Archived - Notes for a speech commemorating the 5th anniversary of the Community Learning Centres of the Quebec English School Boards Association
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Montréal, November 10, 2011
Graham Fraser - Commissioner of Official Languages
Check against delivery
Beginning of dialog
Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
It is a great pleasure to be with all of you this morning to celebrate the 5th anniversary of Community Learning Centres in Quebec—and the addition of 14 new CLCs, for which I will be awarding certificates a little later. I would like to thank you for inviting me to be part of this great success story.
First of all, let me congratulate you for your hard work. You are catalysts for positive change. Through your partnerships, you help organize and motivate people to take ownership of their communities. You play a crucial role in enhancing the vitality of Quebec’s English-speaking communities.
Part of my mandate as Commissioner of Official Languages is to take all measures within my power to ensure the preservation and vitality of official language communities in Canada. It is therefore a joy for me to be able to celebrate a success story such as your Community Learning Centres. I am also interested to note that you have made this success possible through many partnerships.
Quebec’s English-speaking communities are synonymous with unique linguistic and cultural strength, and have a rich historical past that helped shape modern Quebec. Whether they are in the Montréal region, the lower North Shore, the Eastern Townships, the Pontiac or the Gaspé, our communities are an evolving and important part of Quebec society.
I was recently in the Magdalen Islands for the opening of the new CLC at Grosse Île, and had the pleasure to meet the islanders who help keep that community vibrant. We sometimes forget how important it is for people to have a sense of belonging to their communities—or how easy it is to feel left out, alone and forgotten. Community Learning Centres help people bring out the best in themselves, by giving them a space where they belong and get together. For communities to thrive, people need a place to gather. This must start somewhere.
As part of the launch ceremony, the CLC organized a video link with St. Paul’s River—and everyone was dazzled by what this small, isolated community of the Lower North Shore was able to do with the resource.
They were able to connect to museums, classrooms—and even organize a conversation with astronauts. They also used the equipment to offer hip-hop dance classes, linking up with a dance instructor in Huntingdon, and to broadcast a performance of the Nutcracker ballet from the U.S. that was watched by 100 people in the school gym!
The learning experience for these children is transformed. In an urban community, these activities are taken for granted; but in remote communities, it just wouldn’t be possible without technology—and the support of Community Learning Centres.
The positive impact of CLCs on students, families and the community are many: each of them benefits from the support of the other, thus making the school not only a learning centre, but also an anchor for the community.
By working together, Anglophone Quebecers explore new ways to make their community’s presence positive and vibrant in today’s Quebec. The energy and enthusiasm that are already in our schools, in our children and in our communities are key to making this happen.
What better way to keep communities alive, vibrant and positive than by bringing everyone who shares one main goal together under the same roof?
Community Learning Centres do just that—and give people reason to care for one another. They keep everybody busy by encouraging them to build bridges between generations and between linguistic and cultural backgrounds. CLCs help keep communities immersed in enthusiasm, knowledge and action, and most importantly they give people reason to look forward to a bright, collaborative future with Quebec’s majority.
Community Learning Centres are at once a physical location and a set of partnerships between a school and the larger community. As such, they foster youth development, lifelong learning, community engagement, family support, and community health and safety. When a whole community works together, it’s not just the students and families in the school who benefit—but the whole English-speaking community.
Community Learning Centres have been tremendously successful. We now have 37 in English-speaking communities across Quebec. They are thriving, and contribute to the well-being of their members. In St. Paul’s River, on Quebec’s Lower North Shore, the school’s community learning centre coordinator, Kimberly Buffitt, says the CLC changed the community—she even suggests it has led to a drastic reduction in underage drinking. Tom Rhymes, Principal of Riverdale High School in Pierrefonds says that his school has “absolutely” become a more vibrant place since its Community Learning Centre set up shop within the school. Everyone has something good to say about CLCs in their community.
