Starting this week, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government is touring the province in an effort to reach out to English-speaking communities.
“It’s about making sure the English community is considered fully when the government wants to make decisions, when the government has plans, when the government has programs that it wants to roll out,” said Christopher Skeete, the premier’s parliamentary assistant for relations with English-speaking Quebecers, who is the face of the tour.
There has been growing concern within the English community about the CAQ government’s lack of consideration for their rights as a minority language group.
The Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN), an organization that supports dozens of English community groups in Quebec, welcomes the initiative.
“I think a tour to build bridges with the English community is a terrific idea, and I’m very happy he’s doing it,” said QCGN president Geoffrey Chambers.
But the organization is taking it with a grain of salt.
“I hope they listen carefully. I hope it convinced them that some of their policies in regards to minority language matters have been mistaken and they adjust them,” he adds.
Skeete says the tour is an opportunity to understand the needs of English-speaking Quebecers.
Chambers says his group will be happy to participate in the consultations, but that they will keep a close eye to ensure English communities’ interests are respected.
After the initial consultations in eight Quebec regions — including Quebec City, Gaspésie, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Laval and Montreal — the government plans to do three sector-specific consultations on aspects like cultural, social and economic development.
All of it will culminate in a five-year action plan, Skeete said.
“We’re gonna collect all that data and we’re gonna go back and get an articulation of what it is that people want from us,” he said.
“From there we’re going to develop an action plan from the community by the community, in the hopes of making real progress going forward.”
This is an opportunity for community groups to have a say in the way the Quebec government speaks to them, he said.
They expect to wrap up the tour in 2020.