Quebec anglos need a voice at national level

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Tue May 27 15:36:14 UTC 2008

    Tuesday* » *May 27* » *2008
    Quebec anglos need a voice at national level
    *Robert Donnelly* freelance
Monday, May 26, 2008

 The Quebec Community Groups Network is a not-for-profit organization
bringing together 29 English-language community organizations operating in
diverse sectors such as community development, arts, culture and heritage
and economic development across Quebec.  We encourage and promote
participation by government departments and agencies for the development of
the English-language minority communities to support and build our vitality.

In the past months, the QCGN has been more active in policy development on a
variety of topics including immigration, the reasonable-accommodation debate
and in light of the recently released census data, demographics. We believe
that the English-speaking communities of Quebec have important contributions
to make to the public debate and have decided to have a more active voice on
policy issues.  We were recently asked to appear before the House of Commons
Standing Committee on Official Languages.  Without getting into the
specifics of the Committee mandate, the hearings provided us with an
opportunity to highlight some of the weaknesses in our relationship as a
community with the federal government.

We feel it is essential that the federal government consider the needs of
our communities from a national-policy perspective.  Currently, all federal
government efforts to support official language minority communities in
Quebec are done from a regional point of view.

While regional officials are in a good position to understand the reality on
the ground, we argued that it is essential for the English-speaking
communities of Quebec to have a voice at the national level where government
policies are made that have direct impact on individuals in our communities.

As the recent census data shows, the English-speaking communities of Quebec
are more bilingual than ever.  Bilingualism is especially high among younger
members of our communities.  Among 15-24 year olds, 84 per cent reported
being bilingual in the 2006 census.  Clearly, Quebec's English-speaking
communities can be key partners for the federal government to promote the
Canadian values of linguistic duality and bilingualism.  Federal government
partners can only benefit from the experiences and expertise of our
communities and institutions.

Many are quick to dismiss any claims made on behalf of our communities that
we face real development challenges.  Our institutions are strong, and we as
a community are fortunate to enjoy this level of institutional support
through our health and education networks, for example.  It is often pointed
out our institutions are the envy of many francophones outside Quebec who
are fighting to build such networks in their communities.

Institutional support is essential, and we are fortunate, especially in the
Montreal area to have access to these institutions that naturally play an
important role in the lives of many members of our communities.  We must
remember however that institutions do not automatically equate community
vitality.  Put simply, it is important to have schools but more important to
have generations of young people to fill them.  Governments have a role to
play to ensure that policies are put in place to facilitate and enhance
community vitality.

Findings on the "brain drain" initially presented at our Community
Revitalization Conference at the Université de Montréal in March, 2008, and
reported in Le Devoir, La Presse and The Gazette was presented again in
Ottawa to illustrate a key point.  Large numbers of the best and brightest
members of our communities have left the province in huge numbers.  This is
only one example of an important challenge facing our communities, but one
that continues to resonate.

Provincial and municipal governments also have a role to play.  An obvious
start would be encouraging a strong presence of our communities in public
sector jobs.  As The Gazette's Henry Aubin pointed out (May 10, 2008)
progress is being made to hire more members of minority communities, but the
presence of Anglophones, especially in senior positions with the provincial
government is dismal.  This is a concrete example of an area where
governments can provide us with direct support.

For our part, the QCGN will continue to press governments to support our
communities on several fronts.  Decision makers on all government fronts
must understand that our community must be taken into account when top level
decisions are made.

Robert Donnelly is president of the QCGN.  To access the works released at
the Community Revitalisation Conference, visit and click


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