No to discount franchising!

The Legault government makes the French language a priority. He passed Bill 96 A law respecting the official and common language of Quebec, French. In particular, this law stipulates that public authorities “must communicate with immigrants exclusively in French at the end of a six-month period” (section 22.4). The same statute establishes the Francisation Québec, a new organization that “directs and administers government action in matters relating to the francization of Québec residents” (section 156.24). These efforts to protect the French are necessary, the prime minister said, explaining that it was “the survival of the nation”.

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With so much firmness in the law, so much emphasis in discourse, we would naturally expect the government to make immigrant franking experts first-rate partners. Nothing yet! In an absolute contradiction, the government tries to impoverish the teachers in the Frenchization.

The Ministry of Immigration, Franciscanization and Integration (MIFI) employs 560 Franciscans. They can be found in several regions, in various institutional or community organizations recognized as government agents in the reception and franking of immigrants. Less than 15% of these professors are permanent. The others have often been unemployed for many years and eagerly await contract offers every eleven weeks.

The employment contract for the state-franchised teachers expired in 2019. Negotiations for its extension have made progress on some aspects of the work. We recognize it. But at the salary level, we are facing a wall. The government’s latest salary proposal would make Franciscans the lowest-paid state teachers. The deficit would be very significant, approximately $3,000 at the end of the agreement for professors with the most years of service compared to professors in the college network, which has always been our benchmark. This as the strain mounts, that there is likely to be a lack of recruitment and, like all of us, they face runaway inflation.

Franciscans practice their work with a passion that goes far beyond simply teaching our common language. These professors are very often the first contacts newcomers have to Quebec; They are guides in discovering our society, understanding its customs and its values. They are integration agents who give newcomers the words and also the codes to become adopted Quebecers and enroll in our society’s march in their own way.

How can a single government attach such importance to French in public, thereby discrediting behind the scenes those tasked with teaching French to immigrants? The Franciscans are a special group within the state. They are integrated into the civil service, are on the MIFI payroll, provide a service prescribed by the minister responsible for the French language charter and the content of their courses is in no way determined by the Ministry of Education. But the maze of the state is no excuse for ignoring their specifics and expertise. If the government is serious about prioritizing the French language, let them spread the word and make sure those who plant French and a little bit of Quebec in the hearts of newcomers.

Jean Vallieres, President of the Union of State Teachers of Quebec

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