English content in Quebec: take the win, Anglophones
Since mid-March, readers of Quebec’s English newspapers have been provided many full pages of information about Covid-19. These pages are purchased and prepared by the Government of Quebec. Never in the history of the Bulletin has there been such a massive information campaign purchased by any provincial government. The Quebec Government also booked these ads in French, balancing their information mandate and respecting the Bulletin’s bilingual mission.
A guide was also mailed via Canada Post with similar information. Prepared and paid for by the Quebec Government, the guide was sent to everyone in French, with about 50,000 in English. The lower number of English guides caused a stir among Anglophone advocates in Quebec.
Since not all Anglophone populations have a local newspaper (such as the Aylmer Bulletin, the Low Down to Hull and Back News, the Pontiac Journal, the West Quebec Post, the Eastern Door, the Sherbrook Record, etc), it is no surprise that some English-readers feel ignored by Quebec. Anglophones are accustomed to being ignored by their provincial government because of decades of discrimination. As one veteran publisher noted, “We had to beg Jean Charest to say a few words in English when he was premier.” This reminds advocates that Anglophones have been taken for granted by their (supposed) greatest supporters and that they too easily tell Anglophones their rights will be defended, whereas reality can be very different.
Thus, today’s uproar among a small but loud Anglophone group about the lack of English Covid-19 government informational guides was expected. In Aylmer, the rancour needs to be ignored. It is a challenge to not jump on the wagon, crying foul. The English content in this edition of the Bulletin – and the editions of West Quebec’s five local newspapers -- is a major win for Anglophones in Quebec. Take the win, readers!
Provincial and federal officials have heard voters consistently request two things: save local newspapers and service English communities. With its COVID campaign in English communities across Quebec since mid-March, our province is making concrete efforts to do both. The advertising dollars behind the campaign helps small newspapers continue publishing at all; it also respects English-speakers, keeping us current on crucial information.
Social media has, so far, been the focus of most anti-government complaining about a shortage of information guides in English. This tells us something: social media’s ‘views’ on each complaint is never more than a handful, while many other popular messages can garner up to a few thousand ‘views’ by social media users. Even these numbers rarely compare with print-media ‘views’ (otherwise known as readers!). With some 50,000 weekly readers, the Bulletin’s print editions and their many more pages of government information in English than the guide’s, government officials can rest assured that in West Quebec, plenty of information is reaching the kitchen tables of English-speakers about how to manage with Covid-19.