Bill 96: The federation of cégeps says that the minister’s bill does not address the root of the registration problem


At the end of the second week of committee hearings on Bill 96, MPs heard a series of questions on the practical application of the bill. In many cases, Quebec and the witnesses had to agree to disagree.

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QUEBEC – The association representing 27 French-speaking CEGEP students says it is in favor of freezing enrollments in the English system but says the government is ignoring the real question: why are Francophones flocking to the English system?

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And a constitutional law professor said the government can expect a legal challenge from Indigenous communities, because making French the only official and common language of Quebec will be seen as an obstacle to the ancestral rights already recognized by the Indigenous peoples. higher courts.

If the government wants to avoid such a challenge, it must “consult and accommodate” the First Nations, said Jean Leclair, professor at the University of Montreal.

Earlier this week, the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador said Bill 96 continues to jeopardize the success of First Nations students, as it requires students educated off reserve to enroll in French classes even if their mother tongue is an Indigenous language or English.

At the end of the second week of hearings on Bill 96 revising the Charter of the French language, the Fédération d’études collégiale du Québec (FECQ) told the National Assembly committee reviewing the legislation that it accepts the Quebec plan to freeze registrations in the English system at 2019 levels.

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This means that English CEGEP enrollments will be frozen at their current level of 17.5 percent of all CEGEP enrollments in Quebec.

The FECQ does not agree to extend the rules of the charter to the English system, thus blocking francophones and allophones who would like to attend.

But in its brief to the committee, the FECQ says that it considers the enrollment ceiling in the English system as a “temporary remedy”.

“It is important to tackle the problem at the source,” says the federation. “Why is this migration of francophone students observed on the anglophone side? No action has been taken to identify the reasons for this attraction.

The FECQ, which does not represent English-speaking CEGEP students, puts forward a few theories: some French-speakers want to improve their English for their future careers, the English system has a better selection of programs and “the idea exists in the Quebec student population than anglophones CEGEPs are seen as the most prestigious.

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Citing statistics from the Ministry of Education, the FECQ indicated that in recent years, there has been a 1.3 percent drop in the number of students attending CEGEPs in French and an increase of 1, 3 percent in the English-speaking network.

Seventy-five percent of French-speaking students who go to the English system do so because they want to continue their studies in a chosen profession in English.

The bill aims to correct what Quebec considers an imbalance, and on Thursday the minister responsible for the French language, Simon Jolin-Barrette, welcomed the positive brief from the FECQ. This follows a deluge of criticism over the past two weeks from hard-tongue supporters complaining that the enrollment freeze in the English system does not go far enough.

The day was also marked by a polite confrontation with the Association of Suburban Municipalities of Montreal led by the Mayor of Montreal West, Beny Masella, who arrived with a brief call for the government to amend the bill. and simply make the bilingual status of towns and villages permanent.

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Bill 96 proposes to remove the official bilingual status of municipalities where the percentage of native English speakers has fallen below 50 percent. Municipalities can choose to maintain their status by passing a resolution within 120 days of the passage of Bill 96.

The association, however, challenged the premise of the bill.

“In our cities, we can talk about real linguistic peace,” Masella told the committee. “Our statute does not take anything away from the French language. It just adds English.

Jolin-Barrette retorted that in his opinion, municipalities are agents of the State in the broad sense and should therefore demonstrate the same exemplary behavior with regard to the use of French in relations with the public.

But he said that Quebec also wants to respect the autonomy of municipalities, hence the clause.

The hearings resume next Tuesday with a highly anticipated presentation from the City of Montreal and a consortium of English-speaking CEGEPs and universities.

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