Literacy Quebec (LQ) and the Regroupement des groupes Populaires alphabétisation du Québec (RGPAQ) sent an open letter addressed to François Blais, former Minister of Education, Higher Education and Research after he stated, during a press briefing held January 12, that he wants to “assess the funds that are available [to him and see] where best to place them to make a difference”. This statement immediately caused concern to the 128 Quebec literacy networks regarding their future. Since the letter was sent to Blais, a Quebec cabinet shuffle has seen Pierre Moreau take over the education file, while Blais who will now take on the labour and social solidarity portfolios..
Margo Legault, Executive Director of LQ, and one of the signatories of the open letter, said: “[His statement] left a lot of doubt in our minds and implied there may be changes to funding, support, and recognition of literacy organizations in both the French and English networks in the future. Mr. Blais said literacy is an issue, but given that many organizations are
currently being funded, he wants to evaluate before deciding where to best invest the funds. We wouldn’t want an evaluation without consultation.” The organizations are asking the Minister to clarify his
The letter also highlighted the need for more funding. “The government’s support in the fight against illiteracy is
inadequate,” stated Legault. “There are 128 adult literacy organizations in Quebec that receive funding through PACTE (programme d’action communautaire sur le terrain de l’éducation); they reach tens of thousands of people on an annual basis. The total amount of funding received is $12,817,185, yet to meet the needs of the population in 2015-2016, we need $22,052,551, which equates to a shortfall of $9.2 million. As stated in the letter, over the last 13 years, the literacy network has become increasingly impoverished; our funding envelope hasn’t even received an indexation equivalent to the increase in the cost of living!” said Legault.
“We are making do with what we have, but more is needed. The allocated funds are used wisely, but they are nevertheless
insufficient,” she added.
Quebec has a high percentage of adults that are classified as having functional low literacy levels – over one million people between the ages of 16 and 65, according to the letter – so the two organizations
advocate for a more holistic approach to
literacy, its causes, and consequences. “Illiteracy needs to be a provincial priority and there needs to be more support for
programs that return students to school, prevent dropping-out, and adult education, etc.,” concluded Legault.
The RGPAQ represents 77 autonomous community action literacy organizations across Quebec while Literacy Quebec is a network of the 13 community literacy organizations for the English-speaking population of Quebec. The Western Quebec Literacy Council, located in Shawville, is a member of Literacy Quebec. According to Marilee Delombard, the Executive Director, the organization includes over 100 trained
volunteer tutors who help improve
literacy skills across Western Quebec.