For nearly three decades, the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) has worked with members, partners, and stakeholders to produce an ever-evolving community development plan that expresses community needs, asserts shared priorities, and frames collective action. This has provided our community with not only a significant say in guiding directions for long-term growth, but also equipped it with a pragmatic frame of reference that addresses short-term challenges.
The QCGN is proud to have supported this most recent iteration of the priority setting process, guided by the Community Vitality Roundtables. As the backbone organization that supported the development of the 2022-2027 Community Development Plan for English-speaking Quebec, we want to express our sincere gratitude to all who participated in its creation and development, most notably Community Vitality Roundtable participants who spearheaded and shepherded this critical undertaking.
Serving as major interlocutor between the English-speaking community of Quebec and all levels of government, the QCGN’s role is to steward this planning process. We mobilize the broader community’s participation to better identify and channel emerging priorities for decision-makers. In recent years, the QCGN has received a loud and clear message from the community regarding the leadership approach required to guide the setting and alignment of common priorities. It is with this in mind that we helped establish the Community Vitality Roundtables. And it is also with this in mind that we will continue to actively support them in the years to come.
Working Together for a More Vital Community, the 2022-2027 Community Development Plan for English-speaking Quebec is the product of more than two years of sustained consultation. More than 80 community organizations and institutions that serve English-speaking Quebecers participated, collaborated, and contributed. Through ongoing dialogue, stakeholders have worked together. We have reaffirmed a common understanding of what makes our community vital and how working together makes it possible to achieve what we cannot accomplish on our own.
Successful implementation of the 2022-2027 Community Development Plan depends on broad engagement across the dynamic and vital forces of our community. English-speaking Quebec has evolved over the decades, as have our needs and aspirations. From Côte-Nord to Côte-des-Neiges, our communities face many common challenges. We also grapple with diverse needs and priorities. This plan seeks to address both the shared and individual concerns that our Community of Communities faces. We look forward to working — together with all our communities — to foster, nurture and promote vitality.
Quebec Community Groups Network
Working Together for a More Vital Community, the 2022-2027 Community Development Plan for English-speaking Quebec provides a framework for collective action to be undertaken across the community sector to improve the vitality of our Community of Communities. Through coordinated, strategic steps, our community asserts collective control and provides direction over the array of allocated and available resources to ensure its development.
Led by the Community Vitality Roundtables, the Community Development Plan convenes stakeholders from across Quebec’s English-speaking community to shape strategies and oversee implementation. The Roundtables are autonomous entities. They are chaired by independent community representatives.
The QCGN serves as official interlocutor between Canadian Heritage and Quebec’s English-speaking community. It is a major stakeholder of multiple departments identified in the Government of Canada’s strategy to support the vitality of Official Language Minority Communities. Thus, the QCGN is responsible for providing ongoing backbone support to the Roundtables.
Since 2020, more than 500 English-speaking Quebecers, including representatives from dozens of community organizations have voiced the needs and aspirations across various regions and sectors of Quebec, working together to define the needs and priorities of our Community of Communities.
Our 2022-2027 Community Development Plan provides a blueprint: clear strategies and actions that will contribute to the vitality of our community. It identifies desired outcomes organized in four distinct but overlapping development areas: funding; data; representation; and organizational and network health. Each of the four areas is grounded on the themes that emerged from the consultation process. Each is overseen by its own Roundtable.
The four development areas underlie the structural issues we all face in the community sector. The Community Development Plan also identified a series of 14 desired outcomes. These, in turn, have been structured to frame a wide range of strategies and actions. The common goal is to increase community vitality in a manner that both reflects and encourages common priorities.
The initial iteration of the 2022-2027 Community Development Plan was shared at the Taking Action for a More Vital Community Forum held on March 15, 2022. An updated version was validated June 27 by the Community Roundtables. It was endorsed July 22 by the QCGN Board of Directors.
ABOUT THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING COMMUNITY
VITAL BUT VULNERABLE
In 2016, the English-speaking population of Quebec numbered 1.1 million persons, amounting to 13.7 per cent of the overall population. In the 2021 Census, using the same First Official Language Spoken (FOLS) variable, we numbered 1.25 million citizens – 14.9 per cent of Quebec’s population. Our community continues to grow. Statistics Canada predicts we will reach 1.7 million, or 17.2 per cent of Quebec’s population, by 2036. Our growth is largely driven by immigration and migration from other Canadian provinces. Thus, our community is changing in ways that profoundly impact our overall identity; our structural organization; how we express our identities; and how it relates with Quebec’s Francophone majority.
