Following Bill 96’s passage on May 24, Gatineau Hills anglophones had some choice words for Gatineau MNA Robert Bussière who voted for the bill but has continuously refused to answer to his constituents.
“I think his behaviour is absolutely deplorable,” Masham resident and non-historic anglophone Andrew Salkeld said of Bussière in an interview with the Low Down.
Historic anglophones are defined in Quebec Bill 101 as people who went to English schools in Canada. This population of Quebecers, estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands, will see the services they are able to receive in English – legal, educational, and more – reduced.
A group of about 70 Bill 96 protesters showed up to one of Bussière’s press conferences in Masham on May 20 to decry the language law reform — it was one of the first large, local demonstrations about the then-draft bill, since it was introduced in the Quebec National Assembly in May 2021. They were met by MRC des Collines Police officers instead of their provincial representative. Bussière stayed inside until the crowd left – a move Salkeld called an “act of blatant cowardice,” and said “shame, shame, shame” on the members of the National Assembly who voted for the bill.
Salkeld wasn’t in that crowd, but Wakefield resident Glennis Cohen – who’s also a non-historic anglophone – was.
“I think Bussière is doing us all a disservice by not discussing Bill 96,” she said.
“Bussière is gone like poussière (French for dust),” Salkeld said, explaining that he voted for Bussière in 2018, but won’t during the election later this year.
“That man has hidden from everybody since he was voted into power,” Salkeld said.
Bussière has deflected all of the Low Down’s questions about his support of the bill – he repeatedly referred the newspaper to the Quebec justice minister’s office for comment instead – but he and 78 other MNAs voted in favour of it on May 24.
In the past, Bussière fought to keep English services at the Wakefield post office when he was the mayor of La Pêche.
Salkeld moved to Quebec in the late 1970s and has called the Gatineau Hills home since 1992. He never went to school in Canada in English.
Cohen moved to Canada from the United States in 1976 and to Wakefield in 1984. She never went to school in English in Canada either.
Under Bill 96, both would have to provide French translations of court documents if they ever wanted to fight a traffic ticket and neither would be able to enroll in an English school — not that either retiree has plans on going back to school. Any of their children, not that they said they intend to have any more, would also be forced into French school.
Neither said they think that the bill will impact their day-to-day lives, but they are against it on principle.
“I feel that it’s unfair to anglophones,” Cohen said. “It’s unfair to everybody, actually.”
“Here we go again,” Salkeld said.
But other local anglos said they feel differently about the bill.
“If you’ve lived in Quebec for 40 years and you don’t speak French, why not?” asked one Gatineau Hills English-speaker, who the Low Down will refer to as Jane. She said she wishes to remain anonymous because she doesn't want this divisive issue to affect her work with community organizations.
Jane said that she’s against Bill 96, but has a problem with Quebec English speakers saying that they have a “right” to English services in Quebec.
“Actually, they don’t,” Jane said. “They’re in a French province, but they should have the courtesy [of being served in English] … There should be an accommodation for a large minority population, but I want to differentiate between a courtesy and a right.”
Read more about Bill 96 on page three of this newspaper.