Quebec 21 May 2021-

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Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN)

The Notwithstanding Clause: its impacts, history and future
Join lawyers Marion Sandilands and Julius Grey as they discuss the use of the notwithstanding clause on a panel moderated by QCGN board member Matthew Harrington. (13 May 2021)
Bill 96: Protecting the French language (video)
With Peter L. Biro, Warren Kinsella and Marion Sandilands (7 June 2021)

English school boards say Bill 96 would go too far in limiting enrolment
“If that’s not affecting our institutions, I don’t know what it is,” said Quebec English School Boards Association executive director Russell Copeman.
QESBA did not get many answers to the other issues raised in its brief, such as the government’s decision to use the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause to shield Bill 96 from court challenges.
The hearings resume Tuesday with an appearance by the Quebec Community Groups Network, which recently held parallel hearings to Bill 96 featuring groups that were not invited to the official ones.

22 September
Konrad Yakabuski: In Quebec, a cold war between Justin Trudeau and François Legault is on the horizon
François Legault repaid Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s olive branches with the most blistering attacks levelled by a Quebec premier since the days when Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau and separatist PQ premier René Lévesque locked horns.
After doing everything in his power to ensure a Liberal defeat in the federal election, Quebec Premier François Legault must now brace for the fallout from his own failure.
While Mr. Legault’s penchant for indulging his paternalistic instincts has generally served him well since winning power in 2018 – with Quebeckers praising his strong leadership in protecting the province’s secularist values and managing the pandemic – it backfired on him in this campaign.
Bill 96 hearings: Quiet Revolution pioneer rips CAQ’s CEGEP plan
Sociologist-professor emeritus Guy Rocher, 97, said he and Camille Laurin, father of Bill 101, made a mistake when it came to CEGEPs in 1977.
They should have applied the charter rules requiring francophones and allophones to attend French elementary and high schools all the way up into the CEGEP system, Rocher said. The law currently allows them freedom of choice to attend an English CEGEP.
But Rocher said at the time he and Laurin had no idea how significant the CEGEP system would become.
Rocher, who was Laurin’s deputy minister but was also involved in modernizing the education system, said instead of a “meaningless,” two-year transitionary phase toward university, the CEGEP system blossomed and helped create a class of intellectuals Quebec did not have 50 years ago.
Among the key groups presenting briefs was the Union des municipalités (UMQ), which welcomed a clause in the bill allowing cities and towns with a bilingual status to retain it by passing a motion even if the percentage of English speakers has dropped below 50 per cent.
The UMQ said the clause is key to maintaining linguistic peace.

21 September
Bill 96: Toughening language law is a national priority, Jolin-Barrette says
And we’re off. Hearings into Bill 96, overhauling the Charter of the French Language, will stretch over nine days.
Open Letter to Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette from Marlene Jennings
(QCGN) Today marks the start of hearings of the National Assembly Committee on Culture and Education on Bill 96, An Act Respecting French, the Official and Common Language of Québec. This represents a critical part of our democratic process even though regrettably only a very limited number of Quebecers have been asked to share their views on what is the greatest overhaul to Quebec’s legal order since the Quiet Revolution.

15 September
Opinion: We write in English and are allies of the French language
Christopher Neal and Julie Barlow, a board member and president of the Quebec Writers’ Federation explain that they feel the need to speak out against Bill 96, even as allies of the French language: “While it claims to protect and promote French, [it] would do so at the expense of truth, rigour and respect for  democratic values vital to writers of all languages.”
Read more10-13 September
André Pratte: Ill-advised, ill-informed question could shake up election in Quebec
Like all minorities, French-speaking Quebecers are, understandably, very sensitive to how they are portrayed. Other Canadians should endeavour to appreciate this.
“The question seems to imply the answer you want. Those laws are not about discrimination. They are about the values of Quebec,” Blanchet answered, taken aback by both the content of the question and the accusatory tone used by Kurl.
The short exchange was barely over when Quebec media and politicians took to social media to decry the question. On Friday, it dominated the province’s news cycle. During a press conference following his party’s caucus meeting, Premier François Legault spoke about nothing else, even ignoring the province’s latest COVID-19 toll until a reporter asked a question about the 879 new cases and four additional deaths.
Bills 21 and 96 ‘very questionable’ despite Legault’s outrage, Julius Grey says
“There is no attack on Quebec,” the constitutional and civil rights lawyer said regarding the controversy over the federal leaders’ debate. “Those two laws are bad, and it has to be said without any anti-Quebec sentiment.”
(Montreal Gazette) Constitutional and civil rights lawyer Julius Grey said that rather than trying to stay on Quebec’s good side, political leaders should have the courage to stand up against clearly discriminatory laws.
Grey was reacting to the indignation of Premier François Legault following the federal leaders’ debate Thursday. During the election debate, moderator Shachi Kurl called two pieces of Quebec legislation discriminatory: Bill 96, which proposes measures to reinforce the French language charter, and Bill 21, which prohibits some public servants from wearing religious clothing. Kurl said they marginalize religious and linguistic minority groups, and asked Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet how he can defend such laws.