Quebec’s English-speaking community is the most diverse of Canada’s Official Language Minority Communities. More than one third (36 %) of immigrants to Quebec are English speaking. This diversity is to be celebrated. At the same time, it must be acknowledged that assessing common challenges, needs, and priorities is an increasingly delicate task.
For decades, English-speaking Quebec has been subjected to persistent stereotypes, portraying English-speaking Quebecers as a uniformly affluent minority endowed with a bastion of privilege within the province of Quebec. We must counter the persistent mythology, that English-speaking Quebecers constitute a pampered and exclusive elite. In 2016, our community’s unemployment rate was two percentage points higher than that of the province’s francophone majority. When measuring youth unemployment, the magnitude of this gap doubled to four percentage points.
In 15 of the 17 administrative regions of Quebec, the unemployment rate is higher for English speakers than for French speakers. The disparities between the two jobless rates reaches a peak of 14 percentage points in Côte-Nord. In 2016, the proportion of our community living below the Low-Income Cut Off (LICO) was 17.8 per cent. That is sharply higher than the 11.9 per cent for French-speaking Quebecers. To address these and other serious challenges, our community requires innovative and imaginative programs.
English-speaking Quebecers view our community as vital but vulnerable. A study by the department of Canadian Heritage, published in November 2019, concluded that fully half – 50 per cent – of English-speaking Quebecers did not believe the state of our linguistic community will be strong and more stable 20 years from now. Several demographic trends pose a significant challenge to the survival of our institutions and to the future vitality of our community.
Nothing more aptly demonstrates the perilous nature of these trends –and the daunting challenge posed to our community – than the very core, and best measure, of the future vitality of our communities: what has been done to our English-language schools. Since 1971, enrolment in English public and private education has suffered a dramatic decline. According to Quebec’s Education Ministry and the Institut de la statistique du Québec, the number of students enrolled in the English-language public and private sectors has plunged by 61.3 per cent from the early 1970s to the present day. The figure for 1971-1972 school year enrolments was 256,251. By 2019-2020, that figure tumbled to 99,042. Meanwhile, the French system also sustained a decline of its own over the same timespan: that figure dropped 28.8 per cent from 1,378,788 in 1971-1972 and to 981,905 in 2019-2020.
It is essential to note that the dramatic decline in enrolment in Quebec’s English-language schools was not limited to the decades immediately following the Quebec government’s adoption, in 1977, of the Charter of the French Language (Bill 101).
The decline in English school attendance persists even while registrations in the French-language system have rebounded. Other factors have contributed to the falling enrolment. These include: outmigration of Anglophone, whole families and/or youth from Quebec; the tendency of parents in rural and remote regions to send their children to nearby French schools; and sharp growth in the number of parents sending their children into French-language schooling (despite their legal right under Bill 101 to English schooling) in order to ensure they are provided with strong bilingual skills and a more substantial cultural integration into Quebec.
These trends document a set of needs across the English-speaking community that are poorly understood not simply by the majority language community, but also by both policymakers and the operational arms of the provincial and federal governments. Consequently, support that our community requires is not always forthcoming, notwithstanding the exceptionally firm foundation of facts on which these needs are so solidly documented.
Our community organizations require sustained investments in core operations, capacity for policy development and implementation, and research. We also need support to build connections between individual community members and our institutions. Not the least of the challenges in these circumstances is the profound need to foster a new generation of community leaders.
TOWARDS A MORE VITAL COMMUNITY
Sections 42 and 43 of the federal Official Languages Act set out the responsibilities of the Government of Canada to take measures to enhance the vitality of English and French linguistic minority communities.
To track progress, the proposed orientations are grounded in the Frame of Reference for the Vitality of Official-Language Minority Communities published by Canadian Heritage. Developed by minority-language experts and community groups from across Canada, this vitality framework recognizes 15 factors that are key to ensuring the vitality of these communities. While the Official Languages Act enshrines in law the responsibility of the Government of Canada to enhance the vitality of Official Language Minority Communities (OLMCs), English-speaking Quebec community organizations and institutions are on the front lines ensuring that these factors are recognized and implemented.
