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Opinion: When it comes to Bill 96, is there a captain of this legislative ship gone adrift?

The National Assembly recently adopted the articles of Bill 96 that relate to colleges.

What has emerged is that students have been caught in the crosshairs of a pre-election joust in which our various political parties are vying for the title of official standard-bearer of the Quebec nation.

“Want to add courses in French to the college curriculum?

No problem, let's settle this in an amendment discussed in 15 minutes, just between us parliamentarians. No need to consult the Ministry of Higher Education.

No need to check the feasibility of this proposal with actual colleges. Especially because even the ministers concerned seem unable to consult each other.”

“How about changing college funding rules, admission policies, the terms of the French exit exam and so on? Certainly. Here’s an amendment and then another.”

“Should we check any of this with the folks in the college network? No, we’re in a rush and frankly, we’re not interested,” said both the ruling party and the opposition.

“You see, we’re too busy finding bons mots that will amuse the other members of the parliamentary committee. When did we find time to draft so many amendments, you ask? We’re very active at night (chuckles, smirks).”

It was disheartening to listen to the casual banter.

Let's be clear, there is no opposition within English-speaking institutions to the core objective of Bill 96, to strengthen French as the common language of Quebec.

I say that unequivocally as a francophone who has worked in the English college network for many years.

If the government had seriously wanted to improve the learning of French in English colleges, they could have done so in collaboration with the institutions themselves.

Or perhaps they could have agreed to meet with college representatives who are struggling with these unmanageable and ill-advised policies.

That these discussions have not happened is not for lack of colleges having asked, often, both before, during and after these amendments were adopted in such a hurry.

The unfortunate consequences of Bill 96 on student success, graduation rates, the R-Score, etc. seem far from the minds of our elected officials.

Probably because half of college students are not of voting age.

Moreover, English-speaking students probably deserve to atone for the sins of their ancestors.

If this bill is so important, even crucial, for the Quebec nation, could we not do the exercise rigorously, together, rather than divisively?

College students deserve better.

Francophone Quebecers deserve better.

Anglophone and allophone Quebecers, too.

Is there a captain of this legislative ship gone adrift?

Christian Corno, director general of Marianopolis College 

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