New QCGN president Jennings reaches out to regional anglos

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Photo: QCGN

Marlene Jennings is the newly elected president of the Quebec Community Groups Network.

The newly elected president of the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) says she wants to rebuild ties with regional anglophone associations that bolted from the organization last year.

Marlene Jennings, 69, beat incumbent president Geoffrey Chambers in a vote of representatives from member organizations gathered in an online annual general meeting on Nov. 5.

In a statement to the QCT, Jennings said, “I believe all our English-speaking community organizations are valuable, and a top priority for me as newly elected QCGN president is to open the closed door, walk through it and begin an open, respectful dialogue with all former members of QCGN. We have common goals and we can figure out how to work and collaborate together to achieve our goals.”

Brigitte Wellens, the executive director of Quebec City’s Voice of English-speaking Québec (VEQ), one of the groups that split from QCGN, and president of the new Regional Development Network, told the QCT, “I am hopeful that renewed leadership will help rebuild the QCGN from the inside, and that in the medium-to-long term, it will restore some of the credibility I feel they have lost.

“This will be crucial in order to re-establish trust and mend the damage that caused VEQ to leave the network. It won’t happen overnight, but with respect and a genuine willingness to work together, I think it can be accomplished.”

Jennings is a former Liberal MP for the Montreal riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce–Lachine and the first Black woman from Quebec to be elected to Parliament. She served from 1997 until 2011, when she was defeated by New Democratic Party candidate Isabelle Morin in the “Orange Wave” of that election.

Since then, Jennings has been involved in many community organizations and initiatives. She was the first non-Jewish executive director of the Montreal YM-YWHA, she authored the “Jennings Report” on the Quebec English school board elections and governance and she currently serves on a government panel on policing practices and culture.

Up until last week, she was the government-appointed trustee for the English Montreal School Board, in the wake of internal disputes and management controversies.

In other QCGN business at the AGM, director Sylvia Martin-Laforge reported “a sharp increase in QCGN activity and an almost twofold increase in revenues and resources during our 25th anniversary year.

“With some $900,000 in new funding for projects and programs, we have been taking on exciting new mandates in the fields of education, health and social services and justice.

“The QCGN continues to defend our community’s constitutional right to control and manage our school boards [and] our right to health and social services in our own language, and to engage with the justice system to improve access to justice in English in targeted areas,” Martin-Laforge concluded.