The Quebec Community Groups Network, which represents 50 Anglophone groups in Quebec, met with Premier Francois Legault last week. QCGN president Geoffrey Chambers reveals what was discussed.
In an interview with CTV’s Paul Karwatsky, QCGN President Geoffrey Chambers discusses concerns that were raised during a first face-to-face meeting with Premier François Legault. Chambers said that while the Premier listened and agreed to consult the community more, he did not commit to following the community’s advice on issues like school boards.
The Quebec Community Groups Network got to take the concerns of the English community to the premier Friday at a private meeting. It was a rare opportunity so early in a new government’s mandate. “We’ve never met a premier of Quebec this early in his mandate or her mandate,” said QCGN President Geoffrey Chambers.
A network of anglophone groups that has been critical of the Coalition Avenir Québec government says it is cautiously optimistic after a “productive” and “encouraging” meeting with Premier François Legault Friday.
Legault was sworn in four months ago. It’s the earliest a new premier has met with the Quebec Community Groups Network, which represents 50 anglophone groups.
The premier “was well-briefed, he knew the files, he didn’t have to have the meeting so early,” QCGN president Geoffrey Chambers said afterward.
“What we could reasonably expect today is exactly what we got, so we’re quite pleased, (though) not without some reserve as to how it could go in the future.”
He was speaking to reporters after a 90-minute meeting between QCGN officials, Legault and Christopher Skeete, the premier’s parliamentary assistant for relations with English-speaking Quebecers.
Chambers said the CAQ government’s record on issues affecting anglophones has been “very mixed. There have been a number of positions and statements that have kind of shocked our community and worried people, but meetings like this are encouraging.”
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.
As their petition to save Riverdale High School continues to pick up steam, several former students are also considering taking their fight to court.
“You can just click on it and watch the numbers keep rolling on it,” said former student Amanda Lovelace. “We’re actually shocked.”
In a week, they have gathered just over 2,000 signatures.
While they have enlisted the help of their local MNA, Monseff Derraji, to take their petition to the National Assembly, Lovelace says they are willing to put forth a legal challenge.
Starting September, Riverdale High School will be operated by Marguerite-Bourgeoys school board. Aimée Lemieux reports.
Watch interview with QCGN President Geoffrey Chambers
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.”
The Minister of Education’s decision to force the transfer of an English school to the French-language network worries the English-speaking community of West Island, which fears for the respect of its rights guaranteed by the Charter under the Legault government.
“We have the right to have our institutions, rights that are established in the constitution. It seems the minister does not see these rights as important,” says the president of the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN), which represents more than 50 English-language community organizations.
The same goes for the Quebec English School Boards Association. “We may think that this is an affront to our powers to manage and control our schools,” adds its managing director, Russell Copeman.
The Journal revealed Monday that the Minister of Education, Jean-François Roberge, will use a power rarely evoked in the Education Act to require the transfer of the Riverdale High School from the Lester B. Pearson School Board. to the Marguerite-Bourgeoys School Board (CSMB). The English-language facility is only used at half capacity, while the CSMB is overflowing with the influx of newcomers to the area.
Read more (in French only)
Christopher Skeete, the MNA responsible for relations with English-speaking Quebecers, says the province will stand its ground when it comes to bilingual signage at a Lachute hospital.
“I think the premier was quite clear in his statements that we’re going to be supporting the decision that happened there,” said Skeete.
“But at the same token, we should never forget this has no incidence on services that are being rendered to the English-speaking population.”
Earlier this month, a decision from the Lachute hospital caused an uproar.
After a meeting from the Office québécoise de la langue française (OQLF), the hospital decided to remove English-language signage from its facility.
The Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) believes the government is being too strict with their interpretation of the province’s French-language charter.
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