we only receive 7 million. 
  • We face disparities with respect to funding for special programs such as tutoring, Community Learning Centres and community-based learning initiatives.  
  • Applications for project funding must be made in French (some funding now available in English). Our organizations are disadvantaged when receiving funding because we pay out of pocket for translation costs. 
Is there adequate data being used to develop and evaluate public policy in this sector? 

  • Data required to influence policy is inaccessible due to cost or other barriers. One challenge in the regions is that data is restricted due to privacy concerns. 
  • Different definitions of English-speaking (Mother Tongue, FOLS) lead to inconsistent measures of our population. 
  • Certain indicators of challenges in the sector have simply not been measured effectively. Examples given include the “brain drain” and the number of students eligible for English school who attend French schools. 

 

Is the English-speaking community effectively represented at a decision-making level in this sector? 

  • Structurally the community is not an equal partner within this sector and is not present in decision-making process. The community is represented at tables within the ministry but it is unclear if we are being heard in this capacity. 
  • The ESC is underrepresented in government and civil service. Consultation officers in the sector do not speak English and cannot adequately consult English speakers. 
  • We have limited representation in official positions. The ADM in this sector for the English-speaking community holds other portfolios and lacks influence within the ministry. Others have transversal responsibilities and aren’t as influential as they could be.  

 

 

Policy Gap Portrait: Employment Sector 

A strong employment sector ensuring that English speakers have equitable access to the labour market as well as employability services is essential to the vitality of our Official Language Minority Community (OLMC)The work in this sector is critical to our sense of belonging and in providing opportunities for social and economic integration.  

Are the unique needs of the English-speaking community properly accounted for in the legislative, regulatory and policy frameworks in this sector? 

  • Policy is needed to address the skills gap between the regions and the city. Policy in this sector needs to be more adapted to regional realities. 
  • Subsidies exist to integrate people with disabilities into the workforce; some of these subsidies are only available in French.  

 

Is the English-speaking community effectively represented at a decision-making level in this sector? 

  • Provincial stakeholders have already identified significant gaps in representation and taken steps to address them with decision-makers1. 
  • QCGN can support sectoral players by aligning its process with their needs and sensitizing its stakeholders to these issues. 

 

Are decision processes used to fund organizations, programs and services allowing for funds to be distributed equitably to the ESC? 

  • Transfer of Skills Link program from federal to provincial jurisdiction put ESC organizations at a disadvantage. At the same time this decision may have benefited organizations with provincial mandates (Carrefours Jeunesse-Emploi). 

 

Is there adequate data being used to develop and evaluate public policy in this sector? 

  • Information/communications gap. We need better communication in the sector, there’s a sense that people still don’t know what’s out there. 
  • Stakeholders expressed a need on Dec. 1 for portraits of funding access. 
  • Newcomer’s lack of access to job market is acknowledged and documented. Stronger empirical evidence is needed on retention of newcomers in job market and their overall experience in the workforce.  

 

Policy Gap Portrait: Health and Social Services Sector 

Health and Social Services are something that all Quebecers require, and access to services in English is a recognized legal right in Quebec. The work in this sector is critical to ensuring that language rights are respected and recognized and to providing for a presence of institutions and active offer of service. 

Are the unique needs of the English-speaking community properly accounted for in the legislative, regulatory and policy frameworks in this sector? 

  • The legal right to access health services does not guarantee that the service is accessible. 
  • Language laws can be interpreted and applied more rigidly than intended with respect to health and social services. This restricts access for English speakers. 
  • The legal framework provides mechanisms to ensure access within health networks, but does not cover essential services housed outside of the provincial network (e.g. ambulance services). 
  • Access to services has different meanings in urban and rural areas and requires tailored policy responses. 
Are decision processes used to fund organizations, programs and services allowing for funds to be distributed equitably to the ESC? 

  • Provincial funding for community health and social services (PSOC) is not available to many English-speaking organizations in the regions. English speakers consequently lack access to such services in their language. 
  • English speakers must travel to obtain services that are not provided close to home. 
  • There is a noted lack of English-language mental health services, with regions in particular lacking access to these services.  

 

Is there adequate data being used to develop and evaluate public policy in this sector? 

  • More information sharing is needed between institutions and decision-makers so we can work with complete portraits of access. Stakeholders are currently working in silos and we lack effective evaluation. 

 

Is the English-speaking community effectively represented at a decision-making level in this sector? 

  • This sector is impacted by transversal issues of under-representation in the civil service.  
  • English speakers have representation through some structures, such as Regional Access Committees. These structures are not well-understood and their influence in decision-making is not clear.   

 

Policy Gap Portrait: Justice Sector 

To ensure community vitality, English-speaking Quebecers need equitable access to the justice system. This access must account for the unique needs and experiences of individuals and communities when entering and navigating the justice system.  

Are the unique needs of the English-speaking community properly accounted for in the legislative, regulatory and policy frameworks in this sector? 

  • Anecdotal information indicates that a lack of English-language service provision by Correctional Services of Canada leads to delays in English-speaking inmates obtaining release. 
  • Language restrictions impact access to services in other sectors including Health and Education. 
Are decision processes used to fund organizations, programs and services allowing for funds to be distributed equitably to the ESC? 

