Bilingual mayors call Bill 14 ‘disrespectful’ on first day of hearings
Published Tuesday, March 12, 2013 6:49PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 12, 2013 7:01PM EDT
MONTREAL—After months of heated debate among politicians, it's now the public's turn to be heard on the Parti Quebecois’ language law update: Bill 14.
Hearings got underway Tuesday at the National Assembly with some mayors testifying that a measure in Bill 14 on the bilingual status of cities is not only unnecessary, it's disrespectful.
The problem according to the mayor is how you look at the numbers. Did you know the city of Cote-St-Luc is not majority Anglophone? According to the government it isn’t.
Because only a little less than half of the residents consider English their mother tongue, under Bill 14 that means Cote-St-Luc would lose its bilingual status.
But Cote-St-Luc's mayor says there's a big difference between a person's mother tongue and what language they actually use every day. In his city, he says 80 per cent of residents live in English.
“It would be saying to the vast majority, ‘You can no longer get services in your own language.’ It doesn't make any sense at all,” said Cote-St-Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather.
His city's bilingual status helps it contribute to making Quebec French, Housefather says, and also allows it to communicate with citizens effectively.
“It means equal respect, equal treatment for both languages,” Housefather continued.
According to Housefather, 70 of Quebec’s 89 bilingual towns have passed resolutions in favour of keeping their status. Town of Mount Royal Mayor Philippe Roy says even though Francophones are the majority in his city, staying bilingual is a nod to history.
“In TMR, the English community are the builders, they are the founders of our town,” said Roy.
The government went on the defensive early in the hearings. Language Minister Diane de Courcy said it was deplorable to compare Bill 14's measures to add investigative powers and the ability to seize evidence to political police in other countries.
She added that the PQ is open to softening the bill. The Liberals have already said they want none of the bill.
“We have the language peace right now. This is a mean and ill-spirited bill. A mean bill,” said leading Liberal MNA Lawrence Bergman.
At the hearings, the second opposition Coalition Avenir Quebec sounded pleased that it could force the government to make major changes to Bill 14.
“I'm positive and I’ve known Diane de Courcy since a long time. I think she's an open-minded person,” said CAQ party leader Francois Legault.
With the hearings underway, it’s time for behind-the-scene negotiations. However, the PQ and the CAQ says they're also interested in what people will say at the hearings.