Task force on Linguistic Policy fighting Bill 96, C-32
In early June, Quebecers of all backgrounds, but especially English-speaking Quebecers, were struck by a double-whammy that could marginalize our community forever. This toxic combination is Bill 96, the CAQ government legislation to strengthen Bill 101, and Bill C-32, the Trudeau government’s proposed legislation to revamp the Official Languages Act.
Both threaten the existence of our community, institutions, and jobs. C-32 would apply Bill 101’s regulations on federally-chartered companies, while Bill 96 – shielded in the Canadian constitution’s notwithstanding clause – threatens the rights and freedoms of all Quebecers. It contains draconian sections allowing unlimited search and seizure of information, limits enrolment in English CEGEPs, and forces municipal councils to fight to retain their bilingual status.
The CAQ’s intent to recognize Quebec as a French-speaking “nation” will have a disastrous impact on the Constitution’s protection of English. Meanwhile, Premier Legault claims the English community totals 600,000 people, while Statistics Canada says we are 1.2 million.
In response to this threat, a group of concerned citizens recently united to form the Task Force on Linguistic Policy. The group contains professionals from all backgrounds and is welcoming Quebecers from the cultural and Francophone communities, as well as Inuit and First Nations.
We share seven key principles in our opposition to these bills:
Quebec’s English-speaking community is a distinct group of over a million people who share a common language as well as established institutions, values, history, and culture.
The English and French-speaking communities have long worked together for the betterment of Quebec, having lived side-by-side, married, collaborated in the community, and supported one another in democratic endeavors.
The English-speaking community is dynamic, diverse, multiracial, and multicultural: it embraces people of Indigenous, African, Asian, American, and European heritage, of dozens of ethnicities and faiths.
Our support for Canadian federalism does not diminish our love for Quebec. It is a belief in a country praised as one of the greatest in the world for its capacity to embrace difference and encourage understanding.
We oppose any legislation that reduces the rights of any of our fellow citizens, based on language, race, religion, gender, sexual preference, or national origin.
The only way to create a better society is through dialogue and protection of the rights of all — not through the imposition of laws that reduce access, diminish rights, or create barriers between people.
English Quebecers are the most bilingual community in Canada. We choose to live, work, and raise our families here, but we do not accept being discriminated against for who we are.
An executive has been established and we are fundraising, speaking out in the media, developing regional chapters, national engagement, and financial support. We plan to organize demonstrations, lobbying efforts, and support court challenges.
We will work closely with the Quebec Community Groups Network. As an independent, populist advocacy group, the Task Force can comment without fear of politicians working to silence us. It is also crucial to establish an alliance with First Nations and Inuit of Quebec, and with Francophones, as Bill 96 discriminates against them by placing caps on enrolment at English CEGEPs.
Time is of the essence. In early July, the Legault government announced Bill 96 will have nine days of public hearings between Sept. 21 and Oct. 7. Only three groups representing the English community are allowed to present; this is unacceptable.
The Task Force is preparing a brief and insisting it appear before the National Assembly’s committee. We are demanding all Quebecers who want to present have similar opportunities.
We are working for the rights of all Quebecers. We will succeed if people of goodwill unite to fight this egregious legislation. We need your help and urge you to join our cause.
Andrew Caddell and Colin Standish are executive members of the Task Force on Linguistic Policy