The National Assembly heard from Quebec’s minority language groups Tuesday afternoon during hearings on proposed reform of the French language charter.
“Quebec’s Charter of human rights and freedoms was arguably the crowning jewel of the quiet revolution,” said QCGN president, Marlene Jennings.
“Premier René Lévesque was so proud of the 1983 version that he mailed a copy to every single household.”
Jennings said the notwithstanding clause, written preventatively into the French language reform bill, means the province’s charter of rights is superseded.
“I want to reassure the English-speaking community,” the minister said.
In a rare move during National Assembly hearings, French Language Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette addressed the QCGN in English.
“This bill is for inclusion, to include every Quebecer in Quebec, that everybody is part of the society,” Jolin-Barrette said.
“That’s the first time we’ve heard an official representative of this government make such a statement,” Jennings said in a virtual press conference after her testimony.
“I was delighted,” she said.
However, Jennings didn’t hold back her criticism on other aspects of the bill and still says it needs to be withdrawn.
The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec-Labrador told the minister their languages also needed to be protected. It said many First Nations students struggle or drop out of school because of French language credit requirements.
Given the concern over the decline of French in the province, Chief of Gesgapegiag, John Martin, said to Minister Jolin-Barrette, “You should be a lot more understanding of our situation.”
The chief said the Assembly of First Nations has already put forward solutions and he encouraged the minister to read them thoroughly.