Bill 96 to ‘negatively affect’ anglophone Indigenous CEGEP students, says expert

“It's going to be a barrier,” said Tiawentí:non Canadian, co-ordinator of Dawson College's First People's Centre on Quebec’s updated language law Bill 96’s impact on Indigenous CEGEP students. Brittany Henriques reports.

By Brittany Henriques

Bill 96, Quebec’s updated language law, will negatively affect Indigenous students on many levels, says a Mohawk co-ordinator at Montreal’s Dawson College.

A section of the legislation would require students attending English CEGEP to pass three of their regular program courses in French.

“It’s going to be a barrier and I think students are aware of that,” said Tiawentí:non Canadian, coordinator at Dawson College’s First People’s Centre. “Once again something is being put in front of them that they have to overcome in order to achieve the same milestones that the average non-Indigenous student has.

“I think it’s going to negatively affect relationships between Quebec and Indigenous communities.”

To obtain a CEGEP diploma, students currently must pass two college-level French courses.

That’s already a difficult task for anglophone Indigenous students, says Canadian.

“Like one of the barriers that I see is that it just takes longer,” she said. “Even without this bill now, it takes longer for Indigenous students to progress to the point where they can finish all their required French courses.”


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The legislation includes a cap on the number of students who can attend English CEGEPs.

“It might make it so that the only choice Anglo-Indigenous families have is to send their youth out into Ontario or other English-speaking provinces,” said Canadian. “And so once again, we’re having Indigenous families compromise because of a provincial bill.”

There is concern the requirement could further isolate Indigenous youth, hurting their chances at academic success.

“It weighs heavily on our students,” said Canadian. “They think about their future and they know that everything – five French courses now – like that adds up…

“I see how difficulty in school can exacerbate difficulty with mental-health issues, difficulty with motivation, self-esteem, When students are trying their best and still not succeeding, that is something that is so hard for any student.”

The Quebec government views Bill 96 as a law to protect the French language in the province. But some question, at what cost?

Eleven Indigenous treaties in Quebec are still fighting to save their native languages.

“It feels like Indigenous students, Indigenous communities are being forced once again to choose their traditions, like their traditional language or French, in order to succeed in Quebec society,” said Canadian. “I think that maybe assimilation is at the heart of this bill. You choose to fall in line. You put your own culture and history and knowledge at risk. And so it’s a lose-lose for Indigenous people.”

Some argue money for more resources to help Indigenous youth learn the language would be a better alternative.

The bill is currently in the clause-by-clause stage at the National Assembly.

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