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  • Writer's pictureHannah Sabourin

CAQ: Anglos don’t have to fear Bill 96

Robert Bussière, the incumbent Member of the National Assembly (MNA) for the constituency of Gatineau, said that despite Bill 96 and the restricted access to education in the province, residents will “always have the right to send their children to English schools.”

Speaking with the Low Down during his campaign launch on Aug. 31, Bussière said that his party’s Bill 96 will not affect the English minority in Quebec.

According to Bill 96, non-historic Anglophones will not have the right to choose where to send their kids for education. There will also be caps on enrolment at English CEGEPS.

This law also restricts what languages are spoken in businesses with over 25 employees. Bill 96 gives l’Office québécoise de la langue française the right to seize documents from a company without a warrant to ensure that workers aren’t breaking any laws about Bill 96 French.

Bussière stated, “Knowing a second language is important for everyone,” and said he is open to speaking with everyone in his constituency, explaining that he often delves into political discussions with both francophones and anglophones.

Yet, in May, the bilingual candidate and former La Pêche mayor refused to meet with Bill 96 protestors. On May 20, 2022, Bill 96 protesters attended Bussière’s press conference in Masham. They showed up with signs denouncing new language laws. Bussière refused to speak with protestors, staying inside the La Pêche community centre until the group of protesters dispersed.

During his campaign launch, he also explained how his party aims to combat the regional impacts of global warming, saying his party will aim to slow the impacts of the climate crisis through “positive actions.” He explained that his party will put $650 million to protect freshwater in the province.

He also discussed the future of local healthcare, saying that the Wakefield Memorial Hospital would remain open even after the Gatineau mega-hospital opens sometime in the future”.

“The Wakefield Hospital will always be there. It’s false that this hospital is at risk [for closure],” he stated, explaining that the increasing population in the region requires it to continue to function. Although, he wasn’t specific about what capacity the Wakefield Hospital would continue to run. “Those who live in the Outaouais have the right to quality services like we see elsewhere in Quebec,” he continued.

Bussière, the current member of the national assembly for Gatineau, launched his candidacy alongside four other Outaouais CAQ candidates: Corinne Canuel-Jolicoeur for Pontiac, Mathieu Lacombe for Papineau, Mathieu Lévesque for Chapleau, and Suzanne Tremblay for Hull.

CAQ candidates promised to make 5G available to all Outaouais residents by 2030, protect the French language, and support accessible healthcare.

Lacombe specified that his party wants to do away with all bilingualism requirements for government jobs.

Echoing this promise, Canuel-Jolicoeur added that strengthening French among Pontiac constituents is a goal for which government should strive.

Regardless of her commitment to francization, she spoke to Pontiac’s anglophone community, saying: “You are important.”

According to the Statistics Canada 2021 census, 129,781 people live in the Pontiac region,. Of those, 19,155 people only speak English, and 109,685 people can speak and understand French.

The CAQ candidates also addressed Bill 96, which requires immigrants who settle in Quebec to learn French in under six months; after this time, those new Quebecers will have no guaranteed access to government services in English.

Canuel-Jolicoeur said the province would not leave immigrants in the dark. “Quebecers are generous, welcoming people,” she assured the room of CAQ supporters.

Voters will cast their ballots for the Quebec provincial election on Oct. 3.

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