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New federal funding for Quebec’s anglophone community creates controversy

Click to play video: 'Feds’ new language strategy sparking controversy in Quebec'
Feds’ new language strategy sparking controversy in Quebec
WATCH: There is anger among some politicians at the National Assembly over Canada’s Official Languages Action Plan since more than $100 million in funding is set to go to Quebec’s anglophone community. One opposition groups says that money should go toward stopping the decline of French, while the ruling CAQ has its own ideas. Global’s Dan Spector reports. – Apr 27, 2023

The federal government’s new language strategy is sparking controversy at the National Assembly.

Canada’s new Official Languages Action Plan will provide about $140 million in new funding for Quebec anglophone communities, which organizations say should go toward initiatives like art, culture, and fighting unemployment.

The CAQ is hoping to instead use the money to teach French to anglophones, and one opposition group says that money should go toward stopping the decline of French.

“$140 million for the development of English in Quebec and peanuts for French,” exclaimed Parti Québécois MNA Pascal Bérubé, ripping into the federal government’s new plan. He showed off two signs, one with the number on it, one with peanuts.

“Who won that debate about French and English in Quebec? Obviously it’s the West Island caucus of the Liberal Party of Canada.”

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The Trudeau government’s new strategy to preserve Canada’s official languages adds $1.4 billion in new money to support language initiatives.

Eighty per cent of that will go toward French communities across Canada, including in Quebec.

$137.5 million over five years will support initiatives specifically aimed at Quebec’s English-speaking community.

To groups advocating for anglophones, the money is long overdue. To Bérubé it’s a slap in the face.

“The government of Canada doesn’t give a damn about French in Quebec,” he said.

Bérubé brought his anger to question period, grilling French language minister Jean-François Roberge, who defended the government’s seriousness in stopping the decline of French.

Roberge, however, is also asking questions.

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“I see there is a lot of money that is destined to the English community in Quebec,” Roberge told reporters, saying that Prime Minister Trudeau has recognized that French is the language that’s in danger.

The funding is supposed to go toward fighting unemployment among anglophones, supporting arts and culture, helping anglophones learn French and more.

Roberge seemed to imply the money should only be for francization.

“I think the sums that are destined for the anglophone should be used for francization. I’m putting that on the table; that’s what I expect from the federal government,” Roberge said.

Though the English language may not be on the verge of disappearing, the vitality of many English communities is under threat.

Liberal French language critic Madwa-Nika Cadet says the state of the English language and English services are two separate issues.

“The issue here is not about the protection of the language per se, or the vitality of the language,” she told Global News.  “It’s to make sure that the people who are of the English community get the services that they are entitled to get.”

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Eva Ludvig of the Quebec Community Groups Network says a thriving English community benefits the government and all Quebecers.

“We’re talking about increasing employment at a time when there’s a labour shortage. We’re talking about improving the French language capacity of English speakers. We’re talking about supporting the arts and culture community, which serves all of Quebec,” she said.

The province will ultimately distribute the money. The Liberals want to see a strong chunk go toward francization, but they want English community groups to get funding, too.

“Outside of Montreal in particular, we see some anglophone communities that don’t necessarily have the same resources,” said Madwa-Nika Cadet.

The opposition and community groups will be watching closely to see how the CAQ hands out the new funding.

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