• Trevor Greenway

Quebec's controversial Bill 96 adopted at the National Assembly


Liberal Party of Quebec candidate Caryl Green speaks to a crowd of Bill 96 protestors camped outside the Masham arena on May 20. Trevor Greenway photo

Quebec's controversial language reform law, Bill 96, was adopted at the National Assembly in a landslide 78-29 vote on Tuesday.


The CAQ government passed the bill despite cries from English speakers, Indigenous leaders and other minorities who say their rights and freedoms are at risk with the bill.


“We all agree that the French language must be protected, however, this protection must be applied without detriment to the rights of the English-speaking community, the First Nations peoples, immigrants, small business owners and other minority groups," said Liberal Party of Quebec candidate for Gatineau Caryl Green. "It is a question of justice and social equity."


Bill 96 will give the government the power to seize internal documents - including sensitive information - to ensure communications are being made in French at businesses in Quebec that have over 25 employees. Restaurants with over 25 employees will be forced to use French, including in the kitchens. The government will have a snitch line set up for anyone to call if they hear cooks or servers chatting in English.


Bill 96 will also force English CEGEP students to take a total of five French language courses to graduate. Professors, staff and students worry that Bill 96 will create an unlevel playing field for students that are not as strong in French. They argue that the additional French requirement will lower their R-Scores – a calculation of Quebec students' grades used by universities when considering admissions.


Heritage College English teacher Gwendolyn Guth told the Low Down last week that Bill 96 is sending the wrong message to youth in Quebec.


“The silent message to students is that language is a battleground; that it’s about power, paternalism and a reversion to 1970s language politics rather than language as celebration, family, community and revelling in the idea that you speak more than one language,” said Guth.


But Gatineau MNA Robert Bussière told the Low Down last week that Bill 96 will not affect Quebec's English-speaking community.


“Nobody right now in the English-speaking community in Quebec will be affected by this. It has no bearing at all on losses of services,” said Bussière. “If you go to the hospital, if you require any government services, it will remain the way it is right now."


Quebec's new political party has decried the bill since it was tabled nearly a year ago. Canadian Party of Quebec spokesperson Colin Standish called the passing of the bill, "a dark day in Quebec."


"Bill 96 will warp, distort and hinder all Quebecers in their daily lives," wrote Standish in a press release. "The Constitutional amendment changes the framework for the entire country. We need to continue to advocate against this illegitimate bill while taking the fights to our courts of law and the ballot box in October."


Quebecers head to the polls on Oct. 3.