18th Annual Premiers Conference, Statement of the Prime Minister of Quebec, Mr. René Lésque, Concerning Reciprocal Agreements in Education (18-19 August 1977)
By: René Lévesque
Citation: 18th Annual Premiers Conference, Statement of the Prime Minister of Quebec, Mr. René Lésque, Concerning Reciprocal Agreements in Education, Doc 850-8/012 (St. Andrews: 18-19 August 1977).
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18TH ANNUAL PREMIERS CONFERENCE
Statement of the Prime Minister of Quebec,
Mr. René Lévesque,
Concerning Reciprocal Agreements in Education
St. Andrews, N.B.
August 18-19, 1977
power 1ast November. Actua11y, this was one of the hottest issues of
the 1ast eiection campaign – and a11 the parties then agreed on the need
to review from beginning to end the ciauses of Bi11 22 concerning the
1anguage of instruction.
Moreover, it was the second time that this question of Tanguage
became a major e1ectora1 stake and contributed fina11y to the defeat of
the government in power. In 1970, in effect, the Bertrand government was
repudiated Targeiy because of Bi11 63 which it had passed to guarantee
freedom of choice as to the Tanguage of instruction. Then, in 1976, it
was that of Mr. Bourassa which was attacked from a11 sides for having
feiied at the job by wanting to sett1e this question with aptitude tests.
As soon as we came to power, we therefore had to get down to work
immediateiy in order to try to settie this prob1em before the beginning
of the new school year. we entrusted this mandate to a Minister of State,
Dr. Cami11e Laurin, who did not have a department to occupy him and was
abie to devote most of his time to this matter. After having constituted
severa1 work groups and he1d broad-based consu1tati0ns, Dr. Laurin proposed
a white Paper to the government which, after discussion, was pub1ished
Test March. This White Paper was foiiowed by Draft Bi11 No 1, bearing the
tit1e “The French Language Charter of Quebec”, which was immediate1y sent
to a par1iamentary committee responsibie for hearing the interested indi-
vidua1s and groups. This committee sat for five consecutive weeks in order
to hear a representative sampiing of the 260 briefs received. Then the
government aitered its draft bi11 and presented an amended version in the
form of Draft Bi11 No 101. The debate on second reading of this new draft
bi11 1asted 2 weeks and two more weeks have e1apsed whi1e a committee is
examining the different artic1es and bringing sti11 further changes to it.
The prob1em to which Draft Bi11 101 wou1d 1ike to bring a soiution
is one of the most fundamenta1 to Quebec society. In two words, it cou1d
be thus resumed. According to recent demographic trends, the size of the
French-speaking co11ectivity in Canada is rapid1y decreasing. Even in
Quebec, there is great danger that the proportion of Francophones decrease
appreciabiy, specia11y in the Montreai region. This evoiution can be
Moreover, one shou1d not forget a bruta11y evident
phenomenon. The Francophones of Quebec and those of Canada
together make up a group of about 6 mi11ion peop1e. Surrounding
us in Canada and the United States there 1ive and constantiy
deveiop an immense mass of 240 mi11ion Eng1ish-speaking peop1e.
In North America, for every Francophone there are 40 Ang1ophones!
This in itseif – in a worid where cuitures penetrate each
other and where distances no ionger exist, this 1 to 40 ratio –
shou1d urge even the most indifferent to perceive our situation and
a1so to understand our reactions, our attitudes and our aspirations.
This very real danger of a c011ective dec1ine a1so has an
obvious historica1 background which is that of a minority peop1e
and one rather dispossessed. This is how we evoked this background
in the program which Ted us to power. “In a normai country, business
uses the Tanguage of the majority and the immigrants integrate
natura11y into the majority language group which ho1ds most of the
key positions(This is what happens very naturally everywhere
in Canada where the majority is Eng1ish-speaking). Quebec, quite
to the contrary, resemb1es a coionized country: the Francophones
with equa1 education have terribiy more than their share of low
income jobs; the Angiophones have an inverseiy proportionai share
of key positions and on bill-boards, newspapers, radio and
teievision disp1ay an exorbitant presence which favours the
anglicization of Quebecers; immigrants integrate themseives into
the Eng1ish schooi system in a proportion of 90%. If this
evo1ution continues and at the same pace, the Francophones risk
becoming a minority in Montreai within a generation”.
Except for peop1e who can resign themseives to extinction,
such a situation natura11y demands to be rectified. And Quebecers
of all origins are just about unanimous on this point. It is
necessary, on the one hand, to give a more important p1ace to French
in all spheres of our socia1 1ife and particu1arly in the economic
sector ~ and, on the other, one must restrict access to Eng1ish
schoois so that it ceases to be an instrument of assimiiation.
systems. French school is compulsory for all except the members
of the English community for whom, as a minority, the right to
instruction (in their own language) is recognized.
And I would like to point out here, very frankly, that it
is an easy virtue to proclaim elsewhere this principle of equal
accessibility (moreover, often enough, it is not applied in
practice) while for the Francophone cultural community of Quebec,
where the application has traditionally been total, the same
principle could eventually risk becoming suicidal.
Sp, a basic decision was made; that an immigrant coming
to Quebec finds himself exactly in the same legal Posltlon as the
French-speaking Quebecer: both must send their children to
Once this principle had been defined, it was necessary to
determine how one would identify the persons for whom we
recognize the right to English schooling. We have chosen to be
rather generous in this respect for the persons who are already
in Quebec and rather strict towards those who will come to
establish themselves in Quebec in the future. It seemed to us,
in effect, that it was necessary to give maximum respect to the
vested rights of those who had taken advantage of the previous
system or who had the right to expect to continue to do so while
imposing new regulations upon those who, with full knowledge of
the facts, would come to establish themselves in the future.
