PQ approves ''charter of values''-light and proportional funding to English CEGEPs

The Parti Québécois is stepping up its tone to curb the exodus of francophones to English CEGEPs and reaffirm its desire to remove religious symbols from the public sphere.

PQ leader Jean-François Lisée proved victorious in avoiding having his party extending Bill 101 to CEGEPs if it forms the next government, but on the whole the PQ radicalized its linguistic positions during its caucus meeting this weekend. 

On Sunday morning, party delegates endorsed a proposal to ensure funding of English-language institutions corresponds to the "demographic weight" or propotion of the Anglophone population.

Free choice would therefore be maintained: Francophones and allophones would be able to attend an English-speaking CEGEP, much to the chagrin of hardliners in the party, which were pushing for Bill 101 to apply to the post-secondary level.

Bill 101, which includes the obligation for francophones and immigrants to attend French primary and secondary school, would nevertheless be extended to vocational training.

Students enrolled in English-language CEGEPs would also not be able to earn a DEC without first passing a French test.

To reduce the attractiveness of the English network for young Francophones, the PQ also voted to promote intensive English taught in the elementary or secondary level in the French-language school system.

Francophone students would also be allowed to follow an "enriched English course" at the francophone CEGEP, which would include a full session in an anglophone CEGEP.

Delegates of the 17th PQ congress also voted on a policy echoing the failed charter of values of the ex-Marois government, a planned statute to secularize the state that so controversial it helped cost the PQ the last election.

PQ delegates voted on Sunday in favour of a vaguely-worded motion affirming that those in the public sector—such as teachers, judges and police officers—would be barred from displaying their religion under a Lisée government.

MNA Agnes Maltais, the PQ spokesperson on religious neutrality, said the party’s position on restricting religious garb and symbols in the public sphere has remained the same.

“It’s written in black and white in the program,” she said, adding that a grandfather clause would be included in any legislation so current public sector employees are protected.

Following the meeting, Lisée told reporters his party's new policy would mean that a Muslim woman that wears a hijab or other veil, who's currently is not employeed, would be unable to become a teacher in Quebec.

"If you feel so strongly about your conviction, there are a lot of more professions you can go to—that is your choice," he said.

—with files from Andrew Brennan