*04.12 3:23 p.m. This story has been updated from its original version to include the fact that Fortin presented the petition from MRC Pontiac on April 1.*
The provincial Liberal Party is trying to reverse a controversial amendment to Bill 96, the province’s language law overhaul, that their own MNA introduced. The change at the heart of the situation would mandate that anglophone students at English Cégeps (those eligible to attend primary and secondary school in English) take three courses in French.
As reported in the Montreal Gazette, the changes were originally limited to allophone or francophone students attending the facilities, that is until Liberal language critic Hélène David insisted on an amendment that would remove the exemption for anglophone students.
The move was blasted by the Fédération des cégeps, with President Bernard Tremblay stating that it "will have a catastrophic effect and amounts to discrimination.”
Tremblay explained to the Gazette that he estimated that 35% of students don’t have sufficient French skills to pass these additional courses. Students are already required to take a French second-language course, but as the bill stands right now, it wouldn’t count towards the total of three.
CHIP 101.9 spoke with Pontiac MNA and Opposition House Leader André Fortin about Bill 96 two weeks ago, and while he did discuss the change to Cégeps, he didn’t mention his party had insisted on the amendment in the first place.
Speaking to CTV News earlier this week, Fortin offered a “mea culpa” and Liberal leader Dominique Anglade admitted that they should have consulted with Cégeps before introducing the amendment.
When asked why they didn’t consult with any of the stakeholders involved, from parents to the Cégeps themselves, Fortin said that the amendment was brought in as a way to avoid the government imposing Law 101 on Cégeps.
Fortin said that they would be asking the government to remove David’s amendment, but admitted that since the CAQ has a majority, the decision rests in their hands. The other opposition parties in the National Assembly, the Parti Québécois and Québec Solidaire, are both in favour of the changes.
When asked if he thought insisting on the amendment was a mistake on the part of his colleague, Fortin said that “the way it was brought in wasn’t the right way” and added that he wouldn’t vote for the bill as it stands.
In the previous conversation with CHIP 101.9, Fortin had committed to presenting a petition “in the coming weeks” that was put together by MRC Pontiac council, which, among other things, calls on the government to:
"Remove from Bill 96 all articles that could have a negative impact on English-speaking citizens and bilingual communities”
“Ensure that students can study in the language of their choosing in the course of their post-secondary education”
He presented the petition, which garnered 1,531 signatures, on April 1 in the National Assembly.
The full interview with Fortin is available here.