Quebec Liberals back motion to do more for province's Anglos

A resolution asking the Quebec Liberals to spend more time considering the needs of anglophones faced an unusual amount of friction Saturday at a party convention.

But motion faced backlash after amendment proposed forcing civil servants to serve public in both languages

Kathleen Weil, minister responsible for relations with English-Speaking Quebecers, lauded the motion when it passed. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

A resolution asking the Quebec Liberals to spend more time considering the needs of anglophones faced an unusual amount of friction Saturday at a party convention. 

The proposal called for the provincial government to keep accurate statistics on Quebec's English-speaking population, to analyse how any future legislature could impact English-speakers and to help them gain access to the workforce.

​But it faced backlash after a delegate for the Robert Baldwin riding, in Montreal's West Island, brought forward an amendment calling for civil servants to offer services to citizens in the language of their choice.

"I believe it should be provided in either language, English or French, and that includes RAMQ, SAAQ and civil servants," Ryan Brownstein said, mentioning the Quebec health insurance agency and the motor vehicle board.

A steady stream of opponents said the amendment threatened the status of French as the province's official language. The criticism kept coming, even after Brownstein withdrew the amendment, saying the timing was off.

"We are in a French province," said Hébert Dufour, a delegate for Quebec City's Louis-Hébert riding.

Dufour said he had no problem if an anglophone finds a civil servant that is able to serve them in their language "but anglophones have to learn that we are in a French province. It's the only one out of ten." 

Support from the base, Weil says

In the end, the resolution passed easily without the amendment. Only a few dozen delegates voted against it.

Nikolas Dolmat, who was among the Robert-Baldwin delegates backing the proposal, said the debate was a healthy one and he is pleased with the results.

He resisted the idea that his party's courtship of English-speakers would alienate the vast and essential pool of Francophone voters.

"The idea here is not to make anyone feel alienated on any level. I do not believe this will make people feel alienated. I believe I am making people feel welcome that this is your Quebec, my Quebec. It's all of our Quebecs."

Kathleen Weil, Quebec's minister responsible for the newly created secretariat to deal with anglophone issues, lauded the motion.

"This really comes from our base," she said.

"These are Liberals who care about the future of the English-speaking community, many of them are English-speakers, and they want to make sure there is a resounding message from the government, not just the Liberal party, but the government, that says, 'you are part of us'."