The Parti Québécois (PQ) says it is listening to experts who testified at National Assembly public hearings on Bill 96, warning of an imminent decline of the French language if Bill 101 is not extended to CEGEP students.
“They will continue afterwards their education, if they go to the university, in English, and it will have a very important impact on the language of the workplace,” said PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon.
On Tuesday evening in committee, the PQ tabled an amendment to the government’s proposed language reform: to limit access to English CEGEPs to students who went to English elementary or high school.
MNA Pascal Bérubé then gave a passionate speech defending his argument.
“The Quebecois soul is French. Our hopes, joys and heartbreak are in French,” he said. “It’s what makes us unique.”
“If I was the CAQ and I was a nationalist, I’d be ashamed,” he added.
Liberal MNA Gaetan Barrette made clear he does not agree with the PQ’s position, but he praised Bérubé’s “oratory excellence.”
He asked the minister to clarify one point: was it true there is friction inside the CAQ between hard-line nationalists and ministers with a more economically pragmatic approach?
The French language minister staunchly denies there is any dissension in his party.
“Everybody agrees about the position of the Quebec government,” said Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette. “And I think that’s a good position that we have.”
On Wednesday, the government, the Liberal Party and Québec Solidaire defeated the PQ’s motion.
“Extending Bill 101 will not resolve the problem of French, especially in Montreal. If you want to fix this problem, if you want to protect the French language, it’s at work,” said Québec Solidaire MNA Ruba Ghazal.
“When they go to have a job, everything is in English… This is the problem and this is what should be resolved,” she added.
The debate about CEGEPs is not over. On Wednesday afternoon, the committee began studying an article which pertains to proposed enrollment caps, so that the number of students studying in English cannot exceed 17.5 per cent of all CEGEP students.