11 September
EMSB backtracks on controversial statement on Quebec’s language reform law
Earlier this month, EMSB commissioners adopted a resolution calling on Quebec to withdraw Bill 96. It also called on the federal government to refer the bill to the Supreme Court of Canada to rule on whether it’s legal.
(CBC) EMSB chairperson Joe Ortona, who was dropped as a candidate in the upcoming municipal election as a result of the backlash, said the clause was taken out of context and blown out of proportion.
“The resolution was six pages long. There were many statements and quotations in that resolution and one of them made reference to the question of Quebec being a nation, and that got a lot of media attention,” he said.
While that clause has now been removed, criticisms regarding language issues still remain. The resolution raises concerns about the possibly detrimental impact of Bill 96 on the English-speaking community in Quebec.

7 September
Allison Hanes: QCGN warns of new threat to English health services
The government plans to revamp a provincial access committee in a way that will compromise its independence and make it toothless, says the Quebec Community Groups Network.
Over the summer, the government quietly announced its intent to restructure the provincial access committee that for decades has been instrumental in monitoring where, when and how services are delivered to English-speakers across the province.
Since the 1990s, regional committees, drawn from members of the anglophone community, have offered advice on how to improve care in their area, be it at the many bilingual institutions in Montreal or in small regional francophone hospitals in the Gaspé. They submit suggestions to their local health authority, known as a CISSS or a CIUSSS, which then forwards them to the provincial access committee, also composed of community representatives.
Among the multiple proposed changes: the health minister will control the appointment of new members after they are vetted by a selection panel; the minister will also choose the chair and vice-chair; a government employee will serve as secretary and control communications; the members will be subject to a confidentiality clause and must seek permission to consult or speak with community representatives; Montreal, where the bulk of anglophones reside, will have two members, down from three or four; and the scope of the committee’s mandate will be scaled back to commenting on access plans, instead of anything related to the dispensing of health and social services in English.
In other words, an important watchdog is being neutered at a time when it is most needed, said Eric Maldoff, chair of the QCGN’s health and social services committee.

30 July
BILL 96 — RIGHT OR WRONG?
By: Julius H. Grey, constitutional lawyer
Is Bill 96 justified? Its proponents claim that its purpose is to preserve the French language for the generations that follow us. In principle, this is a reasonable and laudable goal, but it is not sufficient in itself. Three questions must be asked in order to determine whether the bill is justifiable.
1) Is French really in danger?
2) Could the proposed measures help French, assuming that such a danger exists?
3) Are the adverse effects of the legislation acceptable in the present circumstances?

26 July
Notwithstanding the notwithstanding clause, the Charter is everyone’s business
Jason MacLean, Assistant Professor of Law, Kerri Anne Froc, Associate Professor, University of New Brunswick
(The Conversation) Canadian politicians are beginning to use the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause more than ever expected, raising questions about when it’s legitimate to override rights guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Sec. 33 of the Charter allows a government to declare that a law will operate despite — in other words, notwithstanding — one or more Charter guarantees under Sec. 2 or Secs. 7 to 15. …
We propose adding three procedural requirements governments must meet to legitimately invoke Sec. 33:
(1) Governments must give broad public notice of their intention to invoke Sec. 33 to pass a law violating one or more Charter guarantees, and they must clearly spell out those guarantees;
(2) Governments must facilitate meaningful public deliberation of the merits of their proposed laws and their reasons for violating — potentially or actually — one or more Charter guarantees; and
(3) When an individual or group goes to court to challenge the validity of a law shielded from Charter scrutiny, the government must not pass the law until the process is complete.

