“If this bill goes through, he is implicated in the number of deaths that rise, because he is forewarned.”
Christopher Neal and Julie Barlow, a board member and president of the Quebec Writers’ Federation explain that they feel the need to speak out against Bill 96, even as allies of the French language: “While it claims to protect and promote French, [it] would do so at the expense of truth, rigour and respect for democratic values vital to writers of all languages.”
French speakers must stand up against the violation of civil rights that would occur if Bill 96 becomes law, says longtime politician Robert Libman.
Libman, who started the Equality Party in 1989 in response to anger among the English-speaking community to language laws enacted by Robert Bourassa, spoke during hearings being held by the Quebec Community Groups Network. He said he is alarmed that no one in the majority community appears to be speaking out against the proposed law, which does little to improve French and only restricts the rights of English speakers.
The QCGN is set to host its own public hearings on the Legault government’s controversial Bill 96 this week, with testimony from lawyers, academics, former legislators and members of the Indigenous community.
The opening day on Thursday, from 10 a.m to 1 p.m., will hear from QCGN President Marlene Jennings, as well as former MNA and former MP Clifford Lincoln, and Anna Farrow of the English Speaking Catholic Council.
Virtual hearings will continue from Sept. 13-15 and will include other presenters, including human rights lawyer Julius Grey, family lawyer Anne-France Goldwater, the Dean of the McGill University Faculty of Law Robert Leckey, the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal and the Canadian Council of Muslim Women.
The QCGN has been vehemently opposed to the new bill and said its hearings are being held “to send a clear message to the government that Bill 96 requires considerable revisions, and more thought needs to be given to safeguarding the fundamental rights of all Quebecers.”
The Quebec Community Groups Network is warning of a new threat to health and social services in English in the province.
Over the summer, the government quietly announced its intent to restructure the provincial access committee that for decades has been instrumental in monitoring where, when and how services are delivered to English-speakers across the province.
QCGN President Marlene Jennings talks about the QCGN’s plans to is hold its own hearings on Quebec’s Bill 96 in order to gather the opinions of English-speaking Quebecers and organizations who were unable to get an invitation by the parliamentary commission to the hearings at the National Assembly.
The Quebec Community Groups Network is holding a public consultation for groups and individuals in the second week of September on Bill 96, prior to the Quebec government’s own hearings on the proposed expansion of the province’s language law, which begin Sept. 21.
“Despite the far-reaching impact of the Bill, the government has invited only 50 individuals and groups to present… [and] many individuals and organizations who would not only have liked to appear at the public hearings but also have something to say have not been invited,” says a public consultation invitation from QCGN president Marlene Jennings. “Participation from Quebec’s English-speaking community is currently limited to the Townshippers’ Association, the Consortium of English-language CEGEPs, Colleges and Universities of Quebec and the QCGN.”
The notice says “more voices need to be heard,” thus the reason for the QCGN public consultation.
The Legault government this week decided to go ahead with the English school board elections after postponing them several times.
The elections will be held Sept. 26.
Reaction was swift, with the boards expressing disappointment the vote is not being held at the same time as the municipal elections across Quebec, which are set for Nov. 7.
With the anticipated federal election and the municipal vote, the decision means some voters will likely have to go to the polls three times in the span of a few weeks, Quebec English School Boards Association vice-president Noel Burke said in a statement.
QCGN President Marlene Jennings said in a tweet that the government is not making it easy to improve voter turnout by holding the school board vote close to other elections.
Prior to the federal government tabling Bill C-32, an Act for the Substantive Equality of French and English and the Strengthening of the Official Languages Act, the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages studied the original proposed reform document.
Although they were unable to meet in the senate, the committee managed to hold two meetings to study the divisive document, working with federal minister responsible for official languages, Mélanie Joly, and the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN).
And while the QCGN acknowledged the importance of protecting French language minority communities in Canada, they also voiced concerns about the effects the reform document would have on the English language minority population in Quebec.
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