The following is a brief prepared by the Quebec Community Newspapers Associations (QCNA) and presented to the National Assembly’s Committee on Culture and Education with regards to General consultation and public hearings on Bill 14: An Act to amend the Charter of the French language, the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and other legislative provisions.
This brief was prepared by the Quebec Community Newspapers Association (QCNA), a not for profit organization dedicated to the professional and economic development of English community newspapers and their enterprises serving minority communities in Quebec.
Our 35-member publications cover communities that are often hard to reach. Whether ethnic, religious, senior, agricultural, educational, Aboriginal or official language minority, our publications effectively provide non-duplicating coverage in both rural and urban markets throughout Quebec.
Our English and bilingual publications distribute weekly, monthly, biweekly and daily to some 700,000 readers across the province. These publications serve an exclusive English and bilingual readership in their communities through their focus on relevant local news and high editorial-to-advertising ratio.
The QCNA is opposed to amendments in Bill 14 that has a goal to lift French to a human right under provincial law. We believe Bill 14 is a “conflict” that will impede individual rights and freedoms of all Quebec citizens’ right to choose as it binds non-Francophones living in Quebec to an unjust jingoism and insecurities over the future of the French language.
The QCNA opposes Bill 14 for the following reasons:
1. The bill puts in conflict the basic individual right by confining the right to choose a language to be educated in as well as which language to employ in the workplace. This is an attempt to discriminate against individuals and communities under the terminology “common well-being” and “cultural communities” in effect expecting an all-or-nothing conformity to the state. This is a de-unifying objective: to make Quebec a place where everyone can live, succeed and achieve fulfillment in French. Personal liberty and freedom applies to everyone equally.
2. The term “cultural communities” has no significance in international law and “minorities” does, and this bill seeks to replace the term “ethnic minorities” in Bill 101 with “cultural communities.”
Ethnic minorities are protected under international human-rights law. This may not be the case for cultural communities. Therefore, removing the terminology “ethnic minorities”, the government is sending the message that minorities do not exist in Quebec. Minority rights are protected under international statutes like the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 1992 Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.
3. The bill eliminates the democratic right to decide, a fundamental and basic human right treasured in all democratic societies. Bill 14 eliminates, without process, the right of all voters to determine what language services their municipality provides based on a percentage value, one that believes that speaking English and French can be clearly divided, when we know that many Quebecers speak both official languages. The bill would ban most Quebec towns (those with an English population of 50 per cent, or less) from having bilingual status.
4. The bill flattens and undermines the role of Quebec’s English educational institutions, creating a tunnel-vision mentality that leaves one option for parents seeking to educate their children in the language of their choice.
Further, the bill targets students who have graduated from a French high school impacting only students who without question are already fluent in French. It is well known that the reason students switch to an English CEGEP is to become fluent in English, which is critical to the future success in Canada and the world. Under such a bill, francophone educational opportunities and professional options would be hindered even more than anglophones.
5. The bill places a financial hindrance on small-business owners, specifically those employing between 26 and 49 persons, as well as forcing that communication in the service sector to be in French. Logically, the Parti-Quebecois should be generating wealth and supporting its Quebec-based businesses.
It is the QCNA position that the Government of Quebec has offered no justifiable evidence to enact Bill 14. Changing the crux of Quebec’s human rights and freedoms, resetting educational polices based on language, while negating a child’s right to an education of his or her parent’s choice and sanitizing the workplace with language compliance will only lead to linguistic disharmony, something government imposed.
Ed. note: The Low Down to Hull and Back is a member of the Quebec Community Newspaper Association.