Liberal MPs Join Fight Against Quebec’s Controversial Language Bill

Several liberal parliamentarians from the Montreal area will participate in a protest Saturday against the Quebec government’s plans to reform its French Language Charter.

While no federal minister is expected to attend the march, the presence of liberal lawmakers such as Anthony Housefather and Annie Koutrakis points to opposition to Quebec’s Bill 96 in the liberal caucus in Ottawa.

Organized by groups representing the province’s English-speaking minority, Saturday’s protest is scheduled to begin at Dawson College and end at the Montreal offices of Quebec Prime Minister François Legault.

Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia, who represents the westernmost riding on the island of Montreal, voiced his opposition to Bill 96 in an interview on Friday. He added that it is “very likely” to participate in the demonstration on Saturday.

“It’s not a bill that has consensus. The Quebec Employers’ Council has many concerns about its impacts. What I want is a strong Quebec that can move forward, that has a strong economy,” he said.

Brossard-St-Lambert MP Alexandra Mendès said she was unable to participate in the protest, but added that she supported “most of the demands made by the Anglophone and Allophone communities in Quebec”.

Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia, who represents the westernmost riding on the island of Montreal, expressed his opposition to Bill 96. (Justin Tang / Canadian Press)

Spokespeople for the Housefather, who has been in close contact with the protest organizers, and Koutrakis confirmed that the MPs will march against Bill 96. The offices of other MPs expected to participate in the march did not respond to requests for confirmation.

Quebec’s ‘historical responsibilities’

Quebec’s French-language minister, Simon Jolin-Barrette, vigorously defended Bill 96 in the face of criticism from English-speaking groups and indigenous communities.

His office said that the defense of the French language must be carried out above all else in Quebec.

Simon Jolin-Barrette, the minister responsible for the Charter for the French Language, says there are no plans to exempt indigenous students from the requirement to take French courses. (Frederic Bissonnette/Radio-Canada)

“The protection, improvement and promotion of the French language are historic responsibilities of the Quebec government that we intend to continue to assume,” said Jolin-Barrette press secretary Élisabeth Gosselin-Bienvenue.

“It is up to the elected representatives of the nation of Quebec to debate Bill 96.”

Introduced a year ago, Bill 96 would make several changes to the French Language Charter of 1977 (also known as Bill 101), strengthening the status of French in “all spheres of society”.

To ensure that French is “the official and common language of Quebec”, the government would impose new obligations related to the use of French in companies with 25 to 49 employees. It would also control access to English faculties and regulate interactions in a language other than French between the government of Quebec and the province’s citizens and businesses.

Open letter

Housefather, who represents the federal riding of Mount Royal, criticized several elements of Bill 96 last year, including its restricting access to government services in English.

“Suddenly, hundreds of thousands of people who considered themselves part of Quebec’s English-speaking community will no longer be able to receive certain state services in English,” he said.

He also criticized the fact that Quebec had preemptively invoked the notwithstanding clause, which will limit the possibility of a legal challenge.

“The idea of ​​isolating a bill from potential legal challenge is deeply troubling. The public would have no way of finding out if a right has been violated,” Housefather said.

He said he is also preparing an open letter against Bill 96, which will be published after the National Assembly of Quebec adopts Bill 96. The provincial legislature will be on vacation next week and will resume sessions on 24 December. May.

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