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Quebec’s election campaign has just begun, but many English speakers are already feeling sidelined | UKTN News



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Standing in front of a crowd of cheering supporters after winning a historic majority in 2018, François Legault took a moment to address Anglophones in the province.

“I want to assure you that my government will be your government,” he saidspeaking in English.

Days later, Legault appointed himself minister in charge of the Anglophone community, saying he would “govern respectfully with the historic Anglophone community”.

But in the years since, many English speakers say, Legault has failed to keep that promise.

In interviews prior to Quebec’s elections, mayors, community leaders and residents expressed concern that the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government’s policies on education, language and secularism have left them feeling alienated and unwelcome.

Legault’s decision not to participate in the Anglophone TV debate also upset some Anglophones.

The Quebec liberals, traditionally home to English-speaking voters, have themselves been criticized, with many voters saying they feel the party has not done enough to defend their interests.

Quebec Liberals leader Dominique Anglade has been criticized for not doing enough to defend the rights of English speakers during the Bill 40 debate. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Because the CAQ preferred to win another mandate on Oct. 3, many said they are exploring their voting options, including not voting at all.

“There is some concern about representation. You know, who speaks for our community?’ said Donald Warnholtz, president of the Townshippers’ Association, an organization that represents Anglophones in the county’s Eastern Townships.

The Conservative Party of Quebec, gaining popularity under leader Eric Duhaime, has been trying to reach out to English voters. Also two new parties — the Canadian Party of Quebecled by Colin Standish, and Bloc Montreal, led by Balarama Holness — are also committed to defending the rights of minorities.

‘I just feel like we’ve been stepped on’

Warnholtz, who is in Sherbrooke, Que. resident, said Anglophones in the region felt particularly targeted by Bill 96, the county’s updated language law.

The law affects everything from employment to access to health care. How exactly the law will be enforced has still not been made clear.

“People are worried and don’t know exactly what’s going to happen,” he said.

Bill 21, the CAQ’s Secularization Act, as well as Bill 40, which included a failed attempt to abolish English school boards, also upset the population, Warnholtz said.

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People take part in a demonstration against Bill 96 earlier this year. Many Anglophones say they are still angry about the county’s language law. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

“On a broader scale, I would say that the concerns in the community are about the general erosion of people’s rights in recent years,” he said.

In Montreal’s predominantly Anglophone West End, many residents brought up Bill 96 when asked about the CAQ and the upcoming election.

“I just feel like we’ve been stepped on,” said Samuel Ezerzer outside the Cavendish Mall in Côte Saint-Luc, in the D’Arcy-McGee drive. “But I love Quebec, I like to stay here. This is my home.”

Joe Brody, 86, has always voted Liberal and knows his local candidate personally.

Despite this, he is considering casting his vote for another party, as he is unimpressed with the way the liberals have handled the debate on language.

Bill 96, passed this spring, limits the number of students allowed to enroll in English-taught CEGEPs.

There are also French language requirements for students taking CEGEP in English – an amendment proposed by the Liberals.

The Liberals eventually backtracked on that proposal, and voted against the bill.

“I don’t like people being restricted in any way in education. I think this province needs educated people, not necessarily monolingual French speakers,” Brody said.

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Joan Lee, head of the West Island Black Community Association, said the new requirements in CEGEP appear to be an additional hurdle for the young members of her group. (Rachelle & Chantay Rose)

Joan Lee, president of the West Island Black Community Association, has also heard concerns about language law from people of all ages.

She said the new requirements in CEGEP seem to be an additional hurdle for the young members of her group.

“They don’t think they’re getting a fair chance because” [for] many of them also have English not their first language,” she said.

“So in general they just say, ‘Why do I have to go through all this? I might as well, you know, move to another province where they feel really welcome.’”

Lee said she urged local residents, both young and old, to vote, to “make your voice heard.”

The loser may be democracy

The reality of the electoral map is that Anglophones — although they represent about 10 percent of Quebec’s population — are largely concentrated in a handful of rides.

Georges Bourelle, the mayor of Beaconsfield on Montreal’s West Island, said he feels Anglophones are being overlooked no matter who is in power.

“I have to say that for years I felt that the Liberals took us for granted in many ways as a mayor, and as a resident before that,” he said.

“We seem to be groping in the dark here, and the black hole, whether it’s liberal, or anyone else.”

VIEW | Leader of the Canadian Party of Quebec on Bill 96


Bill 96 tries to ‘extinguish’ English language in Quebec, says new party leader

Canadian Party of Quebec leader Colin Standish argues that the Legault government’s language reform also aims to wipe out English institutions and warns that it could cripple the economy for years to come.

Such discontent worries observers that many Anglophones will choose to sit out this election, continuing a trend that began in 2018.

The threat of an independence referendum – normally a rallying cry for the liberals – has disappeared under the nationalist CAQ.

“There could be a loser in this election, and it could be democracy, with allophones and some Anglophones deciding to stay home again,” said Valérie-Anne Mahéo, a political scientist at Université Laval.

“It remains to be seen whether the two more Anglophone, more Montreal-centered parties can actually present themselves as viable alternatives. But what I fear is that many Anglophones will decide to stay home if they don’t have a good option with the Liberals. .”



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