On April 7, the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) hosted a town hall webinar attended by more than 60 people, which was later posted on YouTube. During the webinar, QCGN policy, research and public affairs director Stephen Thompson and legal adviser Marion Sandilands explained the implications of the bill, which is currently undergoing second reading in the House of Commons.
Quebec’s English-speaking community is coming together to fight the province’s language reform, Bill 96.
The Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) along with the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN), the English Parents Committee Association (EPCA) and the Quebec Federation of Home Schools Association (QFHSA) say they have “no other option but to fight for the complete rollback of this measure.”
Retired Senator and former journalist Joan Fraser has for decades been one of the most insightful observers of Quebec politics. So, when Fraser says that Quebec’s English-speaking population is angry like never before, one must take the situation seriously. “We feel abandoned,” she told me this week. “For 50 years, we have been told that we have to adapt to the changes in Quebec society. But we get the feeling that it’s never enough, that each time we adapt, the goal posts are moved.” This perception is correct.
Matt Aronson, secretary of the Board of the QCGN, along with Liberal MNA David Birnbaum and Dawson Student Union President Alexandrah Cardona, speaks about the cancellation of the Dawson College expansion project by the Coalition Avenir Québec government.
Maxime Laporte, president of the Mouvement Québec français, accuses the QCGN and the Fédération des cégeps of spreading harmful misinformation about Bill 96, An Act respecting French. “According to the QCGN,” Laporte writes, “the recognized rights of Anglo-Quebecers would include a right to institutionally anglicize non-Anglophones, and any challenge to this alleged right, however fair and balanced, would be tantamount to undermining the community itself.”
The minister responsible for the French language, Simon Jolin-Barrette, has found the “perfect formula” to “eradicate” the English-speaking minority in Quebec, warns the president of the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN), Marlene Jennings. She no longer knows in which language to say it in order to be taken seriously.
QCGN President Marlene Jennings writes: “The QCGN and I have been asking the government ever since Bill 96 was tabled almost a year ago why it is necessary to create a Charter-free zone with respect to a wide range of interactions between individuals and the state in Quebec in order to promote the use of the French language. This is an issue with far-reaching implications for ALL Quebecers, not only English-speaking Quebecers.”
“It’s downright asymmetrical,” says Joan Fraser, a QCGN Board member and former senator, on the recently-tabled Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act: “It only talks about promoting and protecting the use of French within private companies in Quebec. There is no word on the protection of members of the [Anglophone] linguistic community in Quebec.”
On Feb. 23 during a Quebec National Assembly committee meeting on culture and education, CAQ Minister for the French Language Simon Jolin-Barrette proposed an amendment to the bill that will require students at English CEGEPs to take at least three courses in French, which aren’t French language or physical education courses, to graduate.
Quebec Community Groups Network board of directors secretary Matt Aronson, during an interview with the Low Down, said this requirement may be a systemic barrier for non-French speakers who seek a higher education in Quebec.
The Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) is disappointed with the bill presented by Ms. Petitpas Taylor.
According to the organization, it deplores what it analyzes as an abandonment of the principle of symmetry in the Act between minority Francophones and Anglophones.
We are creating a dangerous precedent, not only for us, but also for Francophones in other provinces , says Joan Fraser, former senator and member of the QCGN’s board of directors.