Jacques-Cartier MNA Greg Kelley wants everyone in Quebec — no matter what their linguistic background — to have the right to free French language classes.
On Wednesday, Kelley tabled a bill he hopes will be adopted by the National Assembly.
“If you want people to understand the culture and appreciate it, it starts with the French language,” he said.
“So I think that’s why we’re here today, proposing something that is positive.”
Kelley said he didn’t learn French until he was an adult and he paid for private lessons out of pocket.
However, he said for many people, private tutoring is unaffordable. That means qualified people — like students at English universities — end up leaving the province, he said.
“That’s a talent. That’s somebody who can contribute to our society,” Kelley said.
“Navigating after you finish university to where you can get access to French language training is extremely difficult, I think, for English-speaking Quebecers.”
“It’s not a novel idea, it’s something that I’ve been discussing with various groups since consultations began,” said Christopher Skeete, the relations with English-speaking Quebecers parliamentary secretary, alluding to recent cross-province consultations he’s been conducting as the head of the anglophone Secretariat.
“It’s something we’ve been focus grouping, looking at what the reception would be so it’s not new, it’s not novel, but it’s a good idea,” he said.
Both Kelley and Skeete said free French language training is something both the Liberal and CAQ governments heard in separate consultations with anglophones across the province.
“The main suggestion that was coming again and again was to make sure that French lessons were offered to anglophones, not only to immigrants, so we’re looking at that,” Quebec Premier François Legault said.
The government says it is working on its own bill on French language reform.
Skeete questioned the timing of the Liberal bill.
“The reason we’re doing those consultations is so that we can come up with a plan,” Skeete said.
“It’s ironic that people who tell us to have a plan when we want to come up with something are telling us, before the consultations are finished, what we should be doing.”
This session, there has been a lot of tension between these two parties, but Kelley still believes there’s hope for his idea.
“I’m not looking to do partisan politics here, I’m trying to do something for all Quebecers,” Kelley said.