The First Nations Education Council of Quebec is speaking out against Quebec’s plan to add an amendment to Bill 96 that would force students at English-speaking CEGEPs to pass three program-related courses in French in order to graduate.
“I don’t think that it’s the mandate of one’s government to maintain policies that will cause distress to the students who are not under their jurisdiction,” said Denis Gros-Louis, director general of the First Nations Education Council (FNEC).
The amendment, first proposed by the Liberals, has been heavily criticized by college administrators and the CEGEP federation, who have said they were not consulted — they have asked the CAQ government to do away with it.
Recently, the Quebec Liberal Party walked back their support of the amendment, even announcing they will be voting against Bill 96.
The FNEC estimates that more than 200 Indigenous high school students will be negatively affected by the amendment, in addition to those currently enrolled in CEGEPs.
He argues that French is the third language of many Indigenous students, and so if they are required to take program-related courses in French, they will severely struggle, if not fail.
“(The government is) saying French being your third language for some of you – you got to speak it as good as English because we have made a decision on behalf of your chiefs and council, that a good Indian must be French-speaking,” said Gros-Louis.
“Why do we have to send some of our youth to Ontario or to New Brunswick because the provincial network here is not welcoming?”
Gros-Louis said they have been repeatedly asking for a meeting with Simon Jolin-Barrette, Quebec’s French language minister, but have yet to receive a response.
In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for Jolin-Barrette said Bill 96 was crafted in a way to make sure that “none of the bill’s provisions infringe upon the inalienable rights of First Nations and Inuit to maintain and develop their traditional languages and cultures, as recognized by the Charter of the French Language since 1977.”
“We also made sure to facilitate access to learning the common language by giving college students the tools to develop and fully participate in Quebec society,” the statement read.