Tensions rise between anglo groups, CAQ government

Tensions appear to be mounting between the CAQ government and the Quebec Community Groups Network, an advocacy group representing more than 50 English-language community organizations across the province.

There were no government representatives at the QCGN’s annual meeting and convention, held Friday and Saturday, and both sides are trading accusations over whether the CAQ was deliberately shut out of the event by QCGN president Geoffrey Chambers.

CTV News obtained a copy of a letter sent to the QCGN by Christopher Skeete, Parliamentary Assistant to the Premier for Relations with English-Speaking Quebecers.

In it, Skeete expresses disappointment that “you have chosen not to invite representatives of the government of Quebec to the QCGN annual general assembly in Montreal on June 14 and 15.”

In an interview with CTV News, Chambers countered the claim and said Skeete was welcome to attend.

“The premier was invited and declined. Usually the premier, who is our minister, appoints a representative. They decided not to do that,” said Chambers.

“Mr. Skeete is way offside as regards to a member of government behaving towards our community. We will have words with his boss about it,” Chambers added.

Skeete later told CTV News he and members of his staff wanted to attend the meeting and requested an invitation, but they were informed in writing that the QCGN didn’t want representatives from the Secretariat for relations with English-speaking Quebecers to be present.

“Given recent events I thought it would be best to request that we be invited, if they wanted us there. Honestly, I thought it was just a formality. I really wasn’t expecting a no, but we got a no,” Skeete said.

“I consider myself a team member of the secretariat. I don’t see myself as a CAQ member, I see myself as somebody who represents the secretariat for English-speaking Quebecers. That letter specifically says that they don’t want us there.”

Strained relations

This latest round of sparring comes after Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge’s controversial decision to transfer three EMSB schools to the Commission Scolaire de la Pointe-de-l’Ile, a French school board lacking space for its students.

In May, Chamber wrote an open letter in the Montreal Gazette denouncing the state of anglo relations in Quebec and claiming the Secretariat failed to consult with the community on important issues, including school transfers.

“Sadly, input from our community into government decisions has deteriorated, not improved (… the secretariat can only be counted as a disappointing failure in respect of this key element of its mandate,” Chambers wrote.

Within 24 hours, Skeete fired back with a communique, reacting to what he called “the President of the QCGN’s outburst.”

“I am very disappointed by this action. We have always shown ourselves to be open to dialogue, but this willingness should not be understood as an intent to submit to the dictates of anyone (… Beyond QCGN, we have received positive feedback from other organizations of the English-speaking community,” he wrote.

With a contribution from Matt Grillo