Bill C-13 is set to become law after senators voted in favour of the legislation on Thursday. During the June 5 testimony to the Senate committee studying the bill, lawyer Marion Sandilands, representing the Quebec Community Groups Network, argued that the inclusion of references to Quebec’s Bill 101 within the federal C-13 “impacts the interpretation” of the entire bill.
“There’s a sense, not unjustified, that the federal government is more interested in getting along with the Quebec government than protecting us,” Joan Fraser tells the CBC. The English-speaking community has been left on edge, adds the former senator and editor-in-chief of the Montreal Gazette, now a board member of the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN): “We have been accustomed for a while to the notion that the Quebec government’s policies tend not to be very helpful to us, but that the federal government gave us equal standing in law.”
Montreal, June 15, 2023 – The Quebec Community Groups Network is profoundly disappointed that Bill C-13, the overhaul of the Official Languages Act, is now headed for Royal Assent while still containing references to Quebec’s Charter of the French Language.
Meanwhile the QCGN applauds Quebec Senators Tony Loffreda and Judith Seidman who stood firm against references to Quebec’s Charter of the French language in the Bill and both voted against C13 at third reading. Sen. Loffreda moved a motion that would have removed these references from C-13 in the Official Languages Act, noting that English-speaking Quebecers fear this inclusion would jeopardize their rights. Sen. Seidman provided spirited support for the amendment, which was sadly defeated.
The Senate passed Bill C-13 last night with a vote of 60 to five. QCGN President Eva Ludvig expressed disappointment with the result, as C-13 still includes references to Quebec’s Charter of the French Language.
“Once in each generation, it seems, Quebec’s English-speaking community faces a period of intense stress and strain over language,” writes QCGN President Eva Ludvig in an op-ed for the Montreal Gazette. She lays out the challenges that lie ahead for Quebec’s English-speaking community, which include Bills 23, 15, 40, C-13, “[a]nd of course, the continued grinding implementation of Bill 96.”
As Bill C-13, modernizing the Official Languages Act, undergoes its third reading in the Senate, English-speaking Quebecers fear that their concerns have gone unheard. For them, the federal government is playing by the Quebec government’s rules. “Until now, we’ve always hoped that the federal government would be our protector, supporting us as a minority language community, and we feel betrayed,” QCGN President Eva Ludvig told Francopresse.
Bill C-13 saw no changes by the Senate, which completed its study of the proposed language legislation yesterday evening. The Quebec Community Groups Network had requested that Senators work to remove all mention of the Charter of the French Language from Bill C-13.
The Senate’s official languages committee hears from individuals and groups – including the Quebec Community Groups Network – concerned with how the inclusion of the Charter of the French Language within Bill C-13 would impact the rights of Quebec’s English-speaking minority.
Joe Ortona, chair of the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) writes to each member of the Senate urging the upper chamber to fulfill its role “as the Chamber of sober second thought” and propose amendments to Bill C-13 “to ensure the rights of minority-language communities in this country are not mutually exclusive.” Ortona’s appeal cites a Quebec Community Groups Network open letter – signed by more than 3,000 Quebecers – that says C-13 forsakes half a century of official language policy based on the principle that both official languages and official language minority communities have equal rights under law.
Anthony Housefather, Liberal MP from the Mount Royal riding and lone parliamentarian to vote against Bill C-13, tells the Sherbrooke Record he “did exactly what I am supposed to do” by voicing his opposition to the inclusion of Bill 96 references. Advocacy groups including the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) have repeatedly raised concerns that the Bill 96 references in the new federal Official Languages Act. will erode the rights of Quebec’s English-language minority, the story notes.