“I hope the visual helps make the point,” says Joseph Lalla waving handfuls of books in the air.
Speaking to the English Montreal School Board council of commissioners last week, the independent commissioner for Ward 2 decried the poor status of translation and resources for the new secondary 3 and secondary 4 History of Quebec and Canada program for anglophone students.
For years parents have complained, to no avail, that the school board has not supplied students with the proper resources, with successive administrations pointing to a sluggish education ministry response.
“For our students to be successful, students and teachers of the EMSB must have all the same resources as the French boards,” he said, demanding that workbooks accompanying the French version of new history textbooks be translated and made available to all sec 3 and 4 students and teachers. What’s more says Lalla, “all French internet sites dealing with the new program should immediately be translated as well.”
Lalla introduced a resolution – his third — regarding the new program, which has the first June Uniform (Provincial) Examination in June 2018.
Unanimously passed, the motion notes that the Ministry-imposed examinations are based solely on the official textbooks, “the ‘bibles’ that must be followed.”
Lalla also demanded that the Education Ministry establish a linguistic committee charged with the specific purpose to linguistically review the two secondary 3 and 4 history student textbooks to vet the quality of English used, and establish a list of improvements/changes for the reprinting.
“English-speaking secondary history teachers should be appointed to the committees which develop the June Uniform Examination and that these English educators have the authority to reject any question that is linguistically improper or confusing.” Although the committee already has English teachers, they are not permitted to alter wording provided by the translators says Lalla. “The exams often exhibit poor English and this disadvantages our students. The English questions must be written in a clear and unimpeachable manner.”
Hampstead lawyer Harold Staviss filed a complaint last month with the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages (OCOL), saying that a Quebec-based corporation filing Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax returns cannot obtain the necessary forms and documents in English.
Staviss, who has been working with Côte St. Luc councillor Ruth Kovac to encourage businesses to post signs and send out communications to the public in English as well as French, pointed out to The Suburban that Quebec’s language law requires that the forms be in French only.
“I am of the opinion that as the GST/HST is a federal matter,” Staviss told The Suburban. “The Official Languages Act should have precedence over the Charter.”
Staviss filed his complaint by e-mail with Simon Hamel-Genest of Official Languages. Staviss’ e-mail, which enclosed the French-only documents, informed the OCOL official that “anything dealing with corporations is available solely in French.
On the other hand, “an individual filing GST/HST – QST Returns has the option of obtaining and filing the appropriate forms in either French or English. [But] because of the Charter of the French Language (Charter), a corporation in Quebec does not have that option as the appropriate forms can only be obtained and filed in French.
“Seeing that the GST/HST is a federal matter, shouldn’t a corporation have the right to obtain the forms and documents in either French or English?” Staviss added. “I believe that this falls under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.”
The OCOL official responded Oct. 10 that “due to the complexity of the issue raised, our legal team will need to formulate a formal legal opinion before giving us an answer. Therefore, the analysis of the admissibility of your complaint will have to wait for this document due around Oct. 31.”