Quebec Indigenous leaders demand exemption from Bill 96

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Quebec Indigenous leaders demand exemption from Bill 96
WATCH: Indigenous chiefs across the province are demanding that their communities be exempt from the Bill, meant to strengthen the province's French language charter. Phil Carpenter has more – May 7, 2022

Community leaders in Kahnawake, south of Montreal, have issued a stark warning to the Quebec government regarding Bill 96.

“We need to put Quebec on notice that there’s going to be some backlash and ramifications if this moves forward in the way that it is,” Grand Chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer told Global News.

She and other chiefs across the province are demanding that their communities be exempt from the bill, meant to strengthen the province’s French-language charter. They argue students in their communities already face numerous systemic barriers, so forcing English-speaking ones to now learn more French is just another obstacle.

“We see this as an attack and a threat on our rights as people,” she said.

Dawson College science student Rotshenno:ni Two-Axe worries how Bill 96 could affect students at English CEGEPs.

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“It’s adding this extra barrier for Indigenous and First Nations students.”

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The bill would force some English-speaking students to take either three core courses in French or five second-language French courses instead of just two as of 2024, after Two-Axe graduates.

So he’s not concerned about himself.

“I have younger siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins who could very well be impacted by this,” he said.

Denis Gros-Louis, director general of the First Nations Education Council of Quebec, believes imposing Bill 96 on their communities is paternalistic.

“I’ve made several attempts over the last months to meet with (Language Minister Simon Jolin-Barette) and it never worked out,” he said.

Indigenous leaders say this is just another example of the Legault government dismissing them and their concerns.

This comes despite an assertion in an email Wednesday by Élisabeth Gosselin, press attaché for Jolin-Barrette, that “extensive consultations, the most important of this legislature, were held during the study of Bill 96 and the positions of various Aboriginal organizations were heard.”

Kahnawake Council Chief Jessica Lazare said she’s disappointed.

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“I don’t understand how Quebec can determine themselves as a nation without considering the impacts or circumstances of Indigenous peoples,” she said.

In late April, out of frustration, chiefs from communities across the province announced their intention to further assert their rights to self-determination.

They expect to meet with Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge at the end of May.

It’s the kind of dialogue Two-Axe believes is necessary.

“I think listening to Indigenous voices and understanding, hearing our perspective would definitely help,” he said.

The student from Kahnawake hopes in the end he won’t have to worry about younger students.

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