CANADA

Quebec’s failed experiment

Anthony Wilson-Smith February 27 1984
CANADA

Quebec’s failed experiment

Anthony Wilson-Smith February 27 1984

Quebec’s failed experiment

Faced with accusations of hiring discrimination, the Quebec government pledged in 1981 that it would triple the number of anglophones and minority groups working for the province’s civil service within six years. To that end, the government set up a five-member committee to raise the percentage of nonfrancophones in the 70,000-member civil service to 9.5 per cent from less than three per cent. The move placated Quebec’s minority groups who make up 17 per cent of the province’s 6.4-million population. But next month, halfway through the committee’s six-year term, the Parti Québécois government will abruptly end the experiment—even though the program has so far made no progress whatsoever. As a result, minority groups have condemned the PQ for what they say is the government’s insensitivity to their needs. Declared Liberal MNA Reed Scowen: “Rather than solving the problem, [the government] has gotten rid of the solution. They simply lack the will to help nonfrancophones.”

The Committee for the Plan of Action for Cultural Communities (CIPPAC) faced grave difficulties almost from the start. It lacked the strong powers needed to enforce minority hiring programs. Then, in early 1982 the government froze civil service hiring—rendering CIPACC virtually impotent to carry out its mandate.

As a result of the freeze, the number of new civil servants hired annually dropped to about 800, from 6,000 during the 1970s. Between 1980 and 1982 the number of English-speaking civil servants actually fell to 431 from 521. The government maintains that it is still hiring minorities, but Cultural Communities Minister Gérald Godin admits that including immigrants from France and Belgium in the number of nonfrancophone civil servants was “stretching the point.”

Terminating the committee will save most of its $417,000 annual budget. Godin has asked committee President Egan Chambers to continue working, even though minority groups say this would be merely public relations. But Chambers, a former Tory MP from Montreal, does not know if he will keep the $60,000-a-year job. “I do not think it would sit well if it appeared that I was staying on as a front to save the PQ’s image,” he said. “If all they are prepared to offer is a desk and a secretary somewhere, then I cannot see doing it.” ANTHONY WILSON-SMITH in Montreal.