23 July
Canada is deporting its ‘guardian angels’
(Al Jazeera) …in April 2020, Quebec’s Premier François Legault, of the conservative Coalition Avenir Québec, described essential workers on the COVID-19 front lines – including asylum seekers – as “guardian angels” and voiced his government’s support for them.
A few months later, in December 2020, his government specifically acknowledged the contributions asylum seekers have made to the pandemic effort and initiated the “guardian angel” programme ostensibly to provide essential workers with precarious immigration status a direct path to permanent residency.
On the surface, the programme – accompanied by a similar Ottawa-led initiative for essential workers outside Quebec – appeared to provide further proof that Canada is a refugee-friendly country. But in reality, it was yet another demonstration of the hypocrisy of Canada’s leaders.
The so-called “guardian angel” programme, limited in scope to some essential workers in the healthcare sector who provided direct care to patients, left asylum seekers who laboured as front-line workers in other sectors, such as food packing and delivery, out in the cold.

20 July
Opposition to Bill 96 “not an identity question, it’s a question of rights”
Allison Hanes
Given the weaknesses of the arguments justifying Bill 96 and its impotence in protecting and promoting French, Grey concludes it should be abandoned entirely.
Human rights lawyer Julius Grey analyzes Bill 96, whether it’s necessary, effective and justified. Here are his conclusions.
The respected human rights lawyer laments what he calls the “pensée unique” that has taken hold surrounding the Quebec government’s latest attempts to strengthen the language laws. Bill 96 has been greeted as necessary by most of Quebec society to shore up faltering French. Federal leaders who might once have been counted upon to defend sacrosanct principles are too busy pandering for votes in Quebec on the eve of an election.
After Jack Jedwab, president and CEO of the Association of Canadian Studies, last week shared an examination of census data with the Montreal Gazette disputing the orthodoxy that French is in freefall in Quebec, Grey was moved to do the same. He had already prepared his own legal analysis of Bill 96, which came to similar conclusions.
In his brief “Projet de Loi 96: Jusitfié où Non?” (yes, it’s written in French), Grey poses three simple questions: Is French really in danger? Will the bill’s proposed provisions be effective in strengthening the language? And is the collateral damage justified?

17 July
Gazette Editorial: A second-class linguistic minority
While Joly’s defence of French and francophone minorities is welcome, it seems English-speaking Quebecers will increasingly be on their own.
The bill to modernize the Official Languages Act, introduced Tuesday in the House of Commons, would leave English-speaking Quebecers as a second-class linguistic minority.
This legislation departs from the symmetry between French and English that, until now, has been a fundamental principle of Canada’s official-language policy.
Given that Parliament is about to recess, with a federal election expected in the fall, there have been suggestions that this bill is merely pre-election posturing and will die on the order paper. However, Joly has promised that if it does, a re-elected Liberal government would reintroduce the bill, as is.

15-16 July
Keith Henderson: Quebec’s ‘agent provocateur’ legislation
The use of judicial weapons, while daring Ottawa to resist, has emerged as the favoured approach to furthering the nationalist cause.
Nationalist political parties in Quebec have dropped the “knife to the throat” referendum strategy to augment the province’s power in Confederation. Instead they’ve resorted increasingly to judicial weapons. The new approach? Adopt what I call “agent provocateur” legislation either overtly or ambiguously unconstitutional, dare Ottawa to resist, and see what gains Supreme Court justices might grant them at trial. Over the past 50 years, this has weakened Canada substantially.
… Time will tell what victories Supreme Court justices will accord Quebec nationalists in their latest pieces of legislation, including Bill 40, whose elimination of English-language school boards is clearly unconstitutional. However, still instructive — in a case I filed — is the Quebec Court of Appeal decision with regard to Bill 99, the closest Quebec has come to a written internal constitution. The justices removed the blanket approval accorded by the Superior Court, but in doing so highlighted the Quebec government’s sovereign right to amend its internal constitution. Buoyed, the government returned to the fray with Bill 96. Adopted in 2000 as a direct riposte to the Clarity Act, Bill 99 states: “French is the official language of Quebec.” Bill 96 goes a step further. Now Canada’s Constitution is to be amended to read: “French is the only official language of Quebec.”
“Merely symbolic,” federal government apologists reassure us. “Section 133 remains in place.” Based on this faulty logic, governing Liberals joined together with all other parties in the House of Commons and voted in favour of a Bloc Québécois motion acknowledging the will of Quebec to enshrine in its constitution that Quebecers form a nation and that French is the province’s only official language. Two portions of the Constitution would now state diametrically opposite things. However, those like former justice committee chairman Anthony Housefather who claim the amendment is merely symbolic, cannot really know that. Amendments to the Constitution are rarely without legal effect. (For the record, Housefather was among 29 Liberals who abstained from the vote.)
Allison Hanes: Challenging the orthodoxy that French is in free fall in Quebec
Jack Jedwab, head of the Association for Canadian Studies, readily agrees the state of French in Quebec is “a sensitive and delicate issue,” but says there’s a lot of nuance in the data.
…is French in such dire straits that it requires enshrining collective rights at the expense of minority ones and the pre-emptive use of the notwithstanding clause to save it?
Jack Jedwab, the president and CEO of the Association for Canadian Studies, has done his own analysis of language data from the most recent census and posits that the state of French in Quebec is far more nuanced. He recently shared his report, titled French, English and “Les Autres” in Quebec: Perceptions and Realities, with the Montreal Gazette.
“The question is no longer whether French is in decline, but rather how severe it is and/or how much anglicization of Quebec has taken hold,” his paper notes in its preamble. “A select group of Quebec’s hawkish demographers, some politicians and a number of pundits have gone so far as to describe the situation of French as urgent by insisting that the language is in free fall.”
There is an overemphasis on language on the highly diverse island of Montreal, as opposed to the wider metropolitan region or Quebec as a whole. This narrow focus has little validity and only serves to skew the numbers.
Jedwab said almost 80 per cent of newcomers to Quebec are allophones and the vast majority speak both English and French. Instead of knowledge of both languages being seen as an asset resulting in bilingualism or trilingualism, it is more often cast as a threat to French.

