Weekly Update #3, January 24, 2024

From the desk of Director General Sylvia Martin-Laforge, the Weekly Update keeps our Network leaders and members up to date on the advocacy, policy, legislative, public education, and social activities of the Quebec Community Groups Network. It also includes news about upcoming QCGN member and community events, as well as information on funding and other opportunities. Send comments and suggestions to communications@qcgn.ca.

QCGN and community partners meet with Minister Boissonnault 

Last Thursday, QCGN Vice-President Katherine Korakakis and I attended a meeting with Official Languages Minister Randy Boissonnault. We were pleased with this opportunity to better explain to the Minister the role of the QCGN as a centre of evidence-based expertise and collective action that identifies, explores and addresses strategic issues affecting the development and vitality of our community. We discussed the renewal process we have undertaken to make the QCGN more representative of Quebec's English-speaking community with an updated mission, vision and values that make the QCGN more democratic, more collaborative, and open to diversity. Meanwhile we told him that we are expanding membership to include individual English-speaking Quebecers.  

We conveyed to Minister Boissonnault that as we have been undergoing our renewal process, we witnessed unprecedented attacks on our minority rights by our provincial government and that these attacks, more often than not, were met with indifference from our federal government. We remarked that the Government of Canada has responded to these frequent attacks on the vitality of our community by pointing to support promised within the Action Plan for Official Languages. We told Minister Boissonnault that with more resources being transferred to the province through the Action Plan, it is imperative that our federal and provincial governments work together to ensure our community gets its fair share of federal monies to support official language minority communities – and that we ensure that funds transferred to Quebec to support services in the minority language come with iron clad linguistic clauses. 

Meanwhile we told the Minister and his staff that the QCGN is committed to ensuring that the needs of English-speaking Quebecers are heard in critical discussions that affect them. As backbone to the Community Development Plan, we insisted that all decisions concerning the allocation of resources to our community be made through the lens of this collaborative plan – a vision for collective action which was developed, shared, and endorsed by dozens of QCGN members, both organizational and individual, as well as multiple community stakeholders across Quebec. 

With Quebec MPs Anthony Housefather and Francis Scarpaleggia at his side, Boissonnault said he and his colleagues were in "listening, learning and solution mode." He also remarked that there was a better chance of making a difference by working together – which coincidentally is the QCGN's tagline and my final key message to the Minister as I informed that the QCGN looks forward to a constructive dialogue and making our motto "Working Together" more tangible.

Priorities position shared during PCH dialogue on intergovernmental agreements 

The message that investments in our community truly reflect the needs and priorities of English-speaking Quebecers was repeated during a dialogue session with the department of Canadian Heritage held on Monday. During the discussion on priority areas for English-language provincial and municipal services in Quebec, our Director of Community Engagement and Strategic Alliances, Riley Dalys-Fine, told department officials that with more of resources being transferred to the province through the Action Plan for Official Languages 2023-2028: Protection-Promotion-Collaboration investments must reflect the shared priorities of groups representing English-speaking communities.  

Riley also insisted that it is imperative that the provincial government have a plan to continue and increase funding to our community in a manner consistent with respecting our priorities and basic rights. Last week I shared this briefing note outlining QCGN's position on intergovernmental agreements which states that the provincial government must refer to the 2022-2027 Community Development Plan for English-speaking Quebec: Working Together for a More Vital Community when investing funds transferred from the federal government to finance services in the minority language. I will be on hand to reinforce this message for the department's second online dialogue session next week. 

Report on pre-budget consultation  

We are nothing if not consistent. The message about federal and provincial funding matching the needs and priorities expressed by our community was also a key point as I represented the QCGN on Monday during a pre-budget consultation between the Finance Minister Eric Girard and representatives of groups serving English-speaking Quebecers.  

During the meeting with Girard, who is also the minister responsible for relations with English-speaking Quebecers, we emphasized that the government must consider financial impacts of all government legislation, regulations, policies, and programs on all Quebecers – particularly on minority communities. We also insisted that support should be provided to our school boards, CEGEPs, universities, and other institutions to deal with the adverse financial fallout of recent government policies.  

And, because it bears repeating, we reiterated a longstanding demand that funding for community groups serving English-speaking Quebecers be adjusted to reflect the English-speaking community's proportion of Quebec's population and economic disparities between English- and French-speaking Quebecers.  

Consult our brief and our list of recommendations. Also read our press release, available in French on the QCGN website, and see coverage by CityNews Montreal.  

Federal and provincial governments invest $9 million to renovate Centaur Theatre 

On Thursday afternoon I participated with dozens of community and arts sector partners as Official Languages Minister Randy Boissonnault and Eric Girard, the provincial minister responsible for relations with English-speaking Quebecers, announced joint federal/provincial funding to support the Centaur Theatre's modernization project. The federal government is providing $2.2 million in funding, while Quebec is investing $4 million. The federal funding comes from the Community Spaces Fund which allows not-for-profit organizations working in official language minority communities to acquire spaces that can host community and cultural activities and services in their own language.  

