Language law Bill 96 adopted, promising sweeping changes for Quebec
Language law Bill 96 adopted, promising sweeping changes for Quebec
Bill 96, the provincial government's controversial legislation aimed at protecting the French language in Quebec, has been adopted in the National Assembly.
MNAs voted 78-29 in favour of passing the law Tuesday afternoon, with opposition members from the Liberal Party and Parti Québécois voting against it.
The passing of the bill comes as a constitutional lawyer based in Montreal says he, along with a committee of other lawyers, plan to challenge it in court.
Bill 96 "is…the most gratuitous use of power I've ever seen," said Julius Grey on Tuesday, hours before the legislation was adopted.
Meanwhile, Quebec Premier François Legault told English-speakers on Tuesday afternoon that the province is making a "historic promise" that they will "keep" their services, also saying he believes they're better served already in their own language than any other linguistic minority.
Reacting to the bill's passage while at a news conference in Vancouver, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters he has "concerns" about Bill 96, but did not give a clear answer when asked if the federal government would intervene in a legal challenge.
"We continue to look very carefully at what the final form of this will take and we will base our decision on what we see as the need to keep minorities protected across the country," he said in English.
"I know how important it is to support francophone communities outside of Quebec, but it's also extremely important to make sure we protect francophone communities within Quebec," he added, noting that he once taught French in British Columbia.
CHANGES ACROSS NEARLY EVERY SECTOR
The bill was designed as an update to Quebec's original language law, Bill 101, but it contains huge, sweeping changes that will make deep marks in the justice system and college education system, among many other sectors of Quebec society.
Among other things, it would make it mandatory for new immigrants in Quebec to communicate with any government entity entirely in French starting just six months after their arrival.
The bill would also change the system for deciding how many judges in Quebec must be bilingual, shifting that power to the justice minister -- who is currently the same person as the minister responsible for French.
It would cap enrolment levels at English-language CEGEPs, making the colleges more and more difficult to get into as their growth will be halted at 2019 levels.
Within those colleges, students would also face new requirements -- some would need to pass a French-language exam in order to graduate and to take some of their core classes in French, while unilingual English students would also need to take more classes to learn French.
That will, in turn, drastically change the staffing of the colleges, they've said, spurring a major hiring of French-language teachers and likely putting the jobs of some English-speaking teachers at risk.
There's been much confusion over what kind of effect the law will have on health care, with lawyers warning that its language leaves the door open to a serious change in how easy it is to get health care in English, and the government insisting verbally that nothing will change on that front.
Verbal assurances, however, come cheap, say the legal critics, whereas the bill as written is expansive and very complicated, leaving much uncertain.
'I KNOW OF NO LINGUISTIC MINORITY THAT IS BETTER SERVED': LEGAULT
Legault called that criticism "disinformation" last week. He said again on Tuesday, after the bill's passage, that the government is promising English services will be maintained.
"I know there are some who are adding fuel to the fire by claiming that Bill 96 will prevent English-speaking Quebecers from receiving health-care services in English," Legault said.
"We know that some of the people are worried. We are committed to protecting your access to health care in English. It is a historical promise that we will keep, and you will continue to have, English-speaking hospitals, schools, CEGEPs and universities," he continued.
"I know of no linguistic minority that is better served in its own language than the English-speaking community in Quebec."
The premier added that "we are proud of that," and that "we are also proud to be a francophone nation in North America and it’s our duty to protect our common language, and I invite all Quebecers to speak it, to love it and to protect it."
LANGUAGE REFORM BILL TOO 'DIVISIVE': ANGLADE
Liberal leader Dominique Anglade said her party is against several sections of the bill, including the requirement that all new immigrants receive government services only in French after they've lived in Quebec for six months.
"It's not realistic, it's not acceptable. There are lots of families that will be affected by that. It will be a negative impact," Anglade said after the bill was passed.
Speaking at a press scrum, she said people who live in Quebec can be for the promotion and protection of French, but also against Bill 96 because it "divides Quebecers."
Her message to the anglophone community Tuesday was to vote in the upcoming provincial election in October.
"That's one way to voice what type of Quebec you want. Do we want a Quebec where, yes, we can protect and promote French, [but] where we do this in an inclusive way where everybody feels respected, regardless of the language you speak at your house?"
WHO QUALIFIES AS AN ENGLISH SPEAKER?
The head of the Quebec Community Groups’ Network or QCGN, an umbrella group representing English-speaking Quebecers, said that after a year of trying to educate people about the bill and sway lawmakers to alter it, the finall bill "still is not what we wanted."
“It's a sad day. I think it's a sad day for all of Quebec," said QCGN director Sylvia Martin-Laforge.
