Quebec English-language network votes in Marlene Jennings as new president

The Quebec Community Groups Network has a new president after a tough fight: Marlene Jennings.

Jennings, a former Liberal MP who was also appointed last year as temporary trustee of the English Montreal School Board, defeated incumbent Geoffrey Chambers.

“I am truly humbled by all the support I received and as QCGN’s President I vow to work hard for the Network and our wonderful English-speaking communities across Quebec,” she said in a news release.

“I want to work for you, not have you work for me.”

Since the '90s, the QCGN has served as an umbrella organization helping English-language groups connect across the province.

Both Chambers and Jennings have histories of fighting for English minority rights in the province.

"I have a reputation and I think a proven track record of being able to bring together people differing views and have them engage in respectful, open dialogue," said Jennings in the lead-up to the vote.

Jennings' role as EMSB trustee comes to an end Nov. 6.

She says she now has her sights set on improving QCGN's governance and holding Francois Legault's CAQ government accountable when necessary.

"Anybody who knows me knows that I'm a strong advocate and defender of our constitutional rights, our rights to access to services in English," she said.

Chambers had said his priorities were to revamp the QCGN and broaden its base.

"The effect, in the end, is when the English-speaking community stands up and says Bill 40 is a problem, we don't like bill 101, the government won't be able to say 'oh well you say that but that's just one voice amongst many,'" he said.

"We'll have that kind of united voice that the Franco Ontarians have or the Acadians have."

Any president of the group has some real obstacles, including uniting Montreal and the regions.

"The key is for whoever emerges as the head of the QCGN to try to find a way to rally the community," said Association for Canadian Studies president Jack Jedwab.

"That's a challenge because it's a very diverse community where there are regional differences between Montreal and the rest of Quebec."

A year ago, 13 of QCGN's member groups left, including the English Language Arts Network.

"For some reason, the current leadership of QCGN could not support the regional associations so they all resigned and QCGN could not exist without the regional associations," said Guy Rodgers of the English Language Arts Network.

Others were also elected during the group's annual general meeting. Eva Ludvig became treasurer, lawyer Kevin Shaar was acclaimed vice-president, and lawyer Matt Aronson became secretary.

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