“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.”
Quebec’s Bill 96, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec would add the following paragraph to the preamble of the Charter of the French Language:
“Whereas, in accordance with parliamentary sovereignty, it is incumbent on the Parliament of Québec to confirm the status of French as the official language and the common language and to enshrine the paramountcy of that status in Québec’s legal order, while ensuring a balance between the collective rights of the Québec nation and human rights and freedoms.”
In addition, the following was included in the preamble to Bill 21, An Act respecting the laicity of the State:
“AS, in accordance with the principle of parliamentary sovereignty, it is incumbent on the Parliament of Québec to determine the principles according to which and manner in which relations between the State and religions are to be governed in Québec.”
Parliamentary supremacy – although it’s referred to as sovereignty in both the preambles above – represents a core element of United Kingdom constitutional law. This is a principle to provide the legislative branch of government, Parliament, with the ultimate legal authority to create (or repeal) any law. In theory, British courts cannot overturn or change laws passed by Parliament. This is because the power to make laws is vested with the elected House of Commons, with the House of Lords reviewing legislation. British courts doled out the monarch’s (the executive branch of government) justice. In a nutshell, if the courts could overturn laws passed by the legislative branch, the monarch would be able to make an end-run and be empowered to thwart the will of the House of Commons. This system was carefully built on a series of compromises following the English civil wars of the 17th Century…
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.
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.
QCGN President Marlene Jennings delivers her opening remarks to kick off the first of the QCGN’s four days of Public Hearings on Bill 96, An Act respecting the French language, the official and common language of Quebec.
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.”
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.
Join us on Sept. 2 at noon for a webinar on Bill 96. Learn about the impacts of Bill 96 and have your questions answered!
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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.”
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