“He made me feel like a second-class citizen.” West Island resident Susan Starkey speaks about her phone call with a RAMQ employee who, despite being bilingual, hung up on her after she asked to communicate in English. QCGN Director General Sylvia Martin-Laforge says that the passage of Bill 96 will lead to such egregious incidents.
“[François Legault] promised that health care services wouldn’t be impacted by Bill 96.” MNAs Gregory Kelley and Madwa-Nika Cadet voice their indignation over a 75-year-old West-Island woman being hung up on by the RAMQ due to her lack of knowledge of French. The QCGN voiced its discontent of the RAMQ’s conduct on Twitter.
The Townshippers’ Association will meet with elected officials to express its concerns about Bill 96, rather than organize protests about the language legislation, says Townshipppers’ President Don Warholtz. The approach taken by groups like the QCGN and the Task Force on Linguistic Policy “is a little bit different than us,” he adds.
Under Bill 96, the family of a man who passed away 14 years ago is required to pay $100 for the death certificate to be officially translated into French. “There are so many elements in Bill 96 that are so invasive, so ridiculous, so unnecessary that we knew as time went on and things started being implemented that we would see the absurdity,” says QCGN President Eva Ludvig.
Pontiac Journal editorial writer Fred Ryan asks, “Does C-13 actually modify Canada’s constitution — without going through the constitutional process of national consent?” He continues, “If the QCGN interpretation is accurate, then it seems, to a layman, that the federal Liberal government has allowed a serious end-run around constitutional guarantees by strengthening Quebec’s Bill 96.”
Pontiac MP Sophie Chatal has been a vocal opponent of the pre-emptive use of the notwithstanding clause, yet supported Bill C-13, which makes references to Quebec’s Charter of the French Language. Though Chatal suggests that the new federal law will protect English services in Quebec, the Quebec Community Groups Network has argued that C-13 allows the Quebec government to “restrict rights guaranteed by the Canadian constitution.”
Including the references to Quebec’s Charter of the French Language within Bill C-13 “does not provide any additional protections to the French language in the federal law,” Senator Tony Loffreda told his fellow senators before the bill was passed. He pointed out that “Marion Sandilands, a lawyer and member of the Quebec Community Groups Network explained that to see the Charter of French Language referenced in the federal Official Languages Act, whose purpose before Bill C-13 was to protect and uphold minority language rights, is a contradiction.”
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.