• Stuart Benson

Anglophone ‘brain drain’

Youth will cross provincial border if English CEGEP spots reduced, critics say

There is no shortage of options for young anglophones living in the Hills when it comes to choosing where to continue their education after high school, especially if they don’t mind an hour commute to one of the many English-speaking, private institutions in Ottawa. However, for those who wish to study in English a little closer to home, the Legault government is considering reducing those options.

The Legault government’s plan to reduce English CEGEP registration spots for schools like Heritage College may exacerbate the pre-existing issue of Hills young people travelling outside the province for services. Stuart Benson photo

Premiere François Legault said his government is considering limiting the number of spaces in English language CEGEPs. It was announced at a press conference on Feb. 18, as part of the government’s efforts to reinforce Bill 101, the French Language Charter.

The move is in response to concerns about the number of francophone students opting to study in English, and that putting a limit on the number of spaces would be an alternative to formally applying Bill 101 to CEGEPs and completely restricting access, according to Legault.

Limiting spaces, however, not only affects francophones, but anglophones as well, according to Gordon McIvor, director general of Cégep Heritage College. He said the move would only exacerbate the current trend of anglophones in the region leaving the province for services and opportunities.

“[This] could direct students who couldn't get into English CEGEPs to go to more private schools, which would end up costing students more money," McIvor told The Low Down. “Do we really want to give the people in our region another reason to cross the bridge [into Ontario] to get services they want?”

Linton Garner, executive director of the Regional Association of West Quebecers, echoed McIvors warning, arguing that reducing services for English-speaking communities will not improve the quality of French in the province, rather it will simply cause more anglophones to cross the river to meet their needs.

“You have a number of colleges and universities within an hours drive, in Ottawa, that can easily serve the English-speaking community,” Garner explained. “We'll start to experience a brain drain, as people will see more opportunities in Ontario, and we're going to see our young people follow them.”

Garner added that, in the long run, it will cost the province money, as young people spend their tuition at private institutions out-of-province rather than contributing to the local economy.

He also warned that it may cause some [anglophones] to drop out of the system entirely because they can't afford to go across the river. He pointed to the higher poverty and unemployment rates experienced by anglophones in the province and noted that higher education is a major component to overcoming those issues.

He said that what the Legault government is considering “does not make sense in terms of creating an educational plan to produce good citizens who can contribute to their communities.”

According to a study compiled from the 2016 Canadian Census data by demographer Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies, 11.8 per cent of anglophones live below the poverty line, with 17.2 per cent of allophones – people whose first language is neither French nor English – living below the poverty line. In comparison, 9.2 per cent of francophones live under the poverty line.

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