⁃ Bill 96 passed – Welcome to the Language Police State! –
Yesterday, the Quebec National Assembly passed Bill 96 which will severely limit the rights of English speakers and all Quebecers. It is a major step backwards for education, health care, justice and civil liberties, while doing very little to protect or promote French.
First and foremost, this bill will limit the rights of Francophone students who want to learn English by attending college in their second or third language. The right-wing nationalist government of François Legault, supported by Québec Solidaire, is on an ideological crusade. They want to prevent people who already know French from learning other languages. They present knowledge of languages other than French as a threat to the nation and want to crush the linguistic diversity that makes Quebec and especially Montreal such a great place to live.
With respect to civil liberties, Bill 96 will give the so-called Language Police exceptional powers to conduct warrantless searches and seizures of computer equipment and business documents. They will be able to barge into workplaces to check whether your Microsoft Word interface is in English or French. They can seize computer equipment and documents without notice in the middle of your workday. This can bring the workplace to a standstill without notice. This is a free pass for institutionalized harassment. In all other cases, the police are obliged to explain to a judge why they should get a search warrant. In this case, the CAQ and QS have used the notwithstanding clause to remove all of this law, including the search and seizure sections, from the Canadian constitution and the fundamental rights of the charter. People who have their workplaces searched and their computers confiscated – because someone called the new tip line – will not be able to seek justice or redress in court. Quebec will soon be a linguistic police state. The support of Québec Solidaire – a so-called progressive party – for this bill is despicable, as is the lack of serious opposition from the Liberals.
Aboriginal leaders have deplored this bill. Many Aboriginal communities in Quebec speak English in addition to their Aboriginal language. As peoples who were here before colonization, the Quebec government has no legitimacy, no right and no moral authority to further limit the use of Aboriginal languages or to dictate which colonial language Aboriginal people should use in their workplaces, communities or schools.
With respect to health care, this new legislation will make it more difficult for English-speaking and other linguistic minorities in Quebec to access care and documentation in the language of their choice. These ill-defined sections of the law will have an impact on people’s health and represent a break with the nationalist movement’s previous positions. In 1996, PQ Premier Lucien Bouchard told English-speaking Quebecers, “When you go to the hospital and you are in pain, you may need a blood test, but you certainly don’t need a language test. “Now, in 2022, the Legault government’s right-wing nationalist movement is attacking health care in an effort to limit minority language rights. This is shameful.
On the justice front, Bill 96 will make it more difficult for anglophones accused of crimes or criminal offences to have their trials and court dates in English. This is deeply unfortunate because everyone has an interest in clear and concise communication between judges and accused persons. Everyone has an interest in a fair court system. Without bilingual judges, breakdowns in communication could lead to serious problems in our court system and even to wrongful convictions.
One of the worst parts of this bill is that it seeks to divide people along linguistic lines rather than promote or protect French. It is full of hypocrisy. Many of the leading figures in the nationalist movement were themselves educated in English at the post-secondary level! This includes the leader of the PQ, Paul Saint-Pierre Plamondon, who was educated at McGill.
The Green Party of Quebec opposes this bill and will be the true voice of linguistic diversity in the next election. Yes, we want to protect French. We support bilingualism and our platform calls for universal bilingual education at the elementary and secondary levels. Bill 96 does not do this and is more of an ideological crusade against linguistic diversity than a serious effort to protect French. We are the only party that has always defended minority rights in Quebec. We have had generous support from the English-speaking community in the past and, as the only English-speaking leader of a major Quebec political party, born of a French-speaking mother and an English-speaking father, I can give my word to the English-speaking and linguistic minority communities that we will always be there, in solidarity, to defend the rights of linguistic minorities, just as we did in opposing Bill 21, the Quebec Charter of Values, and other divisive and discriminatory legislation.
Leader of the Green Party of Quebec