15 July
Trudeau announces $440M for aerospace industry to create jobs in Quebec, fund green tech
Speaking in Montreal on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his government will invest $440 million to support innovation and create jobs in the aerospace industry.
With the Quebec government contributing as well, the total investment comes to $693 million.
Trudeau said the funding will allow Bell Textron Canada, CAE, and Pratt & Whitney Canada “to continue to innovate, and to break into new markets.”
He added that the investment “will also secure the industry’s long-term future in Canada by developing green aviation projects, and more clean technologies.”
The investment is expected to create or support 12,000 jobs and 6,200 student internships.

2 July
Robert Libman: Bill 96 asks francophones to take one for the team
Laws that effectively discourage bilingualism and openness stifle individual growth and opportunities, and that weakens Quebec as a whole.
Aspects of Quebec’s new language legislation, Bill 96, as well as the longstanding Bill 101, call on francophones to take one for the team, as governments create a more insular society to protect the language by tightening up the use of English in commerce and other sectors of society. This amounts to building a wall around Quebec to shield us from this international language of trade and business, rather than prioritizing the personal and business opportunities that bilingualism or multilingualism can bring. … Concerning language laws and Bill 21 on secularism, a collective consensus or bandwagon effect has developed, to use another Habs analogy. Quebec opinion leaders, columnists and the like are very effective at creating the impression that you’re not a true Quebecer, that you’re not one of “us,” if not on the bandwagon. This phenomenon has also pushed some non-francophones away from thinking of themselves as Quebecers and ends up working against integration, according to Jack Jedwab, director of the ACS. And it makes it that much harder for francophones to speak out.
In Both Constitutional and Electoral Politics, Quebec Still Looms Large
To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, nothing induces selective amnesia like the prospect of an election. And to paraphrase Daniel Johnson Sr., Quebec has launched a federal election litmus test on language rights whose signage seems to read, “Unconstitutional if necessary, but not necessarily unconstitutional.” Policy contributing writer and constitutional scholar Stéphanie Chouinard breaks down the political and legal prospects of a revised Official Languages Act and Bill 96.
Policy The pre-emptive invoking of the notwithstanding clause in the bill is also suspect from a government that promised none of the English-speaking community’s rights would be infringed by the bill.
However, when Prime Minister Trudeau himself publicly supported Quebec’s constitutional plan, declaring that both of the elements Quebec wanted to enshrine were self-evident, most were taken by surprise. This would indeed seem a strange stance coming from the same man who, just a few years ago, declared Canada was a “post-national state”.
But from a man with an eye on the next election, which may come as soon as this fall, this statement may not appear so strange.

