The Parti Quebecois leader wants English CEGEPs and universities to beef up their French by adding, among other things, a mandatory French language exit exam.
It’s a move that has many students and administrators on edge but it’s also a far cry from what Jean-François Lisée’s predecessors wanted.
“The debate was, ‘Should we extend bill 101 to CEGEPs?’ Some people said yes, others like Jacques Parizeau were against that,” Jean-François Lisée said. “I say let’s think outside the box!”
If elected, Lisée wants English institutions to add more French courses and offer students the opportunity to do a semester in French institutions.
What’s more, the PQ leader would like to make it mandatory for English students to pass a French proficiency exam before they graduate.
“We see from the last census that 20 per cent of the young Anglos between 20 and 40 declare their inability to speak French, so they clearly could not thrive in the Quebec market,” Lisée said.
While many students and administrators welcome the idea of beefing up French on their English campuses, many don’t believe the PQ is taking best approach.
“I think the extra exam will pose a lot of issues,” Dawson College’s director general Richard Filion said. “This would be adding another condition to get their diploma which would be different from the French system where the students wouldn’t have to go through two finals exams.”
The goal isn’t to discriminate, according to Lisée, it’s simply to stop students from leaving Quebec once they graduate.
“When you get your diploma, it’s to work in Quebec. You should show that you’re proficient in French sufficiently to be able to work correctly,” Lisée said.
But the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) worries the latest PQ proposal could backfire and push more people to leave the province.
“This feels like once again that it’s never enough. Another test, another barrier, another hurdle,” QCGN Director General Silvia Martin-Laforge said.
“The move to Toronto is certainly about language, certainly about finding jobs, but it’s also feeling like as if you belong in Quebec and not feeling like you have to prove that your French is good enough all the time.”