Bill 96: Anglophones share employment concerns as passing of language reform looms

“We are not in the trades and we are not in the civil service,” said Sylvia Martin-Laforge, of the Quebec Community Groups Network, on concerns over employment of English speakers as the passing of Quebec’s Bill 96 looms. Alyssia Rubertucci reports.

As the passing of Quebec’s Bill 96 looms – the proposed reform on the province’s French-language law – concerns are growing over employment of English speakers.

A new study from the Provincial Employment Roundtable (PERT) found anglophones have a higher unemployment rate and lower income than French speakers.

Advocates say Bill 96 will only exacerbate the issue of English Quebecers being underrepresented in the workforce.

“We are not in the trades and we are not in the civil service,” said Sylvia Martin-Laforge, the director of the Quebec Community Groups Network. “And so most of that is why many English-speaking Quebecers are overrepresented in entrepreneurship, starting their own businesses and work in ghettos of English-speaking Quebecers. Because penetrating the majority workforce is very difficult.

“The myth of the English-speaking Quebecer as wealthy and prosperous and mobile… it’s a myth.”

English speakers make up 14.3 per cent of the Quebec labour force and 13.8 per cent of the population.

While about half of them live in Montreal, provincially funded think-tank PERT says Quebec English-speakers are not only a varied “group of communities” by past standards but by national standards.

“They are the most ethno-culturally diverse official language minority community in Canada,” read the report.

IN PHOTOS: Montrealers protest Quebec’s Bill 96 language law reform

Those English speakers have an average unemployment rate of 8.9 per cent in Quebec, while French speakers have a rate of 6.9 per cent.

For youth under 25, English speakers have an unemployment rate of 16.3 per cent while their French-speaking counterparts have a rate of 11.9 per cent.

“We look at the state of employment for them across the province, across the province of 17 ministry regions,” said Nick Salter, the executive director of PERT. “What we found was that English speakers actually trailed behind their francophone counterparts in terms of median income by just about $2,800.”


This comes as many in the anglophone community are feeling attacked by Bill 96 – that their rights to education, health services, their place in the economy, are being threatened.

“I think a lot of English speakers, those who have stayed or grew up here, want to be part of the project of protecting French, recognize that it’s important, but nonetheless, because there’s an absence of programs that help people adapt their skills, training programs, French-language training programs, that infrastructure hasn’t been built,” said Salter.

“Well, we are worried that when Bill 96 gets introduced and that French starts to increase in the workplace, in the Quebec society, that the English-speaking population will fall further behind in the absence of skills training programs to help them.”

“We never believe that our French is good enough,” added Martin-Laforge. “And we don’t believe that our French is good enough to take courses at CEGEP. We worry that it’s not good enough. So we don’t try for jobs.”

Meanwhile the François Legault government says anglo concerns around Bill 96 are unfounded.

“Just telling us that they are unfounded does not help us believe,” said Martin-Laforge. “Demonstrate with programs what you’re going to do as a government to ensure that there is more diversity in the workplace.”

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