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Limits to English CEGEP financing passes hurdle at PQ convention

A plan to gradually reduce funding to the English CEGEP system to discourage francophones and allophones from attending them has passed another hurdle on its way to becoming Parti Québécois policy.

At a morning workshop at the party’s policy convention, delegates endorsed a resolution stating the English CEGEP system should essentially serve the English-speaking community which means its financing should be based on its real population.

Sponsored by Eastern Township’s péquistes, the resolution was sold to delegates as a compromise for what many PQ members would really like to do which is to apply provisions of the French Language Charter to the CEGEP system as a way of forcing francophones and allophones into the French system and eliminate freedom of choice.

Those delegates made a final stand at the workshop, but got nowhere as the room was clearly in favour of the Township’s motion.

Delegate Daniel Roy from Nelligan called for a harder line and said it’s time the party stepped up to protect French because Montreal – with its concentration of English CEGEPs – is becoming a “veritable bastion,” of the English language.

With the English system holding 19 per cent of total enrollment in the province’s CEGEP network even if the community makes up only eight per cent of the population, “freedom of choice today represents a collective suicide,” he said.

“Half of the enrollment in English CEGEPs are not native anglophones,” Leduc said. “We are headed towards the collapse of the francophone system.”

The resolution will only become PQ policy if the full plenary of 1,500 delegates adopt it later Saturday.

But individual delegates each had their own interpretation of what it means.

“We preserve the historic rights of the anglophone community (in this motion),” said Guillaume Rousseau, the Township’s péquiste who sponsored the resolution. “That is not in any way put in question.

“There is a balance here. It is false to say we’re closing English CEGEPs.”

He insisted the motion maintains the current freedom of choice rules which many francophones and allophones believe in strongly.

In fact, the resolution is worded vaguely enough to not explicitly commit a PQ government to cutting money to the province’s five English CEGEPs. On Friday, PQ leader Jean-François Lisée insisted he doesn’t want to turn off the tap to the network.

His interpretation is that the French system needs to improve its teaching of English to a level that francophones and allophones will voluntarily want to go to French CEGEPs.

On the other hand, some delegates said the motion is trying to do indirectly what the party can’t do directly because of the bad optics among francophone youth who want more English and would gradually strangle the anglophone network.

“I am against because we shouldn’t be financing institutions based on their demographic weight,” said delegate Renaud Wilson. “We should finance institution based on their needs. Dawson College is an institution which has the right to exist and the state should finance it based on its mission.”

Another said the immediate result of limiting the English network will be driving wealthier francophones into private schools where they can get a better second-language education.

Specifically, the resolution says a PQ government would “ensure the financing of anglophone CEGEPs responds on a priority basis to the needs of the historic anglophone community and as a result be gradually aligned to the proportional demography of this community.”

The motion also stipulates students in anglophone CEGEPs will not be awarded their diploma if they do not pass a French.

It also slaps a restriction on allophones stipulating only those who have done their elementary and high school in French in Quebec will be allowed the freedome to pick an English CEGEP.

And it includes a paragraph which seems to reflect Lisée’s vision. It says a PQ government would “permit,” francophones who have a strong enough handle on French to do part of their education in a anglophone CEGEP and “strongly encourage,” anglos to enrich their French by spending time in a franco CEGEP.

One reason it passed is that it had the support of Beauharnois delegate Marc Laviolette, a veteran of many PQ language debates. He went repeatedly to the microphone to say the motion is a reasonable compromise and a Plan B to the idea of taking away freedom of choice.

He said the motion is the only one which actually has a chance of being adopted by the full plenary.

“We attain the goal,” Laviolette said. “The goal is to reduce linguistic transfers and this motion does the job. As Confucius says, ‘Whether the cat is black or white, what matters is that it catches the mouse.'”

The decision comes a day after the same language workshop defied Lisée’s plea to not nitpick on small language issue and adopted a resolution calling for a return to unilingual French signs and extending the rules of the language charter to the public daycare system.