  • There is a lack of legal aid and accompaniment services in the English-speaking community. Documentation exists in English, but people require more personalized support. 

 

Is there adequate data being used to develop and evaluate public policy in this sector? 

  • Key issues have been identified with respect to prison release but we lack data to support these claims. The Access to Justice in English in Quebec project will serve to collect part of this data. 
Is the English-speaking community effectively represented at a decision-making level in this sector? 

  • English speakers, particularly in racialized communities do not see themselves represented in the justice system or law enforcement. Cultural barriers to accessing justice are reported. 

 

Policy Gap Portrait: Media Sector 

A strong media sector that covers and reflects English-speaking Quebec is critical to our community’s sense of belonging and to supporting an environment that provides visibility of our language and our Official Language Minority Community (OLMC). To ensure community vitality, English-speaking Quebecers need to be covered and reflected in news and current affairs in print and broadcast media as well as throughout television and radio programming. 

Are the unique needs of the English-speaking community properly accounted for in the legislative, regulatory and policy frameworks in this sector? 

  • There is a lack of recognition for community media as a tool for community cohesiveness, promoting retention and for informing the community. 
  • A significant challenge is evaluating impact of gaps where no programs, supporting policies or regulatory frameworks exist.  
  • Perception persists that English-speaking Quebec is “not a legitimate minority.” Due to political considerations more is being done to address to the concerns of Francophone minority communities, including Quebec French-speaking majority. 
  • As presented, Bill C-10 that amends the Broadcasting Act makes no mention of Official Language Minority Communities (OLMC). 
  • Need to ensure unregulated TV and digital media giants – GoogleFacebook, Netflix – operate in Canada within legislative frameworks and are taxed equitably. 
  • CanCon tax credits and rules must be adjusted to ensure local Quebec productions are competitive. 
  • CRTC condition of license are not strictly enforced and fail to protect media from budget cuts e.g. BellMedia cuts to CJAD/CTV and transfer of funds from MATV to TVA.  
Are decision processes used to fund organizations, programs and services allowing for funds to be distributed equitably to the ESC? 

  • There is a need to better address broadband access disparities. This is increasing imperative as print and radio news are moving online. Because Internet is not affordable and accessible in all areas, vulnerable members of our community are being left behind – and not just in isolated regions. 
  • There are inequities in funding between Francophone minority communities outside Quebec and the English-speaking community of Quebec in this sector and beyond. 
  • The $500 million Strategic Media Fund (part of Official Languages Action Plan) is addressing some issues of capacity and sustainability of community newspapers through the Local Journalism Initiative. More programs like these are needed – in community radio, for example.   
  • Refundable tax credits are also helpful  
  • Cost disparities exist between the two OLMCs with respect to newspaper production. 
  • More funding is required from PCH for research and advocacyThe QCGN has leverage with funders that others lack. 
  • Many groups have been forced to diversify funding sources to maintain programming. At MATV in Outaouaisfor example, some of the staff is assuming some of the responsibility. 
Is there adequate data being used to develop and evaluate public policy in this sector? 

  • Statistics from the perspective of media consumers perspective would be helpful. 
  • Data is needed to assess the impact of current cutbacks at Bell Media and elsewhere. 
  • Without data, changing definitions of Canadian content present a challenge. 
  • Not enough attention being paid to minorities within OLMCs and underrepresented statistical areasMore data is needed, however disaggregated data is costly. 
  • Addressing the question of symmetry vs asymmetry in OLA modernization and its impact on media serving OLMCs requires research. 
Is the English-speaking community effectively represented at a decision-making level in this sector? 

  • Community/QCGN pipeline to PCH, OCOL and other enabling departments and agencies has not always been effective in this sector.  
  • Communications between the QCGN and its network must be coordinated so stakeholders are better informed of advocacy efforts and their impacts. 
  • Only CBC/Radio Canada has legislated obligations to OLMCs. Private corporations are not obliged to take into account needs of minorities. 
  • Despite that. Mother Corp coverage concentrated in Montreal area and CBC is not present in all OLMC communities. 
  • Bill C-10 is a representation issue. Representation question should be expanded to corporate landscape as well.  
  • Collaboration agreements with federal institutions (CBC, NFB, Canada Media Fund, Canada Council, National Arts Centre) would bring necessary players to the table to discuss needs of English OLMC. English-speaking Quebec has a limited agreement with NFB. Francophone OLMC agreement has wider reach. 
  • More concerted action in collaboration with other OLMCs is needed. 

UnpublishedTV: Is the French Language in decline in Quebec?  

(VIDEO) The Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) is uncomfortable with the direction the federal government has chosen regarding proposed changes to the Official Languages Act, QCGN Board member Eva Ludvig says during a videocast panel discussion on Unpublished TV.

“What is being introduced is really changing the dynamics between English-and French-speaking people in this country and changing a pillar of Canadian society,” Ludvig says. The nation’s sustained effort over more than half a century to create a balance with the two official languages, English and French, has used “an equal basis” as one of its policy cornerstones, she adds. Now, the changes proposed by Ottawa have in effect “really relegated the English language and the English-speaking minority in Quebec… to a lesser status,” Ludvig adds: “That is not what official languages is about, not what the country has bought into, nor what it has celebrated.”

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