MONTREAL -- Can someone please explain why protecting French means diminishing English as Bill 96 is attempting to do? Especially when the majority of Quebec already speaks French.

Statistics for French in Quebec on the website for the Office of the Commissioner of Official languages shows that, regardless if it’s a mother tongue or not, 94.5 per cent of Quebecers know French as opposed to 49.1 per cent of Quebecers that know English.

Protecting French shouldn’t mean eradicating English. This isn’t an either/or situation. Whether Quebec likes it or not, there’s as much English history in Quebec as French. It didn’t stop when France ceded la Nouvelle France to the British Empire.

This isn’t forty years ago. Being one of Canada’s two official languages already protects French; it’s not going anywhere. Everyone in Quebec is already taught French from a young age and most people nowadays can see and appreciate the value of speaking both languages.

Quebec should be proud that 95 per cent of Quebecers are bilingual. The province has done a service to its citizens by teaching them two languages from an early age. It creates multiple opportunities to work abroad or bring in new businesses.

Yet Quebec Premier François Legault believes that to protect French, he needs to implement the notwithstanding clause…again. This clause allows governments to override fundamental, legal, and equality rights.

Bill 96 may certainly look appealing to those who truly feel the French language in Quebec is disappearing. However, a government that believes they can impose a law that’s above legal challenges to dictate where a person can learn, what languages they should speak, and focuses only on one part of the population is walking a dangerous line that blurs the boundaries between democracy and dictatorship.

History shows these things happen slowly with tiny adjustments like these over time, not in one swift move. People may applaud the bill now, but somewhere down the line they may realize that under the guise of protecting their identity, they’ve been trapped instead of rescued.

The federal government should be ashamed for not standing up while Quebec tried to bulldoze its way through basic rights when the Bloc Quebecois tried to fast track a motion allowing Quebec to unilaterally amend the constitution. We should be concerned when our leaders are willing to play willy-nilly with our fundamental rights.

Passing this bill would not be an empty symbolic gesture, as the federal government naively believes. This is about changing the laws that govern our province, and country.

Legault may see me as just an anglophone, but I was born and raised in Quebec and that makes me just as much of a Quebecer as any francophone. I deserve the same rights as everyone else from the federal and provincial governments.

I’ve jumped through all the hoops I was required to in order to be fluent in French and to function in both languages. Yet no matter how well I speak French, it’s clear I will never be viewed the same as a francophone.

Just as someone shouldn’t be discriminated against for their race, nor should someone be discriminated against because of their mother tongue, regardless of what language that is. French may be the majority language in Quebec, but English is still an official language of the country. Anglophones being a minority in the province does not mean we should be considered less of a citizen in Quebec than francophones. We all deserve equal rights.

If this were an issue about race the world would be up in arms over Quebec’s attempt to restrict the constitutional rights of one ethnicity while clearly favoring another. Language is no different.

- Tina Golab is a young professional from the Montreal region