English-speaking community disagrees profoundly with government on secularism bill

Montreal – May 23, 2019A clear majority of English-speaking Quebecers do not support restrictions on religious symbols worn by public officials. That conclusion stood out in a recent poll that surveyed Quebecers’ attitudes towards the Coalition Avenir Québec government’s proposed secularism bill.

An oversample of English-speaking Quebecers taken from an Association for Canadian Studies-Léger Marketing poll shows that a significant majority of Anglophones believes Bill 21 contravenes the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that the courts are the proper forum to determine whether it violates Quebecers’ basic civil rights.

“These numbers certainly shatter the government’s claim that many English-speaking Quebecers support the bill,” commented Geoffrey Chambers, president of the Quebec Community Groups Network. “We are asking the government to reconsider adopting legislation that will create deep divisions in Quebec.”

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QCGN Supports Commissioner’s Call for a More Effective Official Languages Act

Montreal, May 9, 2019 – The Quebec Community Groups Network welcomes the Commissioner of Official Languages’ recommendations for a modernized Official Languages Act that further the vitality of linguistic minorities and direct federal institutions to comply with their obligations to the Canadian public.

Commissioner Raymond Théberge today proposed legislative changes and new regulatory frameworks in such areas as justice, communications with and services to the public, governance, compliance, and the advancement of Canada’s two official languages.

The QCGN welcomed Théberge’s call for more clarity and definitions of Part VII of the Act, which sets out the obligation of federal departments and institutions to support the vitality of official language minority communities; and Part VI, which commits the Government of Canada to ensure that English- and French-speaking Canadians have equal opportunities for employment and advancement in federal institutions.

However, we were somewhat disappointed that Commissioner Théberge limited his suggestions to enhancing existing rights. QCGN and our sister organization in French Canada, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada (FCFA), go much further in seeking fundamental changes that would expand the application of the Act and reinforce our rights. 

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Community Unites to Fight for Democratically Elected School Boards

Montreal, April 25, 2019 – Community leaders and organizations representing English-speaking Quebecers have joined together to form a provincial alliance to support democratically elected school boards and convince the government to maintain them.  

APPELE-Québec – the Alliance for the Promotion of Public English-language Education in Québec – is a broadly-based, Quebec-wide community coalition to promote the continued existence of English school boards, to ensure they are governed by commissioners who are democratically elected by the English-speaking community at large. Our Alliance, already with 16 supporting organizations and nine observer groups, is expanding rapidly.

“Our community is very alarmed by the Government of Quebec’s stated intention to abolish school boards and school board elections,” declared former MNA Geoffrey Kelley, who is chairing APPELE-Québec. “We understand that legislation to that effect is being prepared without any formal input from the English-speaking community.”

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Improving access to Justice for minority language communities in Quebec

Canadians expect that language should not be a barrier to access to justice. That is why the Government of Canada is taking positive measures to support official language minority communities as they interact with the justice system.

Today, the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, announced the Government of Canada’s support for the Quebec Community Groups Network’s (QCGN) people-centered project for improving access to Justice in English in Quebec. This project, which received $445,050 in funding, will support community volunteers leading the QCGN’s work in three key areas: justice services related to administrative tribunals, youth, and seniors. The project will help ensure continued dialogue and engagement, both within the community and with the justice sector.

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QCGN pleased with renewed support for English-speaking Quebecers

The Quebec Community Groups Network is pleased that in today’s provincial budget, the Coalition Avenir Québec government has invested more money in our community.

The QCGN hopes increased funding will help the Secretariat to fulfil its role better to serve as a conduit for our community to have full access to government ministries and agencies in order to counter unintended negative effects of government legislation, regulations and policies on Quebec’s English-speaking community

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QCGN Eager to Contribute to Hearings on Modernization of the Official Languages Act

Montreal, March 11, 2019The Quebec Community Groups Network looks forward to contributing to cross-country consultations by Official Languages Minister Mélanie Joly on the modernization of the Official Languages Act, as Canadians celebrate the 50th anniversary of this pivotal law.

