English groups slam Bill 96, plan to protest in May

Click to play video: 'English-language rights groups teaming up to protest Quebec’s Bill 96'
English-language rights groups teaming up to protest Quebec’s Bill 96
WATCH: English community groups say they plan to protest against Quebec's Bill 96, which aims to strengthen the province's French language law. Dozens of community members denounced the bill on Tuesday calling it an assault on human rights. As Global’s Felicia Parrillo reports, a protest is now planned for next month. – Apr 26, 2022

Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) president Marlene Jennings did not hold back as she slammed the province’s new language law, arguing that if Bill 96 is adopted, all Quebecers will be at the mercy of the French language minister.

“Bill 96 calls for the most sweeping new series of human rights overrides in the history of Quebec and Canada,” she said.

Read more: Quebec’s overhaul of its strict French language law under microscope at Bill 96 hearings

Bill 96 aims to strengthen the status of French in the province.

Provisions include a call for tougher sign laws, more requirements for businesses and changes that will affect health, the justice system and education.

In a news conference Tuesday, dozens of community leaders and English-speaking groups and organizations denounced the bill.

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Read more: Quebec anglophone groups gearing up for fight against Bill 96 amendment

“Too many English speakers, especially younger jobseekers, self-select and take themselves out of applying for jobs that ask for bilingualism or knowledge of French even when they have strong French skills,” said Aki Tchitacov, the executive director of YES, a non-profit organization that helps Quebecers find employment and develop as entrepreneurs.

“They simply lack the confidence. Bill 96 drives the point home that the language bar has now been raised beyond their reach.”

Though the groups are upset with many aspects of the new reform, they say one of the most frightening parts is the fact that the government has invoked the notwithstanding clause, which shields the bill from charter challenges in court.

Read more: Quebec doctors warn language Bill 96 could hurt patient care

“I think the entire constitutional notwithstanding clause and rule of law part of this bill has no place,” said human rights lawyer Julius Grey.

But the government doesn’t see it that way.

Premier Francois Legault insists that the bill is needed to protect and promote the French language, saying it is not an assault on anglophones.

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Read more: English CEGEPs voice concerns over Quebec’s Bill 96

“They (anglophones) have the right for all health-care services and education services in English and I think it’s important that they be part of our society,” he said.

The final adoption of the bill is expected before the legislature breaks for the summer, but Jennings is holding out hope that the government will walk back at least some amendments.

“As long as Bill 96 has not been proclaimed into law, we maintain hope that the government will see sense,” she said.

Read more: Quebec tables sweeping bill to reinforce and protect French language

The QCGN and partner organizations are planning a demonstration in downtown Montreal on Saturday, May 14.

They will begin at Dawson College at 10:30 a.m. and end in front of Premier Francois Legault’s office on McGill College.

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