Liberals meet at Dawson College to discuss Anglophone concerns
It almost felt like an election rally as Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard strode into a hall at Dawson College on Sunday, greeted by cheers from party members.
They were there to discuss issues that members of the province’s anglophone communities have long complained about.
“There are questions regarding how intrusive the Office de la langue française is with some of our institutions” explained Geoffrey Chambers, vice-president of the Quebec Community Groups Network as he waited for the meeting to begin. “We’d like to talk about that.”
The minster responsible for Anglophones, Kathleen Weil, says meetings like this are part of an ongoing dialogue with anglophone groups to fix key areas of concern. Among them, access to government services, particularly in health care.
“Probably right up there in the top is access to health care and social services in English language,” she told Global News, “especially in regional communities where perhaps family members have left so seniors are vulnerable.”
Another is youth retention.
Two out of three anglophone university graduates end up leaving the province for opportunities elsewhere.
“We want to work on that one,” said Weil, “make sure they have avenues to stay here and work here.”
Weil was appointed to the post last fall, after the government initially resisted appeals for such an appointment. Over the years, many have accused the party of taking the anglophone vote for granted, and some see the recent appointment as nothing but election manoeuvering. But D ‘Arcy-McGee MNA David Birnbaum points out that it’s better late than never.
“Good things always seem to happen too late,” he smiled. “If they happen, that’s the right start.”
And though some might also be cynical of meetings like this Chambers considers the effort a step in the right direction.
“We gotta take advantage of it and make sure our matters of concern are expressed clearly.”
He says there is still much to do, but says conversations like this are a good start.