By Marc Lalonde
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A new bill requiring CEGEP students to take three non-language courses in French will have an odious effect on local student success, access to services and likely increase dropout rates, local leaders said.
“It’s discriminatory,” Kahnawake Education Center Director Robin Delaronde said. “Very much so. What we know, what we’ve said to the government is that this law will impede the success of our students and we have told that this law will make college courses very hard on our students.”
Delaronde lamented the fact that the new requirement will chase talented young students out of the province to pursue their post-secondary studies.
“These kids shouldn’t have to leave the province. They should have the opportunity to stay at home and study at home, to be with their families. We have discussed this at a political level,” but the government’s response has been, effectively, too bad, Delaronde said.
“They talk about building relationships and holding nation-to-nation discourse, but in actuality they’re not respecting First Nations people who live in Quebec. It’s linguistic assimilation,” Delaronde said.
The MCK agreed, issuing statements of their own supporting the KEC’s position.
“What Bill 96 makes clear is the fact that the Legault government is committed to a course of action that clearly demonstrates that systemic racism is alive and well in Quebec,”
Mohawk Council of Kahnawake Chief Ross Montour said. “In spite of their claims of honouring and respecting our peoples’ cultures and languages, Premier Francois Legault and Simon Jolin-Barrette’s refusal to reconsider this dreadful direction is clearly evident of colonial mindsets that will no doubt have devastating effects upon our students and their goals and dreams of attaining higher education.”
The MCK has committed to working collaboratively with all local organizations to protect the educational opportunities for the community’s future leaders.
“We have been through enough without having another roadblock thrown in front of us,” MCK Chief Harry Rice said. “Due to colonization, many of our people lost our language and English became the prominent language used in the community. We refuse to be subject to further colonial actions by the Legault government playing political games with education. It is too important for us to sit idly by while they close the door on our students.”
Bill 96 would impact students at many different levels. First, the at the CEGEP level, students will be required to take a minimum of three additional program-related courses (other than French) in French only. The law would freeze the number of students allowed to attend subsidized English-speaking colleges and the number of students in non-subsidized, private English colleges.
In addition, students in one-year college certificate program in English and French institutions would have to prove `conditional knowledge of the French language,’ to get their certificate, and collegiate diplomas (DECs) would have a written French-language requirement.
The bill has caused concern since discussion began early last year when Delaronde first voiced concerns over the proposed law at the First Nations Education Council.
Communities approved the FNEC aligning efforts with the FNEC Chief’s committee to address concerns at the provincial level.
In a statement the KEC said `If passed, Bill 96 will have numerous negative impacts on student success, access to services and increase dropout rates in our communities.’
The KEC statement said the proposed law would `promote colonialism and linguistic assimilation and violates the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.’
A March 2 letter to Quebec education minister Jean-Francois Roberge requesting a meeting for discussions about exemptions has gone unanswered.
Marc Lalonde is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the IORI:WASE. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.