Montreal

Parti Québécois launches petition calling for extension of language law to CEGEPs

With a byelection set for April 11, the PQ candidate in Marie-Victorin, Pierre Nantel, has revived his party's proposal to make it compulsory for students who attended French-language schools in Quebec to continue their college education in French.

PQ candidate in Marie-Victorin, Pierre Nantel, revives proposal in time for April 11 byelection

Pierre Nantel, who is running for the Parti Québécois in the April 11 byelection in Marie-Victorin, said Quebec risks going the way of Louisiana unless the decline of the French language is reversed. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

The Parti Québécois has launched a petition on the National Assembly website to extend the language-of-education provisions of Bill 101 to the CEGEP network.

The PQ, which now holds just seven seats in the National Assembly, wants the Coalition Avenir Québec government to make it compulsory for students who attended French-language schools in Quebec to continue their college education in French.

That would effectively prevent francophone and allophone students — anyone without an English eligibility certificate — from attending CEGEP in English.

The PQ tried last year to amend Bill 96, the CAQ government's reform of the Charter of the French language, which is currently under study by a parliamentary committee.

The launch of this petition comes as teachers from 19 French-language CEGEPs have gone public with their support for extending Bill 101 to colleges.

The question has become an electoral issue in the riding of Marie-Victorin in Longueuil, where a critical byelection is to be held on April 11, as teachers from CEGEP Édouard-Montpetit, located in the riding are poised to join that group of 19 CEGEPs.

"I won't do numerology, but a 20th would be a strong symbol," said Pierre Nantel, the PQ candidate in the riding, in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Nantel said the government should listen to college teachers who say they are witnessing a decline of the use of French in school. 

Nantel has a lot on his hands right now as he fights to keep the riding out of the hands of the CAQ.

"CEGEP in French is imperative," Nantel, who wants to promote this proposal during his election campaign, said.

"There is a decline in French in Quebec, it's striking; we can't let it go. I can't accept that Quebec is in the process of going in the same direction as Louisiana," he said —  a reference to the loss of French in that American state, once a colony of France.

According to data from the PQ, since 1995 the share of college students who attend public or private English CEGEPs has climbed from 14.9 per cent to 19 per cent.

Some analysts believe that attending CEGEP in English promotes the anglicization of young people and determines their future academic and professional path — an interpretation rejected by the province's Federation of CEGEPs, which said in its own brief that "CEGEPs are not the cause of anglicization in Quebec."

In its preamble, the petition also emphasizes that "many experts and groups have publicly affirmed their support for this measure, considering it essential to ensure the future of Quebec in French."

When the PQ proposed amending Bill 96 to extend the provisions of the Charter of the French language to the college network last month, the proposal was rejected by the Coalition Avenir Québec, the Quebec Liberal Party and Québec Solidaire.

The government instead proposes to cap enrolment to English-language CEGEPs at 2019 levels, which comes out to 17 per cent of the province's total college enrolment.

with files from CBC News

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