QUÉBEC CITY — Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard established a secretariat for the province's anglophones Wednesday, saying he wanted English speakers to feel like "first class citizens."
Couillard selected former immigration minister Kathleen Weil for the job, a move some critics viewed as a demotion, though she is also being tasked with overseeing the province's access to information regime and the reforms of democratic institutions.
Couillard confirmed he would set up a ministry for anglophones last month during Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne's visit to the National Assembly.
Noting English-speaking Quebecers' part in the province's history, Couillard also spoke of their rising bilingualism rates as proof that they wanted to be an integral part of society. But he said the community faced great socio-economic challenges, particularly in rural areas.
It is high time that English-speaking Quebeckers feel truly at home.Premier Philippe Couillard
"Over the years, at certain moments of our history, our fellow English-speaking Quebeckers have not always felt entirely welcome in their home province leading some to leave the province altogether," he said on Sept. 21. "It is high time that English-speaking Quebeckers feel truly at home. And to those English-speaking Quebeckers living in Toronto or elsewhere in Canada, proudly wearing Montréal Canadian jerseys on game nights, I say: 'It's time, if you want, to come home to Québec.' Let me just say that you are wanted and will be warmly welcome."
Wednesday, Couillard congratulated himself for keeping his promise and naming a minister responsible for relations with English-speaking Quebecers.
"My friends, let me tell you that you are not only an integral part of Québec, this is your home. Your talents, and presence are needed, desired," he said. "I've told you that I would appoint a cabinet minister to voice the concerns of English-speaking Quebeckers. Today, this promise is fulfilled."
Weil described her responsibilities as "historic" and said she would be consulting English-speaking communities, particularly outside the cities, to see what their needs were, particularly in terms of employment and health services.
"We want to ensure that people who ... chose to live here can flourish in Quebec society," she told reporters after the Liberal government's cabinet shuffle.
Translated by Althia Raj
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