Editorial: Bill 96 is draconian and nefarious


The hearings of the National Assembly committee on the bill, now two-thirds, were anything but reassuring.

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There is so much trouble with Bill 96, the proposed changes to Quebec’s language laws, that it is difficult to know where to start.


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If the stated intention – to protect French – is legitimate and laudatory, the draconian measures of the bill will have far-reaching negative impacts, not only for English-speaking Quebecers, but for the entire province. The hearings of the National Assembly committee on the bill, now two-thirds, were anything but reassuring.

Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette’s refrain that the bill does not reduce the rights of the English community is hard to take at face value. It appears to be based on a restrictive definition of who qualifies as a member of the English-speaking community: in essence, only those who are eligible for instruction in English under Bill 101 will be eligible to receive government services and communications. in English (plus immigrants within six months of arrival). This definition makes little sense. It excludes many people who would consider themselves to be members of the English-speaking community, while including some people who would consider themselves Francophone. How this will work in practice is a mystery.


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Even if Jolin-Barrette was absolutely right, the assertion is a cold consolation, given the provisions which violate the rights of all Quebecers, such as the granting of the power to carry out searches without a warrant when violations of the laws linguistic are suspected.

The bill’s definition of rights holders and research provisions were two of many concerns raised by the Quebec Community Groups Network during National Assembly hearings on Tuesday. The QGCN also sounded the alarm about the invocation by the bill of clauses notwithstanding the Canadian and Quebec charters of rights to prevent legal challenges, as well as the creation of obstacles to access to the courts in English. Other aspects criticized by the QCGN – and by the Conseil du patronat the next day – include the increased regulatory burden for companies with 25 to 49 employees and the hindrance to Quebec’s ability to attract the best talent from the world. ‘foreigner.


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The QCGN calls for Bill 96 to be withdrawn. Of course, this is wishful thinking, given not only this government’s own orientations, but also pressure from those who think that the bill should go further. As a second option, the QCGN rightly calls for an overhaul, as well as a reference to the Quebec Court of Appeal on the constitutionality of the bill and the interpretation of the constitutional amendment it proposes.

The QCGN is also right to ask that in matters of health, it should be specified in the bill that its restrictions on eligibility in English will not apply.

It has become an article of faith that French is in decline in Quebec and that Bill 96 is needed to respond to it. But it all depends on the markers used to measure the decline. It was disconcerting to see Jolin-Barrette pointedly asking QCGN President Marlene Jennings and Russell Copeman of the Association des Boards Anglophones du Quebec, who appeared separately, to acknowledge that French is in decline. As seasoned politicians, Jennings and Copeman both spotted the landmine and deftly avoided it. What was Jolin-Barrette trying to accomplish?

Both anglophone and francophone Quebecers have legitimate linguistic concerns. But that does not mean that new legislation is necessary, let alone something as draconian as Law 96. Jolin-Barrette made a welcome statement on Tuesday including the English-speaking Quebecers of the Quebec nation, but his bill send a different message.

  1. Montreal West Mayor Beny Masella in March 2021.

    Bill 96: Suburban mayors want permanent bilingual status for municipalities

  2. Bill 96: English Quebecers lose out in the language bill, according to the QCGN



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