Warnings of limited health care access and undue power during Bill 96 hearings


One issue raised was that the law would give language inspectors greater powers than those granted to police officers and Crown prosecutors.

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Strong language and terrible warnings were issued during the hearings on Bill 96, the CAQ government’s bill aimed at strengthening the charter of the Quebec language.

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Friday was the last day of hearings on the law conducted by the Quebec Community Groups Network. The QCGN is holding its own hearings on Bill 96 after the government limited participation in parliamentary hearings to just three representatives of the English-speaking community.

Perhaps the most serious warning was that health services in English could be abandoned at will under this law, as the right to use the French language would trump all other rights, including the access to vital health services.

Lawyer Michael Bergman said the law would allow the provincial government to shut down any English-language health facility it wishes, without an obligation to provide the same services elsewhere.

“A few years ago, the government of Ontario wanted to close the only French-language hospital in this province, but the court concluded that the Constitution of Canada prevented the closure because of the unwritten principles of the Constitution concerning the rights minorities, ”he said. “It is likely that Bill 96 would overrule these principles. “

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Bergman was among the speakers representing the Lord Reading Law Society, which presents itself as the collective voice of Jewish jurists in Quebec. However, the company’s presentation focused on the civil rights violations it believes the law would engender as well as the disruptive powers government agencies would be conferred.

Bar representatives noted that Bill 96, as is, would discourage healthcare workers from communicating with people in English, lest they be fined by language inspectors. This could lead to disastrous results, as patients cannot properly understand the proposed treatment or the severity of their condition. The company said this could lead to malpractice lawsuits, as the professional colleges of physicians and nurses require patients to give informed consent to any procedure.

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Frank Schlesinger, chairman of the company’s human rights committee, expressed concern about the powers the law would give to language inspectors, who would have greater powers than those given to police and Crown prosecutors to searches and seizures, as they would not need warrants. approved by a judge.

“The office would be empowered under penalty of civil and / or criminal sanction to examine the content of computers, tablets, phones and any other storage medium and to seize them,” he said. “In addition, the inspector may be able to report information unrelated to language to other government agencies, for example, Revenu Québec.

Maria Peluso, representative of the Montreal Women’s Council, said the law is a prime example of systemic discrimination, adding that the Legault government is playing a dangerous game by targeting minority communities and blaming them for the decline of the French language.

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“I don’t mean to be rude, but it reminds me of the 1930s in Europe when it is very easy to blame (for) the evils that society thinks it suffers on groups of people: minorities, blacks, Jews, whatever… C is the most disturbing here.

Clarence Bayne, vice-chair of the Quebec Council of Black Educators, said many aspects of the law are “grossly assimilationist.”

“Some argue that this is very reminiscent of Nazism practices used in the early stages before the destruction of the Jews in Germany,” he said. “When asked, those who raise the issues are criticized and belittled by party politicians for offending Quebecers. “

Speaking on behalf of the QCGN, Rita Legault said some of the languages ​​used by the performing groups were harsh, but it shows the level of frustration with the bill.

“It would be really good if the majority language media could pick up on the important points that are being raised, and not the language that people use,” she said.

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