Montreal

Quebec halts Dawson College expansion plans, asks CEGEP to rent space

According to the director general of Dawson College, Quebec's minister of higher education says the government is prioritizing francophone students by halting the CEGEP's expansion plans.

Minister of higher education is prioritizing francophone students, CEGEP director says

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Higher Education confirmed the government met with representatives of Dawson on Jan. 28, asking them to consider alternatives to the expansion, such as renting additional rooms.  (Charles Contant/CBC)

Quebec is putting Dawson College's expansion plans on hold, despite promising the CEGEP millions for additional classroom space in 2020.

An internal memo sent Sunday by Diane Gauvin, Dawson's director general, says the infrastructure project was quashed following a meeting with Higher Education Minister Danielle McCann. 

"The government has chosen to prioritize, in [McCann]'s words, 'francophone' students,'" Gauvin said. 

As part of the government's accelerated infrastructure plan, the $100 million in funding would have enabled Dawson to expand its crowded campus.

For years, Quebec's largest English-speaking CEGEP has faced a space shortage. To meet infrastructure norms and accommodate students, the memo says, Dawson would need another 11,200 square metres — the size of 10 typical office floors.

Valérie Chamula, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Higher Education, confirmed the government met with representatives of the CEGEP on Jan. 28, asking them to work on alternatives to the expansion, such as renting additional rooms. 

"The final decision on whether or not to go ahead with the project will be made and revealed in the next [Quebec infrastructure plan] QIP, in the budget for this spring," she said in a statement. 

Two factors have contributed to putting Dawson's expansion on hold: the government's decision last spring to cap English institutions enrolment until 2029 and French CEGEPs' high demand for space.

Affront to education

Plans to expand the CEGEP have come with their share of controversy. 

In February 2021, the CAQ stopped a Parti Québécois motion supported by Québec Solidaire that called on the government to redirect the funds to French CEGEPs. 

Marlene Jennings, leader of the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN), said obtaining new facilities is critical to improving Dawson students' learning environment. 

"Dawson, like other English CEGEPs, has an enviable record of welcoming Quebecers of all backgrounds including a large number of students who completed their secondary school education in French," she said, in a statement Monday. 

"Cancelling this project represents yet another example of the Legault government's persistent and relentless attack on the vitality of Quebec's English-speaking community." 

David Birnbaum, official opposition critic for relations with English-speaking Quebecers, called the decision insensitive to the needs of English-speakers in the province. 

"This CAQ government seems to like to depict institutions that proudly serve English-speaking communities as closed to the rest of Quebec," he said. "That is such garbage."

"This major expansion was needed [and] remains necessary and this government, with an eye on politics and nothing else, has put the boots on that project."

With files from Chloë Ranaldi 

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