Intercultural studies 

ANG 160 Fall 2005

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English communities in Estrie

by Marianne Gagné

North Hatley, Bromptonville, Magog; those are only but three towns in Estrie that were given English names when the Loyalists settled in the region. At the time, the English population was dominant in the Townships. As the decades passed by, they saw their number shrink considerably as the youth departed and the French-speaking communities settled in. Since then, the English communities are at risk of disappearing. Fortunately, actions are being taken so it doesn’t happen. As a matter of fact, there are three areas where the communities are now focusing their energy: community development, bilingualism in health and social services, and education.

 

As mentioned earlier, the English communities of the Eastern Townships need a new boost of development because they are threatening to vanish. Anglophones are a minority in Estrie and the population is ageing quite rapidly. Also, there is a notable exodus of youth in the region. Most of the time, after finishing studying, the young adults tend to settle in other provinces of Canada or in the United States for the quality of life and the dominance of English as a language. Because few of them settle in the Townships the population gets smaller and older every year. To counter this effect, the communities have united to create what we know as The Townshippers’ Association. The association’s missions are “to promote the interests of the English-speaking community in the historical Eastern Townships, to strengthen the cultural identity of this community, and to encourage the full participation of the English-speaking population in the community at large” (Townshippers). The communities don’t wish for recognition, they simply want to be visible as a minority. To do so they need to be more active in Quebec’s future, otherwise the English-speaking communities will vanish in maybe less than twenty years. The communities need to find a way to attract the young generations and even the immigrants to settle in the Townships. That is why the Townshippers’ Association wants to focus especially on the educational system and on enhancing bilingualism in the health and social services.

 

In the Eastern Townships bilingualism in health and social services has become a top priority for the survival of the English communities. In 2000, the president of the Townshippers’ Association wrote a letter to the General Commission explaining the situation and the problems in the health department for English-speaking minorities in the province of Quebec. The letter stipulated that the health services were not adequate for the English-speaking minority and especially to the elderly. Indeed, the main problem with the community in Estrie is its high ageing rate. The older generations in the Townships are the ones most at risk because they usually only speak English and they are most likely to be the ones that are ill. According to the Regional Health and Social Services Board of the Estrie Region, only 500 out of 5000-6000 employees in the health care system are bilingual (Townshippers). Because the health services are not adequate, the elderly tend to rely more on their families than on the long-term care offered in the hospitals, which can become a burden to the families. Probably in answer to this letter, the Consultative Committee for English-Speaking Minority Communities was created in 2000 and made a report to the Federal Minister of Health in 2002 to state the problems and propose a five-year Global Intervention Plan to “promote the demographic vitality of English-speaking communities in every region of Quebec by means of levers that improve access to health and social services in English” (CHSSN). As a result, the Federal Government launched the Action Plan for Official Languages in 2004-05 and $751 million dollars were spent to support the English communities in the province of Quebec and the French communities in the rest of Canada in the three areas already mentioned: community development, bilingualism in health and social services, and education. (QCGN p.6)

 

The situation of the educational system in Estrie isn’t as bad as in other regions in the province of Quebec. The Estrie Region has approximately 20 elementary schools, 4 high schools, several colleges, and 2 universities that offer programs in English. But, because of the low birthing rate, the exodus of the youth and the ageing of the population, soon there might not be anymore children to send to these schools. The establishment of the Bill 101 was a real blow for the English-speaking communities. Indeed, Bill 101 prevents immigrants to attend English schools. The majority of them would rather choose to settle in other provinces where they have the Canadian School Choice (choice in language of education) than settle in the Estrie Region where they would have to go to a French school. The same goes for French-speaking children. They are not allowed to attend English schools unless either one of their parents received English education. Many parents have fought against this law over the years, but without much success. Changes have to be made in the Bill 101 otherwise the Townships will end up having less and less children in their schools and, ultimately, English will become history.

 

In conclusion, there is an urgent need for the Eastern Townships to gain visibility in the rest of Quebec. They need to focus on finding ways of developing their community and hence convincing the English-speaking youth to settle in the Townships. Fighting to have bilingual health and social services and making some radical changes in the educational system are only the first steps to achieving their goal. In gaining visibility they will probably need help from the French-speaking majority, and in a province which adopted a law such as the Bill 101, it would be interesting to see just how much help they can expect from them.  

 

 

 Works Cited

Townshippers’ Association. Mission Statement of Townshippers’ Association. From                http://www.townshippers.qc.ca

The Consultative Committee for English-Speaking Minority Communities. Report             to the Federal Minister of Health.Prepared by Official Language Community                  Development Bureau: Minister of Public Works and Government Services                       Canada, 2002, from                                                                                                                 http://chssn.org/sante_canada/CCESMC%20report%20LR.pdf

McNairn, Kim. Members Travel to Ottawa for High-Level Language Meetings. Quebec            Community Groups Network: Canadian Heritage, winter 2004-05, from                         http://www.qcgn.ca/files/QCGN/aqcgn_winter0405_news_website.pdf