Hardline demonstrators blast language laws at downtown rally
Published Sunday, June 30, 2013 3:00PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, June 30, 2013 7:23PM EDT
A couple of hundred demonstrators assembled outside of Premier Pauline Marois’ downtown office Sunday afternoon to rally around speakers such as Howard Galganov and former Equality Party leader Keith Henderson.
Galganov, a hardliner activist who led an English-rights movement in Montreal in the 90s before moving to eastern Ontario, was clad in a leather Freedom Riders biker jacket and riled up the crowd with such phrases as “Canada needs Quebec like it needs a hole in the head.”
Galganov, who once fought for Canadian unity, made no apologies for his anti-Quebec comments.
"We're at that point in our history where Canada would do far better without Quebec and maybe Quebec would be better without Canada," he said.
Some in the audience said they were uncomfortable with the divisive comments and didn’t agree with the entire contents of the colourful rant.
"It's a message that has to be directed at the francophone community, and inclusiveness would do it," said Montrealer Michael Shaftner. "We're reminded that the Quebecois fleur-de-lys and the Canadian flag belong to all of us."
Civil rights activist Beryl Wajsman declined to share the stage with Galganov, calling his angry message counter-productive.
"I can't be part of a rally that says 'I am Canadian but not a Quebecois,'" he said. "The issue today is Bill 14... this is a unifying issue, not a divisive issue... This is not an English-French or non-Francophone/Francophone issue for me, for me, my re-involvement in this this is strictly because Bill 14 violates civil liberties in international, national and Quebec laws.”
The language rights rally was hosted by Jimmy Kay, a local salesman who made a documentary called Angryphone.
Henderson, who led the Equality Party but was never elected to the National Assembly, compared Quebec's language laws to Jim Crow laws that mandated racial segregation in the southern Unites States until 1965.
Called I Am Canadian, the Canadian flag was carried upside down, sending a distress message to the federal government.
"Afro-Americans turned to Washington to get their civil rights. They suffered a lot more than we did, but we're turning to Ottawa to get our civil rights back," said Henderson.
Lawyer Brent Tyler suggested that Ottawa decorate former IGA employee Meaghan Moran with the Order of Canada for standing up for her right to speak English with other colleagues while at work.
The rally not only targeted Bill 14, but also other language-related issues that have intensified since the Parti Quebecois came into power.