Six young anglophones share their hopes and worries about their future in Quebec
Panelists participated in CBC Asks event tackling the issue of employment for young English-speakers
CBC recently partnered up with Canadian Heritage to host a three-day innovation challenge to come up with different ways to help young English-speakers thrive in Quebec.
The Co-Lab event took place Nov. 14-16 at Bishop's University in Lennoxville.
To kick it all off, CBC invited six young people to take part in a CBC Asks panel discussion to share their hopes, and concerns, for their future in the province.
Here's some of what they had to say:
Shawna Chatterton-Jerome, 20
Shawna Chatterton-Jerome is a student at Bishop's University and co-leader of the university's Indigenous Cultural Alliance.
She is from Gesgapegiag but grew up mostly in Drummondville, Que. and hopes to become an RCMP officer.
"It's not just learning the French language, but to write it as well is a huge part," she said.
Chatterton-Jerome said she feels confident in her spoken French, but knows that a higher level of proficiency in written French is necessary for her to achieve her career goals.
"I believe in a place that's more bilingual like Montreal, if you just speak the basics in French, it's perceived much differently than a place like Sherbrooke that has more French speakers," she said.
She says she hopes that she has a future in the province, and that she wants to stay here in the long term.
But if she didn't have those French skills, she says she doubts that is possible.
Catherine Laberge, 24
Catherine Laberge graduated from Bishop's University with a degree in marketing.
She works part time at Bishop's, which she calls "the bubble" and hopes to stay in the Eastern Townships, but believes she'll have to leave to build a career in her field.
"My bubble is going to burst soon, because my contract ends soon, and then it will be back to the reality of looking for work," she said.
Laberge added her spoken French is good, but it's difficult to gauge her own proficiency level and feel confident. She acknowledges that her written French is an obstacle for her.
"If I speak for more than five minutes then you're realize that maybe [my French] is not that great," she said.
She said she is considering moving to Montreal or Ottawa for better career prospects.
Lu Yang, 25
Lu Yang moved to Ontario from China two years ago before heading to Lennoxville to get her master's degree in computer science from Bishop's.
She hopes to settle in the region but is worried about her proficiency in French.
She's taking French classes, and wants to stay because she's made friends here and prefers living in smaller towns and cities.
"I've gotten a lot of calls from different companies but the first question they ask is, 'Do you speak French?' And I'm not confident in my French so I just say no," she said.
"I think the problem for me is I don't have too much confidence, and I think my French is not good enough … I think if I improve my French I will be more confident and I will be fine about my future."
Veronica Enright, 26
Veronica Enright is a dairy farmer in Compton, Que. at the farm where she grew up.
She got her degree in marketing and moved to Montreal to work at an advertising agency but soon realized she longed for life in the country.
Enright grew up in an anglophone household but is married to a francophone and at work she speaks half English, half French.
"It was very clear from the beginning that I wanted to stay in the Townships. I love the Townships, I grew up here, even though a lot of my friends left, I want my kids to grow up here and be close to their grandparents," she said.
She thinks it's a misconception that people should have to go to cities to get jobs. She says there are small companies looking for workers that just don't have the capacity to actively recruit them.
"If you want to stay somewhere, you just need to take the time to go out and socialize … it's not just up to the employer to approach you," she said.
"Get over your fears, apply for the job anyway and see what happens."
Learn more about Veronica's story here.
Kieran Mitchell, 22
Kieran Mitchell is a former video game entrepreneur who now works in tech support.
He grew up in an English-speaking household and is more comfortable in that language.
He wants to move to the city for a while, but wants to come back to the Eastern Townships in the long term.
"Right from the beginning, I knew what was available to me because of Alexander Galt [High School]," he said.
"I struggled with French for a very long time and I was grateful for that opportunity … I do believe I have a future here in Quebec."
Brett Nelson, 32
Brett Nelson grew up in Western Canada in an English-speaking home. He moved to the Eastern Townships with his partner about a year ago and he works in a hotel kitchen in North Hatley.
Nelson enjoys the slower pace of the region but said he already feels pulled to bigger cities for better work opportunities.
He says finding a community, and the right job opportunities, would keep him here.
But he says he doesn't feel pressure to learn French in his current job. However, he says he is actively learning French by way of formal lessons.
"I have found opportunities to sneak by without," he said.
"I think it is a matter of responsibility on my part, and on our parts as people asking the question, to create the future in Quebec that we are asking ourselves whether or not we have."
With files from Spencer Van Dyk