Bill 96’s impact on Kahnawake could be long-lasting and permanent if local students are driven out of Quebec in the interests of furthering their education – and they may not come back to the community, thereby robbing it of their vibrancy and energy, the director of the Kahnawake Education Center said.
“This is our fear,” said Robin Delaronde. “That these students might decide there are too many barriers and they will decide to leave to pursue their studies elsewhere, and that the community might be robbed of them and that they will seek to pursue their goals and aspirations elsewhere.”
The new law – a strengthening of Bill 101, also known as the Charter of the French Language in Quebec – would add three extra mandatory French-language courses for students at English CEGEPs, which would prove challenge for Kahnawake students, who are educated in English and receive Kanien’kéha instruction – a priority for the community in terms of protecting its language and culture.
“There will be fewer students going to CEGEP, first of all,” Delaronde said. “Those who apply and are accepted will be forced to deal with learning a third language and it will affect their R scores and impact their admissibility to university and to the programs of their choice.”
Last month, the provincial government removed a requirement that CEGEP students at English colleges would have to study three of their core program courses in French, meaning health-sciences students would have to study anatomy or physiology in French. Instead, they replaced the clause with three extra second-language French courses as a concession to outcry from opposition.
Delaronde added Indigenous students face enough barriers to getting an education outside of the community that it feels odious to add yet another one.
“It’s just another barrier that our students have to face, and although the great majority of them want to come back home and spend their lives after graduation,” Delaronde said. “But this is a great challenge for many of them.”
Gesgapegiac Mik’Maq Chief John Martin said asking students who have studied in English and an Indigenous language is a “monumental challenge.”
“It is a monumental challenge for students who have studied in English and in our case, Mi’kmaq, to do a third language at a CEGEP level. It’s really tough. Now, it’s just that much more. You’re being set up to fail,” he said.
Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase