Quebec lawyers ready to take Bill 96, the 'most gratuitous use of power,' to the UN
Quebec has a new language law, as Bill 96 was adopted Tuesday.
But that looks to be only the beginning of a long legal journey, with a committee of high-profile Quebec lawyers promising to take the law to bigger challenges than Quebec has seen in decades.
François Legault’s government has made free use of the notwithstanding clause during its time in power, already invoking it for its secularism bill, Bill 21.
But using it for Bill 96 appears to be a last straw for a group of lawyers, who say they have a plan to make a legal dent despite the clause, which usually makes laws ironclad against constitutional-rights challenges -- at least within Canada.
“We will… address the international tribunals, the United Nations Human Rights Committee,” explained human rights lawyer Julius Grey, who is part of the committee working on the issue and who unveiled the group’s thinking on Tuesday to CTV News.
He also told CJAD radio that he feels the Legault government has crossed a line by using the notwithstanding clause not once, but twice.
Bill 96 is “the most gratuitous use of power I've ever seen,” he said.
“Bill 21 and Bill 96, together, are a notice by the Quebec government that whenever Quebec policies are in place, the Charter becomes a mere suggestion that doesn't have to be followed,” he said.
“And so the use of the notwithstanding clause makes this a really important battle to be fought.”
CALLING ON THE UN FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 30 YEARS
That United Nations challenge would only come to pass if several other attempts to challenge Bill 96 don’t first get results, he said in an interview.
But there’s legal precedent for calling on international courts to intervene with the use of the notwithstanding clause, and specifically in Quebec, Grey said.
In fact, he himself was also involved in the first instance, in the early 1990s.
That was also over a language law: Bill 178, which was an amendment to Bill 101 and dealt specifically with public signage, mandating that signs appear in French only, without even smaller-font English translations.
Grey led a fight against the law on behalf of some English-speaking complainants, and they chose to take it to the UN that time because, like now, the notwithstanding clause was used.
This time around, local lawyers will likely first demand a stay, Grey said, which “I think has, on some parts of the bill, a serious chance of success,” he said.
“I think part of it will surely be struck. But if we do not [succeed] or if bad parts of it remain, then we will do what was done in Bill 178,” he said.
Former Premier Robert Bourassa’s proposed law, in the late 80s, wasn’t even as audacious as Legault’s version, Grey said.
“Mr. Bourassa invoked the notwithstanding clause in a much less complete and invasive way,” Grey said.
“The International Court said that's illegal. I hope they'll say this is illegal, too.”
Back then, the UN committee sided with the English-speaking complainants, who argued that such a strict sign law wasn’t crucial to protect French.
It also ruled that the proposed law violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ordering both Canada and Quebec to change the law.
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT 'HAS BEEN COMPLETELY SPINELESS'
Grey said he finds Bill 96 to be similar in one major way to the law he fought decades ago.
On top of the parts that he finds especially problematic -- for example, that language office OQLF “has greater powers to search and seizure without Charter supervision than the police when it's investigating a murder” -- he also said that, as in the Bill 178 case, he simply doesn’t believe it will actually protect French.
“The way to make French more secure is to make certain that everybody knows that there’s no harm to them. They’re not going to be deprived of opportunities,” he said, such as the anxiety that comes from telling French-speakers they’ll be kept out of English CEGEPs.
“The rule that a francophone who is bilingual will not be able to use his bilingualism when in a job interview, it boggles the mind,” Grey said. “It's ridiculous.”
He added to CJAD that “what is amazing about this law is that there isn't anybody, other than perhaps some political zealots, who win. There is not a single person who will be better off.”
Grey also said he believes it’s based on a “false premise,” the idea that French is even declining in Quebec.
He said he’s not yet at liberty to provide the names of the other lawyers in the committee. Legal challenges couldn't be filed until the bill became law.
The Quebec Committee Groups Network or QCGN, a major umbrella group for English-speakers, hasn’t yet responded to a request for comment on whether they’re contributing to the legal challenge.
Grey said the legal process may take a long time, though filing requests for interlocutory stays may help in the short term.
But “what is important is ultimately limiting this type of use of power,” he said.
He also slammed the federal government, saying there should be more help coming from within Canada before being forced to head to the international level.
“It should have had a role, as it did in the 1970s,” Grey said, mentioning some steps Pierre Trudeau took as prime minister.
“Unfortunately, this present government has been completely spineless before what is really an attack on Pierre Trudeau’s legacy, the Charter,” he said.
The legal challenge overall won’t focus just on the notwithstanding clause, however, he said -- that’s an issue that’s already before high-level courts as part of the Bill 21 challenge.
“There will be the judicial part [changes to the Quebec justice system], the fact that the notwithstanding clause is being misused, the injustice of it,” he said.
“The health [issues], the division of anglophones into two groups, discrimination against francophones -- all of those things.”
Montreal Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Three months since their arrival through a special evacuation program, Ukrainian families with children receiving care in hospital share their experience.
As Canadian airports deal with their own set of problems amid the busy summer travel season, by no means are they alone.
