Weil wel­comed in the Town­ships

Sherbrooke Record - - FRONT PAGE - By Gor­don Lam­bie By Matthew Mc­cully

Kath­leen Weil, newly named Min­is­ter Re­spon­si­ble for re­la­tions with English speak­ing Que­be­cers, was in the East­ern Town­ships on Fri­day for the first stop in a tour aimed at help­ing her to get to know the needs of com­mu­ni­ties across the prov­ince. Weil and her team used the op­por­tu­nity to meet with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Phelps Helps and the Town­ship­pers’ As­so­ci­a­tion was well as Bishop’s Univer­sity be­fore sit­ting down with The Record to dis­cuss her new man­date and the work to come.

“What’s re­ally changed is that there’s go­ing to be a per­ma­nent sec­re­tariat to at­tend to re­la­tions with English speak­ing Que­be­cers, and a min­is­ter,” Weil said. “Hav­ing both to­gether re­ally sig­nals a ma­jor change for gov­ern­ment and for the English speak­ing com­mu­nity. It means there is a door to knock on where there will be a group of se­nior civil ser­vants whose re­spon­si­bil­ity will be to en­sure access to an ar­ray of gov­ern­ment ser­vices.”

Re­call­ing a long his­tory of work­ing in and with English com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions and in­sti­tu­tions, the Min­is­ter said that she is per­son­ally ex­cited about the op­por­tu­nity to take on a “fan­tas­tic chal­lenge” that will ben­e­fit the dif­fer­ent English speak­ing com­mu­ni­ties across Que­bec. At the same time, how­ever, she made it clear that her fo­cus at the mo­ment is get­ting to know the needs in dif­fer­ent places.

“We’re just start­ing up,” she said, not­ing that the full de­tails of the sec­re­tariat re­spon­si­ble for re­la­tions with English speak­ing Que­be­cers have yet to be for­mally an­nounced. In the lead-up to that, she said that the group needs to hire an As­so­ciate Sec­re­tary Gen­eral around

Thou­sands of fright seek­ers made their way to Ayer’s cliff on Satur­day for the town’s sec­ond an­nual Hal­loween bash.

A va­ri­ety of spooky themed ac­tiv­i­ties took place through­out the af­ter­noon in­clud­ing a pump­kin carv­ing work­shop, cos­tume con­test and a witch’s dance class.

Peo­ple look­ing for an ex­tra scare were in­vited to tour one of two haunted houses; one for chil­dren and an even spook­ier one for ages 13 and up.

The line-up for the kid’s haunted house stretched from Tyler Park all the way to the post of­fice, a tes­ta­ment to the pop­u­lar­ity of the event.

The Hal­loween ac­tiv­i­ties were ini­ti­ated

which a small team of se­nior civil ser­vants can be built.

“They have to be ex­pe­ri­enced bu­reau­crats,” Weil said, point­ing out that some­one who doesn’t know the ins and outs of gov­ern­ment work can hardly help serve as an access point for con­cerned English speak­ers. She said that the struc­ture of the new body will likely be mod­eled on sim­i­lar of­fices for French speak­ing mi­nori­ties in other prov­inces and will, hope­fully, serve not just as a way of help­ing to grant access to ex­ist­ing ser­vices, but also a pres­ence to help en­sure that pro­grams in­clude adap­ta­tions to meet the needs of English speak­ers.

The pres­ence of the sec­re­tariat will be sig­nif­i­cant, she added, in that while she has other min­is­te­rial du­ties to carry out that are un­re­lated, the team will be fo­cused on this work full-time. Once the team is as­sem­bled, she said her first goal will be the devel­op­ment of a short-term ac­tion plan, but in or­der to be ready to form that plan she is first tour­ing the prov­ince to get to know what English speak­ers are con­cerned about.

“(Lo­cal com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions) have got the in­tel­li­gence on the ground,” the Min­is­ter said, ex­plain­ing that she wants to hear the “deep knowl­edge” that comes from work­ing for decades with the same group of peo­ple.

Once it is up and run­ning, Weil pointed out that the Sec­re­tariat will be an of­fice that reaches across all sec­tors of the gov­ern­ment from in­fra­struc­ture to ed­u­ca­tion. Know­ing that, she said that a global view o com­mu­nity needs is im­por­tant.

With English speak­ers spread out in vary­ing sized groups from Pointe Claire to Rouyn No­randa, the Min­is­ter was not naïve about the fact that there is a wide range of dif­fer­ent is­sues fac­ing peo­ple who are first-lan­guage English in the prov­ince, but she said that even early on in her man­date she can iden­tify some core is­sues.

“It’s not one size fits all, but there are com­mon themes,” Weil said, list­ing em­ploy­a­bil­ity, French sec­ond lan­guage skills, and access to gov­ern­ment ser­vices among them. While high­light­ing the fact that the Ed­u­ca­tion and Health and So­cial Ser­vices Min­istries al­ready have pro­grams and struc­tures in place to en­sure access for English speak­ers, she sug­gested that the new sec­re­tariat could serve to help ad­vo­cate in other ar­eas.

“When it comes to other gov­ern­ment ser­vices there is no clear way for that gov­ern­ment body to iden­tify the needs of the (English) com­mu­nity and re­spond to them,” the Min­is­ter said. “The role of the sec­re­tariat will be to do that.”

Cit­ing “very in­ter­est­ing” pro­grams for lan­guage mi­nor­ity groups at the fed­eral level, Weil also said that she hopes to im­prove com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Ot­tawa through the sec­re­tariat in or­der to bet­ter con­nect English speak­ers with projects that ware yield­ing good re­sults else­where in the coun­try. In other cases she said that the group will be well placed to con­nect pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment pro­grams with English com­mu­ni­ties in need of their ser­vices where the lat­ter group sim­ply hasn’t been iden­ti­fied as a tar­get.

Ul­ti­mately, Weil said, the fos­ter­ing of vi­brant English com­mu­ni­ties is at the heart of her new man­date. echo­ing Pre­mier Couil­lard’s words that Que­bec needs the “tal­ents and pres­ence” of its English speak­ing pop­u­la­tion, the Min­is­ter said she wants that pop­u­la­tion to thrive and feel at home, and is mak­ing her way across the prov­ince to see how to make that hap­pen.

Weil will be re­turn­ing to the Town­ships at a later date for a visit to the Wales Home in Cleve­land.

KYNA BEEKERS

SA­MAN­THA YOUNG

GOR­DON LAM­BIE

Kath­leen Weil, the new Min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for re­la­tions with English Speak­ing Que­be­cers, met with sev­eral East­ern Town­ships or­ga­ni­za­tions and in­sti­tu­tions on Fri­day as a part of her first re­gional visit in her new role. Here the Min­is­ter is seen fol­low­ing her meet­ing with Town­ship­per's As­so­ci­a­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tives Katie Bibbs, Ger­ald Cut­ting, , Rachel Hunt­ing, and Heather Bowman (far right). Saint Fran­cis MNA Guy Hardy was also present for the meet­ing.

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