Justice in Official Languages - Newsletter
(No03 | November 2011)
Éducaloi: Passionate about Explaining the Law to Others
Counsel Sarah Dougherty
In October 2010, Éducaloi celebrated 10 years of promoting plain-language legal information to Quebec’s English-speaking and French-speaking populations alike. Counsel Sarah Dougherty, Content Manager for Éducaloi, accepted our invitation to discuss the organization’s approach to providing services to the province’s English-speaking community.
Q - What is your role within the organization?
R - Éducaloi has offered services to the English-speaking community of Quebec since the organization was founded in 2000. Offering these services was part of our philosophy of trying to make our information accessible to as many people as possible. The position of English Content Manager that I now hold was created to develop and coordinate the services that we could provide. One of my responsibilities is to build relationships with the English-speaking community and to create content that meets its needs.
Q - What services are offered to the Quebec English-speaking community? Do they differ from those offered to the French-speaking community?
R - Approximately 99 percent of the content of our Web site is available in English. Communication tools and new content are developed, created and adapted based on the specific needs and concerns pinpointed by various mechanisms. These include an analysis of the number of visits to our Web site, the topics receiving the most attention, and the activities organized by the communities. For example, we developed content which dealt specifically with linguistic rights in Quebec, English education, and the use of French in the workplace.
We recently developed a family law project in English and are now concentrating on another project, dealing with domestic violence. To do so, we used technology such as videoconferencing to make the information available to all English-speaking communities in Quebec. These communities are scattered throughout the province, and we must develop communication strategies that foster knowledge sharing and information dissemination to as many people as possible, wherever they may be.
The resources developed for education were also adapted for use in Quebec’s English schools.
When we adapt content for the English-speaking community, we pay particular attention to the terminology and examples, as well as the choice of information media and dissemination means. This ensures that the meaning and the cultural references are relevant to this group’s reality.
Q - Who are your partners?
R - Our main partners are the Quebec Community Groups Network, the Community Health and Social Services Network, the Legal Information Clinic at McGill, and the Montreal Bar Association Committee on Access to Justice in English. We also work with many other organizations that contribute to the livelihood and development of Quebec’s English-speaking community. As well, our partnerships with the Fédération des associations de juristes d’expression française de common law and various provincial associations of French-speaking jurists (AJEFs), allow us to benefit from their experience in designing and distributing legal information to official language minority communities.
Éducaloi maintains ties with several organizations and citizens from the English-speaking community, both throughout Quebec and across the country. By actively participating in social and community activities, our team establishes close ties with various community stakeholders, which allows us to stay in tune with their needs and concerns.
Q - How do you decide which services to develop and provide to the English-speaking community?
R - We discuss ideas and needs and share data with our network of partners in the English-speaking community. For example, we use data collected by the Community Health and Social Services Network for its scientific research. Also, two projects enabled us to assess the needs of the English-speaking community by holding meetings in the field and inviting citizens to express their concerns.
Q - What are the challenges and concerns of Quebec’s English-speaking community?
R - Among the English-speaking community of Quebec’s main challenges are the aging population and the exodus of its youth. In some areas, the migration of rural youth to cities has had a significant impact on the demographics, shifting the balance towards older people. Young people who might have lent a hand to older community members in their search for information or services are no longer there. Consequently, it is essential for Éducaloi to design and disseminate legal information with an older population in mind, and look for ways to reach this more vulnerable clientele.
Some challenges facing the English-speaking community of Quebec are similar to those of Francophone communities in other provinces and territories. Many Anglophones understand basic information when it is provided in French. However, when it comes to more technical, specialized or delicate subjects, an English version of the information is useful – even essential – to ensure the content is well understood and to facilitate interaction with service providers.
Q - Do the means used to communicate with the province’s English-speaking community differ from those used for Quebec’s linguistic majority?
R - Quebec’s English-speaking community has its own traditions, as well as its own organizations and media. We therefore use existing media to reach them more efficiently. Our electronic articles are sent to The Gazette, and we also publish a free electronic newsletter.
Because they are a minority, certain English-speaking communities sometimes feel isolated, so, other than the information they find on our Web site, their best communication tools remain personal contact via telephone or e-mail.
Lastly, the Community Learning Centres  act as natural bridges since they provide networking and partnership opportunities between schools, families and communities. These partners are crucial for building links to the English-speaking population. It is therefore important for us to establish ties with these Centres so that we can continue to improve the services we offer in both official languages.
For more information on Éducaloi, please visit their Web site at www.educaloi.qc.ca.
-  The following is a resume of the discussions with S. Dougherty.
-  “The Community Learning Centres initiative is intended to assist so-called traditional English schools to become community schools that combine education with other resources such as health and social services (Éducation, Loisir et Sport Québec, Community Learning Centres).”
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