“The CAQ is a bulwark against the radicals,” says Legault as Quebec prepares for language debate

Welcome to a new round of linguistic debates in Quebec. Bill 96, overhauling the Charter of the French language, is submitted this week to a committee of the Legislative Assembly.

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QUEBEC – Some actors, like the former Minister of Language Louise Beaudoin, are familiar faces to certain members of the English-speaking community.


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The same goes for the Mouvement Québec français and the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste. On the side of minorities are the Quebec Community Groups Network and the Townshippers Association.

And Quebeckers got to know the minister responsible for the French language, Simon Jolin-Barrette. He is the same minister in the government of the Coalition Avenir Québec who was responsible for passing the law on secularism in the State of Quebec, Bill 21.

Starting Tuesday, the day after the poll, a new theme takes center stage in Quebec during hearings on the government’s bill revising the 40-year-old Charter of the French language, Bill 96, which opens to the National Assembly.

“I know that a language bill like 96 can be stressful for some people,” Jolin-Barrette said frankly on Wednesday when asked about the way forward. “I want to reassure them (the minorities) that nothing has changed in the rights of the English-speaking community.


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“We are securing their rights with the bill. “

Jolin-Barrette said he took note of some of the things that were said during parallel hearings on the bill organized by the Quebec Community Groups Network in recent weeks.

At one point, prominent lawyer Anne-France Goldwater said during hearings that Quebec does not need a Gestapo language, comments which were condemned by Prime Minister François Legault and other political leaders. .

Jolin-Barrette said he finds the comments “deplorable and radical” and hopes such a tone can be avoided in the debate.

He responded to Nakuset, the executive director of the Native Women’s Shelter, who told QCGN hearings that Bill 96 would result in unnecessary deaths among Indigenous people because it would limit the use of English on the system. 911 telephone emergency.


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Quebec's Minister of Justice, Simon Jolin-Barrette, responsible for the French language, presents a bill amending the linguistic law, on Thursday, May 13, 2021, to the Legislative Assembly of Quebec.
Quebec’s Minister of Justice, Simon Jolin-Barrette, responsible for the French language, presents a bill amending the linguistic law, on Thursday, May 13, 2021, to the Legislative Assembly of Quebec. Photo by Jacques Boissinot /The Canadian Press

“Nothing changes,” said Jolin-Barrette. “Someone in distress will be able to call 911 in English. “

He insisted he approach the hearings – which will last nine days and hear from around 50 groups and individuals – with an open mind.

“I’m going to listen to everyone,” he said. “If there are improvements to be made to the bill, I will do so. One thing is certain. The French language is in decline. Bill 96 is here to pass.

In fact, some analysts, including The chronicler of the Sun Jean-Marc Salvet suggested that the more scandalous the comments made about the bill, the easier it is for the Legault government to tell francophones that it is doing the right thing linguistically.

Legault made a similar speech on Sunday, addressing the youth wing of his party at a convention in Quebec. He said that some people, including the Parti Québécois, would prefer a much harsher line on language.


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“The CAQ is a bit of a bulwark against the radicals,” Legault told the young people. “It’s true in everything. We must maintain the national cohesion that we have. I think Bill 96 is balanced, reasonable.

Last week, the QCGN pleaded for a “civil and respectful” debate on Bill 96 as rhetoric over the wording of questions asked during the English leaders’ debate heated up.

“Simply raising serious questions and objections (to the bill) is not disparaging Quebec – regardless of the responses of some who prefer to resort to rhetoric rather than reasons,” the QCGN said in a statement. .

“In its current form, Bill 96 would seriously harm the English-speaking community and other minorities.

But parliamentary hearings – with its strict rules of parliamentary decorum – leave little room for inflammatory language and demagoguery. Words and substance matter more than boast.


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Witnesses also face difficult questions about their views from MPs eager to score points against each other. Jolin-Barrette has his fans on the list. The opposition parties too, all of which have seats around the table.

Struggling in the polls and trying to re-qualify as a nationalist, the official liberal opposition finds itself in a difficult situation – desperate to please Francophones but trying to be sensitive to minority members of its electoral base who oppose the bill. 96.

The party has already signaled its own move to a harder line on French, releasing a 27-point plan to protect French in April.

In a letter to Jolin-Barrette published last week and jointly signed by liberal linguistic critic Hélène David and liberal resource person for the English-speaking community David Birnbaum, the party calls on the government to be open.


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They are also asking the CAQ to promise not to use closure – which shortens the debate – to pass the bill, as it did with Bill 21.

“Are you ready to work constructively with us to advance the French language in the interest of all Quebecers so that when it comes to the advancement of our common language, everyone is an ally and not a opponent?

A quick glance at the witness list suggests a few lively weeks of hearings. Tuesday will begin with a presentation of the Office québécois de la langue française, followed by the return of Beaudoin, who was the minister responsible for French in the former Parti Québécois government of Jacques Parizeau.

The QCGN is in place on September 28, the same day as the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador, which will question the effect of Bill 96 on Indigenous languages.

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  1. The battle for Quebec ends with Legault in front and in the center

  2. Nakuset, executive director of the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal, says that regardless of official policies, Anglophone Aboriginals are already being denied services because they do not speak French, and she says she fears the project Law 96 does things worse.

    Opinion: How Bill 96 Could Hurt Anglophone Indigenous People



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