Marlene Jennings’ time as the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) trustee is coming to an end this Thursday at midnight, but she’s already taking on new challenges.
Jennings, a former Liberal MP, was elected president of the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) — a non-profit umbrella organization bringing together English-language organizations across Quebec — during a virtual assembly Thursday evening.
In a written statement, Jennings thanked supporters and promised to give the new position her all.
“I am truly humbled by all the support I received and as QCGN’s President I vow to work hard for the Network and our wonderful English-speaking communities across Quebec,” the statement read.
“I want to work for you, not have you work for me.”
Jennings will be taking over from Geoffrey Chambers who held the position for two years.
Already, some English-speaking advocacy groups are applauding her election victory.
“Marlene will make sure that when she’s speaking on behalf of the community she’s representing a consensus. That’s essential,” Guy Rodgers, executive director of the English Language Arts Network, told Global News.
One of the first orders of business the new QCGN president faces, however, is improving relations with the Quebec government, which have become acrimonious in recent years.
“When I listen, sometimes, to our government you would think that we’re not even on the map, let alone part of the discussion,” Jennings said.
The government’s parliamentary secretary for relations with the English-speaking community, Christopher Skeete, congratulated Jennings Friday morning and said he looks forward to working with her in collaboration with the QCGN, according to his spokesperson Anaina Charette.
Among some of the issues Jennings plans to tackle is the ongoing legal fight to save English school boards and ensuring English services in health care.
“Many people don’t realize that we don’t have an automatic or constitutional right to services in English in the health and social services sector,” she said.
Jennings was appointed EMSB trustee in 2019 by Quebec’s education ministry.
The appointment was made following a scathing audit of the board’s governance and years of political infighting among its elected officials.
During her last board meeting on Wednesday, members thanked Jennings for her service, calling her truly and deeply honourable.
— With files from Global’s Gloria Henriquez and Tim Sargeant