Quebec’s English-speaking community is coming together to fight the province’s language reform, Bill 96.
Specifically, they’re fighting an amendment to the bill that would force anglophone college students to take three core courses in French, which advocates argue would make many students fail.
“Learning French is not the same than learning in French,” said Russell Copeman, director of the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA).
The Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) along with the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN), the English Parents Committee Association (EPCA) and the Quebec Federation of Home Schools Association (QFHSA) say they have “no other option but to fight for the complete rollback of this measure.”
“Everybody is telling you it’s a mistake, these are going to be the ramifications and to not care in the face of that, is just disgusting,” said Kathy Korakakis, president of EPCA.
The provision was first introduced by the Quebec Liberals in February, who later recognized they made a mistake by not consulting enough.
Last week, Liberal MNA Hélène David introduced another amendment that would allow anglophone students to opt for an additional number of classes in French, instead of being forced to take three core classes.
But it was struck down during the parliamentary commission studying Bill 96.
The minister responsible for French, Simon Jolin-Barrette said he voted against the amendment because he didn’t have enough time to review it and consult.
“I think the whole thing has been a fiasco from start to finish,” Copeman said.
It’s why the groups came together to continue the fight.
They believe students are caught in a political crossfire.
“I believe that Bill 96 is a very political bill,” said Sylvia Martin-Laforge, director for the QCGN. “It’s an identity bill so any of the provisions in Bill 96 are there for electoral consideration in the identity politics of Quebec.”
There is still some hope, though. An amendment that would delay the application of the provision to 2024-2025 was brought forward by the province and was adopted.
The bill also hasn’t become law yet.
Meanwhile, speaking with Global News, a spokesperson for Jolin-Barrette continued to defend the original amendment, saying that the measure ensures all college students are given the tools to succeed and participate in Quebec society.
“It’s consistent with the Quebec government’s responsibility and the responsibility of Quebec school organization’s to promote and develop the French language and overall, facilitate learning,” wrote Elisabeth Gosselin.
The groups say they are evaluating their options to move the issue forward and are planning to hold a rally in the coming weeks.