Bill 96: Relaxation of the French course quota for English-speaking CEGEP students

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Quebec’s ruling party has tabled an amendment to its language bill, Bill 96, which relaxes requirements for English-speaking CEGEP students.

Students would no longer be required to take three core college courses in French under the new amendment tabled Tuesday by the Coalition Avenir Québec.

The news was first reported by La Presse but was confirmed to CTV News by a Quebec Liberal Party source.

Now, instead of taking three regular French courses to graduate — the original proposal — students will only have to take three French courses where they can continue to work on learning the language, if the amendment is adopted.

The change would come into effect in the fall of 2024.

The requirement applies even to eligible English-speaking students, some of whom have limited French after attending English schools up to CEGEP.

Critics said these students would risk failing classes in their intended programs if forced to take them in their second language, putting their college admissions at risk.

This decision follows this outcry, including from CEGEPs and English-speaking students, about the original proposal, which had been tabled by the Liberals during the studies of the bill in the National Assembly.

MP David Birnbaum initially defended the amendment, but later called it a “mistake” in an interview with CTV.

The Liberals attempted to withdraw the proposal, but other members of the committee blocked the move.

The minister responsible for French, Simon Jolin-Barrette, believes that allowing students to continue learning French at their level will further strengthen the language, according to a statement from his cabinet.

“The Minister has considered the amendment and has decided to authorize three French courses and not basic courses respects the spirit of the bill to ensure Quebecers have a good knowledge of French,” the statement said.

It represents a change of heart for Jolin-Barrette, who, when the Liberals first asked him to reverse their original amendment, refused to hold a vote right away. Instead, the opposition forced a quick vote against their will.

SATISFIED LAWYERS, WITH SOME RESERVATIONS

On Tuesday evening, defenders of Anglophones said they were satisfied with the news, even if they were waiting for more details.

“We are relieved,” said Katherine Korakakis, chair of ECPA, the English Parents’ Committee Association.

“However, there are still many questions that still need to be answered,” she said.

“What happens with students with special needs? What are we going to do to improve the quality of French at primary and secondary level?

There are also a host of other problems with Bill 96, she says, that this change does not solve, including the “freeze” on admissions to English-language CEGEP.

Colin Standish, who hours earlier had announced the creation of a new provincial party to defend the rights of Anglophones, told CTV News that the rollback did not change his plans, nor the need for the party, in his opinion. – he’s challenging liberals, and that’s just one example of why, he said.

“It was nevertheless a bad political decision,” he said of the Liberals.

“The [Quebec Liberal Party] caused this problem by his own decision and his own party’s policy. It was in their 27-point plan on French, communicated[d] one month before the announcement of Law 96.”

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