Quebec’s political theatre continues its three week-run at the National Assembly on Grande-Allée, which aptly can be translated as “Broadway.” The public hearings into the government’s language legislation, Bill 96, heard from the Quebec Community Groups Network on Tuesday, one of just a handful of organizations representing the English-speaking community.
The QCGN is also right to ask that, concerning health care, it should be made explicit in the bill that its English eligibility restrictions will not apply.
It has become an article of faith that French is in decline in Quebec and that Bill 96 is needed in response. But much depends on what markers are used to measure decline. It was disconcerting to see Jolin-Barrette pointedly ask both QCGN president Marlene Jennings and Russell Copeman of the Quebec English School Boards Association, who appeared separately, for acknowledgements that French is in decline. As experienced politicians, Jennings and Copeman both spotted the landmine, and deftly sidestepped. What was Jolin-Barrette trying to achieve?
The Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) tabled a brief on Tuesday afternoon at the National Assembly’s special hearings on Bill 96, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec.
One of four groups representing English speakers invited to the hearings, President Marlene Jennings presented QCGN’s position, saying the bill should be withdrawn in its entirety, and highlighted major concerns about proposed amendments to the constitution and the preemptive use of the notwithstanding clause.
On Tuesday, September 28, QCGN President Marlene Jennings, QCGN legal counsel Marion Sandilands, former Minister Clifford Lincoln, and human rights lawyer Pearl Eliadis appeared before the Committee on Culture and Education to present their brief on Bill 96, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Quebec.
Marlene Jennings, president of the Quebec Community Groups Network, says she walked away from a presentation of her group’s views on Bill 96 overhauling the Charter of the French Language dissatisfied.
She doesn’t like the way the Coalition Avenir Québec government is trying to redefine who is a Quebec anglophone and thus eligible for English services and she has yet to hear an explanation on why Quebec is again making the pre-emptive use of the Constitution’s override clause to suspend fundamental rights.
By Marlene Jennings, president, Quebec Community Groups Network
Sept. 21 marked the start of hearings of the National Assembly committee on culture and education on Bill 96, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec. This represents a critical part of our democratic process, even though regrettably only a very limited number of Quebecers have been asked to share their views on what is the greatest overhaul to Quebec’s legal order since the Quiet Revolution.
Bill 96, officially titled An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec, is now working its way through the legislative process, destined for passage and assent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, likely before the end of the year. Whether the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government accepts some or any of the many changes various groups suggest remains to be seen.
Advocates for access to English-language health and social services are concerned by planned regulatory changes that will affect the structure of the provincial access committee (PAC), the review body which oversees programs developed by regional health authorities to ensure access to English-language health services.
The Quebec Community Groups Network is urging the Quebec Government to withdraw Bill 96 and take the time needed to build a consensus on how to best promote French as Quebec’s common language. Appearing before the National Assembly’s Committee on Culture and Education Tuesday, the QCGN also raised significant concerns about the proposed unilateral amendment to the constitution, the pre-emptive use of the notwithstanding clause, and the definition of Quebec’s English-speaking community.