(Quebec) There is a stir in the union environment about the protection of French. Teachers gathered within the group Pour le cégep français accuse the central unions of blocking their attempts to debate in an inter-union way the idea of ​​applying Law 101 to the college network. Stung to the quick, the unions reply that these are false allegations.

In an open letter obtained by La Presse, representatives of the group, which is described as a “non-partisan movement of union solidarity for the defense of French”, demand that the CSN and the CSQ “break the strategic and ideological locks against the Defenders of Bill 101 at the Collegiate level”.

“It is as if the big centrals and their federations wanted to stifle the embers of a debate that they consider a hot potato. In the name of good relations with a network of oversized English CEGEPs, we prefer to silence the legitimate aspirations of Francophones concerned about the sustainability of their language and anxious to stop the downgrading of the French network, “they say.

Since the spring of 2021, the professors gathered within this group have been particularly active in changing the majority union position, which did not demand the application of Bill 101 in CEGEP. Last September, they managed to enlist the support of 41 local teachers’ unions. Their national groups, the National Federation of Quebec Teachers (FNEEQ-CSN) and the Federation of College Education (FEC-CSQ), have since followed suit.

“The watchword seemed to be to remain silent on this issue. In other words, to sit on the lid of the pot,” they say.

In this new fight which targets the central unions, these teachers militant in favor of law 101 at the cégep benefit from the support of the Mouvement Québec français (MQF). In an interview with La Presse, its president, Maxime Laporte, had a word for union representatives: “We have to decide. »

“I have no doubt that they faced such obstruction and I support them. It is high time for the trade unions to take up their responsibilities. With the state of the situation of French, we can no longer continue to sweep this debate under the carpet. You have to decide,” he says.

According to Mr. Laporte, “the national authorities [must] speak out and stop obstructing since this is a critical issue. The [union centrals] have to make a choice and tell us clearly where they are staying.”

As for the teachers’ federations, which in recent months have supported the idea of ​​applying Bill 101 to CEGEPs, their representatives ensure that the central unions have never prevented them from debating the question or submitting it to the vote.

Put in the dock by the grouping For a French CEGEP, the CSN and the CSQ ensure that they do not stifle any debate.

The president of the CSN, Caroline Senneville, goes a step further: in terms of defending French, she says: “I have no proof to show anyone. »

“The CSN was born in 1921 defending not only to be able to work in French, but also to be able to negotiate in French. Before, what existed was called international unions, so American unions, ”she recalls. According to Ms. Senneville, “there is a great misunderstanding of how we operate.”

“We had debates that were not easy, for example about asbestos or just economic transition. They have to be done correctly. […] These are debates that cannot be improvised and which must be done with respect for everyone, ”she says.

For a debate to start within a plant, it can take place in a general meeting. On May 15, the CSN will hold its convention. Its leaders recently wrote to all of their member unions to remind them that they had until April 2 to submit a proposal that was close to their hearts. None of the proposals received dealt with the application of Bill 101 to CEGEPs.

To date, the Legault government has always ruled out the idea of ​​applying Bill 101 to CEGEPs, which would have the effect of prohibiting Francophones and allophones from studying in a public English-speaking CEGEP. In its reform of the Charter of the French language, Quebec preferred to cap the number of enrollments in the English-language college network. The new Minister of the French Language, Jean-François Roberge, has since promised to table, next fall, an interdepartmental action plan to put a stop to the decline of French.

Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette introduces Bill 96. The Legault government casts a wide net, but does not subject CEGEPs to Bill 101.

Bill 96, which contains more than 200 articles and modifies some twenty existing laws, is adopted at the Blue Room, with the support of Québec solidaire (QS).

Immediately adopted, immediately contested: the English-Montreal School Board (EMSB) asks the Superior Court to invalidate sections of Bill 96.

An interdepartmental committee has been set up and must submit an action plan next fall.