In 2001, the QCGN formed a Steering Committee for a Global Development Plan. Between 2002 and 2004, it developed a framework, objectives, and a community-wide process for consultation. The resulting Community Development Plan for the English-speaking Communities of Quebec 2005-2010 included a wide range of targeted activities tied to key performance indicators. These were determined by community leaders in key sectors of activity including education, employment, and health and social services.
The 2011 Cooperation Agreement between the QCGN on behalf of the English-speaking Community and Canadian Heritage mandates the QCGN to collect, collate, and articulate priorities of the English-speaking community. The Priority Setting Steering Committee (PSSC) was established as the mechanism tasked with gathering priorities. It launched the Strategic Priorities Forum, a five-year cyclical process of structured, community-wide consultation to identify the needs and priorities of English-speaking Quebecers and the community sector that supports them.
Following regional and sectoral consultations and a community-wide survey of more than 500 English-speaking, on March 25, 2012, more than 100 community leaders met in Montreal for a Community Priority Setting Conference. At the conclusion of the conference, leaders achieved consensus around a Declaration of Community Priorities established six overarching community priority areas which with the passage of a decade have retained a clear and enduring validity:
- Access to Services in English
- Community Building
- Economic Prosperity
- Identity and Renewal
- Leadership and Representation, and
- Strong Institutions
These Strategic Priorities Forum goals formed the basis of the 2012-2017 Community Priorities and Enabling Strategies of the English-speaking Community of Quebec which began a five-year planning cycle with annual check-ins with community stakeholders. The process was reoriented, in part, to allow priorities affirmed by the community to influence the Government of Canada’s official language strategies, now known as the Action Plan for Official Language Minority Communities.
These six priorities continue to serve as a foundation for annual priority-setting exercises used by Canadian Heritage to determine funding and development opportunities and to communicate community priorities to other federal departments and other levels of government.
In 2018, the Government of Canada presented its Action Plan for Official Languages, 2018-2023: Investing in our Future. The PSSC was commissioned to undertake a consultation process in summer 2018. This process reaffirmed community support for the six overarching priorities. It also introduced the concept of a Growth Plan, as an inclusive mechanism to address vulnerability in our Community of Communities and ensure a comprehensive and community-driven consultation process. The impetus for the Growth Plan was the requirement for a grassroots-based priority-setting process that would prove more inclusive, more transparent, and more accountable.
Since January 2020, the community sector serving and representing English-speaking Quebecers has engaged in ongoing dialogue which has enabled our community to develop a common understanding of shared challenges and vitality. As noted earlier in this report, four Community Roundtables were formed in the summer of 2021 to identify strategies to address four critical areas of common concern: data; funding; representation; and organizational and network health. Present across all sectors of activity, in regions as well as in urban centres, these areas have implications for organizations serving various communities within the English-speaking Quebec. Detailed below, these areas constitute a framework for managed community growth in line with community priorities.
Understanding socio-demographic and other data about our community is essential for our organizations and institutions to design effective programs and advocate for better policies, programs, and funding. Community sector organizations cite multiple barriers. These include the cost of data collection; a lack of internal training and expertise; and the general absence of consistent documentation and parameters to properly track trends central to community vitality. These widespread deficiencies severely hamper our community’s ability to make evidence-informed decisions, and largely cripple the process required to advocate authoritatively and effectively for community needs and priorities.
Collection and dissemination of this data is complex, owing to several factors. One fundamental challenge is that English-speaking community of Quebec, and who is considered to belong to it, is defined differently by different stakeholders. A notable example is the discrepancy between Mother Tongue and First Official Language Spoken (FOLS) described earlier in this plan. Organizations serving English-speaking Quebecers prefer the latter: it provides a significantly more accurate measure in relation to key indicators of vitality, such as the language in which someone wishes to receive services. It is also the variable used by most federal departments and agencies including Canadian Heritage and the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages. The lack of consensus on how English-speaking Quebecers should be counted often leads to – or in some cases can be used to excuse or try to justify – important lapses, oversights, or gaps in public policy. This shortcoming results in a particularly difficult and discouraging situation in Quebec, given that the provincial government uses the far more restrictive figure of Mother Tongue, which is counted at 639,365.
