• Hunter Cresswell

MNA on 96: English ‘will always be protected’

Poll: draft Bill 96 divides Quebecers


When asked if he supports draft Bill 96, Gatineau MNA Robert Bussière didn’t say yes or no.


After repeatedly denying requests for comment on the sweeping language law reform last week, The Low Down posed the question during a May 21 press conference on an unrelated subject.


Despite the fact that draft Bill 96 would require bilingual municipalities to ask to keep offering services and documents in English, Gatineau MNA and former La Pêche Mayor Robert Bussière said English services “will always” be provided. Low Down file photo
Despite the fact that draft Bill 96 would require bilingual municipalities to ask to keep offering services and documents in English, Gatineau MNA and former La Pêche Mayor Robert Bussière said English services “will always” be provided. Low Down file photo

“English in Quebec will always be protected,” he said.


He said that consultations on the final draft of the bill haven’t started and that the bill aims to protect the French language, which is important.


“You will always have your services provided in English,” Bussière said.


But that’s not what the version of the bill tabled on May 13 states. As written, it would: require bilingual municipalities to ask to keep their bilingual designations so they can keep offering services and documents in English; cap the population of students in English CEGEPS; enforce the usage of French in businesses; and budget more taxpayer money for free French courses and language law enforcement.


This bill would force bilingual municipalities like Chelsea and Pontiac to pass resolutions at the council level to continue being bilingual.


“In my reading of the draft bill, English service would be reduced and eliminated it seems,” Chelsea Mayor Caryl Green said.


Green attended the May 21 press conference and heard Bussière’s comments.


She said that the bill as written would affect what services municipalities could offer in English.


“I have concerns about that,” she said.


Green, who is also the MRC des Collines Prefect, said she has not talked about the bill with Bussière yet because she wants to first see the bill’s consultation schedule so that she can ensure Chelsea and the MRC are involved.


Draft Bill 96 poll


A recent poll asked English speakers if draft Bill 96 makes them less proud to be a Quebecer, and 79.8 per cent said yes.


When asked that same question, 30.8 per cent of French speakers taking the poll said Bill 96 makes them more proud to be a Quebecer.


Of the people polled who speak another language besides French and English, 63.5 per cent said the bill makes them less proud to be a Quebecer.


“There is a real schism in perceptions and attitudes,” Association for Canadian Studies president Jack Jedwab stated in a press release about the poll, which he oversaw.


When asked if French in Quebec is under threat, 49 per cent of French speaking respondents said that it’s threatened to the same degree as usual, but 58.3 per cent of English speakers said that French is more secure than ever.


When asked how relations between French and English speakers will be affected, 64.8 per cent of French respondents said they would stay the same, but 73.5 per cent of English respondents said they would worsen.


English rights group Quebec Community Groups Network and the Association for Canadian Studies conducted the poll from May 14 to 19. It asked 1,501 Quebecers, which includes 573 who spoke another language than French, various questions about the bill.