Quebec wants to exempt some indigenous students from new French language law


The Quebec government wants to create an exception in its new French language law for indigenous students.


Less than a month after two First Nations groups filed a court challenge against Law 14, also known as Bill 96, the minister responsible for the French language proposed allowing students to graduate from CEGEP, the university colleges in the province, even if they do. not passing the written test in French required by the Ministry of Education.


To qualify for this exemption, an indigenous student must meet the following conditions:


The student is studying in an English CEGEP.

The student lives, or has lived, in an indigenous community.

The student has studied in English or an indigenous language, or both, for at least one year of elementary or secondary school.

The exemption was published in the Official Gazette of Québec on Wednesday with a notice that it would take effect within 15 days.


In a statement, a spokesman for Jean-François Roberge, the minister responsible for the French language, said the waiver shows the province’s plan to strengthen French will be carried out with respect for indigenous communities, their languages ​​and academic experiences.


On Thursday, the First Nations Education Council, which filed the court challenge last month along with the Quebec-Labrador Assembly of First Nations, said it wants to review the province’s proposal before commenting.


Chief John Martin of the Mi’kmaq community of Gesgapegiag, near the Quebec border with New Brunswick, said he was taken by surprise by the new rule because there hadn’t been much communication with the provincial government before it. (Emilie Warren/CBC News)

Chief John Martin of the Mi’kmaq community of Gesgapegiag, which is located near the Quebec border with New Brunswick, says the rule change caught him by surprise.


He said community leaders met last month with Ian Lafrenière, the provincial minister responsible for First Nations and Inuit relations, but had not heard back since.


“It’s been like radio silence ever since,” he said, adding that the groups would have preferred some kind of notice before the rule went public on Wednesday.


“When a policy or legislation is being developed that affects First Nations, we must be consulted from the beginning.”


The chief, who is also a member of the board of education, acknowledged that the waiver seems like a step in the right direction, but echoed the board’s position that the rule should be looked at further.


Law 14 also requires English CEGEP students to take five French language courses in order to graduate. No exception to this requirement was proposed.


Law 14, which was passed last May, has raised concerns that it infringes on the rights of English-speaking Quebecers and indigenous communities.


Since then, the law has become the subject of judicial challenges


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