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Bureaucratic bottlenecks delay French lessons: Commissioner

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QUEBEC — The new agency created by the Legault government to teach French to immigrants and Quebec residents has failed to keep up with “exploding” demand for services, leading to long wait times before students can get into classrooms, Quebec’s French commissioner said Wednesday.

And there is a direct link between the increasing number of temporary immigrants in Quebec and the demand for French courses, “an increase that the leaders of Francisation Québec (FQ) apparently did not expect.”

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Benoît Dubreuil's 121-page annual report, to be presented to the National Assembly on Wednesday, highlights a series of failures in the creation and first phases of operation of Francisation Québec, the agency created in June 2023 under Bill 96 revising the Charter of the French Language.

It was to be the only registration office for immigrants and Quebecers in general who wanted to enroll in French classes.

But the start was difficult, says Dubreuil, describing a series of communication problems in the chain of command as well as “misunderstandings” between the agency's work and that of the Department of Immigration and Customs.

The result was delays in the provision of quality services to the public.

“The mechanisms put in place were unable to cope with the enormous number of requests,” writes Dubreuil. “This led to bottlenecks in setting up courses, which resulted in waiting lists for benefit applications.”

The report notes that FQ received 98,893 service requests between June 1, 2023, and April 2024. Of that total, only 50.9 percent actually started their French classes. That means a total of 48,500 requests are still waiting to be processed.

The result was a series of customer complaints that Dubreuil describes as “worrying” and that require action to improve FQ’s services.

This is the first time Dubreuil has investigated the agency's work. Le Devoir reported in January that in some cases it took up to 75 days for a new client's file to be processed.

As part of the announcement of Quebec's new language strategy in April, Immigration Minister Christine Fréchette announced that Francisation Québec would hire more teachers to meet demand.

With the help of additional funding, Francisation Québec will increase the number of teachers from 500 to 750 and reduce waiting lists for individuals and businesses using the service, she said.

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