Boissonnault remarked that the Centaur Theatre is an important institution in the Montreal community and that as Minister of Official Languages, he was pleased that the Government of Canada "is investing in the revitalization of this iconic cultural space, which benefits all Quebecers." Girard said the Centaur Theatre is "an important symbol of artistic vitality for the English-speaking community in Montreal" and that the government of Quebec was proud to contribute to bringing the building up to standard and "adding luster to a unique heritage sector of Old Montreal." Read press releases from federal government and provincial government (in French) and consult coverage by CTV Montreal, CityNews, The Montreal Gazette, and CBC Montreal

New Access to Justice survey 

The QCGN's Access to Justice in English project is surveying English-speaking Quebecers experience in front of courts and tribunals. The goal of the survey is to uncover how English speakers access justice in practice and should take 8-10 minutes to complete. Please click here to respond. 

The QCGN is also continuing to track the community's experience with the adoption of Bill 96 in all areas of life. As more sections of the bill become law, we are collecting examples of the different impacts on Quebec's linguistic minority communities. The survey should take five minutes to complete. Please click here to participate, and please feel free to share these questionnaires within your networks. 

Revenue Canada consults on minority community concerns 

The QCGN, alongside member organizations Seniors Action Quebec, the Townshippers' Association, and YES Employment and Entrepreneurship attended a consultation organized by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to learn more about the unique needs of English speakers in Quebec. The CRA, which hosted the consultation along with representatives from the office of the Minister of National Revenue Marie-Claude Bibeau, wanted insight into how its services are benefitting members of our Official Language Minority Community and what improvements it could make to better meet its constitutional obligations under Part VII of the Official Languages Act. Participants focused on the importance of accessing information about relevant tax credits and the role that community organizations could play in partnering with the CRA to reach more vulnerable community members. We expect that over the coming months, many federal institutions will be in touch with us to consult on similar issues. If you would like to get in touch with us and communicate any concerns you have about accessing information or federal programs, please contact Riley Dalys-Fine

EPCA surveys parents on wellbeing of children 

The English Parents' Committee Association of Quebec (EPCA) and the Fédération des comités de parents du Québec (FCPQ) have joined forces to find out how families are doing. In collaboration with Dr. Mélissa Généreux, a public health physician and professor at the Université de Sherbrooke's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, and Dr. Clara Morin, a public health resident, they have launched a large-scale Quebec survey aimed at providing a summary portrait of the well-being of children and their parents in the midst of social crises. The survey is aimed at all parents of primary and secondary school children. They are invited to complete a ten-minute questionnaire in French or English. The deadline to submit a response is January 30, 2024. The results of the survey will be widely circulated thereafter. Click here to find out more and please feel free to share the survey widely in your networks.  

Coasters Association launches youth hub  

Y4Y ED Adrienne Winrow speaks about her organization's work with youth in the region while members of Coasters Association look on at the Launch of the new Youth Hub for Basse-Côte-Nord. 

Since 1988, the Coasters Association has sought to improve the quality of life for small, isolated, and majority-anglophone communities dotted along Quebec's Lower North Shore. Since then, the association has grown significantly in size and scope. Last week, Coasters launched the Basse-Côte-Nord Youth Hub, adding to it its wide assortment of programs.  

The population of the Golfe du Saint-Laurent MRC declined 10.95 per cent over the last five years, with most of the departures being youth between the ages of 18 and 24. The unemployment rate is 23.9 per cent. People aged 15 to 44 make up less than one quarter of the population of the region, compared to close to 40 per cent in the region of Montreal. If communities like those in the Lower North Shore do not find ways to retain their young people, they are at risk of disappearing.   

The Youth Hub was established to address concerns of the regions' youth, including a lack of employment opportunities and mental health challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This space will serve anyone between the ages of 15 and 35 with a desire to grow personally and professionally, explore their interests outside of school or the workplace and to access the tools and technology needed to make this happen. It was inspiring to listen to the young people employed at Coasters whose leadership brought this space into existence. More about the Youth Hub in this Radio Canada report.  

At a time when our community faces significant challenges with respect to leadership and renewal, it is important to point out that the next generation is actively engaged in initiatives such as this which ensure the continued survival and vitality of our communities. I would like to congratulate the Coasters' Association on this important milestone. We are proud to have you as a member of the QCGN. 

Reminder: QCGN webinar on Part VII regulations   

Don't forget to register for next Wednesday's webinar on Part VII of the Official Languages Act. 

As noted in previous updates, Part VII breathes life into Section 16(3) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that urges Parliament to advance the equality of status or use of English and French. Part VII outlines the duties of institutions subject to the Act to ensure federal commitments to official language minority communities (OLMCs) like ours are implemented.  

During our webinar on January 31, a senior official from the Treasury Board will explain the nuances of Part VII and its significance to official language minority communities. Over the coming months, the Treasury Board of Canada and the Official Languages Branch of the Department of Canadian Heritage will be working together on the process of drafting options for the new Part VII regulations and manage consultations with English and French linguistic minority communities.  

It is critical that English-speaking Quebecers understand, support, and take part in this process. The QCGN's engagement plan to ensure English-speaking Quebecers better understand the development of Part VII regulations that are critical to the future vitality of our communities. That begins on January 31 with our introductory webinar that will explain the process and set in motion an internal consultation plan to establish a strategy that will enable us to advocate for new regulations that take into account the priorities of English-speaking Quebecers. I look forward to seeing many of you there to begin the process of influencing the drafting of these regulations to the benefit of English-speaking Quebecers and the many groups that support our community. Please register at this link.  

Thank you for reading our regular newsletter. For up-to-date news about the Quebec Community Groups Network you can visit our website at www.qcgn.ca or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram.



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