Sweeping Language Law Change
Interview with Gordon McIvor, Director General of Heritage College on Bill 96
The Liberal Party’s amendment to Bill 96, voted on by all parties, will require Anglophone CEGEP students to take three additional French language courses. These courses are in addition to the two French second-language courses that English GEGEP students must already take.
Originally, the amendment required three core courses to be in French, but that was later changed. The CAQ is also imposing a cap on the number of students who can access English CEGEPs. Regardless of population growth, the CAQ is freezing the number of CEGEP spots at 2019 levels.
André Fortin, Member of the National Assembly for Pontiac and member of the Quebec Liberal Party, acknowledged the concerns with the Bill when speaking with the Bulletin.
“The original amendment, supported at the time by all parties, was ill-advised from the start because, when combined with the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) amendment making it impossible to count French Second Language classes and Physical Education classes in those three courses, it generated unintended consequences on student success at many CEGEPs,” said Fortin. “Obviously, consultations were not thoroughly made. For the past weeks, we have been asking other parties to work with us to remove or, at the very least, make changes to fix it. While it’s not perfect, I am glad that, following consultation with CEGEP Directors, changes have now been made, and that a compromise has been identified to remove the impact on student success.”
However, Heritage College Director General Gordon McIvor says the Liberal amendment will still have an impact on student success.
“The original amendment would have had a greater effect on students. I acknowledge that the recent change to the amendment is marginally better,” said McIvor. “We want our students to develop French language skills; however, the increased French courses may affect students' grades, specifically their R scores, which are used by Quebec CEGEPs and universities. This can affect students who pursue university degrees.”
Another concern for CEGEPs if the Bill were to pass is admissions and student caps. McIvor notes that, when accepting students to the college, they will be labeled, for the first time, Anglophone or Francophone. This has not been a part of the admission process before. The student caps the universities at a certain number of students and limits access to English post-secondary education for Francophones in Quebec.
“The implicit message of these admission requirements is that we will have to make decisions
that are not based on grades and prerequisites. Currently, where a student went to high school, and their first language or most spoken language is not part of the admissions process. Bill 96, if passed, would require this.”
Allophone and Francophone students will be required to take a French exit exam in order to graduate. “This is problematic because even in Francophone schools, the passing rate for this exam is about 80%; it is not an easy exam to pass.”
McIvor tells the Bulletin that he is also concerned with the student caps that will limit Heritage College enrollments to their 2019 numbers. This means that the college will have to reduce the number of students. Heritage College, which currently has 1,200 students, will be capped at 1,100 students permanently if the bill is passed.
“The CAQ’s capping of the English CEGEP spaces is one of the most impactful parts of the Bill. It will affect the short- and long-term possibility for any student to receive education in English in Quebec,” says Fortin. “It means that many students will be forced to get their College training in Ontario. In time, for our region, that means fewer nurses, fewer technicians, fewer early childhood educators, and so on. It is part of a number of backward policies included in Bill 96, which will negatively affect the English-speaking population from accessing government services.”
McIvor notes that implementing this new system would be a challenge for Heritage College, as finding French teachers is difficult given the teacher shortage and that many get hired to teach in Ontario. This will also affect teachers who are currently employed at Heritage, as demand for certain courses will change if more French courses are needed. Some permanent teachers at the college would not have anything to teach if French courses replaced other courses.
“Bill 96 is a divisive Bill that puts Quebecers in two categories, ‘Historic Anglophones’ and everyone else,” said Fortin. “It also carries a number of restrictions on Anglophones and newcomers in terms of access to health care, education, justice and other government services. There has to be a better, more inclusive way of governing than this.”