• Trevor Greenway

Heritage College profs protest Bill 96 in Montreal

Students and staff at Heritage College worry that it’s too late to fight against Bill 96 and say the controversial language policy will have a devastating effect on students and English education in Quebec.


Despite witnessing the thousands of Quebecers who came out to Montreal’s Dawson College on May 14 to protest the divisive bill, Heritage College Faculty Association President Leslie Elliott said that, by the time parents realize how this will affect their own children, it will be far too late and the English CEGEP system will have been decimated.


“People are discouraged and just want affordable housing, groceries and gas,” said Elliott. “The educational impacts of Bill 96 won't matter to those in power until our kids fail out of school and lose out on employment opportunities, but by then, it will be too late, at least for the next generation of youth.”


Elliott and students at her English college in Gatineau say they have not been listened to by the ruling CAQ government. They’ve sent emails, open letters, and phone calls — all of which have been met by silence. Even the region’s MNA, Robert Bussière, who voted for the bill, refuses to answer his constituents.


“Our students are Indigenous, francophones, allophones and anglos,” added Elliott. “The government has not responded to any of our student and staff emails, letters or petitions. Students have decried how divisive this bill is becoming. Clearly, the CAQ and PQ want a language war. Students want to know why. Isn't it better if we work together to make a strong and unified province?”


The Low Down has tried several times to get Bussière on record, but he has continued to ignore our questions.


Heritage College second-year social science student Jack Jerrett told the Low Down that Bill 96 could ultimately be the deciding factor for whether or not a student gets into college or university. With the bill now forcing English CEGEP students to take five French language courses to graduate, students like Jerrett said they worry about what it will do to those who struggle in the second language.


“I think this will be disastrous for anglophone students because it will lower their R-Scores on average because they would fail perhaps multiple French courses, which would, in turn, lower their application acceptances at other institutions,” said Jerrett. The R-Score is a calculation of Quebec college students' grades used by the province's universities when they consider applicants for admissions.


“It will create a large discrepancy between anglophones and francophones, which would be a huge problem in the long term,” he added.


Following the large turnout at the weekend protest, Simon Jolin-Barrette, Quebec’s minister responsible for the French language, tried to quell the concerns of the anglophone community and argued that their worries were “unfounded.” He told reporters that a February amendment to the bill guarantees anglophones access to health and judicial services in English. This is not reassuring to those concerned about education issues.


Final speeches and the ultimate adoption of Bill 96 are expected to happen the week of May 23 when the National Assembly reconvenes following the Victoria Day long weekend.