Hundreds join anglo rights group, denounce Bill 14
Fed up with language police and repeated knocks from francophone media personalities, hundreds of people attended a conference hosted by a newly-formed anglophone rights group.
At least 500 people packed into a conference room in downtown Montreal Thursday night to hear Beryl Wajsman, Barbara Kay, and civil rights lawyer Brent Tyler speak about problems facing the anglophone community.
That's more than double the number that turned up at an anglo rights rally on a very cold Sunday two weeks ago.
Robert Libman, the man who founded the Equality Party in 1989 to protest the then-Liberal government's ban on English commercial signs, was surprised by the strong showing of support.
"It shows that people are angry and concerned. I haven't seen a turnout like this since 1989 when [Premier Robert] Bourassa invoked the notwithstanding clause to overrule the Supreme Court decision," said Libman.
Many people attending the meeting say their concern for their home province is growing, citing everything from media reports blaming anglophones for an apparent decrease in the use of French on the island of Montreal to language inspectors fining restaurants for having English words on appliances.
"We need as much respect as the francophones get and it's not about language, it's about respect," said Harold Staviss.
For Gary Shapiro, the founder of the new group Critiq, the last straw came in 2012. Not only did the Liberal government increase the number of inspectors at the Office quebecois de la langue francaise, and the provincial health agency RAMQ issued notices saying it would stop sending people notices in English unless specifically requested, but during the election campaign Pauline Marois promised new, more restrictive rules on the use of English.
"We are not half the size, we are not half the people. We are entitled to much more," said Shapiro.
He founded Critiq as a new voice for the anglophone community.
His first goal is to defeat Bill 14, the all-encompassing revision to the Charter of the French Language that would strip military personnel of the right to educate their children in English, force graduates of the English public school system to take additional French-language tests, and give the Minister of Language the sole right to remove bilingual status from towns and cities in Quebec.
Beyond that the members of Critiq say they want to see an end to 'harassment' by the OQLF.
"They're telling us what we can and can't do, what language we speak and I don't agree with it," said Sarah Marchand.
Brent Tyler, a lawyer who represented several families who fought Bill 104 all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada and won, said he wants all businesses targeted by the language police to fight back -- in court.
"This is just the beginning, we're just getting started," said Tyler. "We had an Arab spring last year, we're going to have a Montreal spring this year."
Critiq says Montreal has been in a steady decline for decades, something its members blame squarely on a provincial focus on separation and language issues instead of dealing with corruption and the economy.
That message resonated with many who want to see Montreal succeed.
"My choice is either do something about the situation or move back to Toronto," said Mark Stamos.
Critiq plans to hold more meetings and rallies as it continues its battle for what it says is not just anglo rights, but human rights.