As Canadians head to the polls Monday, English-speaking Quebecers are confronted with an unprecedented set of proposed violations of our fundamental rights and freedoms. Unfortunately, few candidates and none of the main political parties have pledged to defend our community from these recent attacks – or to safeguard Canada’s linguistic duality.
When it adopted the Charter of the French Language more than 40 years ago, the Quebec National Assembly embraced an enduring and essential commitment: to pursue the Charter’s objectives “in a spirit of fairness and open-mindedness, respectful of the institutions of the English-speaking community of Quebec, and respectful of the ethnic minorities, whose valuable contribution to the development of Quebec it readily acknowledges.”
Bill 96 fails to live up to this commitment. This proposed legislation represents a serious danger to the linguistic peace that Quebecers have worked so hard to achieve over the last half-century.
The Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) is inviting a wide cross-section of Quebecers to express their concerns and present recommendations on Bill 96, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec, which aims to enforce and reinforce the Charter of the French Language (Bill 101).
The National Assembly’s special consultations and public hearings on Bill 96 will be held for nine days between Sept. 21 and Oct. 7. The Committee on Culture and Education is scheduled to hear from 51 groups and individuals – but only a handful of these, including the QCGN, represent Quebec’s English-speaking community.
“It is critical that voices of Quebecers are heard,” says QCGN President Marlene Jennings. “For that reason, the QCGN has decided to conduct a parallel consultation to measure the pulse of the community and to convey a strong and clear message to the government.”
MONTREAL, August 16, 2021 – With Canadians scheduled to go to the polls September 20, the Quebec Community Groups Network calls on all federal parties and candidates to commit to support the language rights of English-speaking Quebecers.
“We are opposed to the Government of Quebec’s pre-emptive use of the notwithstanding clause to suspend the fundamental freedoms, legal, and equality rights of its citizens under Bill 96, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec,” commented QCGN President Marlene Jennings. “The Government of Quebec is proposing to create what we are calling a Charter-free zone that would make the National Assembly – not the courts – the arbiter of the balance between collective and individual rights and freedoms.”
The Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) is deeply disappointed that the Government of Quebec is severely limiting participation in public hearings on Bill 96 and that it did not issue a wider invitation to Quebecers. Instead, government officials pre-selected participants with a strong bias in favour of the legislation.
The Committee on Culture and Education announced yesterday that it is holding public consultations on Bill 96. It plans to hear from 50 groups and individuals between September 28 and October 7. There are only three groups representing Quebec’s English-speaking community, including the QCGN.
The members of the elected Board of Directors of the Regional Association of West Quebecers (RAWQ) issue the following statement on the official languages of Québec and Canada.
Canada is a country constituted of ten provinces and three territories. We support an Official Languages Act of Canada that recognizes two official languages, English and French, in all provinces and territories of Canada. We support an Official Languages Act of Canada in which the federal government of Canada is the protector of the two official languages in all ten provinces and three territories. We continue to support the principle of symmetrical federalism from sea to sea to sea.
However, we have great difficulty in observing a provincial government with a substantial majority of seats in the National Assembly of Québec continuing to resort to the undemocratic tactic of closure (le bâillon) to silence debate from the Official Opposition and the two other opposition parties.
While English-speaking Quebecers express a greater sense of attachment to Canada and French-speaking Quebecers say they are more attached to Quebec, both possess similar levels of attachment to their respective language communities and to their cities, towns, or regions.
Results from a survey conducted by Léger Marketing for the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) and the Association for Canadian Studies (ACS) in May reveal that attachment to one’s language community is equally important to Quebec’s English and French speakers. Beyond that, differences persist in the degree to which French and English speakers feel attached to Quebec and to Canada.
Results from a survey done by Léger Marketing for the Quebec Community Groups Network and the Association for Canadian Studies reveal that attachment to one’s language community is equally important to Quebec’s English and French speakers.
Beyond that, differences persist in the degree to which French and English speakers are attached to Quebec relative to Canada.
The Quebec Community Groups Network recognizes the federal bill tabled this morning in the House of Commons to amend the Official Languages Act for what it is – a clear attack on the equality of Canada’s official languages.
Traditionally, the Official Languages Act has given life to constitutional official language rights. These rights define much of the relationship between Canadians and our federal government. The Act has been grounded on the principle that English and French are equal in law.
Bill 96 is a wide-ranging and complex piece of legislation. It represents a significant overhaul of Quebec’s legal system. It amends the Charter of the French Language (“CFL”), 24 other provincial statutes, one regulation, and the Constitution Act, 1867.
Click here to access the QCGN’s analysis of Bill 96.
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