July 6, 2020

25° C, A few clouds

Full Forecast


Advertise With Us

Francophone community concerned about minister's inability to speak French

WAYNE GLOWACKI / FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Rochelle Squires </p>


Rochelle Squires

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/5/2016 (1522 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Some Manitoba francophones are cautious about criticizing cabinet minister Rochelle Squires' inability to speak French — even though francophone affairs is one of her many duties.

They're willing to see how she does in the job.

"The ability to speak French is important, but even more important are actions. Actions will speak louder than words, in any language," said Coun. Matt Allard (St. Boniface).

"Obviously, it's not ideal. It would be preferable if the francophone affairs minister spoke French," Liberal MP Dan Vandal (Saint Boniface-Saint Vital) said Thursday in an interview from Ottawa. "What's important is she should show engagement to the community."

Squires is the minister of sport, culture and heritage, and minister responsible for francophone affairs and the status of women.

But she can't speak French.

Several members of Premier Brian Pallister's caucus are reportedly fluent in French, though his office has yet to provide a requested list.

There's a lot of disgruntlement on social media, Jacques de Moissac, student president at Université de Saint-Boniface, said Thursday.

"On Facebook lately, it's pretty heavily people complaining about that. There'll be a barrier created," de Moissac said. "We're a bit worried what happens if francophone affairs falls on the backburner," given her many disparate duties. "How are we going to be prioritized?

"Obviously, we are worried — Greg Selinger pushed for francophone affairs. We're worried they won't focus, because St. Boniface isn't one of their ridings."

But, he cautioned, "A lot of people are jumping the gun. It's the wrong thing, jumping to the conclusion that she won't do anything."

De Moissac said he is aware Finance Minister Cameron Friesen can speak French.

Squires must recognize French language rights, said Vandal, who sits on the official languages committee: "They're incredibly important in the province's history."

Said Allard: "I look forward to working with the new minister in my capacity as city councillor responsible for French language services, and I communicated that to the minister in a congratulatory email."

Université de Saint-Boniface chose not to comment on Squires' lack of French language skills.

Peter Dorrington, Université de Saint-Boniface academic and research vice-president, said by email: "Université de Saint-Boniface is looking forward to working with the current government in matters of French and francophone post-secondary education. We expect we can count on a full collaboration from all parties involved in helping students meet their academic goals. USB is committed to strengthening its relationship with all levels of government, and to continue offering a quality university and college education in order to shape today’s leaders in society."

Bernard Lesage, board chairman of the Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine, said he is not apprehensive about any impact on Manitoba's French-language public schools.

As a school trustee, "I have had to work with different people in different ministries. A lot of them didn't speak French, but we got things done. I don't think you necessarily have to know French to know the French community."

However, he has met with St. Norbert Tory MLA Jon Reyes: "I had a bit of a conversation with him in French — it was interesting," said Lesage.

On Tuesday, shortly after being sworn into cabinet, when Squires was asked in French about her facility with the language, she could only smile, admit to the "steep learning curve" and pledge to be an advocate for the community.

Tory officials said there may be further comment Friday.



Advertise With Us

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.


Updated on Thursday, May 5, 2016 at 4:43 PM CDT: Updated

The Free Press will close this commenting platform at noon on July 14.

We want to thank those who have shared their views over the years as part of this reader engagement initiative.

In the coming weeks, the Free Press will announce new opportunities for readers to share their thoughts and to engage with our staff and each other.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.


Advertise With Us