And so it is that all Anglophones who are presently in
Quebec (an Anglophone is defined as a person who studied at the
elementary level in English) may, from generation to generation,
send their children to an English school. It will be thus also
for all those who are presently in the English system as well as
for their younger brothers and sisters, in order to protect the
integrity of families.
Furthermore, to facilitate the mobility of workers and
executives, we have Promised access to English schools for all
those who will come to Quebec on a temporary basis.
or a sort of wall between Quebec and the rest or uanada – wnile quite to
e contrary, no matter what the political evolution may be, we want to ‘
intain the best possible links between us. Furthermore, Francophone
ebecers who establish themselves in the other provinces normally wish and,
would seem, can increasingly, in certain cases at least, find French
hools where they can send their children. This is obviously linked to
e fact that, little by little, without anywhere catching up with the
inently privileged position of the English-speaking community of Quebec,
e treatment reserved for our minority French-speaking groups has never~
theless improved in recent years, at least in certains provinces, and this should continue.
For this reason, we have accepted the idea of extending access to
glish schools to the Anglophones of other phovinces on a reciprocal
sis according to the modalities applicable to the Anglophones of Quebec.
wrote to you along these lines on July Zlst last. Since that time several
the Premiers have expressed their desire to discuss this matter during
e present Conference, which decision permitted us to add a clause to Draft
bill 101 permitting such agreements of reciprocity. It is a pleasure for
me to point out that this amendment received the unanimous support of all
parties represented at the National Assembly.
This idea of discussions with other governments concerning measures
ich could be mutually profitable and writing them into a formal agreement
not exactly unprecedented; each year the Quebec government signs several
zen intergovernmental agreements touching upon many fields of activity.
ch is the case with most modern governments.
As to the idea of reciprocity, it has been part of the vocabulary
agreements concluded between governments for a long time now since it
s applied to fields as different as the recognition of drivers licenses,
testations of studies and professional qualifications, the granting of
plomatic privileges and immunity, the transfer of pension funds, taxation,
tcc. The mobility of individuals has made this co-operation between go-
rnments a necessity which everyone recognizes.
cil of Ministers of Education, by virtue of a protocol of agreement
accepted by the ten provincial governments, is perhaps the most patent
example of a will for collaboration among these governments who, while
remaining determined to fully assume their exclusive jurisdiction over
education in their own territory, are aware of the need to work together
on questions of mutual interest. After l0 years of existence, this Coun-
cil has, in our opinion, proven itself to be extremely useful despite a
certain unweildiness which is really inevitable with such organisms.
Other than this multilateral channel of concertation and co-opera-
tion, Quebec and the other provincial governments have given themselves
more direct routes for co-operation in matters of education. Thus, in
i969, the Quebec government and the government of Ontario entered into an
agreement for co-operation and exchange in educational and cultural mat-
ters. Since that time, a permanent committee of top civil servants of the
two governments meets twice yearly in order to ensure the application of
this agreement. Exchange programs of specialists in the field of educa-
tion, the exchange of summer jobs for university students, joint projects
involving colleges and universities of the two provinces, teacher and teach-
ing material exchanges, scholarships to students of the university level,
the organization of many study missions for civil servants of the two pro-
vinces, represent but a few illustrations of the many activities which come
Under the aegis of this agreement for co-operation (see annexed tables).
It was also in l969 that a similar agreement was signed between
Quebec and New Brunswick. Although the volume of activities has not reach-
ed the proportions of the Ontario-Quebec exchanges, the agreement has per-
mitted the Departments of Education of the two provinces to collaborate
rather closely on a goodly number of subjects. Furthermore, Quebec has
taken measures so that a certain number of French-speaking students from
New Brunswick have easier access to Quebec universities in those disciplines
where French instruction is not given in New Brunswick. Specialized Quebec
institutions have also welcomed children who required a service which could
not be found in New Brunswick, at the request of that province for such
services. This type of co-operation between immediate neighbours should
Of course be encouraged (see annexed tables).
detached a top Quebec civil servant to the Department of Education
of Manitoba to act as a co-ordinator for setting up teaching
services in French in that province. Moreover, there is every
reason to believe that Quebec-Manitoba co-operation will continue
for many years since, barely a few months ago, the Premier of
that province, Mr. Schreyer, and the Quebec Minister of Inter-
governmental Affairs, Mr. Morin, issued a joint communique in
which they announced the intention to pursue co-operation programs
in the field of education and French culture (exchanges of
education staff, of teaching material and teacher training, etc.).
I believe that these few examples are quite sufficient to
show that the governments responsible for education in Canada,
while assuming their full constitution jurisdiction in this field,
have up to date been quite open to bilaterial agreements and
mutual assistance. For this reason, the Quebec government suggests
to the governments of the other provinces who wish, as we do, for
a broader accessibility to instruction in the language of the
minority, to join with us in conceiving reciprocity agreements to
we are not unaware that, for certain provinces, this could
be difficult to contemplate, for the time being at least, because
they still do not have sufficient French instruction services to
give full import to such agreements. For others, for whom the
setting up of generalized instruction services in French is already
an accepted and widely implemented objective, this is more
immediately conceivable. Because we are aware of the special
position of each province, Quebec is not proposing an unrealistic
arrangement which would be unacceptable. Quite to the contrary,
what we wish to achieve through our suggestion is that, together,
with the means available and at the pace that we ourselves shall
set, we agree on a few principles inspired by generosity and also
by simple fairness. As to the modalities, we are thinking of
agreements which could be different from one province to the
other, and which would provide for reasonable delays in their
application. Moreover, Quebec would be prepared to co-operate in
implementing these agreements by means of an exchange of professors
and teaching material. We are therefore confident that if the