Quebec education leaders are breathing a sigh of relief after Simon Jolin-Barrette, Quebec’s minister responsible for the French language said he would amend Bill 96, the province’s language reform.
Jolin-Barrette’s amendment would drop the requirement to take three French program-related courses in order to graduate introduced by the Liberal Party, who later wanted it retracted after it drew harsh criticism.
The minister will propose instead that students who don’t have the capability to complete core courses in French, can choose three French classes.
“It’s really a relief for us,” said Bernard Tremblay, the head of the CEGEP Federation. “Even though it’s not done yet, at least we have the feeling that the government understands that there is a problem, a problem of making sure that our English-speaking students can succeed at the same level as the French-speaking students.”
Vanier College Director General John McMahon is also relieved, for one part, but worried about the work ahead.
“It will mitigate the adverse effects on a significant number of students but it doesn’t eliminate all of the concerns that we have on Bill 96,” McMahon told Global News.
McMahon says lots will need to be done in order to ensure the application of the amendment, such as changing regulations that govern college studies and looking at collective agreements, given the impact on faculty.
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One of his concerns is how colleges will implement the new directive by 2024 and who will teach the proposed French courses.
“We simply don’t have the answers to those questions,” McMahon said. “We haven’t had the meaningful consultation and communication with the minister of higher education.”
Kathy Korakakis, president of the English Parents Committee Association, agrees the government needs to listen to stakeholders.
“They should consult with people that are content-matter experts in order to make the best decisions,” Korakakis said.
A consensus on Bill 96 is far from being reached.
Liberal leader Dominique Anglade agrees the bill is still flawed and says her party will not be voting for it.
She says she’s ready to move on from the debacle her own party created.
“From now on, we need to talk about other issues in Bill 96 for sure, and all other issues as well regarding the English-speaking community,” Anglade told reporters Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile, Parti Québécois MNA Pascal Bérubé doesn’t believe the bill goes far enough when it comes to protecting the French language.
“It’s a fiasco, big time,” Bérubé said.
Bérubé won’t say if his party will vote in favour of Bill 96 or not.
Parties still have a few weeks to decide before the bill is submitted for a vote at the National Assembly.