Like the lawyers planning to challenge the bill, she said she finds the way it was passed -- shielding it from most legal appeals -- disturbing.
“The preventative use of the notwithstanding clause is incredibly troubling,” she said. “We can't appeal to either the Charter of Rights of Quebec or the Canadian Charter.”
The lawyers, so far represented by constitutional lawyer Julius Grey, plan to take their case all the way to the United Nations if needed, Grey said Tuesday.
In a statement, the QCGN said they do have a “vision of an inclusive Quebec where French is the common language” and that most English-speakers “favour promoting and protecting the French language in Quebec – and throughout Canada.”
But the group is “convinced there are more effective and inclusive ways to achieve this goal... and that it can be achieved without vacating the human, equality and legal rights of Quebecers,” it wrote.
Martin-Laforge said that one worry that regular Montrealers raise most often isn’t necessarily with any of the sectors the bill will affect, such as health or the justice system, but with the entire idea of separating “historic” English-speakers from other kinds of English-speakers.
In Quebec, “historic anglophones” has been the term used to describe people whose parents can prove they went to English school in Canada, and who therefore qualify for English school themselves, and whose children do too.
LISTEN ON CJAD 800 RADIO: Tom Mulcair: Legault's main goal with Bill 96 is separation
Others, especially immigrants, must go to French school -- even if their parents were educated in English as well, but outside Canada.
Bill 96 marks the first time the government seems prepared to extend this division outside the education system, also cutting off access to other government services in English to those who aren’t “historic” English-speakers, especially new immigrants.
“I think that people are very worried about the use of the identity issue around historic anglophones, and what does that mean? what does that mean in practice?” Martin-Laforge said. “The English-speaking community are those that want, need services in English.”
Even for those who do qualify for English schooling, the idea of proving that in many settings in daily life is jarring, she said.
“I and others, what are we going to do, whip out some kind of card that says we're historic anglos?” she said. “How do you prove it if you've lived in Quebec all your life, but more importantly, how do you prove it if you come from elsewhere in Canada? The whole notion of ‘historic anglo’ is a bad one.”
People have repeatedly made it clear to the QCGN that they’re “not wanting to be categorized, not wanting to be identified by the state,” she said.
What people outside Quebec don’t always understand is that many officially English-speakers are actually very competent in French, or even fluently bilingual, like she is, she said.
But there are situations where people should have a right to speak their mother tongue, she argued.
“My example is, when I was brought up, my mother comforted me in English with, I don’t know, Mother Goose or whatever it is,” she said.
“When I get older and I need more compassionate care, the language of comfort that will probably reach me is English, even though I speak perfect French.”
“It's complicated,” she said. “Health care is about health-care outcomes -- you want people to be better…most health-care professionals feel that way too. The government should not be legislating what [language] doctors speak to their patients in.”
-- With files from The Canadian Press
Montreal Top Stories
WATCH LIVE @ 9 A.M.
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
A well-known Ukrainian paramedic who was held prisoner by Russian and separatist forces for three months after being captured in the southeastern city of Mariupol has accused her guards of psychological and physical torture during her time in captivity.
Patrick Brown is alleging political corruption played a role in his disqualification from the Conservative Party of Canada's leadership race, a move that came following allegations that his campaign violated election financing rules.
Video has emerged showing a worker dangling in the air above a Toronto construction site after accidently getting entangled in a tagline attached to a crane.
While towns and villages around the capital of Kyiv have begun to rebuild after the Russians withdrew months ago and world powers discuss long-term recovery, others in eastern Ukraine still cannot sleep soundly.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has rejected clamors for his resignation from his Cabinet and across the Conservative Party, digging in his heels Thursday even as dozens of officials quit and previously loyal allies urged him to go after yet another scandal engulfed his leadership.
Jailed American basketball star Brittney Griner returns to a Russian court on Thursday amid a growing chorus of calls for Washington to do more to secure her release nearly five months after she was arrested on drug charges.
The federal government has no intention of dropping the controversial ArriveCan app because it gives the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) key health information about travellers who test positive for COVID-19 through testing at airports and land borders, senior government sources tell CTV News.
Despite being disqualified by the Conservative Party of Canada from becoming its next leader, ousted candidate Patrick Brown's name will still appear on the ballot.
Air Canada said on Wednesday it will not allow animals in the baggage hold until Sept. 12 due to 'longer than usual' delays at airports, as carriers and airports wrestle with complaints over lost luggage and long lines.
'I cannot get any rest': Residents complain of sleepless nights after alleged nightclub opens up under condo
Residents living in Toronto’s west end say they have been left utterly exhausted after an alleged nightclub opened up at the base of their condominium.