30 June
Joly. Skeete, address Anglo concerns at QCGN conference
(The Suburban) During a panel discussion moderated by former Alliance Quebec president and radio host Royal Orr at the Quebec Community Groups Network Zoom Conference themed “Our Place in Quebec and Canada,” former MNA and MP Clifford Lincoln says he believes the CAQ government’s long-term plan is to “make Quebec an independent state with French as the language and minorities are secondary. “They’ve been very cunning and clever in putting out this bill as a defense of a threatened French language, which is a total myth. But people believe this and are being brainwashed to a degree.”
National political commentator Warren Kinsella objected to Bill 96’s provision allowing a language inspector to inspect a business’s cell phone for language compliance. “This is, in my view, completely unconstitutional and, as Mr. Lincoln has said, it’s just deplorable that the Prime Minister of Canada has agreed to go along with this without any objection.”
Federal Official Languages Minister Mélanie Joly and Christopher Skeete, Parliamentary Assistant to the Premier for Relations with English-Speaking Quebecers, addressed concerns about Quebec’s proposed Bill 96 and changes to the Official Languages Act. The proposed Official Languages Act change recognizes French as the official language of Quebec and demands that employees working for federally chartered companies of 25 employees or more can work in French in Quebec.
Joly insisted that the Quebec English-speaking community is still protected under the Official Languages Act changes, and members do not lose federal services or jobs in federally chartered institutions as a result. She added that 55 percent of federally regulated businesses already voluntarily adhere to Quebec’s language law, Bill 101. Joly told the QCGN conference that the federal government is open to input from the community and modifications to those OLA changes.
In a reply, John Buck, president and CEO of the Community Economic Development and Employability Corporation (CEDEC) said that while the QCGN supports all measures that protect and promote French in Quebec and across Canada, “there can be no mistake, however, that our continued and profound support for the French language…can be construed as acquiescence to any act to ignore, reduce or limit the viability of our community, its rights and institutions. “It would not be an overstatement to indicate to you that the English-speaking community of Quebec is feeling abandoned and ignored in the federal reform. While the English language is not threatened, the English community in Quebec is.”

23 June
Hanes: QCGN conference reveals game plan for opposing Bill 96
Virtual conference featured a detailed look at the myriad ways Bill 96 will curtail the rights of anglophones. … The battle against Bill 96 is being led by Quebec’s English-speaking community so far. But this time it’s about so much more than language.
Not only is Bill 96, Premier François Legault’s long-awaited legislation to bolster the French language, throwing decades of hard-won protections and hotly contested rights into jeopardy, it’s also seeking to unilaterally rewrite the Constitution to recognize Quebec as a nation where the only language is French. And by shielding the whole bill with the notwithstanding clause, it will circumvent court challenges that have served us well in the past.
At the same time, the federal government has introduced Bill C-32, an update of the federal Official Languages Act. It risks turning Quebec anglophones into a second-class minority language community within Canada by recognizing French as the province’s dominant language.
(Although federal Official Languages Minister Mélanie Joly addressed the forum, the future of Bill C-32 is less certain with a federal election on the horizon. It seems designed to sacrifice Quebec anglophone rights in the quest for francophone votes, but it’s a less imminent threat at the moment.)
The conference featured a detailed look at the myriad ways Bill 96 will curtail the rights of anglophones, from redefining who is eligible for services in English, to throwing up procedural barriers to justice in the courts, to turning the whole system for offering bilingual health care on its head.
So far the silence from Quebec and Canadian civil society in the face of such a dramatic and one-sided reordering of sacrosanct principles has been deafening. The group is turning to francophones concerned about human rights, Indigenous communities who also see their languages and cultures being undermined, other minority groups who feel their place shrinking in Quebec and businesses facing new red tape, costs and investment constraints, to find common cause.

21 June
Prominent anglos unite to fight changes to language laws
The group says it decided to proceed with a task force because members feel they have been abandoned by the major political parties in Quebec’s legislature and federal parliament.
… the task force is being brought together by constitutional lawyer Colin Standish. … [and includes] Brent Tyler, and Keith Henderson, the former president of the now-defunct Equality Party, as well as some rural mayors representing communities with significant numbers of anglophones. The task force claims it has 25 members in all.
Not included on the list is the umbrella anglophone organization, the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN). … Standish said the task force does not include institutional representation, but one current member of QCGN board is on the task force as are two past vice-presidents.

20 June
Province launches Quebec-only music policy in government buildings, phone lines
The move, which takes effect immediately, aims to promote local artists and channel more revenue their way.
The new rules specify that 90 per cent of music with lyrics must be in French, while 10 per cent should be in English or Indigenous languages, the minister’s office said.
Société des alcools du Québec and Loto-Quebec locations are among those affected by the measure, which excludes events and concerts.

