Bill 96, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec is an unprecedented attempt to override the fundamental freedoms, equality, and legal rights of Quebecers. These foundational rights are safeguarded by international legal instruments like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
Bill 96 will strip Quebecers of these rights in the application of the Charter of the French Language. The Bill will also hurt businesses; limit access to public services, education, and employment; constrain expression in a variety of ways; and damage the impartial operation of our legal system.
Every Quebecer should understand the consequences. Every Quebecer should be gravely concerned.
Is this the Quebec society we want?
AN ATTACK ON YOUR INDIVIDUAL AND OUR COLLECTIVE RIGHTS
DEFINING WHO IS AN ENGLISH-SPEAKING QUEBECER
Under Bill 96, government agencies would only be permitted to communicate in English with individuals who are eligible to attend the English school system. However, this eligibility bares no relationship to an individual’s mother-tongue of preferred language.
IMPOSING FINES ON YOU FOR SPEAKING THE LANGUAGE OF YOUR CHOICE AT WORK
Imagine you are at work. You speak to a colleague in English, Italian, Spanish, or any language other than French. If Bill 96 passes, you could be fined. In addition, your company’s licence to operate could be revoked if there are frequent violations.
LIMITING YOUR EDUCATIONAL OPTIONS
Bill 96 caps how many French-speaking students can attend an English-language CEGEP. If you are French-speaking and want to attend an English CEGEP, you could be excluded.
EMPOWERING THE GOVERNMENT TO SEIZE YOUR CELL PHONE AND COMPUTER
Your work phone and computer would no longer be private. Bill 96 would give the provincial government the power, without a warrant, to seize your work phone and other equipment to verify that you are communicating properly in French. This would open the door for government language bureaucrats to intrude on our personal communications.
REDUCING YOUR ABILITY TO RECEIVE SERVICES IN ENGLISH
Bill 96 would give majority French-speaking municipalities the power to refuse to communicate with you in English, or to provide such services as tax bills and water-boil advisories in English. The hard-won linguistic peace that we enjoy as Quebecers will be shattered by Bill 96.
ADDING COMPLEXITY AND COSTS TO THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM
Non-French speaking Quebecers would be obliged to attach certified French translations to legal proceedings. This would increase costs, add to delays, and make Quebec’s justice system less accessible for non-French speaking Quebecers.
OVERIDING OUR HUMAN RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS
Because of the pre-emptive use of the notwithstanding clause, Quebec citizens will not have recourse to the courts to enjoy their individual freedoms, and legal rights. Citizens will be powerless in defending themselves against the power of the state in the application of Bill 96.
HINDERING THE ABILITY OF BUSINESSES TO OPERATE
If Bill 96 becomes law, the Office de la langue française would publish a list of businesses that are not considered compliant with the law. Then the government would refuse to do business with them or provide them with public grants or subsidies.
PLACING PARLIAMENTARY SOVEREIGNTY OVER HUMAN RIGHTS
Bill 96 would place the Charter of the French Language at the top of Quebec’s legal order, giving it primacy over all other provincial statutes. It vacates the individual freedoms and legal rights of Quebecers. It removes legal constraints placed on the power of the legislature to ensure democratic governance. If passed into law, Bill 96 will give the National Assembly the power to legislate in any way it sees fit regarding the French language and the Quebec nation.
ELIMINATING THE ROLE OF THE JUDICIARY IN LINGUISTIC RIGHTS
Under Bill 96, the National Assembly – not the courts – would become the sole arbiter of the balance between collective and individual rights and freedoms. The role of the judiciary in interpreting the law and protecting the individual freedoms and legal rights of Quebecers would be removed.
IT’S BIG AND IT’S COMPLICATED
Make no mistake. The complexity of Bill 96 is by design. This controversial legislation amends the Charter of the French Language, 24 other provincial statutes, one regulation, and the Constitution Act, 1867.
The government, it appears, is hoping that Quebecers are not paying attention to the details.
But the QCGN certainly is. We have researched and produced a preliminary analysis of the impact of Bill 96 on both the English-speaking community and all Quebecers. To learn more, consult our comprehensive Language Rights page.
In addition, QCGN has presented a series of webinars explaining the language rights of English-speaking Quebecers. View them on our YouTube channel.