CEGEP students across Montreal and surrounding areas held simultaneous demonstrations on Thursday against Bill 96, the province’s language reform.
They’re concerned about a controversial amendment to Bill 96 that would have required all students in English-language CEGEPs to take three program-related courses in French in order to graduate.
That amendment has since been modified but students are unsatisfied.
Students who don’t have the required language skills to take core courses in French will be allowed to substitute them for three French-language classes of 45 hours each. This will only be allowed for those who went to English elementary and high schools.
At Dawson College on Thursday, a few hundred students gathered in the campus’s busy atrium.
“When we’re over 10,000 students, there’s very few times that we all agree for the most part,” said Dawson Student Union president Alexandrah Cardona. “Especially when it comes to political or social issues.”
Both students and teachers agree Bill 96 is not the way to encourage anglophone students to improve their French language skills.
“Everyone at Dawson, teachers, community members, students, we all want to celebrate the French language in Quebec,” said Adam Bright, a teacher at Dawson. “Smart policy would involve consultation with students, teachers and administrators on how best to do that.”
Sarah Djaiz attended elementary and high school in French but chose an English post-secondary institution to open more doors. She doesn’t agree she will become anglicized.
“I am not part of the decline of the French language in this province,” Djaiz said. “Even if I go to English CEGEP, I continue to use French daily with my parents, with my friends.”
At John Abbott College in the West Island, a few hundred students gathered outside with many of the same concerns.
John Abbott student president Ivana Riveros Arteaga said students are concerned it will affect their ‘R’ score, a statistical method that classifies CEGEP students’ academic performances. It is used by Quebec universities for selection purposes.
“It may lower the R score for a lot of people, making it harder to get into competitive university programs,” said Artega. “It’s also going to affect a lot of minorities, let’s say Indigenous people.”
Kayla Lauzon, a nursing student from Nunavik, worries future generations of Indigenous students will be discouraged from staying in Quebec for a post-secondary education.
“It’s a big culture shock and adding the French for most of us, we don’t speak French,” she said. “It’s just going to make it a lot more harder in order for us to graduate.”
On Thursday in Quebec City, the premier held his ground, saying the changes are needed.
The Bill 101 and Bill 96, it’s important to protect French,” said Francois Legault. “French will always be vulnerable in North America. I think that most of the anglophones understand that.”
Bill 96 will be voted on in the coming weeks at the national assembly. The Liberals say they will vote against it.
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