17-18 June
Quebec freezes enrolment in anglo CEGEPs, expands francophone capacity
It is “just the first step in a process that will increase the accessibility and attractiveness” of French CEGEPs, Danielle McCann said.
T’Cha Dunlevy
McCann’s announcement essentially confirms that the articles of Bill 96, which has yet to be formally adopted by the provincial government, will be applied to English-language colleges.
Legault balked at the suggestion he was trying to apply Bill 101 to CEGEPs, noting his government was placing a limit on the number of spots available, not on the language spoken by those who would occupy them.
“As for English-language establishments, the numbers are fixed to the attendance level of 2019 in order to stabilize their growth,” McCann said.
That growth, which will be frozen by Bill 96 at its present 17.5 per cent of all CEGEP enrolment in Quebec, has largely been spurred by enrolment by francophone students.
“One of the most surprising was that there are now going to be limitations on the numbers in our continuing education programs,” said [John McMahon, director general of Vanier College], who is co-chair of the steering committee of the Consortium of English-language CEGEPs, Colleges and Universities of Quebec.
Robert Libman: A time for Justin Trudeau to reflect on father’s legacy
The change to the Official Languages Act is unprecedented. Federal governments have always supported official bilingualism across the country. Linguistic duality is one of Canada’s defining characteristics. Despite the claim from Language Minister Mélanie Joly that the amendment will maintain the federal government’s obligations to the linguistic minority in Quebec, this is hardly reassuring, especially coming at the same time as its seemingly accommodating response to Bill 96’s constitutional ambitions.
Gazette Editorial: A second-class linguistic minority
While Joly’s defence of French and francophone minorities is welcome, it seems English-speaking Quebecers will increasingly be on their own.
Hanes: Many Quebec anglos wonder who, if anyone, is in their corner
Between Quebec’s bill to beef up laws to protect French and the Ottawa’s plan to update the Official Languages Act, anglos here are anxious. … In other words, anglophones may have the thoughts and prayers of federal representatives, but for the heavy lifting, they’re on their own.
Federal official Languages Minister Mélanie Joly and Justice Minister David Lametti met with the editorial board of the Montreal Gazette Thursday to explain ways Bill C-32 actually protects English-speaking Quebecers.
“I’m positive that we have something that is balanced, that is in line with reinforcing our national unity, and really that is in line with our constitutional duties,” said Joly. “I think also that there is anxiety regarding Bill 96. We recognize it and that is why we are standing by the community.”
Indeed, the cause of national unity probably wouldn’t be helped by pressing the case of Quebec’s unloved English-speaking minority. It might even backfire.
As for Quebec pre-emptively using of the constitutional override with Bill 96, Lametti said the federal government is studying it closely.
“There is some role for the federal government there,” Lametti said. “But I would encourage citizens to the extent that they’re concerned about parts of Bill 96 to be vocal with respect to the processes at the National Assembly as that bill moves forward.”
Tom Mulcair: Here’s why the new official-languages bill is welcome
Bill C-32 seeks to right linguistic wrongs, and practically, it takes nothing away from English-speaking Canadians in Quebec or elsewhere.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a huge mistake when he said that Premier François Legault could change the constitution of Canada unilaterally with Bill 96. That law has to be fought tooth and nail, because it does affect constitutional rights.
Bill C-32 seeks to right linguistic wrongs. The English-speaking community of Quebec is in a unique position to explain why that’s a good idea.
Parliament passes Bloc motion supporting Quebec’s constitutional plan
Members of Parliament have passed a motion, advanced by the Bloc Québécois, that supports Quebec’s plan to amend the Canadian Constitution so that it declares the province a nation, with French as its only official and common language.
The proposed constitutional amendment is one of several measures contained in Bill 96, a piece of Quebec legislation aimed at bolstering the use of French. The bill, which is subject to review and passage by the province’s National Assembly, invokes the Canadian Constitution’s notwithstanding clause to shield itself from court challenge.

15 June
Liberals table bill to protect French in sweeping update to Official Languages Act
The legislation, known as Bill C-32, aims to guarantee the right to be served and to work in French in businesses under federal jurisdiction in Quebec, as well as in regions, not yet specified, with a strong predominance of francophones.
It would also grant the official languages commissioner more teeth, with the power to compel companies to abide by tighter French-speaking requirements in most large, federally regulated workplaces.
It would also confirm that French is the official language of Quebec and that New Brunswick is officially bilingual. It also recognizes the right of everyone, according to the Constitution, to use English or French in the legislatures and courts of Quebec and Manitoba.
Tom Mulcair: Jenica Atwin, Bill 96 and the protection of minorities
Trudeau Liberals, already failing to stand up for Quebec anglos, have made what looks like another opportunistic, and dangerous, move.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s assertion that Quebec has the power to change the Canadian Constitution unilaterally with Bill 96 is simply wrong, as has been pointed out by numerous constitutional scholars. Bill 96 simultaneously removes entrenched rights to use English documents in court proceedings in Quebec and instead of acquiescing, Trudeau has the obligation to defend those minority rights, as every previous Canadian prime minister has done.
But this is indeed a new era for minority rights in Canada. Trudeau won’t stand up for rights and what is happening to the English minority in Quebec today could happen to the French minority in Manitoba tomorrow, with the precedent he’s setting.
The Quebec Community Groups Network, which serves as an umbrella organization for English-language groups across the province, called Bill C-32 “an attack on the equality” of both English and French as official languages in Canada. The group said the bill “territorializes language rights and extends language rights into the private sphere only for francophones. Such a significant shift will have profound effects for years to come on the official language rights of English-speaking Quebecers.”