Two people are injured and a third is in custody after what RCMP describe as a 'public shooting' at a rodeo in Northern B.C. Sunday.
A gunman opened fire inside a busy shopping mall in the Danish capital Sunday, killing three people and critically wounding three others, police said.
A Toronto woman says a dog she rescued from the Dominican Republic has been traumatized after being left in a corner of Toronto Pearson International Airport with baggage for about 21 hours.
Amid buzz around the medical benefits of magic mushrooms, a new production facility gets to work in B.C.
In southern B.C, there's a new 20,000-square-foot production facility where one particular product is generating a lot of buzz: magic mushrooms, which a handful of businesses have been federally approved to produce.
First base coach Mark Budzinski is taking a leave of absence from the Toronto Blue Jays following the death of his daughter.
'There should have been one': N.S. mother drives son to ER after waiting nearly an hour for ambulance
A Nova Scotia mother says she had to drive her son to hospital herself on Canada Day when no ambulance showed up after more than 40 minutes.
A Black man shot and killed by Akron, Ohio police officers in a hail of bullets following a vehicle and foot pursuit was unarmed at the time of the shooting.
Two men have been arrested in Montreal in connection with a fatal shooting in North York on Father's Day.
Two people died and four others including a nine-month-old baby were injured in a pair of crashes that occurred two hours apart in Peel Region overnight.
Canada Day weekend fireworks have sparked more calls to either regulate or ban backyard fireworks displays in Nova Scotia.
New Brunswick's education minister is lashing out at Air Canada, saying the airline is incompetent because it decided on the weekend to cancel a Monday flight that would have taken him and four officials to a meeting in Regina.
From tourists to residents, those visiting the new Fire Hall Market in Port Stanley, Ont. described opening weekend as "bringing new life into the village."
A fiery crash shut down a Stratford street on Tuesday and witnesses tell CTV News one of Justin Bieber's family members was allegedly involved.
Five people were sent to hospital as a precaution after a vehicle they were travelling inside rolled onto its roof in south London early Sunday afternoon.
The Downtown Sudbury Business Improvement Association has set up a stage in front of the YMCA that is host a number of performances to support northern musicians and get people out to experience the downtown vibe.
Crowds showed up by the thousands to view Canada’s oldest and longest serving naval vessel. HMCS Oriole spent the Canada Day weekend docked at the Port of Sault Ste. Marie, where the crew offered free tours of the 101-year-old sailing ship.
14-year-old Ellie Maxwell from Manitoulin Island released her second original song on July 1.
Hundreds of people gathered Sunday afternoon in Calgary and Edmonton to support women impacted by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to end constitutional protections for abortion.
A Vancouver Transit Police service dog has a special connection to the Calgary Police Service.
Airdrie girl with life-threatening illness heartbroken to miss Monday concert by her idol Shawn Mendes
All a 14-year-old Airdrie girl named Kaley Biggar wanted was to see Shawn Mendes sing on Monday, but then she received a life-threatening diagnosis.
A Puslinch, Ont. woman says her driveway will need to be repaved less than month after she came home to find strangers working on it without her prior consent.
Police were called to a Kitchener encampment on Saturday after they received a report of a disturbance involving a gun.
Observers are warning bargaining underway in the public and private sectors could get contentious with skyrocketing inflation, pandemic stressors and a history of clashes between employers and unions in British Columbia.
A memorial ride was held Sunday for a man killed while cycling in downtown Vancouver.
A southeast Edmonton family is stunned after two bullets hit their home Saturday, with one narrowly missing a young girl's bedroom.
Marco Arop is rounding into form at the perfect time.
Windsor's Jennifer Jones has taken office as Rotary International's first woman president in its 117-year history
'We’ve lost the summer season': Windsor-Essex tourism sector laments extension of border restrictions
Tourism officials and business leaders in Windsor-Essex are frustrated and worried about how the sector will handle another summer of border requirements to enter Canada.
Chatham-Kent police are looking for suspects after a UTV and two SeaDoos worth $85,000 were stolen from a business in Tilbury, Ont. on Saturday.
Regina’s Ukrainian community is preparing to welcome the first charter flight with families displaced by the war in Ukraine.
A vigil for a 14-year-old boy who was murdered on Wednesday was held by family and friends on Saturday night.
A Regina man is facing attempted murder charges after an incident on Saturday night.
The family of an Ottawa man killed in a Canada Day crash in the west end says Tom Bergeron died exactly as he lived: selflessly thinking of others before himself.
Ottawa Bylaw officers issued 30 parking tickets and had eight vehicles towed out of the downtown core on Sunday, the final day the motor vehicle control zone remains in effect.
Emergency crews responded to reports a 30-foot vessel was on fire in the Rideau Ferry area on Saturday.
The number of homes for sale in Saskatoon has increased but the number of places to buy remains 20 per cent lower than last year, according to the Saskatchewan Realtors Association.
Police are investigating a pharmacy robbery Saturday afternoon in Wakaw and are asking for people's photos taken in the area.
Former Saskatoon Blades player Wacey Rabbit has been named an assistant coach for the Saskatoon Blades.