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QCGN to Quebec: English-speaking community part of solution, not the problem

May 16th,2024 | Valley Voices

By Eva Ludvig

The following is an abridged version of a public letter sent to Jean-François Roberge, minister of the French Language,  following the recent presentation of the provincial government’s Plan pour la langue française. 

We must tell you, we were disappointed – not so much by what was contained in the Quebec government’s Plan pour la langue française, but by what was missing.

You already know we strongly disagree with the way the plan punishes world-class universities like Concordia and McGill with discriminatory tuition increases and unrealistic demands imposed, without consultation, for 80 per cent of undergraduates to achieve an intermediate level of French proficiency.

And we take issue with the government’s scapegoating of immigrants, especially temporary immigrants, for not speaking French when they make such an important contribution to Quebec’s economy and society.

So, we wholeheartedly applaud measures to improve the provision of and access to classes to help non-French speakers master the language, but we ask you to ensure that those among the 1.3 million members of Quebec’s English-speaking community who have not yet mastered French or would like to improve their proficiency, will also be able to get rapid access to these essential services.

We want also to talk to you most about an important element missing in your plan. It contains nine priorities, with specific measures to support each one.

We believe a 10th priority should be added. Why? Because there are no constructive references to our community in your plan, and there should be. The English-speaking community of Quebec has a role to play in the promotion and protection of the French language. We can make reasonable and constructive suggestions to further this objective. We are also Quebecers. We are part of the solution, not the problem.

A key first step of this priority would be to determine a role for the Secrétariat aux relations avec les Québécois d’expression anglaise to play in the Groupe d’action pour l’avenir de la langue française policy-making process. We saw no reference to the Secrétariat in your document.

A second specific measure would be to improve Quebecers’ general understanding of the English-speaking community’s history, accomplishments, contributions and its continuing strong attachment to Quebec.

Third would be initiatives for rapprochement and understanding between our two great communities.

An important element would be using the most balanced statistics possible to measure the strength of French. The government often uses language-at-home and mother-tongue; we think using French in public is a more neutral and nuanced yardstick. 

Regardless of where we agree or disagree, the English-speaking community should be part of the process.

We should not be invisible. We play an important role in this society and have the right to contribute to the broader values that our society needs to share.

We hope you will understand that English-speaking Quebecers are not the enemy. We haven’t been for decades and should not be treated as such.

Our differences with the government are real, some of them quite sharp, but that does not mean we cannot find a common cause and work together.

Eva Ludvig is the president of the Quebec Community Groups Network in Montreal. This is an abridged version of a public letter sent to Jean-François Roberge, minister of the French Language.

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