The new proposed federal legislation that will amend Canada’s Official Languages Act is being harshly criticized in Quebec by advocates for English-speaking communities.
Bill C-13 seeks to “foster and protect the use of French in federally regulated private businesses in Quebec,” as written in Section 54 (4).
But some fear that the promotion and protection of French comes at the expense of English.
“Very worrisome for the English-speaking community,” Eva Ludvig, the president of the Quebec Community Groups Network, told Global News.
The bill applies to businesses in federally regulated jurisdictions such as banks and insurance companies, as well as the transportation and the marine sectors.
Employees will have the right to “receive all communications and documents from the federally regulated private business, including offers of employment or promotion, notices of termination of employment, collective agreements and grievances, in French; and use regularly and widely used work instruments and computer systems in French.”
“What about English-speaking employees? Will they now have to speak in French? Will meetings be in French? You know, there are so many different elements that are up in the air,” Ludvig said.
The bill also acknowledges Quebec’s French Language Charter and community groups are upset that neither the Quebec nor the federal government is making an effort to protect English rights.
“It’s not by giving new rights to one group and by taking it away from another is the way to accomplish this,” Ludvig said.
Marianne Blondin, the press secretary to the minister of official languages, writes in an email to Global News that the bill does not preclude anglophones from obtaining services in English from federally regulated private businesses, but it’s not guaranteed.
This has anglophone groups concerned.
“That our protections will be eroded in a revised official languages act — we don’t want to see that happen,” Matthew Farfan, the executive director of the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network, told Global News.
The bill is currently before the Standing Committee on Official Languages. It could be adopted into law before the end of the year.