Quebec politicians on Wednesday denounced a Quebec college’s decision to hold a week-long event promoting English, suggesting the move undermines efforts to protect French.
“English Week 2023” is a five-day event at French-language Cégep Garneau aimed at encouraging students and teachers to practice the language.
“The Language Department invites the entire Cégep Garneau community to speak English,” we can read in the description of the event on the college’s online news page. “The important thing is to have fun in English!” »
Several politicians said the initiative was inappropriate amid efforts to counter English influence in the province, although news of the university event initially sparked conflicting reactions from ministers.
“It’s not a problem because there are activities to promote French in a French-speaking institution,” French Language Minister Jean-François Roberge told reporters in Quebec. He said that if a French-speaking college only held events in English, “then we would have a problem.”
But moments later, the Minister of Higher Education, Pascale Déry, denounced the event, telling journalists that students have enough difficulty mastering French and that “English does not need a showcase in Quebec “. She asked Cégep Garneau to instead focus on promoting the only official language of Quebec.
A little later in the day, Prime Minister François Legault clearly expressed the government’s position: the English week, according to him, is “not a good idea.”
“There is already enough English among young people in general in Quebec,” he told reporters.
His comment echoed those of members of the opposition party, who denounced the event. Parti Québécois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon highlighted what he called Quebec students’ constant exposure to English-language content via social media and streaming services.
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“I don’t understand the decision of Cégep Garneau,” he declared at a press conference. “We are faced with a standardization of culture in English by the American-British axis. Should we add more when French is in decline in Quebec?
Ruba Ghazal, language spokesperson for the left-wing opposition Quebec Solidaire party, called the decision to hold an English-focused event “a bit clumsy” given the language’s widespread influence in the province.
In a press release published on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, Cégep Garneau says it is committed to promoting French, particularly during its next Francophone Literature Week. Additionally, the college said it houses a learning center for students who struggle with French.
The aim of the English Week, the college explained, is to develop students’ English sk**ls in line with the government’s curriculum requirements.
“Like all (junior colleges), Cégep Garneau fulfills the mandates entrusted to it by the Department of Higher Education,” the school said.
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