The federal government will spend $12 million over the next four years on bursaries to help English-speaking students pursue post-secondary education in French.
Approximately 3,400 bursaries worth $3,000 each will be available to anglophone secondary school graduates who enrol in French-language programs at select CEGEPs, colleges or universities.
The government says the funding will be disbursed through post-secondary institutions and special consideration will be given to students from under-represented groups.
The initiative is part of a push by Ottawa to strengthen bilingualism in Canada as debate over the state of the French language intensifies in Quebec.
To be eligible for a bursary, students must be Canadian citizens or permanent residents whose first official language is English and must have graduated from an English-language high school.
They must be at least 17 years old, be enrolled in their first year of study in French, have sufficient knowledge of French to be able to study in that language and plan to take 50 percent of their coursework in French.
The funding announcement comes as the provincial Coalition Avenir Québec government plans an overhaul of Quebec’s language laws, intending to strengthen protections for the French language.
Many in Quebec have argued in recent years that French is losing ground to English, especially in Montreal.
Quebec Premier François Legault has said that the legal overhaul may include quotas that limit the number of students who can enrol at English CEGEPs to counter the growing number of French students enrolling in English programs after high school.
Other proposals include establishing a framework for a francophone immigration policy, enshrining into law a requirement that Supreme Court of Canada justices be bilingual and eliminating waiting lists for French immersion programs.
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