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Quebec Community Groups Network Preliminary Analysis of Bill 96, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Quebec

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.

Quebec’s new language bill creates ‘charter-free zone,’ English rights group warns

The Quebec Community Groups Network says Bill 96 is wide-ranging, complex and represents a significant overhaul of Quebec’s legal order.

QCGN head Marlene Jennings told reporters today the bill seeks to modify 24 provincial statutes as well as the Constitution Act of 1867.

Jennings says the government’s pre-emptive use of the notwithstanding clause to shield the bill from certain constitutional challenges creates a “charter-free zone” involving a wide array of interactions between citizens and the province.

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Use of Notwithstanding Clause Would Run Roughshod Over Rights of English-speaking Quebecers

MONTREAL, April 22, 2021 – The Quebec Community Groups Network is alarmed that Premier François Legault foreshadowed that the Quebec government may invoke the notwithstanding clause to limit the linguistic rights of English-speaking Quebecers.

“The QCGN was already concerned about what the government will propose to enforce and reinforce the Charter of the French Language (Bill 101) and his comment does nothing to alleviate our apprehensions,” comments QCGN President Marlene Jennings: “The QCGN is and has always been opposed to the use of the notwithstanding clause to override the rights of all Quebecers.”

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WHAT EXACTLY IS THE NOTWITHSTANDING CLAUSE, AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?

Canada’s Constitution includes an ‘entrenched’ bill of rights; the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Our Charter comprises 34 sections of the Constitution Act, 1982. Thus, it enshrines our fundamental freedoms and rights. These include our democratic, mobility, legal, equality, and official language rights.

With Confederation, the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty (or supremacy) in the Westminster tradition of government was adopted by Canada and the provinces. In its purest form, a legislature can enactor repeal any law it chooses. From the beginning, this doctrine has been limited by Canada’s federal framework, which allocates legislative powers between the national government and the provinces.

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