Former Quebec Premier Jean Charest, right,shakes hands with new Premier-Designate Pauline Marois during a photo-op at his office at the National Assembly in Quebec City, September 6, 2012. (Annie T Roussel/QMI Agency)
MONTREAL -- French parents are digging in against a separatist’s threat to cancel an intensive English program introduced by outgoing premier Jean Charest.
Quebec’s federation of French parents’ committees was thrown for a loop when Parti Quebecois MNA Sylvain Gaudreault said his new government could torpedo the course Charest introduced in 2011.
Gaudreault’s remarks raised the ire of Gaston Rioux, president of the parents’ committee.
“The government cannot go against the will of the parents,” Rioux told QMI Agency this week. “We’ll remain vigilant.”
A full 87% of his organization’s members said they were in favour of the half-year intensive English program.
Grade 6 students would spend half of their year studying English but even that’s too much for separatist groups and language zealots.
One major union leader has accused Charest of “promoting English” among francophones, and even a teachers’ federation came out against the plan.
Some of the same groups howled in protest earlier in Charest’s mandate when he introduced basic English courses for French students in Grade 1.
Pauline Marois is to be sworn in as premier next Wednesday and while the separatist leader has promised to toughen language laws, she hasn’t yet directly addressed the education flap.
If she cancels the English course, she would cause quite a disruption in French schools that have already begun implementing Charest’s plan.
“It starts this year,” said Josee Bouchard, president of the federation of Quebec school boards. “We are waiting for the swearing in of the next government, and we’ll see very quickly what it will do.”
Bill 101 bars most francophones and immigrants from attending English public schools, and French public schools only offer basic English instruction.
In 2005 the Supreme Court of Canada rejected a bid by French parents who wanted to enroll their children in the English system.
Quebec has previously invoked the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause to counter attempts to overturn language laws.