14 June
Opinion: To youth, Quebec’s linguistic debate seems stuck in the past
Our relationship with language is entirely different than the generations that have come before us.
Madeleine Lawler and Caleb Owusu-Acheaw, members of the board of Youth 4 Youth Québec, an organization representing English-speaking youth, both currently studying in French.
(Montreal Gazette) As English-speakers, we must demonstrate that we can be trusted partners in the promotion of the French language not only at home in Quebec, but elsewhere in Canada. We can become better advocates for francophone minority communities across the country and provide insight on the reality of being a linguistic minority to our anglophone counterparts. In return, we insist that our community receive the necessary tools to be able to participate as valued members of Quebec society. That means, among other things, ensuring continued access to English-language services and improving our representation in the provincial public service. We expect to be consulted when governments propel major changes to fundamental pieces of legislation.

11 June
Legault seeks to be ‘more zen’ as National Assembly goes on break
Legault, who has been under tremendous pressure for 15 months fighting the pandemic, gave his government a passing score for its handling of the crisis and in advancing its political agenda in challenging times.
Besides the March budget, which invested $15 billion into the recovery, the Coalition Avenir Québec government pushed through about 20 pieces of legislation and tabled a long-awaited bill overhauling the Charter of the French Language.
Bill 96 will be the subject of hearings in the fall, probably September. Simon Jolin-Barrette, the minister responsible for the French language, said the list of people to be invited to testify is currently under negotiation with the opposition.
On the negative side, Legault lost two cabinet ministers: former regional economic development minister Marie-Ève Proulx quit following a harassment complaint; Fitzgibbon resigned after his confrontation with the legislature’s ethics commissioner.

9-10 June
Quebec’s new language bill creates ‘charter-free zone,’ English rights group warns
An organization representing Quebec’s English community says it has serious concerns about the potential impact of the province’s new language bill.
The Quebec Community Groups Network says Bill 96 is wide-ranging, complex and represents a significant overhaul of Quebec’s legal order.
QCGN head Marlene Jennings told reporters today the bill seeks to modify 24 provincial statutes as well as the Constitution Act of 1867. … She says her group has urged federal Justice Minister David Lametti to ask the Supreme Court of Canada to study the constitutionality of Bill 96.
Hanes: The devil is in the details of Bill 96 — and they are alarming
After an exhaustive analysis, the Quebec Community Groups Network has detected some potentially explosive landmines buried within the draft law that could have profound implications — not only for English-speaking Quebecers, but for other minority groups, fundamental rights and freedoms, and the very bedrock of Canadian democracy.
Bill 96 doesn’t specify who belongs to the Quebec nation, said Marlene Jennings, president of the QCGN. But it drops strong hints that membership would be based on language. Essentially, it would elevate the collective rights of francophones over those of individuals and minority groups. This imbalance would be further aggravated by the pre-emptive use of the notwithstanding clause to nullify constitutional protections and leave those whose rights have been trampled with no recourse.
… Only Indigenous leaders are standing up as allies, with Kanesatake Mohawk Grand Chief Serge Simon this week releasing a video statement describing Bill 96 as a “second colonization.”
But the QCGN hopes that through outreach and consultations it can alert francophones, the business community, Quebec civil society and the Canadian population to what’s at stake.
Geoff Chambers: Trudeau’s position on 96 is preposterous
(The Suburban) The Legault government’s profligate use of the notwithstanding clause to protect legislation which patently violates basic human rights in Bill 21 and now in Bill 96 imposes on the federal government the responsibility to act in defense of those Canadians whose rights are being compromised, yet the Trudeau government has not joined the legal contestation of Bill 21, neither has it referred the matter directly to the Supreme Court as only it can do.
It has stood by and watched the human rights guarantees in the Constitution of Canada being trampled and it has shrugged. And now apparently instead of in any way opposing the excesses of Bill 96, the federal Liberals are okay with the wholesale abrogation of human rights and civil liberties as long as the federal government can recuse itself from the whole affair. Pierre Trudeau must be turning in his grave.

