QUEBEC CITY – Hearings into Bill 14 continued Wednesday with the language minister denouncing the increasingly acrimonious tone. Diane de Courcy said groups on both sides of the issue are becoming overly emotional, sometimes presenting angry, inflammatory briefs.
“I hope we will have a calmer tone,” said the minister. “I think people will respect that.”
On Wednesday, de Courcy got her wish. Anglo-rights group CRITIQ delivered a somewhat more moderate brief.
“My problem with Bill 14 is a bit different than many of the others,” Beryl Wajsman editor-in-chief of The Suburban community newspaper, told the commission. “Not that I don’t agree with the other objections, but more than anything else Bill 14 attacks not only our due process of law, but attacks our very civil liberties by giving powers to agents of the state.”
Former Equality Party leader Robert Libman, however, couldn’t help but toss a barb at the minister.
“For her to denounce the tone is inappropriate,” said Libman. “She created this dynamic that exists in Quebec now, that is dividing Quebecers so she doesn’t have the right to complain about the tone when she herself, by tabling this legislation, created the entire atmosphere for division and antagonism between the linguistic groups.”
De Courcy also got an earful from a manufacturing and exporting association in operation since 1871. Businesses, they argued, shouldn’t have to justify their need for bilingual staff.
“In the new economy, it’s international, we need to be able to speak English,” said Manufacturiers et exportateurs du Québec (MEQ) President Simon Prévost. “Asking companies to explain why they need to hire bilingual people is like asking them to explain why they need people with computer skills.”
A government impact study notes it will cost medium-sized businesses in Quebec $23 million to conform to the proposed language law. The study says just switching from English to French computer keyboards, for example, would cost businesses up to $900. “We think it’s nonsense and it will not help the French language anyway,” said Prévost.
Prévost has the support of the Liberals and the CAQ, who don’t want to see businesses bogged down by red tape.
“There are irritants in this bill and it’s not over yet,” said CAQ MNA Nathalie Roy.
Hearings into Bill 14 continue Thursday. The Quebec Community Groups Network will present.