Quebec government calls on Ottawa to help province's small English communities
Published Tuesday, June 13, 2017 1:17PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, June 13, 2017 7:21PM EDT
The Quebec government is calling on Ottawa to provide help for the province’s anglophone communities outside Montreal.
Ministers say they are worried about the survival of those communities and are asking to give them a financial boost.
Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly asked House Leader and Minister for La Francophonie Jean-Marc Fournier to share his observations about the country’s two official languages.
Fournier responded with a five-page letter to Joly letter expressing concerns about Quebec’s English-speaking communities outside of Montreal.
"I think we've got to keep in mind what are the problems to try to find, together, solutions to those problems," said Fournier.
He referred to them as isolated and more spread out, making it more difficult to share their language and culture.
He also expressed that the aging population is a concern for these pockets of anglophones.
"It's a question of numbers. It's a question of people that are in those regions, let's say Gaspesie or Cote Nord. Those who are there are older. Youngsters leave the region," said Fournier.
Fournier mentioned to Joly how anglos in Quebec are in a unique position, because they are a minority within a minority – English within a French province within a mostly English speaking continent.
He asked Joly to devote some federal funding from its program for official languages to anglophones in Quebec.
The Quebec Community Groups Network, an advocacy umbrella group for anglophones, was happy to learn of Fournier's outreach.
"We're very pleased that he's acknowledged that these are files that have to be worked on, these are projects that are worth the attention of both levels of government," said Geoffrey Chambers.
He hopes that Ottawa will use official language funding to help Quebec's small anglophone groups.
"There are new perceived needs which should be address as well, so yeah, we'd like more funding," said Chambers.
Parti Quebecois leader Jean-Francois Lisée said the Liberals haven't done much for anglophones.
"Philippe Couillard is the one who tried to take away control over the school boards. Philippe Couillard is the one who refuses to have a minister responsible for Anglos," said Lisée, who occupied that post in the Marois government.
Anglophones outside Montreal have sometimes been given short shrift from Ottawa, most recently when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to speak English at town hall meetings -- even when asked about the availability of mental health services in English in Quebec.
The prime minister later apologized for doing that.
Meanwhile Fournier said whatever funding comes from Ottawa will be distributed in conjunction with the self-identified needs of anglophones.
"Is there going to be a new way of distributing the amount of money coming from Ottawa? Probably, but we won't do it alone. We'll do it talking with the community," said Fournier.
In February, the Liberals named an anglophone liaison officer -- a staffer in the premier's officer who handles the concerns of the English-speaking community.
The QCGN says that hasn't eliminated all the challenges of dealing with government bureaucracy, but calls it a step in the right direction.