Roughly $280M of federal languages action plan for English Quebecers

"Responds to the needs that we've heard," says Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Canada's Minister of Official Languages, about the new Action Plan for Official Languages with $280 million going to support the English language in Quebec. Felisha Adam reports.

By News Staff, Felisha Adam

An increase in francophone immigration, is one of the keys to Canada’s new Action Plan for its Official Languages. Unveiled Wednesday, the federal government looks to support the English language in Quebec with roughly $280 million.

“Our action plan for Official Languages is an ambitious five-year plan that recognizes the important economic, social and cultural value of official languages,” says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The five-year plan includes investments totalling 4.1 billion dollars, an increase of 1.4 billion until 2028.

Of that amount, $137.5 million over five years will support initiatives that specifically target the English-speaking community in Quebec.

“When I spoke to English-speaking Quebeckers, they told me that they wanted greater support for employment services, for second language learning, and to support the vitality of its cultural sector. And this plan deserves delivers on these priorities,” says Ginette Petitpas Taylor, the Minister of Official Languages of Canada.

It’s welcome news for English speakers in the province.

“There are important new investments available for our education, access-to-justice and health and social services sectors in this Action Plan,” said Sylvia Martin-Laforge, the executive director of the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN).

“We are particularly pleased that the government heard us on the need for more help in addressing unemployment within English-speaking Quebec, as well as the new program to assist the critical work done by our arts, culture, and heritage organizations.”

The QCGN also applauded the action plan’s “emphasis on diversity, inclusion, and equity” in supporting under-represented groups, as well as its investments in the anglophone arts, culture and heritage sector.

“This Action Plan represents more than just getting ‘our piece of the pie.’ There are specific programs in here for English-speaking Quebec, and there is work to be done by our community sectors to take full advantage of the opportunities presented to us,” added Martin-Laforge.

“We are talking about additional funds for economic development, employment in particular, and arts culture and the learning of French as a second language for the English-speaking community in Quebec,” says Eva Ludvig, the president of Quebec Community Groups Network.

While Ludvig welcomes the new plan, she is worried about its implementation, “these dollars go through the provincial government and we want to be sure that there’s an agreement… between the federal and provincial government to ensure that these moneys to meet the needs of the English-speaking community, that they are channelled to the community.”

Supporting French in Quebec

Trudeau says, the plan takes into account French-speaking minorities outside of Quebec and English-speaking minorities within Quebec, but that French is a minority in North America and English is taking up more space.

The federal government is also providing funds to support French in Quebec: $6.5 million will support the Council of Ministers on the Canadian Francophonie, which includes working to promote French across the country, including in Quebec, and $5 million for internships in arts and culture.

Funds will also be allocated to the production and dissemination of scientific content, and for teaching French as a second language in Quebec.

“We have seen in the past that there is a decline in individuals that speak French as the first language in Canada,” says Viviane Albuquerque a Canadian and U.S. Immigration Lawyer

To combat the declining demographic weight of Francophone communities and the shortage of bilingual workers in Canada the plan will adopt a new Francophone immigration policy recruiting from Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas and attract bilingual workers as a way to grow the French language in Canada.

Official Languages Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor says it’s an advantage for Canada to have a bilingual workforce and population.

“The government is using immigration to attract more people. It’s using its immigration policies to help alleviate some of the needs for the communities, for French speakers,” says Albuquerque.

Petitpas Taylor says the government also wants to recruit francophone teachers so that such communities have good access to French-language education.

She says the government recognizes that there’s a labour force shortage when it comes to bilingual workers, and the policy aims to ensure that the immigration efforts remain well-resourced into the future.

—With files from The Canadian Press

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