Anglo CEGEPs not threatening Francophone identity, students say

“You don’t lose your linguistic identity by learning another language.”

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With her goal of playing college basketball in the United States, Sauda Ntaconayigize arrived at Champlain College in St-Lambert three years ago to shore up her three-point shot and improve her English.

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She had grown up in Gatineau as a child of Bill 101: Quebec language law required her to attend primary and secondary school in French. Although she spoke a little English, she thought she would have an easier time adapting to university in the United States if she attended an English CEGEP.

Now 20, Ntaconayigize was at first surprised by the amount of French she heard in the hallways, and when she asked other French-speaking students why they had chosen to attend Champlain, she got the same answer: to improve their English.

“It’s easier to find jobs in the world we live in if you speak English,” she said. “It’s an important skill.”

Funding for a long-planned new health pavilion to provide much-needed space at Dawson College was abruptly canceled last week by the Coalition Avenir Québec government. He cited plans to focus on funding infrastructure projects at French CEGEPs, where enrollment is expected to rise while enrollment at English CEGEPs remains frozen until 2029. But that was widely seen as a political decision.

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The Dawson project, endorsed in 2018 by provincial Liberals, was first hailed by Premier François Legault, who defended the pavilion and the school when interim Parti Québécois leader Pascale Bérubé backed in 2020. that giving money to Dawson was tantamount to subsidizing the assimilation of French speakers into English culture.

The reaction to the government’s about-face has been swift – and furious.

Richard Filion, Dawson’s chief executive from 2005 until his retirement in December 2020, called the decision “election-driven and populist.” The government had come under pressure because of “a media campaign claiming that because any given student has spent two years at Dawson, he will become anglicized,” he said.

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“It makes no sense. Can you believe that two years for a young adult to be in an English institution will pave the way to becoming Anglo?

Judging by his experience at Champlain, Ntaconayigize said, Francophones are not at risk of losing their identity by attending an Anglophone CEGEP.

“We don’t think about it that way,” she said. “We think both languages ​​are going to be here, so we have to know them. French children who went to French secondary school still speak French with their friends and even in CEGEP.

It is a myth to say that “by letting people go to an English-speaking CEGEP, we let them assimilate,” declared Patricia Lamarre, professor at the Faculty of Education at the University of Montreal. “It doesn’t mean you stop being who you are.

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“You don’t lose your linguistic identity by learning another language.”

Lamarre has studied immigrant youth over time, and the ethnographic data she has collected “challenges the belief that once students attend an English-language educational institution, they integrate into the English-speaking community. This is part of the CAQ’s narrative efforts to curb the growth of Anglophone CEGEPs,” she said.

“I would be embarrassed as a politician to come up with something like that,” she said of the CAQ’s decision on Dawson. It’s petty.

Lamarre found, for example, that some allophones moved from an English CEGEP to a French university, while others moved from a French CEGEP to an English university for undergraduate studies and then to a French university. for graduate studies. “It’s a game of hopscotch. You go where you think is best for you at that time,” she said.. “These are temporary crossovers.”

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For young people with an immigrant background, “all this division between English and French doesn’t mean much. They have pieces of different worlds and the language skills to move around,” she said. “It’s about personal choice or ‘what works for me in how I plan my life’.”

The idea that the identity of French-speaking Quebecers is threatened by English CEGEP attendance is simply “a narrative that has been constructed,” Filion said. “It’s a shame and those who will suffer from it are all those young francophone and allophone students who have chosen to go to Dawson to master English as a second language because they know it is an asset for the future.

“Ninety percent of university research is written in English. If you don’t speak English as a second language and want to pursue higher education, you’re screwed.

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Alexandrah Cardona, a social sciences student at Dawson and president of the student union, is a bilingual Quebecer who did her elementary studies in French and a year in high school before completing her high school studies in Nova Scotia. “I don’t see Dawson as an institution for English speakers,” she said. “I consider it an institution for everyone.”

French and English are heard everywhere, “and you’ll hear other languages ​​too,” she said. “There is a divisive narrative perpetuated by the CAQ administration and that is simply not true. With election season fast approaching, we see Legault getting tougher.

Many see the cancellation of Dawson’s expansion “as an attack on English speakers, which it is,” said Giovanni Bisciglia, CLSC case manager and 2016 graduate of Dawson’s social services technology program. “But it’s more than that. The Francophone community sees the inscription on the wall: ‘You Francophones; forget to go to English school.

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For him, this decision paves the way for a society in which “bilingualism dies for Francophones, and it will become impossible for Francophones to integrate anywhere other than Quebec. The government, under the pretext that it helps them to advance, in fact puts them in bondage.

  1. Dawson's long-planned new pavilion that would have solved a long-standing and significant space deficit at CEGEP.

    CAQ’s Dawson decision was ‘electoral and populist’: former college principal

  2. Quebec officially cancels Dawson College expansion plan

  3. Leader of the Parti Québécois Pascal Bérubé

    Dawson defends expansion, challenging PQ claim it’s increasing enrollment

  4. Jean-François Garneau says his experience at Dawson College ten years ago was positive.

    Opinion: Dawson College didn’t turn me into an English speaker

  5. The new limits put Vanier, Dawson College and John Abbott College in a difficult situation, possibly having to reduce enrollment next year.

    Quebec Freezes Enrollment in Anglophone CEGEPs, Expands Francophone Capacity

  6. Leader of the Parti Québécois Pascal Bérubé

    Dawson defends expansion, challenging PQ claim it’s increasing enrollment

Katherine Wilton contributed to this report.

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