Following months of repeated assurances to the contrary, Quebec Premier François Legault this morning confirmed that under Bill 96, he intends to restrict access to Quebec government services in English to members of the English-speaking community eligible to receive English education under Bill 101.
Quebec Premier François Legault’s use and definition of the term “historic English-speaking community” is cause for concern, according to some in the province’s anglophone community.
“The reaction that I’m hearing from English-speaking Quebecers is that it was a self-serving few seconds,” said QCGN director general Sylvia Martin-Laforge, “speaking to us and telling us we were the best treated minority in Canada.”
Premier François Legault has defined the historic English-speaking community as people who are eligible for English schooling in Quebec.
The QCGN says the definition would mean between 300,000 and 500,000 English-speaking Quebecers would be dropped from the list of those entitled to services.
The QCGN also challenged Legault’s statement that anglophones are the best treated minority in Canada, noting that many of the institutions that provide services in English were built and supported by generations of anglophones.
Premier François Legault said Tuesday that despite his rocky relationship with Quebec’s English-speaking community, it is nevertheless the best served minority in Canada and he is proud of that.
Legault’s use of the term “historic English-speaking community” will raise some hackles. The English community has complained such language potentially narrows the list of people eligible for services in English.
Bill 96 proposes basing access to services on the English school eligibility formula. The Quebec Community Groups Network, an anglophone umbrella group, says that would mean between 300,000 and 500,000 English-speaking Quebecers would be dropped.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault came under fire this week for claiming “no minority in Canada is better served than English-speaking Quebecers” during his Tuesday inaugural speech.
The premier made the comment after listing off institutions servicing the English-speaking community, from Dawson College to the MUHC.
“English-speaking Quebecers worked hard to give ourselves those institutions,” said Quebec Community Groups Network general director Sylvia Martin-Laforge.
“We built them, we paid for them, and they’re now part of Quebec,” she said.
With Quebec now officially into an election year, Premier François Legault is set to deliver a new inaugural message Tuesday to the National Assembly, which he hopes will signal a fresh start for his government.
Launching a fresh session is useful for Legault. Any bills remaining on the order paper in the previous session automatically die, allowing him to cherry-pick the ones he wants to bring back and adopt. That will certainly include Bill 96, overhauling the Charter of the French Language .
On Monday, the Quebec Community Groups Network again urged the government to withdraw the bill and start over.
Since winning power in 2018, Premier François Legault has become a much savvier leader, dialling down his divisive rhetoric from a few years back.
But that doesn’t mean he’s changed his stripes.
Now that he’s in charge, Legault is pretty much doing all the things he threatened to do when he was a raging populist, he’s just presenting it in a much more statesmanlike manner.
Quebec anglophones were bracing for the worst when Quebec Premier François Legault tabled his long-awaited bill to beef up protection for the French language last month.
But don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.
As Quebec anglophones know after 45 years of language wars: the devil is often in the details. And after an exhaustive analysis of Bill 96, the Quebec Community Groups Network has detected some potentially explosive landmines buried within the draft law that could have profound implications — not only for English-speaking Quebecers, but for other minority groups, fundamental rights and freedoms, and the very bedrock of Canadian democracy.
“Bill 96 also calls for the most sweeping use of human rights overrides in the history of Quebec and Canada, ousting the application of both the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” says QCGN President Marlene Jennings.
Despite concerns by anglophone interest groups over the possible infringement of freedoms and rights, Sainte-Rose MNA Christopher Skeete, Premier François Legault’s liaison to Quebec’s English-speaking community, is defending Bill 96, the CAQ government’s proposed new law updating the Charter of the French Language (Bill 101).
“The Quebec Community Groups Network deeply regrets that proposed changes to the Charter of the French Language override fundamental human rights and will erode the vitality of our English-speaking minority community,” the Montreal-based group said in a statement.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault’s claim that his province can unilaterally change Canada’s constitution to recognize Quebec as a nation and French as its only official and common language has suddenly become a lot more serious.
That’s because the support of the Canadian government would be needed to approve it and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appears to already be on side.
But Marlene Jennings, leader of the Quebec Community Groups Network, a coalition of Anglophone organizations, says Bill 96 sets a dangerous precedent.