What will new language bills mean for English-speaking Quebecers? Advocacy groups aims to find out
MONTREAL -- An English-rights advocacy group is looking into what Quebec's Bill 96 and Ottawa's Bill C-32 will mean for the province's English-speaking community.
The Quebec Community Groups Network hosted a conference Tuesday morning with participants from both Ottawa and Quebec taking part.
Federal Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly defended Bill C-32, which includes the strengthening of the Official Languages Act.
“Some provinces, including Quebec, are saying that that they have sole jurisdiction over language. We fundamentally disagree, and that’s why we wanted to table this important legislation -- to assert our jurisdiction, to make sure that all services at the federal level will continue to be in both official languages, from coast to coast to coast,” said Joly.
While Ottawa vows to protect the French language, Joly also said it will not be to the detriment of English-speaking Quebecers, adding that Ottawa tabled this bill to assert its jurisdiction over language matters.
The QCGN is hosting the conference to open up the discussion about Quebec's place in Canada. It also aims to bring forward the community's concerns over these language bills, including Quebec's Bill 96, meant to affirm that French is the province's only official language and the common language of a Quebec nation.
One conference participant, John Buck of Community Economic Development and Employability, said he feels the English community in Quebec is threatened economically, is more disadvantaged than the French-speaking majority and also has a higher unemployment rate and lower median income.
Buck said he is concerned about these legislations.
“It is important to reiterate, the English-speaking community of Quebec fully supports all measures that will protect and promote French in Quebec and across Canada,” he said. “There can be no mistake, however, that our profound, and continued, support for the French language -- which we demonstrate daily, in living and working with our neighbours, co-workers or friends in Quebec -- can be construed as acquiescence to any activity or reduce or limit the viability of our community, its rights, and its institutions. However, it would not be an overstatement to indicate to... that the English-speaking community of Quebec is feeling abandoned and ignored in the federal reform.”
Quebec MNA Christopher Skeete, who serves as the parliamentary assistant to Premier Francois Legault for relations with English-speaking Quebecers, defended Bill 96.
Skeete said that Quebec has an agreed-upon language, which is French, that it is unique and special and should be protected.
He also added that Bill 96 does not infringe the rights of English-speaking Quebecers to get access to services such as health care.
The QCGN said it will come up with recommendations to ensure both bills respect the rights of English-speaking Quebecers.