Organizations serving English-speaking Quebecers have traditionally received the lion’s share of their funding through federal programs and initiatives. The primary source of funding is the Action Plan for Official Languages. This currently represents a $2.7-billion investment, over five years, in Official Language Minority Communities (OLMC) across Canada. Of this amount, the English-speaking community of Quebec receives the lowest per-capita investment of any OLMC. Of the envelope of federal funding made available through the Action Plan, only $48.65 per English-speaking Quebecer was spent during Fiscal Year 2018-2019. Provinces that received the next lowest per-capita funding in the same fiscal year were Ontario and New Brunswick. That allocation was, respectively, $134.99 and $124.38 per OLMC member, in both instances well over double the allocation for English Quebec. Among the provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador received the highest per capita OLMC funding, $1,349.01. In the Territories, the per-capita allocation ranged from $6,000 to $9,000.
The roots of many of the greatest challenges to our vitality can be traced to the core areas governed under provincial jurisdiction. The role of provincial support and understanding is both critical and crucial. The Government of Quebec invests $1.1 billion annually in the community sector. According to the Quebec government’s own estimates, however, organizations serving English-speaking Quebecers receive as little as three per cent of that amount.
This underfunding is as profound as it is systemic.
It hardly seems necessary to have to point out the vast disparity, the clear and obvious inequity, and the dismal and sharply detrimental effect of this dramatic degree of underfunding.
The way this approach constrains most of our organizations need not be belaboured. Suffice to say that it is time to address and resolve the systemic challenges that prevent our community from receiving an equitable share of these funds. This, in turn, restricts many groups from obtaining access to vital resources or the continuity conferred by a stable staffing situation. In the meantime, many groups are forced to rely on episodic funding for special projects to be able to support what should be acknowledged and financed as core operations. In addition, groups require more information on available funding.
ORGANIZATIONAL AND NETWORK HEALTH
According to a 2012 report by the Centre for Community Organizations, about 800 of an estimated 5,000 groups primarily serve English-speaking, bilingual, or ethnocultural populations. Dozens of provincial, regional, and sectoral community organizations have a recognized mission to serve the English-speaking community, providing essential programs and services to their populations. According to the Community Vitality Roundtables, these organizations would greatly benefit from working together to define and defend common interests while also addressing the day to day needs of their organizations. Formal networks exist to facilitate this collaborative work. However, not all stakeholders are aware of these networks. In some cases where they are aware, they lack the operational and financial capacity to participate.
Building a more collaborative network was a key theme of the 2020 consultations led by the QCGN. Given the increasing diversity within Quebec’s English-speaking community, stakeholders are encountering difficulty reaching consensus regarding their capacity to “speak with one voice.” Networks including the QCGN are fundamental to fulfil essential role in supporting organizations that face a host of day-to-day challenges. These include:
- Accessing funding
- Accessing data
- Keeping up with organizational demand
- Managing governance processes
- Recruiting, training, and retaining staff, volunteers, and members
Organizations indicated a lack of information-sharing and coordination between organizations around major events. Event overload – the expectation that organizations attend multiple events for networking and consultation while maintaining oversight of their own operations – poses a significant challenge to organizations with limited staff and capacity. Stakeholders discussed the need for greater collaboration with institutions, notably but not exclusively academic institutions, to increase awareness of best practices; encourage acquisition of necessary resources and training to adopt them; and improve organizational ability to obtain access to higher quality and more comprehensive information.
Our community’s under-representation in Quebec’s civil service constitutes a significant and longstanding barrier to the collective vitality of our community. The proportion of Mother Tongue English speakers working for the Quebec government has hovered around one per cent since the 1970s. Representation of English speakers is higher, overall, in the Quebec component of the federal civil service, key challenges remain outside the National Capital Region and in certain sectors. Consequently, officials at all levels of government display a clear absence of understanding of the needs of our minority community and the challenges we face.
Stakeholders across the community have identified this as a recurring challenge. Without effective representation across the public sector, the unique needs of our community are not accounted for and addressed in policy and programming decisions. They are often simply ignored. In addition to exerting an adverse impact on the vitality of organizations and institutions, this is a dynamic that also results in a lack of available government information in English.
It is also essential to create and sustain the infrastructure in order for our Community of Communities to be fully heard. The English-speaking community is increasingly diverse. It features both an aging population as well as a younger generation that faces entirely new challenges. Concerted work is necessary to support these distinct populations in collaborating and in aligning their priorities to achieve shared objectives.