“The Official Languages Act is a lifeline for English-speaking Quebec,” said QCGN President Geoffrey Chambers. “It is the only law that protects the linguistic interests of English-speaking Quebecers as a community. Having said that, after 50 years, the Act is somewhat antiquated and is in serious need of an update. We are particularly keen that English-speaking Quebec participates in the forums and towns halls announced by the Minister today.  We must make sure that our voices are heard.”

Over the past few years, the QCGN and its Francophone counterparts across Canada have been actively involved in discussions on ways to modernize the Act, including at hearings by both the House of Commons and Senate committees on Official Languages. We now look forward to providing input to Minister Joly, who is responsible for drafting the government’s proposals to modernize the act. (Read our brief here.)

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QCGN Calls on Premier Legault to Support English-speaking Community

Montreal – February 15, 2019 – Meeting with Premier François Legault on Friday for the first time since his election in October, the Quebec Community Groups Network called upon the Coalition Avenir Québec government to work in a collaborative environment to ensure a more vital and sustainable future for English-speaking Quebecers. 

In a cordial face-to-face meeting, QCGN representatives told Premier Legault, who is the Minister Responsible for Relations with English-speaking Quebecers, that our community is concerned about the zealous application of the Charter of the French Language, including a demand to remove English signage in hospitals. Members of our diverse community are also deeply troubled over the proposed ban on religious symbols.

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Shutdown of Riverdale destabilizing and ill-advised: QCGN

Montreal – January 28, 2019 – A steady stream of assurances that the government of Quebec Premier François Legault is taking the interests of Quebec’s English-speaking community into account has been contradicted by its actions – this time with the abrupt elimination of Riverdale High School from our English-language school system.

“While the Quebec government talks quite positively and in an often encouraging way about respecting community interests, to all appearances they don’t understand minority-language rights. Or they simply don’t care,” Geoffrey Chambers, president of the Quebec Community Groups Network, declared following today’s announcement.

The immensely disruptive process to force dispersal of Riverdale’s 450 English-language students across the remainder of the Lester B. Pearson School Board network, before the next school years begins, is clearly improper, Chambers added: “It disregards long-accepted school-shutdown policy, which for good reason requires public consultation as part of a thoughtful, judicious 18-month process.  For the Quebec government to sidestep the rules in its own education act by exercising an extraordinary power (invoking Art. 477.1.1 of La Loi sur l’instruction publique) is dangerously destabilizing and ill-advised.”

“The government is using a hammer here, and we have to wonder where and how they will next grab it,” Chambers said: “Riverdale may mean there will be more pre-emptive exercise of ministerial power, despite all their soft words. It certainly suggests the so-called new service centres to replace school boards will be unable to protect community interests.”

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QCGN Begs to Differ on Premier’s Interpretation of English Signage in Hospitals

Montreal January 10, 2019 – Premier François Legault’s statement that English-speaking Quebecers have the right to services in their language but not to English signs is wrong. Bill 101 in no way prohibits the use of English on hospital signs as they relate to health and safety, maintains Geoffrey Chambers, President of the Quebec Community Groups Network.

“It’s senseless to argue that you have access to health and social services in English if you do not know where the services are located,” Chambers commented. “Not to have clear signage is an obstacle to services. If you cannot find the service, it is not available to you.”

In a press release issued only in French, the regional health authority in Lachute, Le Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux (CISSS) des Laurentides, announced in December that it was removing English from all signs at the local hospital to be conform with Quebec’s Charter of the French Language. This decision followed an intervention by the Office québecois de la langue française.

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QCGN mourns loss of James Shea, educator and advocate for linguistic duality 

Montreal, December 30, 2018 – The Quebec Community Groups Network was profoundly saddened to learn of the death this weekend of former QCGN President James Shea. Beloved throughout our Network, Jim was also the immediate past president of the Regional Association of West Quebecers.

“Jim was a fervent advocate for Quebec’s English-speaking community and an impassioned proponent of bilingualism,” said QCGN President Geoffrey Chambers. Jim led our Network during momentous times. Notably, he was serving at the helm when QCGN successfully advocated for increased support from the federal government’s Official Languages strategy as well as recognition from the provincial government that fostered creation of a Secretariat for Relations with English-speaking Quebecers.

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