Dr. Alwin Spence
I always felt that I had my own problem of fighting racism, prejudice and discrimination and that there was not much energy left over to fight other battles. But I feel compelled this time to speak out on this latest incident, the raising of tuition for out-of-province predominantly English speaking students, who will be attending the three English Universities in Quebec namely Bishop, Concordia, and McGill.
Saturday ,Oct. 14,2023 the Montreal Gazette Editorial page dealt with this issue. Under the title ,’ CAQ TAKES AIM AT ANGLO UNIVERSITIES.’ It begins. ‘Montreal’s universities are among the city’s greatest assets economically, academically, culturally and socially, these dynamic institutions of higher learning contribute immeasurably to Montreal’s vitality. Montreal consistently tops international rankings as the best city to be a student. McGill University is a fixture on the list of the world’s most prestigious schools. Together , Montreal’s universities add $26.2 billion to the city’s gross domestic product in 2019–20 and generated $4.3 billion in economic spin-offs,
according to a study by the Chambre de Commerce de Montreal metropolitain. Most governments would see this as a point of pride, or at least have the good sense not to mess with success. Not this government of Premier Francois Legault.”
The three universities, each has its own uniqueness. McGill is strong in Research, has a faculty of Law and one in Medicine. It is well known, attracting about 30% of its students internationally, and 20% provincially. Concordia is unique because its evening programme is as active as its day program. Classes are held from 8;30 a.m until 10:30 p.m . Of the 45000 students, 69% are from Quebec, 9% from other provinces and 22% are international.Concordia is the largest English university with over 45000 students followed by McGill with over 39000. Bishop University is the smallest and that is one of its unique points. Some students love a small college. Its population is just above 2500 of which 55% are from Quebec, 15% international and 30% from other provinces. Already out-of-province students and international ones pay much more than Quebec students.
Lets face it, whoever came up with this idea of raising the out-of-province tuition by at least 89% must take responsibility for its consequences.Its like cutting off your nose to spite your face. You are better off without an increase.This measure will undoubtedly prevent students from other provinces from attending university here. What will happen to Bishop when it loses 30% of its students.? What will happen to Lennoxville? How can anyone,any government, raise salaries or tuition fees by 89% without being unfair. None of the colleges were consulted. Who is listening in the streets of Montreal to verify that not enough French is spoken? This imaginary decline of the French language, is it because more French people are speaking less French and more English, or is it that more English people are speaking more French and less English? I have no statistics to guide me, but I believe that there is an increase in the use of French by the English population, while there is no decrease or decline in the use of the French language by the French majority. What the CAQ fails to recognise is that learning a second or third language enhances everyone. Discouraging French speaking people from learning another language is a selfish act to a forward looking population. At the same time the English speaking population is encouraged to learn another language,French for example and become bilingual. Why put limits on the French people assuming that they should only speak French and be unilingual?
Out-of-province students come here with more than school fees. They pay rent, buy food, shop,and even volunteer at different agencies.
They contribute to the economy of the province.The out- of -province students are not a liability, they are more an asset. Canada blinked when Saudi Arabia pulled its students away from Canadian universities.Many Quebec also study in other provinces.
This increase is not a good one. It hurts more than it helps. Mr. Premier, whenever you visit the U.S. or to other provinces, do you not boast of the illustrious higher education system you have in your province? Do you omit the English institutions?
It makes me sad, even scared of this proposal. Scared because President Donald Trump latched on to a lie that the election was rigged and many people believe him and are still supporting him. Are the words “declining French’ the buzz phrase for these unpopular proposals.? Pity, Pity,Pity.
Higher Education Minister Pascale Dery claims that this proposal will take Quebec from under the yolk of $110 million which Quebec is paying for out-of-province subsidy to students. Other provinces do the same for Quebec students.But the coin has two sides. Many French go to study in other provinces to improve their English, and many English come here to improve their French. It is a winning game for everyone.
The bad news of raising tuition, bothers me. I taught at two of those institutions, McGill and Concordia, and there is no better class than with male and female students from all over the world. Everyone benefits as they learn from one another.
The Gazette Editorial ends like this. “The attack on English universities suggests that once more that the Legualt government has few if any constructive ideas on how to promote and protect French. Its go-to strategy is punitive, destructive, political and parochial, aimed at tearing down the English community’s institutions, and it smacks of contempt.” Will my legacy be the promotion and restoration of the imaginary decline of the French language, or will it be ‘just to even the score. ‘?