RAWQ director reacts to English service restrictions
November 13, 2019
By Hunter Cresswell
Regional Association of West Quebecers executive director Linton Garner didn’t mince words when asked about recently reported restrictions on who can access certain services and information in English.
According to CBC News, only those who are entitled to schooling in English have the right to get their Hydro bill in English or be spoken to in English when renewing their health card or driver’s license.
“What, am I going to have to bring around my high school certificate to show that I’m a quote-unquote traditional Anglophone?” Garner commented to this reporter over the phone. He said he believes non-French speakers are being targeted and treated as second class citizens. “I thought it was ridiculous on the face of it,” Garner said.
Quebec Premier François Legault stated in the CBC report that the government stance is an application of rules according to Bill 101, the Charter of the French Language.
“There have been plenty of English-speaking community members who came to Quebec post-law 101 but still speak English as their first language,” Garner said. “There needs to be some way to reach out to these people in one of the official languages of Canada…I’m disappointed the government would be shortsighted in denying them service in English.” He said people should have a choice of which official language to be served in.
During his term as La Pêche mayor, Gatineau MNA Robert Bussière allowed for the large population of English speakers in the municipality to continue accessing municipal services in their preferred language. The Low Down reached out to Bussière for comment but did not receive a reply before the publishing deadline.
Garner said he worries about this change mainly affecting new Canadians and minority populations in Quebec. “They’re going to face real barriers to full integration into Quebec society,” he said, adding that just because people speak, or prefer to speak, English, that doesn’t make them any less of a Quebecer. “It think there’s a misassumption that, if they choose English to get services, they won’t be French speakers or good citizens.”
Garner questions how the government will deem who can and can’t access English services, posing the question: Will people with non-English and non-French accents be able to access English services?
“It seems the government is looking to erase anything to do with English on the face of society,” he said.
According to the Éducaloi, a registered charity that aims to explain laws in layperson’s terms, as a general rule only certain children can attend English school in Quebec. This includes children who have a parent who was mostly taught in English, have been mostly taught in English in Canada, have siblings who were mostly taught in English in Canada, or have a parent who was eligible to attend English school after Bill 101 went into effect in 1977.
RAWQ offers new residents a packet full of information on which government bodies, companies, and organizations offer services in English and tips on how to access those services. It also offers free French courses in Aylmer, Wakefield, and Shawville. Visit westquebecers.ca for more information.