CLCs become hubs for education and development in the English-speaking community. They serve as models for future practice by helping Anglophone schools secure their future in the regions where they presently reside.
Anglophone Quebecers care about their future. The strong participation in our communities speaks for itself. But we are aware of the challenges related to access to services in our language and to demographics—and issues of inclusion and belonging still remain.
Anglophones sometimes hesitate to identify with Quebec’s collective “
we”—nous autres—which feels distinct, if not distant. Quebec’s English-speaking community has greatly contributed to Quebec society—and still does. Over the past three decades, English-speaking communities have experienced transformations. Not only did we witness demographic changes, but we also observed a shift in our collective sentiment of inclusion and belonging. Our community had to mobilize to redefine itself and to re-position our collective reference points in modern-day Quebec.
English-speaking communities are a thriving part of Quebec society. Each family’s generations are more bilingual than the last. The ability to speak our neighbour’s language is not only an economic necessity, but also a sign of openness and respect.
Quebecers’ attitudes toward learning their second official language have never been as positive as they are now. According to a survey by La Presse-Angus Reid in February 2011, the great majority of Quebecers (84%)—Francophones as well as Anglophones of all ages—think it’s important to speak both official languages fluently.
Quebec is ready to see its English-speaking communities through a different lens. Building bridges between French schools and English schools to set up cultural and linguistic exchanges is something that should be explored. Timely conditions for this initiative seem to be in place: the demand in French Quebec for intensified English second-language instruction is steady—and with Premier Jean Charest going forward with English “
immersion” in sixth grade, the bridges between linguistic communities have never been so strong. The French public school network does not seem to have the available teachers to fully respond to the demand. Why not include our Francophone neighbours in CLC activities? A vibrant community is one that is inclusive and welcoming.
The success of Community Learning Centres rests on the success of its partnerships. Partnerships are key to achieving positive results and making progress in our communities, and I think CLCs show us how meaningful the expression “together, we are stronger” is for the English-speaking communities of Quebec.
When I was in the Magdalen Islands last September to inaugurate the new CLC at Grosse Île, I also addressed the CEDEC business community. They had this comment in their latest annual report: “
Even if you just help one person, you’ve helped the whole community. It’s just like a ripple in a pond.” This stuck with me. CLCs are exactly that—a ripple in a pond. They help a great many people—not just the students and parents, but everyone. They help secure a pertinent and constructive future for the English public school network and the English-speaking communities of Quebec.
Official language communities require strong participation by their members to remain vital and vibrant. This can be difficult for communities that make up only a small percentage of the total population in their region, or for remote English-speaking communities. Having a place where everyone can meet to learn, discover, exchange knowledge and share interest is a fabulous way for the community to remain vital.
Re-positioning schools as a community resource provides a sustainable strategy for the vitality and future of English schools in Quebec. The Ministère de l'Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport and, particularly, its Services à la communauté anglophone, identified this as a priority early on and continue to encourage its development. This must remain on their list of priorities—CLCs work, and need to be maintained in their communities.
I am consistently struck by the impressive levels of dedication, expertise, enthusiasm and compassion that are invested in the education of students in Quebec’s English public school system. While the quality and accomplishments of this system are considerable and praiseworthy, the challenges—be they demographic, financial, sociological, political or cultural—are formidable and constant.
Community Learning Centres help people take charge of their own educational, social and cultural development. As their partners, you are there to help them achieve their goals. Communities get stronger by having organizations and individuals join forces—what people can’t do on their own, communities can. And the English-speaking communities of Quebec have certainly proven that they can mobilize to ensure their vitality—the great success of CLCs proves it.
In conclusion, I would like to congratulate all of you who have contributed to the success of CLCs and to thank all partners for enhancing the vitality of Quebec’s English-speaking communities—QESBA, the Ministry of Education, Canadian Heritage, QCGN, and all of you from school boards, schools and community organizations. Here’s to more anniversaries in our future!