Minister Kathleen Weil Announces Grants for English Speaking Quebecers
By Clarence Bayne
AAfter years of negotiating and protests and several unplanned selections of community organizations for project-funding, the Quebec government under Premier Phillipe Couillard has put in place a funding structure that is now part of policy and decision making system.
The new structure gives the English speaking Black communities hope that they will be able to participate fully in the social, cultural, economic processes of the Quebec society also that Blacks will ultimately cease to be seen as ‘immigrant problems.’
The Government has, under pressure from a diversified but united English speaking voice, created the Secretariat for Relations with English Speaking Quebecers which will be responsible for ensuring that the concerns of English-Speaking Quebecers are taken into account in government orientations and decisions in collaboration with its ministries and other departments.
Kathleen Weil, Minister responsible for Access to Information and the Reform of Democratic Institutions and Minister responsible for Relations with English-Speaking Quebecers outlined its function:
“The Secretariat for relations with English-speaking Quebecers will act as a link between the government and the English-speaking community throughout Québec. It will act as a facilitator to enable the government to better serve the community. The creation of the Secretariat is a historic gesture of which I am very proud.”
The mandate of the Secretariat include:
1. Ensure liaisons with sectoral, regional and provincial groups that represent English‑speaking Quebecers.
2. Ensure that the concerns of English-speaking Quebecers are taken into consideration in the development of government policy direction and decisions, and in matters of access to government programmes and their application in conjunction with the concerned ministries and agencies.
4. Make available relevant statistics to document issues facing English-speaking Quebecers.
5. Interact with the federal government on issues, agreements, programs or policies that may have a direct or indirect impact on English-speaking Quebecers in collaboration with the Secrétariat du Québec aux Relations Canadiennes and other ministries and bodies concerned.
6. Advise the government, ministries and bodies on relations with English-speaking Quebecers regarding the provision of services and issues, agreements, programs and policies that may have a direct or indirect impact on the community.
Since its creation in 1995, The Black Community Resource Center’s mission has been to strengthen and support organizations in the English speaking Black Community of Quebec.
It has with the support of a networks of partners and the Black Community Forum collaborated with the Quebec Community Groups Network (56 English speaking organization across Quebec) to ensure that the Black English speaking community was heard; that our situation was seen and understood to be unique in the English speaking community.
Two questions: Have they heard us? Are they listening?
The answer to the first question is, yes.
We have been vocal and articulate. We have been invited to the consultations and several of us from different sector agencies participated. In particular, the Black Community Resource Center and the Black Community Forum have insisted that the Black community be not treated as mere enclaves of the White English speaking Community.
That has been respected, in the sense that the Secretariat for Relations with English Speaking Quebecers has had several meetings with the Black Community Forum as distinct from us being at a table with 50 or more non-Black English-speaking organizations. Do they understand that our priorities differ in significant ways from the mainstream larger minority group of which we are a part?
Yes. They do. In the same way that they understand that the needs of the “Townshippers” are different to those of the suburban English speaking communities.
To the second question. There can be no question about it that the heightened level of awareness about our needs and differences, and the priorities and urgencies. We draw this conclusion from the fact that the English Black community has been given a special place at the Table.
While we have access to all the services available to English speaking Quebecers, we will be given the capacity to know when the “pudding is being served” and the means to get to the table. Hopefully not as Lazarus. There is a clear commitment to creating the capacity of the BCRC to work with the Secretariat to ensure that the Black Community Organizations get there in a timely and effective manner; and a clear commitment to the organizations that get there through the assistance of the Secretariat and the BCRC or independently that they have the best chance possible.
Here is what the Minister Kathleen Weil had to say at the announcements made at Verdun on Monday, August 14, “The Secretariat will be working with the Black Community Resource Centre to increase the capacity of organizations serving English-speaking Blacks to interact effectively with the Government of Quebec and with other organizations serving the interests of the broader English-speaking communities”.
This was reaffirmed at an online “Exchange session” held by the Minister the same day. It was also determined that the BCRC contribution agreement is being processed.
Any resources made available to the BCRC will increase its capacity to work with the Secretariat as well as help increase the capacity of English-speaking Black community organizations.
Also such funding can help improve communication within the Black community and with Government of Quebec and its agencies serving the English community. It can also help to keep the community and Black organizations briefed on key issues, announcements, and sources of funding, on a daily and weekly basis.
In general, acting to ensure that the English speaking Black Community participate fully in the Quebec society and economy. Central to this is working with the Secretariat to develop and track the social economy index measuring the wellbeing of the English speaking Black Community.
The Old Quasi Constitutional Agreements and approaches still raise concerns
It is not going to be easy, for we already hear from the Quebec Community Group Network regarding support for Quebec’s English-speaking peoples, which is being brokered without prior consultation with the key agencies, including the Black English speaking agencies.
According to QCGN there is reason for concern and has served notice that it rejects the approach and the agreement.
As for the BCRC, we do not know the ingredients of the “pudding”, but will be taking to the Table a series of priority project on behalf of key Forum organizations and partners including:
• Black Employment and Retention Strategy: Stop the Brain Drain events and project of the BCRC and BASF
• Support to the Black History Month Round Table for the Pan-Black identity Events website
• Development of a human development index and database for the English and French speaking Black
• Support for Economic Development: workshops in entrepreneurship and Black Community economic development partnership of ICED, John Molson School of Business, with BSC, BCRC, QBBE.
• Support for the cultural activities of Westcan, the Carifiesta, Festivals of English speaking Black groups, Black Theatre Workshop (Arts Mentorship and School Tours); special cultural websites; community magazines and established Newspapers.
• Funding of research and publication via diverse media.