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  • Writer's pictureTrevor Greenway

Four years of silence: CAQ snubs English rights group

When CAQ leader François Legault came into power in 2018, he promised to govern the province for “all Quebecers.”

But after four years in power, it’s clear that “all Quebecers” did not include the province's 1.25 million English speakers.

It’s been nearly 1,500 days since Legault took power in La Belle province, and neither he – nor anyone from his party – has met with the province’s leading English rights advocacy group, The Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN), according to that group.

QCGN interim president Eva Ludvig told the Low Down that Legault’s blatant neglect of the English community is “totally unacceptable.”

“After many, many requests, [Legault] still has not met with us after four years,” said Ludvig. “The actual government who is supposed to be the government of all of us; the leader of this government isn’t even speaking to us and quite blatantly refused to participate in an English debate.”

The QCGN has been ringing the alarm bells since 2018, when the CAQ proposed its controversial Bill 96 — a bill that had to invoke the notwithstanding clause because it directly contravened Quebec’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The bill, passed into law this past June, places caps on enrollment through the province’s five English CEGEPs and forces English students to complete five French language courses to graduate. Immigrants, and anyone whose family did not attend English school in Canada, are not eligible for English schooling under the law.

Bill 96 also forces businesses with over 25 employees to hand over, without a warrant, sensitive documents, including emails, text messages and other confidential information, to language cops if they get a whiff of too much English being used in the workplace. This section of the bill directly contradicts Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states that “Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.”

The QCGN says we are seeing “just the beginning” of Bill 96’s effects, which are starting to play out more and more throughout the election campaign. A quick scroll on Twitter demonstrates just how infrequently the province’s Chief Election Officer Pierre Reid tweets in English. The Elections Quebec Twitter page has been tweeting election information consistently since the campaign officially kicked off on Aug. 28 — almost exclusively in French.

This, and other impacts on the upcoming election has led the QCGN hired a constitutional lawyer to go through Bill 96, “article by article,” and began producing timely and important content for an informative and engaging website for English speakers throughout Quebec. Their elections page features weekly questions and responses from party leaders, virtual town halls, and a clear explainer of what is at stake for English speakers in Quebec.

The Legault government has turned down the QCGN’s invitation for an English debate and has not responded to any of their weekly questions. Ludvig said this disregard for minorities will hurt more than just the 15 per cent of English speakers throughout the province.

“The francophone majority will slowly come to realize that this was not the best thing to protect French,” she said. “This is not the way to protect French; this is a way to alienate, not only the English-speaking community, but Quebec society.”

The Quebec Liberal Party has taken every opportunity to speak with the QCGN, as have other parties. Liberal leader Dominique Anglade took part in a virtual town hall put on by the QCGN and the Liberals are the only party who has officially responded to the organization’s weekly questions.

“I’m very disappointed that the CAQ will not engage in debate or will not engage in dialogue for how we move forward as a province,” said Liberal candidate for Gatineau Caryl Green. “I think there is an absence of respect for the diversity, respect for anglophones, respect for allophones, and that we are together here in the province; there doesn’t need to be this division.”

Representatives from the CAQ did not return the Low Down’s calls for this story.

The Quebec general election takes place Oct. 3.


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