Task force to fight language bills
The English-speaking Quebec community isn’t going to accept the erosion of its rights without a fight.
Last week 18 English rights advocates across Quebec teamed up to oppose proposed changes in Quebec Bill 96 and federal Bill C-32.
Regional Association of West Quebecers board member and task force member Brian Rock said the group plans to legally oppose both bills before they are passed and, in turn, restructure the Canadian constitution, language policy, and human rights and freedoms. The task force should also fight for more parity when it comes to funding French services outside of Quebec and English services inside Quebec, said Rock. Currently, French minority language services receive significantly more funding than English minority language services.
“Bill 96 will cripple all Quebecers’ ability to express themselves and live their lives in dignity, at home, the workplace and in the classroom,” he said.
Constitutional law scholar Colin Standish founded the task force, which also includes former RAWQ president Rick Henderson, constitutional lawyer Brent Tyler, former Quebec English School Boards Association executive director Marcus Tabachnick, columnist and former diplomat Andrew Caddell, author Keith Henderson, Bury Mayor Walter Dougherty, and MRC des Golfe-du-Saint-Laurent Warden Randy Jones, among others.
“We were able to encourage many prominent Quebecers to participate,” he said. “Everyone realized how serious the issues were and that the toxic combination of the “White Paper,” Bill C-32 and Bill 96 could be fatal for the English-speaking community of Quebec and a united Canada.”
Rock said Standish spoke at a RAWQ event and a follow-up discussion led to the founding of the task force. He said that the task force has met five times so far, and members are still hashing out their plan of action.
Parliament tabled Bill C-32 on June 15. It would amend the Official Languages Act, recognize French as Quebec’s official language, guarantee an employee to be served in French at a company of more than 24 employees, and more. The English advocacy group, the Quebec Community Groups Network, decried the move as a “clear attack on the equality of Canada’s official languages” in a June 15 press release.
“The English minority in Quebec should be treated in the same way as the French minority in the rest of Canada,” Rock said.
Bill 96 also declares that Quebec is a nation.
“Some people are calling it backdoor separatism,” Rock said. He questioned how governance would work if Quebec became a nation.
“Are we going to have a Canada with one nation, nine provinces, and three territories?” he asked.
Another example that Rock and others find unacceptable: If the current draft of Bill 96 passes, language police have the power to come into businesses without a warrant to search through phones, computers, and documents to ensure that communications are in French.
The 100-page bill, tabled by the governing Coalition Avenir Quebec party in the National Assembly in March, amends the Charter of the French Language, 24 other Quebec statutes, the Constitution Act of 1867, and one other regulation. According to a recent QCGN analysis, the bill could also make seeking justice in court in English more expensive by charging for translation, limit permits for students in Quebec to study at English schools to three year periods, decline enrollment in English primary and secondary schools, keep the unemployment rate of English speakers – which is higher than French speakers – stagnant, and much more.
“It’s important for people to be aware and get as much information as possible,” Rock said.
He encourages people to write their concerns to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier François Legault, Quebec Minister Responsible for the French language Simon Jolin-Barrette, Pontiac MP William Amos, and Gatineau MNA Robert Bussière.