Bill 96 a ‘cruelty of enormous magnitude’
Non-historic anglos won’t qualify for English health and social services
Masham resident Andrew Salkeld was born and raised in England and has lived full-time in the Gatineau Hills since 1992, but is not an “historic anglophone” according to Quebec Premier François Legault.
This means that, if Bill 96 is passed as written, he wouldn’t qualify to receive provincial health, legal, education, and more services in his mother tongue.
If he wanted to fight a traffic ticket, he would have to do it all in French.
If he was arrested, he couldn’t request a trial in English.
If he ended up in the hospital, he would be denied service in English.
These hypotheticals could become reality for not only Salkeld, but for all non-historic anglos across the Gatineau Hills and, according to the Quebec Community Groups Network’s count, between 300,000 and 500,000 in English-speaking communities across Quebec.
What is an “historic anglophone?”
In response to a question from the Montreal Gazette at the legislature on Oct. 20, Legault said that historic anglophones are defined in Bill 101 as people who went to English schools in Canada.
Salkeld and hundreds of thousands of other Quebecers, who are more comfortable speaking in English when it comes to things such as tax, legal, and health information, are therefore not historic anglos.
Salkeld, 81, moved to Quebec in the late 1970s from Tanzania, where he was working at the time. He lived in Hudson and ran the Montreal office of a Dutch company until the tension over language became too much for him and the company.
“I remember we would be visited by the language inspectors at the time. Everything had to be in French,” he said, adding that even communications with international clients were scrutinized when it wasn’t in French.
Bill 96 would allow the provincial government to conduct unwarranted searches and seizures in Quebec businesses to check for compliance with language laws.
“There was so little understanding on the side of the people we were dealing with. We had to cease operations,” Salkeld said.
The Canadian arm of his company merged with the U.S. branch and Salkeld moved to Toronto for other work.
“I lost everything,” he said.
In 1992, Salkeld moved his office to Ottawa and started living in the Gatineau Hills.
Ever since Bill 96 was tabled in the Quebec National Assembly in May, Salkeld said he’s been paying more attention to the rhetoric of the conversation surrounding the draft bill than what’s actually in the bill.
“That is shocking,” he responded, after being told that he is not considered to be an “historic anglophone” and what the bill means for him.
“That’s a cruelty of enormous magnitude,” Salkeld said.
As for the rhetoric, he said he’s deeply concerned about the unnecessarily divisive reasoning behind the bill. Salkeld said this bill furthers the divide between the French and English.
“In North America, which is dominated by English speaking, it’s not in anyone’s interest to be monolingual French,” he said. “It’s no big deal to become bilingual and encourage bilingualism. You don’t retreat into your Frenchness; you feel secure in it and expand into English.”
He brought up Germany as an example, saying that most Germans also speak English, but their culture and language isn’t under threat because of it.
Bill 96 is a far reaching language reform bill that will affect many aspects of daily life if passed as written. It has been decried as heavy-handed by multiple English organizations, including the QCGN and Gatineau Hills English advocates. It is currently still winding its way through the Quebec legislature toward final passage.