Ontario has likely entered a new wave of the pandemic driven by the more infectious BA.5 subvariant, the province’s science advisory table says.
A mother from Nova Scotia is speaking out about her recent travel experience through Toronto Pearson Airport after a WestJet flight delay left her and her daughters sleeping on a nursing room floor.
A person has been taken to hospital with serious injuries following a shooting in Halifax Wednesday night.
Halifax Regional Police and fire crews are investigating after receiving reports of a missing swimmer in Dartmouth.
The ex-boyfriend of Cassidy Bernard has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for manslaughter and a consecutive three years for child abandonment in connection with the young mother's death.
Once again due to staff shortages, the emergency departments at both Listowel and Wingham hospitals will be closed overal several upcoming dates.
Provincial police have identified the victim of a deadly motorcycle collision that occurred earlier this week.
The victim of a fatal head on collision earlier this week in Blandford-Blenheim has been identified as a 41-year-old man from Plattsville.
Christ the King Church in Sudbury is looking for your scrap vehicle.
Whether you’re looking for a change of pace, a breath of fresh air, or a glimpse into nature, northern Ontario has an outdoor oasis waiting to be discovered.
The chair of the Station Mall Merchants Association says news of the mall's sale to a southern Ontario holding company brings to a close years of uncertainty regarding the future of the property.
Calgary drivers might be asking why the price of gasoline is more expensive in their energy rich province where oil is refined and extracted than in Ontario, but one retail expert claims to have the answer.
Police are investigating after receiving reports of shots fired late Wednesday afternoon in Bankview.
Blackfalds RCMP were called to the scene of a serious hit and run collision Wednesday evening.
Break-ins targeting restaurants, salons, dress shops and cannabis stores have been reported in Kitchener, Waterloo and Woolwich.
'There’s no great answer': Low-income tenants weigh options in Cambridge as renovations push them out
Tenants of the Tiger Lofts, an affordable apartment building in Cambridge, say they’re being “renovicted” and won’t be allowed to stay after extensive renovations.
Police are looking for a man who allegedly grabbed and sexually assaulted a woman in a Kitchener park.
Someone in British Columbia could be sitting on a lottery ticket worth a whopping $15 million – but there's only a few weeks left to claim the jackpot.
For the second consecutive day, emergency resolutions related to a conflict between the Assembly of First Nations National Chief and the organization's executive council threw the agenda into chaos.
The large logs that have lined the water’s edge at many Vancouver beaches have been a favourite lounging spot for sun worshipers for over 50 years.
Wade Stene, who admitted to kidnapping and sexually assaulting an eight-year-old Edmonton girl, was sentenced to 15.5 years behind bars Wednesday afternoon.
Emergency crews were called to a Mill Woods school on Wednesday after a security guard reportedly experienced irritation on their hands after finding a white powder.
Blackfalds RCMP were called to the scene of a serious hit and run collision Wednesday evening.
Emergency crews were on scene after a pedestrian was struck by a train late Wednesday afternoon in east Chatham.
Shawn Lippert received a scary call Monday morning. “I got a guy on the other end and said, ‘Hi this is Enwin. We're giving you a courtesy call.’” Lippert was told his Scareshouse Windsor business account was in arrears and service was about to be cut off.
'Is your urgency an emergency?': Windsor-Essex hospital officials appeal to public to reduce hospital and EMS wait times
With the hospital system in Windsor-Essex continuing to operate under tremendous pressure, healthcare leaders are asking residents to reserve calling 911 for emergency situations only, and to seek alternate care for non-medical emergencies.
The city’s executive committee discussed possible upgrades for Regina’s recreation facilities and event venues during a meeting Wednesday.
'I feel like I have everything to lose': Riders' Tevin Jones looks to maintain place on active roster
Wide Receiver Tevin Jones got his first regular season Canadian Football League (CFL) start in week four and will look to continue the momentum against Ottawa.
SaskEnergy has gained ownership of its Regina head office building following a decade long legal battle.
NEW THIS MORNING
NEW THIS MORNING | Bluesfest is back today after two years of COVID-19 cancellations
Fans will be packing into the grounds at LeBreton Flats tonight for the first in-person Bluesfest since 2019.
An Ottawa senior citizen says he lost his life savings after investing with a real estate development firm that has been charged with fraud.
Ottawa police are on the scene of a shooting that injured one person in the city's west end.
A crash involving a fire hydrant was the first in a chain of events that led to a chaotic scene in a Saskatoon intersection.
Starting Thursday, riders looking to take Access Transit to get to their destinations will notice a shift in service over the next three weeks.
Two Ukrainian refugees, a brother and sister, are settling into their new home in Saskatoon.