Bill amending Quebec’s French language charter dies

QUEBEC CITY – After months of negotiation, the PQ is ending talks with the CAQ on Bill 14. The piece of legislation which so enraged the anglophone community last spring died on the order paper.

“Negotiation reached its limits and I am disappointed,” said Immigration Minister Diane de Courcy.

The minister said the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) refused tighter restrictions to boost French in CEGEPS, municipalities and small businesses. For months, the CAQ flirted with the anglophone and allophone communities, often siding with prominent members and using their arguments. But that all changed on Thursday. The third party at the National Assembly announced it is now throwing all of its political energy into passing the Charter of Quebec Values.

“I think it’s for the advantage of all our society to act rapidly,” said CAQ Leader Fran├žois Legault.

The Quebec Human Rights Commission and the Jewish General Hospital have slammed the charter as unconstitutional. Legault said he would be willing to invoke the notwithstanding clause, last used to pass sections of Bill 101, to override part of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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“If need be, we are ready to use the notwithstanding clause,” he said. “We need to protect the identity of the Quebec nation.”

PQ ministers are happy to have the CAQ on board. Democratic Institutions Minister Bernard Drainville said he will listen “to whatever the CAQ has to put on the table.” But they recognize this could all be just political calculation, the CAQ changing its tune, jockeying for better position before an election campaign.

“I hope they haven’t made that choice, that kind of political calculation,” said De Courcy.

Just like it did for Bill 14, the CAQ entered the debate on the Charter of Quebec Values with some conditions, for example, that the ban on religious signs only apply to public-sector employees in positions of authority and teachers. But Legault hinted he could meet the PQ halfway and accept the ban be applied to a larger group of people.