Bill 96 hearings: “We have our backs to the wall,” say Townshippers


Sparks fly between Simon Jolin-Barrette and the president of the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, Michel Leblanc, because of the companies that are afraid of Bill 96.

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QUEBEC – Gerald Cutting’s comments were blunt and, as he said, reflects the thoughts of many English-speaking Quebecers who are considering the prospect of a tough new language law.

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“Can we work together to find solutions that make us feel like this bill is not targeting us?” Language Wednesday.

“Because from where I’m sitting it’s hard to see how I could say anything else. It will take concrete action, it will take compromises.

One of the few minority community groups invited to appear before the committee, the Townshippers got right to the point. Already struggling to obtain services in English in the Eastern Townships, a region that has experienced a dramatic decline in the number of Anglophones and their institutions, Bill 96 is making their problems even worse.

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The status of many English speakers in the bill is ambiguous at best, Cutting told the committee in reference to the new rules that would make the English school the new standard for services.

He questioned whether his own wife, an immigrant from the United States, would qualify for services under the bill. And at his age, Cutting said it would take a miracle to find his own high school diploma.

Even now, the first question many Anglophones ask themselves when they enter some of the health facilities in the Eastern Townships that the community itself has built is whether they speak French, he added. . Imagine what it will be like when bureaucrats start enforcing rules discouraging people working in a language other than French?

“It doesn’t make you feel welcome,” said the association’s executive director Rachel Hunting, who along with Cutting presented a brief that also trashed the preventive use of the notwithstanding bill. of the Constitution protecting it from legal challenges.

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Taken aback, the minister responsible for the French language Simon Jolin-Barrette tried to allay fears by repeating, in English, that in his mind the bill does not affect the community in any way.

“When I wrote this bill, I put in a grandfather clause to make sure your wife can continue to receive services in English,” Jolin-Barrette told Cutting directly. “I want to reassure you, nothing is changing in the situation of the English-speaking community.”

Picking up on Jolin-Barrette’s message, Christopher Skeete, parliamentary secretary for relations with English-speaking Quebecers, said he believed the recently voiced bulls from the community were more about Bill 101 than Bill 96.

But the Townshippers have taken a similar approach to the Quebec Community Groups Network when it comes to Jolin-Barrette’s policy promises regarding services. They want to see them included in the bill.

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While the QCGN wants a clause saying that section 15 of the Health and Social Services Act, which guarantees services in English, is not affected, the Townshippers demanded that the grandfather clause be clearly inserted in the mass of the fine print of the bill.

“There are poison pills in this bill,” Cutting said in an interview with the Montreal Gazette after the hearings. “Our backs are glued to the wall. We can’t take a lot of beatings anymore and we will disappear.

The group’s appearance ended a difficult day for the government, which was also castigated by Montreal Chamber of Commerce president Michel Leblanc, who told the committee that many companies feared Bill 96 would put in peril their future.

During a heated exchange with Jolin-Barrette, Leblanc invited the minister to face the fact that English is the language of international business.

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Sections of the bill to crack down on English at work – even for companies working overseas – risk driving head offices to Toronto and stifling Quebec’s export economy, Leblanc said.

The chamber retained a clause stating that companies will not be allowed to require a language other than French in their hiring unless they can prove it is necessary and even be prepared to defend their choices before government bureaucrats. .

“The question is who decides whether or not you need to know English: the company, the candidate for the job, a bureaucrat or a standardized government process,” the brief said.

The chamber also questioned the government’s decision to limit the three-year period during which temporary workers hired by companies for their skills can send their children to English schools. Under the bill, the three-year period would not be renewable as is currently the case.

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Jolin-Barrette said he was not surprised by the chamber’s perspective and the concerns of its members.

“It’s not just my members – all of Quebec is suffering,” replied Leblanc, to which Jolin-Barrette replied that the government wants to end the “open bar” for renewals.

At one point, Jolin-Barrette got angry, saying Leblanc was twisting what the bill says.

“When you say that in a parliamentary committee, you are trying to scare businesses, and I do not accept it,” said Jolin-Barrette.

“Businesses are afraid, Minister,” replied Leblanc.

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  1. Valérie Plante says that under her administration, Montreal created an action plan to give French back its rightful place in the city while being inclusive of English-speaking and Indigenous communities.

    Hearings on Bill 96: Valérie Plante fully subscribes to the overhaul of the French charter

  2. The National Assembly in Quebec.

    Language task force wants Ottawa to block Quebec’s Bill 96

  3. Nothing

    Worried about excessive paperwork, CFIB calls for changes to Bill 96

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