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Dawson College expansion project shelved, Quebec to prioritize francophone students


Montreal’s Dawson College suffered a "serious setback" to its planned expansion, saying the Quebec government has shelved the project to instead focus on “francophone” students.

A letter sent by Dawson College Sunday states the English CEGEP was told by Minister of Higher Education Danielle McCann that the $100-million infrastructure project would not go forward.

She urged Dawson to explore other options, such as leasing, according to the letter.

"It’s shocking to say the least -- the fact that they’re prioritizing French CEGEPs is them saying that they are giving an advantage to French-speaking students," said Shirin Hinojosa Violante of the Dawson student union.

Other students told CTV News they were upset by the news.

"There’s no space -- I have a lot of friends that didn’t get in because of that," one said.

The plan would have added as much space as about 10 floors in a typical office.

The largest English-speaking CEGEP in Quebec, Dawson was chosen by the CAQ government to be one of a number of accelerated infrastructure projects as part of the province's plan for COVID-19 economic stimulus.

“Dawson’s space shortage has long been documented,” the letter reads, noting that the CEGEP needs about 11,200 m2 in additional space.

Groups within Dawson, as well as outside experts, have worked for more than seven years to acquire and build more space to relieve pressure on the main building and accommodate the overflow.

“We are extremely disappointed by the decision,” Diane Gauvin, director general of Dawson College wrote in the letter.

“The college will analyze its options and determine the best course of action. We will keep the Dawson Community informed as the situation evolves.”

A spokesperson told CTV News that the final decision will be made in the spring.

“We did meet with the CEGEP this Friday to ask them to work on alternative options to expansion (renting additional space for example),” a spokesperson told CTV News in an email.

In response to the move, the Quebec Community Groups Network issued a statement demanding the government backtrack on its decision.

"This is really a thoughtless, poorly conceived and politically motivated decision by the CAQ government," said David Birnbaum, the Liberal opposition critic for relations with English-speaking Quebecers.


English CEGEPs have been at the centre of a debate over the CAQ’s French-language law, Bill 96, which seeks a vast reform of Bill 101.

Under Bill 96, the government would cap the proportion of English-language college admissions within the total province-wide admissions at the 2019 level of 17 per cent.

During hearings on the bill in the fall, the Fédération des CEGEPs said it did not want to see the government limit young French-speaking Quebecers’ access to English-language CEGEPs. Instead, they said students should have the freedom to choose to attend a French-speaking or English-speaking college as they please.

The Parti Québécois introduced its own bill to strengthen Bill 101 and a motion extending the provisions of the Charter on French-language education, where only children born to parents who studied in English would have access to the English school at the elementary and high school level, into the CEGEP system.

The PQ claimed that English CEGEPs are a "major factor of anglicization in Quebec," particularly in the Greater Montreal Area.

The Journal de Québec reported at the time that some English-language CEGEPs have a large allophone clientele, such as Vanier College with 52 per cent and Dawson with 41.6 per cent.

Political analyst David Heurtel said the decision not to funding the renovation is about the government trying to please its base before an upcoming election.

“The CAQ says, ‘Well, we can’t go down the road of applying (Bill) 96 to CEGEPs, the way the hardcore nationalists wanted us to, but at the same time, the tradeoff we’re going to give up, is we’re going to give up funding the renovations to Dawson,” he said.

- With files from The Canadian Press Top Stories

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