Quebec anglophone organization says province is ‘intruding on community rights’

An organization which represents dozens of English community groups across Quebec is taking the government to task for infringing on anglophones’ minority rights, but that is not sitting well with one Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) MNA who is now firing back.

Christopher Skeete, head of the secretariat for anglophone relations, had some strong words Thursday for the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN).

Skeete said he has done everything he can to reach out to Quebec’s English-speaking communities.

“I thought those conversations were going well. I thought that we had established a constructive dialogue,” he said.

The organization says the problem is the government is not seeking input from the community before it makes big political decisions.

“Skeete has made a good effort around the community to reach out, to make connections, but it’s a social connection,” said QCGN president Geoffrey Chambers.

In an open letter to the Montreal Gazette earlier this week, Chambers criticized the CAQ government for how it is handling its transfer of English schools to francophone school boards.

“They have no right to do this,” Chambers said. “They’re intruding on community rights, established rights under the Constitution, without even seeming to know about them in a way that is just unacceptable to the community.”

Skeete fired back on Thursday, starting with a press release and then in an interview with reporters at the National Assembly.

“It seems as though they always feel like they need to take a position on something where I’m not exactly sure in their role it’s really relevant,” Skeete said.

Skeete also pointed to the QCGN’s opposition to Bill 21. It proposes banning civil servants in positions of authority — such as teachers, police officers and judges — from wearing religious symbols in the workplace.

“Half the English-speaking population supports what we’re trying to do, yet they’ve come out strongly against it and speak as though they speak for everybody,” Skeete said citing several polls, including one conducted by Angus Reid.

However, Chambers said he is skeptical of results from polls looking into Bill 21.

“We are speaking for the vast majority of the English-speaking community,” he said. “If he (Skeete) thinks he’s a better judge of where the English-speaking community comes out on these issues than we are, that is an illustration of the problem with this government.”

“They think they know what they don’t know.”

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