English-language rights organization to host hearings on Quebec's proposed French-language charter
MONTREAL -- An English-rights advocacy group is set to host its own public hearings on the Legault government’s controversial Bill 96 this week, with testimony from lawyers, academics, former legislators and members of the Indigenous community.
The Quebec Community Groups Network, a not-for-profit organization, will host the four-day virtual hearing on Zoom in advance of the National Assembly hearings on the proposed legislation later this month.
The opening day on Thursday, from 10 a.m to 1 p.m., will hear from QCGN President Marlene Jennings, as well as former MNA and former MP Clifford Lincoln, and Anna Farrow of the English Speaking Catholic Council.
Virtual hearings will continue from Sept. 13-15 and will include other presenters, including human rights lawyer Julius Grey, family lawyer Anne-France Goldwater, the Dean of the McGill University Faculty of Law Robert Leckey, the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal and the Canadian Council of Muslim Women.
The QCGN has been vehemently opposed to the new bill and said its hearings are being held “to send a clear message to the government that Bill 96 requires considerable revisions, and more thought needs to be given to safeguarding the fundamental rights of all Quebecers.”
Among other things, the sweeping legislation would amend the Canadian constitution to affirm Quebec as a nation and that French would be the official language. It would also limit access to English-speaking CEGEPs, extend French-language requirements to businesses with 25 or more employees, and grant more power to the Office québécois de la langue française.
Members of the public can view the hearings by registering on the QCGN website.
More than 50 individuals and organizations are set to debate the French-language charter in marathon public consultations at the Nationa Assembly from Sept. 21 to Oct. 7. The consultations will identify the strengths and flaws of the proposed legislation, which was introduced in May by the minister responsible for the file, Simon Jolin-Barrette
While the province won’t start its own discussions for a couple of weeks, the debate over nationhood heated up already this week, with Premier François Legault calling the English Montreal School Board a “radical group” over a document that quoted a university professor who stated “Quebec is not a nation.”
The board’s chair, Joe Ortona, lost his candidacy in the municipal Ensemble Montreal party in the fallout over the document, which called for Ottawa to challenge Bill 96 before the Supreme Court.
The pushback, especially to the words around nationhood, was swift, though Ortona agreed with the critics on Tuesday that that quote should have been omitted.