Law 14: An Exodus of Modern Languages Professors and Non-Certificate Holders?
Nearly one year ago, 107 members of the National Assembly gathered to vote on Bill 96. After a few excruciating minutes, the tally resulted in 78 votes for the bill and 29 votes against the bill. Bill 96 received Royal Assent from the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec and was enshrined in the Charter of the French Language.
When the bill was initially tabled, repercussions and grounds for legal challenges were being uncovered. Since Bill 96 became Law 14, more power has become entrenched in the Charter of the French Language and the Ministry of Higher Education.
Future Dawson students admitted to the college will be divided into two categories, students with certificates and students without certificates. Essentially, certificate holders are eligible to receive instruction in English, while those who do not have certificates necessitate additional requirements.
As of Fall 2024, certificate holders will have the option to take three additional French language courses to improve their French or take three of their core courses in French.
However, students who are not eligible to receive instruction in English will take three program courses instructed in French. This is a shift from the previous requirement of completing all core program courses in English. Non-certificate holders will also be required to pass the French Exit Exam. In order to help prepare for the rigours of this exam, one of their complementary courses will be taught in French to better prepare them for the final examination. The new law also affects non-certificate holders who do not demonstrate substantial French language skills, as they will likely not pass the French Exit Exam required by law.
Consequently, Modern Languages courses at Dawson are struggling to satisfy the conditions set forth by the Ministry of Higher Education. Due to the restrictions imposed by the government, there is a drastic decrease in demand for modern languages courses.
In a statement provided by the Chair of the Modern Languages Department and Spanish professor, Christina Chough mentions: “The Modern Languages Department teaches around 2,000 students per year in complementary courses [...] because one of the two complementary courses available to students will be lost to a French class, the Modern Languages Department will consequently lose half of the student population it teaches.”
Chough continues: ”Dawson has decided to only offer complementary courses in French with the implementation of Law 14, and the Ministry of Higher Education decided that modern languages cannot be taught in French [...] so the Modern Languages Department will lose the other half of the complementary students it once taught.” Additionally, Chough mentions that the ALC Languages profile is too small of a cohort to stand a chance.
Chough adds “Law 14 spells the end of the opportunity to learn any language other than French or English in Anglophone college programs and represents a tremendous decrease in student course choice, which both have an effect on student success, and the decimation of Modern Languages departments across the English Cégep network.”
In an interview with the Montreal Gazette, the Director General of Dawson, Diane Gauvin, mentioned that the college is resorting to alternatives. One alternative entails assigning courses to professors who can teach in French. Conversely, those who cannot teach in French are protected by union contracts and will continue to collect their paychecks.
The law also unfairly disadvantages and affects the Indigenous body of students, as they are being forced to learn another colonial language. Their access to institutions of higher education is severely impacted by the provisions of the law. Importantly, their culture will lack preservation and protection.
English professor Jeffrey Gandell is critical of the CAQ government; he mentions that their approach is rather closed-minded: “The government is fueling a scarcity mindset (if we learn other languages, there's no room for French) vs. an abundance mindset (the more languages we learn, the more French will actually flourish). It's what governments do. They use fear tactics to instil scarcity mindsets in citizens in order to further their agendas.” He adds, “And, you're talking about students who are passionate about language, which means they're almost certainly already passionate about French.”
Prof. Gandell also mentioned that while the Modern Languages department is in jeopardy, English professors will not be immediately affected by the provisions of the law, as the four mandatory English courses will still be required in order to fulfil all requirements of the diploma.
While it may seem that we’ve exhausted all our options, the extensive legal battles and challenges are ongoing. We are advantaged to be able to host open debates and discussions about the current state of affairs, allowing our democracy to remain intact when we hold political leaders accountable to the people.