Kahnawà:ke youth protest against Bill 96

Click to play video: 'Kanien’kehá:ka youth march against Quebec’s language law, Bill 96'
Kanien’kehá:ka youth march against Quebec’s language law, Bill 96
Mohawk people in Kanien'kehá:ka held a march on Saturday to protest Quebec's language legislation, Bill 96, that's soon expected to pass and tighten the province's Charter of the French language, Bill 101, affecting anglophones, allophones and the province's Indigenous community. Global's Phil Carpenter has more from the Mohawk territory of Kanien'kehá:ka – May 21, 2022

The Mercier Bridge leading to Montreal was blocked by Kahnawà:ke Peacekeepers for more than an hour Saturday, as youth from the community protested against Bill 96, the Quebec government’s controversial proposed law to strengthen French language protection in the province.

“Our language, our culture, we feel as if it’s being attacked. We feel as if they are trying to colonize us all over again,” stated Teiotsatonteh Diabo, youth of Kahnawà:ke spokesperson.

After marching west along Route 132 from the Kahnawà:ke and slowing traffic, a small group escorted by Peacekeepers continued briefly onto the bridge.

“Well it’s to show the Quebec government that they can’t just do whatever they want, pass whatever bills they want like this new French language law that goes a bit too far,” explained Louis Beauvais, 15.

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According to the protesters, unless Indigenous peoples in Quebec are exempt, or the bill withdrawn, the law would be just another way to assimilate them.

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“You know there was a law where we were not even allowed speaking our language,” Diabo noted, pointing to the experiences of some elders in the community who were punished for speaking Mohwak at Residential Schools.

If the bill becomes law it will be forbidden for public service employees to use languages other than French, with some exceptions, affecting a wide range of sectors including education and healthcare.

It would mean that at English CEGEP (junior college) students would be required to take either three courses in French or an extra three French second-language courses.

That would place an extra burden on Kahnawake students, many of whom speak Mohawk and some of whom are already struggling with English, say the protesters.

“Maybe this bill will completely discourage people from going to college from our community,” observed Diabo, “and stop getting the higher education.”

She even worries about being refused service in English at a hospital, recalling what happened to a friend at a French language medical facility recently.

“Even there they were already starting to refuse to speak English to her, and the bill hasn’t even passed yet,” she said.

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Indigenous leaders across the province, including Kahnawà:ke Grand Chief Kahsennehawe Sky-Deer, who’ve been speaking out against the bill met with government officials May 13.

“We didn’t get any formal commitment for an exemption,” said Sky-Deer, “but what we did hear was maybe potentially a separate bill that protects indigenous languages and cultures after [Bill 96] passes.”

The Grand Chief said she’s not optimistic but they will continue dialogue with the government.

Bill 96 could pass before the end of May.

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