CEGEP’s fight to implement Bill 96 shows that a law is needed: Roberge

Some English school boards must do more to improve the quality of the French of their primary and secondary school graduates, the minister says.

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QUEBEC – The CEGEP anglophone system’s struggles to apply Bill 96 to its operations reveal that changes to Quebec’s language laws were necessary and important, Quebec’s minister responsible for French said Thursday.

If anything, it reveals that some English school boards need to work harder to improve the quality of the French of their primary and secondary school graduates, said Jean-François Roberge.

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Two weeks after saying the Coalition Avenir Québec government went further than any other government in protecting French in CEGEPs without officially applying the rules of the French Language Charter, Roberge said the struggles are worth it.

“It’s difficult but it’s important,” Roberge told reporters arriving for question time in the legislature. “Some people said Bill 101 should apply to CEGEPs. In fact we did it, in a different way, but we did it.

“I understand that for some CEGEP, like Dawson, it is difficult. If it is difficult it is because it is important, it is because they have to change. It is not normal to go to a CEGEP here in Quebec and not be able to learn French and pass a French exam.

He pointed out that “some” English boards have not been doing enough to teach French, feeding students at higher levels in the education system who were not well enough equipped.

“I won’t say that all English school boards don’t do the job,” he said. “It’s not true. But some students go to English-speaking CEGEP and it seems, and we will see over time, that they fail to learn French.”

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Roberge was reacting to a Journal de Montréal report detailing Dawson College’s struggles to apply the new requirements of Bill 96. The article says that students are at higher risk of failure, some teachers have had to improve their French and there are legal problems in applying the new law to students from indigenous communities.

Roberge opened his remarks by attacking federal Liberal MP Francis Drouin, who on Wednesday challenged two witnesses arguing for the protection of French people in Quebec during an appearance before a House of Commons committee.

Drouin said the witnesses were “full of shit” for suggesting that attending an Anglophone university or CEGEP in Quebec significantly increased the likelihood of living life in English.

“He should apologize,” Roberge said. “It went too far. “It is insulting that a member of the federal government insults the experts who revealed some facts.”

Roberge then added that Bill 96’s reforms were necessary to address the same facts that experts in Ottawa mentioned.

“Bill 101 is being applied to CEGEPs right now,” Roberge said. “Look what’s happening in Dawson. Dawson College says implementing Bill 96 is very demanding, forcing them to increase teacher training, forcing them to adjust their courses.

“I think they are obliged to take measures so that people learn French. And if the English-speaking CEGEP fear failures, that shows all the work that the English-speaking school boards have to do and move towards the English-speaking CEGEP.”

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