English Montreal CEGEP students protest against Quebec’s proposed language reforms

“If we don’t speak up, then it’s going to be very hard to change the law,” said Ivana Riveros Arteaga, John Abbott College’s Student Union, as Montreal CEGEP students protested Quebec's proposed French language reform. Alyssia Rubertucci reports.

By Alyssia Rubertucci

Students at Montreal English CEGEPs were out protesting Thursday, demonstrating against Bill 96, Quebec’s proposed reform to its language laws.

“My CEGEP, my future,” chanted hundreds at John Abbott College.

Events were also held at Dawson College, Vanier, and Marianopolis.

Organizers say the Bill 96 will put their futures in jeopardy and create systemic barriers for Anglophones and Allophones.

“If we don’t speak up, if we don’t share the message to our politicians, then it’s going to be very hard to change the law,” said Ivana Riveros Arteaga, President of John Abbott College’s Student Union.

The Bill would require CEGEP students to take three French-language classes of 45 hours each and a five-hour French exit exam.

“Students protesting today are not against the French language. We think that it’s a beautiful language that should definitely be shared and be taught in schools. But the way this bill is being put is going to be very harmful for a lot of people, for Anglophones, Allophones and Francophones and a lot of minorities as well,” said Riveros Arteaga.


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“It definitely impacts indigenous students, some of whom have had to, you know, learn French as a third or fourth language and so having those students sort of take program courses in French or pass the French exit exam is sort of clearly unfair and unequal,” said Adil Sousa, John Abbott College teachers’ union representative.

As Bill 96 inches closer to passing, students at English CEGEPs say it could prevent English-speaking students from graduating and pursuing competitive university programs, as poor grades in French courses can lower their R score.

They also believe there will be a lower success rate for most students in their three French core specialization courses, as there will be several levels of French proficiency in the same class.

Protesters on Thursday also say that Bill 96 will create systemic barriers for Indigenous students who, for the most part, are not subsequently educated in French, reducing their success, retention and graduation rates.

Teachers were also denouncing Bill 96.

“What makes it purely political is that it doesn’t consider the actual reality in which many people function today.” Sousa said.

“It’s creating inequalities between the French and English systems. It’s a 50 year old tradition that we’re just kind of changing on a whim,” said Valerie Bherer, an English teacher at John Abbott College. “We need to think about the feasibility of three additional French classes for all the students. We don’t have the staff for that.”

On the personnel side, CEGEP students worry about some departments expected to lose 50 per cent of their faculty.

The Bill is currently being studied in parliamentary committees and is expected to be voted on when the National Assembly resumes sitting on May 10.

“We believe that there needs to be a large delay,” said Alexandrah Cardona, President of the Dawson Student Union. “We still still need time to consult with educational experts.”

Meanwhile another protest is scheduled for May 14 in downtown Montreal.

“It’s not Allophones and Anglophones against Francophones.” said Riveros Arteaga. “It’s really all of us together against this Bill.”

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