Quebec English groups plan protest against language bill
English groups in Montreal say they plan to protest against Quebec's Bill 96, which aims to strengthen the province's French language law.
The demonstration is slated for May 14, starting at Dawson College in downtown Montreal at 10:30 a.m. and ending in front of Premier François Legault's office on McGill College Avenue.
Community leaders, groups, students, parents and more are expected to attend.
This comes as several aspects of Bill 96 have alarmed advocates in several different sectors, including health, business and education.
Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) President Marlene Jennings argues the new language law amendments will be an assault on human rights in the province.
"As with Bill 21, Bill 96 calls for the most sweeping new series of human rights overrides in the history of Quebec and Canada," said Jennings. "The fundamental human rights and freedoms of all actors are being cast aside by this government, which will have unprecedented and unchecked power to implement the Charter of the French Language. Quebecers will be at the mercy of the Minister of the French Language with no recourse to the courts."
The Coalition for Quality Health and Social Services (CSSSQ), a group of doctors and professionals, has already openly asked that the health and social services network be excluded from the reform.
The strengthening of Bill 101, tabled by French Language Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, states that public services should communicate exclusively in French with immigrants six months after their arrival in Quebec.
An exemption is provided "where health, public safety or the principles of natural justice require it."
The coalition argues the bill could do more harm than good as it "could put people's lives at risk or have negative impacts on mental health if implemented."
"It is hard enough to understand information under stressful conditions, adding unnecessary barriers will only increase this risk and undermine providers' ability to deliver optimal care," wrote the group, which includes 500 physicians and health professionals, as well as 30 organizations, in an open letter.
Aki Tchitacov, executive director of YES, a non-profit English-language organization that helps Quebecers find work notes the amendments could further exacerbate the flight of young English-speaking job seekers to other provinces or countries to find work due to a lack of confidence in their ability to speak French.
"Too many English speakers, especially younger job seekers, self-select and take themselves out of applying for jobs that ask for bilingualism or knowledge of French, even when they have strong French skills," he said. "They simply lack the confidence. Bill 96 drives the point home that the language bar has now been raised beyond their reach. This aggravates our community's economic problems."
LISTEN ON CJAD 800 RADIO: Is the anglo rights rally against Bill 96 going to make a difference?
In addition, Quebec's English CEGEPS insist they are being unfairly targetted by Bill 96 because they are increasingly popular among non-anglophone students.
One of the reform's provisions forces English CEGEPs to prioritize students who completed their elementary and secondary education in English, while putting limitations on the number of francophone and allophone students accepted into these institutions.
"We've made CEGEPS the scapegoat for the issue of French vitality in Quebec when we all know the real question is, 'why are more and more young francophones and allophones wanting to pursue their training in English?"' said Bernard Tremblay, president of the Fédération des CEGEPS. "Well, it's probably because the job market demands bilingualism."
The Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) also found itself caught in the middle of a language firestorm over its proposed amendment to Bill 96, suggesting that all students take at least three courses in French in order to graduate.
The party apologized for the amendment, which was made without consulting the CEGEPs.
PLQ Leader Dominique Anglade admitted the party did not realize how negatively the proposal would affect students in the English system.
Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein paints a bleak picture for those who are not French-speaking.
"We are about to enter into a new Quebec if this law is enacted," he said. "That future will include language inspectors seizing computers from business owners without a police warrant. That future will include civil servants reprimanded by their employer for using English words. That future will include cities like ours having government grants stripped away at the whim of the all-powerful French language minister who isn't happy with how many jobs require knowledge of English in our city."
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