3 June
Opinion: Bill 96 language legislation infringes on civil liberties
The access granted to francization inspectors appears to be very broad.
Geoffrey Chambers
(Montreal Gazette) Among other things, Section 111 of Bill 96 would provide official language inspectors with the authority to “enter at any reasonable hour any place, other than a dwelling house, where an activity governed by (the Charter of the French Language) is carried on” and “cause any person present who has access to a computer … to use it to access data contained in an electronic device, computer system or other medium to verify, examine, process, copy or print such data.” It adds that “Any person who has custody, possession or control of documents referred to in this section must communicate them to the person making an inspection and facilitate their examination by that person.”
Brace Yourself – Quebec’s Bill 96 Proposes Substantial Changes to French Language Laws
By Wendy Hulton, Dickinson Wright LLP partner (Toronto office)
Some changes might seem innocuous at first, but critics warn of the dramatic impact it would have on organizations that do business with citizens of Quebec. Some of the most influential aspects of Bill 96 are its changes to trademark exclusivity and use of French in the workplace.

30 May
What’s behind Québec’s latest, and largely superficial, constitutional gambit
Worried about another 1980s-style constitutional crisis? Don’t be. There may be less than meets the eye to Québec Premier François Legault’s recent constitutional proposals
(The Conversation) Andrew McDougall of the University of Toronto argues it’s aimed at finding common ground between federalist and separatist voters in Québec a year ahead of a provincial election. He writes: “If Legault has read Québec voters correctly, he’ll be a political hero. But if — or when — this dies in the courts, there will be no other politician or other level of government to blame. And that keeps a lid on constitutional politics.”

26 May
Bloc fails to muster unanimous support for Commons motion backing Quebec’s constitutional changes
The Quebec-based party will now force MPs to record whether they agree with province’s proposals
In order to pass without debate, the motion needed to face no vocal opposition from MPs. Former Liberal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, now an independent MP, yelled out a “nay” after the motion was read out.
Despite having the approval of party leaders, Quebec’s proposed amendments appear to have left some MPs uncomfortable and a recorded vote could place them in a delicate position with their party.
Liberal MPs representing heavily anglophone ridings in Montreal may also be under some pressure. The largest advocacy group for Quebec Anglos is headed by Marlene Jennings, a former Liberal MP, who is adamantly opposed to Bill 96’s constitutional changes.
Bill 96: The perils of ‘pensée unique’ | Julius Grey
Those who consider the proposed Quebec constitutional amendment to be purely declaratory with no effect are confusing the content of the amendment with its insertion into the Constitution.

22 May
Conrad Black: Quebec language law is a political gambit
It is the latest in a series of measures designed to elicit screams of protest from the province’s English-speaking minority, while placating the majority of French Quebecers who want more autonomy, but not a complete breakup with Canada
Quebec’s Bill 96 is an obnoxious piece of legislation that was meticulously composed and timed to be a political winner for the Quebec government of Premier François Legault, as it approaches an election next year.
KINSELLA: Bill 96 will ruin lives in Quebec and radically change Canada
Warren Kinsella, former Special Assistant to Jean Chrétien.
(Toronto Sun) The Bill will change the Constitution of Canada, and render Quebec “a nation.” The Bill will impose the changes described above to “protect” the French language, too.
And Justin Trudeau has approved it. And none of the federal Opposition parties oppose it.
Bill 96 is more damaging, more far-reaching, than the Meech Lake or Charlottetown Accords. It will actually ruin lives in Quebec — and radically change Canada in the process.
It must be stopped.

21 May
Rex Murphy: Justin Trudeau takes a knee to the ‘nation’ of Quebec
Quebec can unilaterally alter the Canadian Constitution, the prime minister says. So who speaks for Canada?
After the bill’s introduction in the Quebec legislature, Prime Minister Trudeau almost breathlessly announced that it was “perfectly legitimate” for one province to alter the Constitution of the entire nation. In particular that Quebec, which did not sign the Constitution Act, is nonetheless endowed with the singular privilege of the power to amend it.
From which I derive a new principle of constitutional law — herewith: that the only province which did not and has not signed the Constitution Act has the right to, unilaterally, amend the Constitution.

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