Conservative leader says French-language law makes Quebec a 'laughingstock'
Conservative Party of Quebec leader Eric Duhaime may not have had a chance to voice his opposition to the CAQ government's update to the Charter of the French Language (Bill 96) in the national assembly, but he is speakly loudly about it now.
...and he's not impressed.
"It's just so offensive," Duhaime told CJAD 800 Radio's Aaron Rand and Natasha Hall.
Below is an edited copy of the interview.
LISTEN to the entire interview here:
"We did a story last week, covered this, heard from a lot of people [who were] very angry, very upset, embarrassed, humiliated, call whatever you will because now that new provision in Bill 96, which went into effect June 1, forces you to ,for all intents and purposes, prove you're an Anglo or you're qualified to get services in English from the government.
Typically when we have reactions like this, it's Anglo on one side, Franco and another side and you're about to tell me that you think, even on the Francophone side, there's an embarrassment over this?
Obviously, because what does it tell you? It says that if you're a Francophone, you don't have access to English school, you're not an Aboriginal, you're not an immigrant, or you're not someone who's calling from abroad, then you have less (sic) rights and less services.
And it's not just true for people calling; it's even true for websites.
Wherever did you see a website that says if you're not a true Anglophone, you can't read this message, and you can't read this website, go on the French version? It's never seen. It's something unique, to say the least, and I think that even as Francophones, we need to be worried because our rights should be all the same. Our rights ARE rights.
You cannot say that we have less rights because we're Francophone, we can't go on a website that is English.
And no matter what the reasons are, it's not the government's business to know why I'm surfing on a website that is English or French. It's my personal decision between me and my computer.
It's just so offensive.
I understand why we're there. We're there because Francois Legault is trying to show that he's the saviour of French in the Quebec nation, and he wants to show that he's tough on Anglos and on immigrants; that's been the way he's done politics forever, especially in the last election campaign, but is that going to save French and Quebec?
Is French today safer because we have silly messages like that? The answer is obviously no!
And yet, we have heard from some Francophones and they believe it actually doesn't go far enough that it doesn't do enough to protect them. What do you say to that?
Well bring me examples of things that would protect truly French, but this is obviously not. It's just poking the English community.
And what's going to happen to cities who are not respecting those rules? That's the other question we have today. Cities like Cote-St-Luc, who is smart enough not to have that kind of message. Are they going to get a ticket, or they're going to seize their website?
The same message also says, and I think Jean-Francois Roberge sort of highlighted this during the week, it says if you attest in good faith. In other words, no one's asking you for proof. We're on the honour system here. If you say you're eligible for services in English, the government will accept the fact that you're eligible for it. So what's the point of having it at all?
Exactly. So everybody can say whatever they want, so why are they doing it then? Or is it the first step, and then are they going to come out with a card? Are we going to split them divide Quebeckers?
Anglophones who are still in Quebec after all those years, are Anglophones who understand and want to participate. In every way, form or shape, the English community has helped the French community over the last few decades, and the attitude has changed.
People are much more bilingual than ever. Their kids go much more to French immersion programs. They marry more Francophones. They're part of a distinct society, and they choose to stay in Quebec because they want to be part of that uniqueness. So can we stop bugging them with stupid questions like that and insulting everyone?
Does this make us a laughingstock?
Think of somebody who's outside of Quebec listening to that kind of message. They probably think it's unreal.
At first, even me, when I read it in La Presse last week, I thought it was a joke. I had to go back to the bill and make sure that that was true, and to make phone calls, and go even on the website, to check with my own eyes because I thought it was a joke.
So just before going on air, we discussed the fact that there should be more outrage about it, and you were like, "I'm surprised that the people aren't just losing it over this."
And I was saying to you, I feel like we've just reached a point as a community where we just were in a total state of disbelief, but we've also been worn down. We've also been incredibly worn down.
The English community in Montreal chose to vote for the Liberals. Obviously, that's their last stronghold, and that's why even if they had the same amount of votes that we did, they have 20 MNAs right now at the national assembly because their votes were concentrated in the West End Of Montreal.
Where are those 20 people today?
They should be outraged. They should be on their desks at the national assembly right now screaming.
Where are they? How come they're not coming out and fighting for your rights?
Because they don't need to. They don't need us to win.
They take you for granted.
Yes, you're right. It's a bit disappointing, perhaps as an Anglo that up until now, we haven't heard a whole lot from the provincial Liberals. Then again, we haven't heard a whole lot, I don't think, from Quebec Solidaire or the Parti Quebecois either.
Why is that surprising? The separatist parties are not going to start screaming out loud, but the Liberals should.
I'm just telling the English community in Quebec, and I'm not telling you to vote Conservative, but you guys need to politically put your act together because the people that you elected are not fighting for your rights, and today we're talking about something that is fundamental. It's your basic rights: the right to go on a website or to make a phone call, to have a government service.
I mean, how low are we going to go?
And you're not getting flack from your Francophone circles for sticking up for Anglophones in this kind of way?
Probably, but I mean, at what point? You're in politics, why? Because you want to make a difference and there's values that you truly believe in and you cannot negotiate such things and you cannot defend something that at its eyes should be undefendable.
Yes, there are going to be nationalists who are going to scream, and say that you're fighting for Anglos. I'm not even doing it for the English community. I'm doing it even for the French community, who's insulted when they go on their website, and they can't have access.
It's a matter of rights. It's not a matter of linguistic issues, actually.
So you know, you're aware if you were to go on that website and your name is last name is Duhaime, you wouldn't be able to get service in English.
And how are they going to monitor that? I mean, I got a father today who called me and said, 'Look, I was born in an English family. My parents were pro-French. They sent me to French school [and] I lost my historic rights. I married an English woman. Now we have rights. Our kids have their right to go back to English school, so my kids can have access to the website in English, but I can't.'
How are they going to monitor all of that?
So what comes of this? You have a party, unfortunately, in the case of the CAQ that has a majority there. They can vote any way they want. We can sit here, we can all be outraged, but what has to happen?
I think that even outside of Quebec now, there's going to be some pressure because we're going to become a laughingstock.
We have to awaken people to say, 'look, we cannot go that way.'
We have kind of a bonne entente right now. There's no fights in the streets. We went through a lot of linguistic battles in the past. The last thing we need is to go back to those things.
The CAQ is trying to poke the English community because this is what they're looking for. They think that, politically speaking, it could be good for them. But I don't think that for Quebec, it's good.
It's not it's not for my party or against my party. It's a matter of fact that Quebec suffered a lot.
If economically, Montreal went down the drain compared to Toronto, we have to all recall that it's because of that, in great part, and do we really want to go back there? Like, what's our interest to go there? I understand Francois Legault's political interest in the short term, but in the long run for Quebec it's the worst thing that can happen.