'We're determined' says Kathleen Weil of secretariat for English community
The three-month-old secretariat dedicated to the English-speaking community isn’t going anywhere – not if Kathleen Weil has anything to do with it.
“We know what our job is to do and we're determined. It's going to be a permanent structure in government. That's our intention -- to make it permanent in government. It'll grow,” said Weil, the minister responsible for relations with English-speaking Quebecers. “It has to grow.”
Last Friday, Weil hosted a forum in Montreal after months of online consultations and town halls across the province.
Many groups took part, but left with one common message: Anglophones feel like outsiders, overlooked by the government and underrepresented in the civil service.
The following day, the Journal de Montreal released a Leger poll showing 60 per cent of young anglophones have thought about leaving Quebec.
Brain drain is a real concern, said Weil.
“All of society needs their talents and their energy. And the premier reiterated it very recently. We can't afford to let these great talents go, we just can't afford it. We're recruiting people from all over the world and yet here we have this natural resource right here, which is bilingual -- sometimes trilingual -- English speakers,” she said.
Since the Journal de Montreal published its poll results and a series of articles focused on the anglophone community, commentators have been weighing in on the issue, some suggesting anglophones were ‘crybabies’ and that if they want to leave, they should.
“One got the impression that we were being accused of whining. Nobody's whining,” said Weil. “I'm not fussed about the commentators and the comments they make because at some point they're irrelevant.”
Weil believes relations between anglophones and francophones are generally good, despite the Journal's poll showing that nearly half of English-speaking Quebecers between 18 and 35 describe the relationship as “conflictual.”
“I think at some point, it's not in their day-to-day relations. It's more the political discourse that they hear in the news and how it's framed often, as ‘us and them,’” said Weil.
After completing the first round of consultations, Weil said she is looking ahead to the upcoming budget.
Meantime, Finance Minister Carlos Leitao is also planning consultations in an effort to help the government determine budgets for programs aimed at helping the English-speaking community.