In a sweeping announcement, Alliance Avenir Quebec unveiled its policy on Sunday “regarding Canadian Francophonie,” for the first time in Quebec in nearly a decade. Millions of dollars in investments, annual conferences, and cultural exchanges are on the list of this broad program.
“It helps in both ways,” explained the Minister in charge of Canadian Relations and Canadian Francophonie, Sonia Label in an interview with Homework. “I consider us the French-speaking island of America, Quebec. The rest of the Francophones are our beaches, our safe areas. The stronger they are, the bigger our island.”
A few minutes earlier, she presented to the press her plan of 75 actions to establish the role of Quebec in the defense of the French in America. “We have a responsibility to our French-speaking citizens elsewhere,” she stressed.
In short, his government is proposing to designate March 22 as “Quebec Canadian Francophonie Day” in order to remind Quebecers that “we must support French speakers across Canada,” according to Minister Lebel.
His company also wants to introduce a “francresponsible mark,” a label that identifies service offerings in French across the country. This “definition” does not have a defining motto or criteria yet, but M.me LeBel hopes to make him the standard bearer of French Truth. In one interview, she even mentioned a trajectory for French-speaking tourism in America: “Only imagination is the limit.”
Quebec will also award more scholarships to stimulate exchanges between La Belle Province and the French-speaking and French-speaking regions of Canada. Thus Quebecers will be able to study more easily in French-Canadian universities, and vice versa for French-speaking students outside Quebec.
To pay for all this, Quebec will double its financial support by 2024-2025. This represents an additional expenditure of $8 million over three years, for a total of $24.5 million.
Complete the conversation
“The most important metric, the metric that underpins everything else,” according to Mme LeBel, will consist of hosting representatives from the various French-speaking communities in Canada each year at a summit in Quebec. The first such conference was held in June 2021, and the next meeting is scheduled for May 9-10, 2022 in Quebec.
This space for “continuous dialogue” between the two poles of Canadian Francophonie has been a frequent request from communities across the country, according to the minister. “Quebec has taken a lot of interest in its French and it’s time to connect,” she says.
This outstretched hand will be caught, assures the president of the Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities (FCFA), Liann Roy. She sees it as “an impressive change in the discourse of Quebec in the way they see their role in Canadian Francophonie”.
This time she points to a vision that “obligates the administration of the whole of Quebec”. For example, M.me Roy now expects to be able to negotiate directly with education-related ministries when planning student exchanges. The same goes for issues related to youth. In fact, more than 20 departments and organizations in Quebec are affected by this policy.
As long as Quebec is aware that it “will not speak on our behalf, but simply in defense of French,” the FCFA president says she is enthusiastic about the idea that “the Quebec government is exercising its leadership” on the matter.
However, she doubts the government’s ability to do everything in just three years. “The downside is that we wonder how they’re going to do these 75 actions with their budget.”
With or against Canada?
Quebec’s policy on Canadian Francophonie was revealed just days after a federal bill was introduced on the same topic. It’s just a coincidence, according to Sonia Lebel. “We were late with our initial plan for the game,” she explains, and the pandemic has delayed the introduction of that action plan for more than a year.
The federal government certainly has a role to play. [en matière de défense du français]. “It’s not disrespectful to anyone,” she says.
Given that the Ottawa C-13 bill is “great steps forward,” she nonetheless insists on Quebec’s responsibility to lead the mission. “When one of our official languages in Canada encounters difficulty, we have a responsibility to act so that that language continues and thrives.”
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