The Liberal stance on Bill 96
Together, we have built a society rooted in our belief that everyone who calls Québec home can contribute and share in its development. For Liberals, diversity is a strength and a value, not a weakness. But François Legault does not share our view. Rather than building bridges, his focus has been on sowing division. Nothing exemplifies this better than Bill 96.
Under the guise of promoting and protecting French – an objective we all share – Mr. Legault pushed forward measures that are detrimental to Quebec’s social cohesion and economic well-being. Bill 96 completely misses the mark in promoting French, while also going too far in abrogating rights and freedoms. It is deeply flawed in a myriad of ways. Undoubtedly, because Bill 96 violates both the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as Quebec’s own Charter, the CAQ has blocked legitimate access to court challenges by preemptively and indiscriminately imposing the notwithstanding clause. This is why we voted against Bill 96 in the National Assembly, just as we voted against Bill 40 and Bill 21.
As outlined in our Liberal platform, we voted against Bill 96 and we will fix it:
Repeal the notwithstanding clause;
Repeal clauses limiting access to health and social services;
Repeal provisions that allow searches without a warrant;
Repeal provisions imposing an administrative burden on businesses;
Repeal the six-month deadline imposed [on] newcomers to learn French;
Repeal the freeze on English CEGEP enrolment, give all students back the right to make their own choices about their post-secondary education, and reinstate the urgently needed expansion of Dawson College;
Restore judicial independence and give the magistrature back the right to appoint judges according to their needs;
Finally, exempt Indigenous Peoples from Bill 96.
The CAQ’s approach to promoting and protecting French has been coercive and punitive. Our approach would be inclusive, progressive and ultimately much more effective. We must reinvest in our rich cultural sector, and newcomers must have access to all the tools necessary to integrate into Quebec society. Offering free French courses to all Quebecers – our idea – is a positive step forward in that direction. We must further invest in our education system and attack high drop-out and illiteracy rates. Premised on the principle of “nothing about us without us,” we will also consult with educational experts and stakeholders, including parents and students, on how to set up Quebec’s next generation for success.
In and around Bill 96, the CAQ has manufactured disunity and diverted attention from its failure to deliver on the people’s priorities — ranging from climate change to healthcare. Quebecers are confident, modern, forward-looking and compassionate. By contrast, the CAQ government that drafted and adopted Bill 96 has operated out of insecurity, complacency and intolerance. We can and must do better. Language politics should never be a zero-sum game. We will reposition the conversation as a win-win for French, for diversity and for our collective future. Rather than the politics of division promoted by François Legault, a Liberal government will rally Quebecers around our greatest strengths. We will offer everyone a say in the future of our common language. We will bring forth sensible, targeted and results-oriented measures without unduly burdening the daily lives of Quebecers and without putting our social cohesion and economic well-being at risk. Above all, as a hallmark of our Liberal values, we will respect and protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Quebecers.
Caryl Green, Liberal candidate for Gatineau, et al