Ontario PC MPP blasts Ford government’s cuts to French-language services

A newly elected Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP has denounced her party’s decision to scrap the province’s French language services commissioner position and a plan to build a French-language university.

“The decisions made last week concerning the office of the commissioner and the Franco-Ontarian University disappoint me greatly,” Amanda Simard said in a French-language Facebook post Wednesday evening.

“I share this disappointment and frustration today, having initially worked as much internally as possible to reverse these decisions,” said Simard, who represents Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, an eastern Ontario riding on the Ottawa River.

In her post, Simard asked for support and said she has asked Premier Doug Ford to reconsider the cuts.

“To my more than 600,000 fellow Franco-Ontarians, you may not know me yet, but know that I am with you,” she wrote, adding that she lives in a French community and completed her schooling in French.

“You have an ally in me, and I will never let you down.”

The premier’s office issued a brief response to Simard’s post

“MPP Amanda Simard is an advocate for Franco-Ontarians and we appreciate having her voice in caucus,” Ford’s spokesperson Simon Jefferies said in an email.

The Ford government says the cuts are necessary to help get rid of what it says is a $15-billion deficit, but they haven’t gone over well with Ontario francophones.

Carol Jolin, president of the Francophone Assembly of Ontario (AFO), praised Simard’s message during a news conference on Thursday morning.

“I was very happy to hear Ms. Simard come out and speak, she spoke from her heart,” he said.

Jolin and the AFO, an organization that represents more than 740,000 francophones in the province, announced a day of action Dec. 1 in protest of the government’s cuts. Jolin said that rallies are planned in some 40 locations across Ontario.

“We can’t take anything for granted when it comes to protecting our rights,” he said, adding that he feels Ford is walking back campaign promises to the francophone community.

“It is an attack on francophones, when you look at all the decisions being made…. And we are afraid that more is coming.”

The province’s Official Opposition has also come out swinging at the premier.

“The Ford Conservatives are telling us clearly that we do not count, that our constitutional rights to be served and educated in French are unimportant,” the NDP’s francophone affairs critic, MPP Guy Bourgouin, said earlier this week.

Quebec Premier François Legault met with Ford on Monday and told reporters he asked Ford to reconsider the decision, as have a number of other francophone politicians both inside and outside Quebec.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also expressed opposition to the cuts.

“The protection of official language minorities, the French language, French communities across our country is something that is extremely important to me and to my government,” Trudeau said.

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