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Martin C. Barry

While maintaining that they enjoy “a pretty good relationship” with the Quebec Community Groups Network but remain independent of the larger anglophone interest lobby group, the Task Force on Linguistic Policy released a brief on the CAQ government’s Bill 96 last week which goes far beyond the QCGN’s analysis.

Following the federal Liberal government’s enacting of Bill C-32 to reform the Official Languages Act and the provincial government’s passing Bill 96, the TFLP was created “to enable concerned citizens to confront the excesses” in the two pieces of legislation, the organization states on its website.

They weren’t invited

Although the CAQ government recently held public hearings at the National Assembly on Bill 96, the TFLP was not among the few anglophone lobby groups invited to submit briefs. Nonetheless, the organization prepared its own which was released last week during a webcast press conference.

Former Equality Party leader Keith Henderson is a founding member of the Task Force on Linguistic Policy.

While the QCGN is led by a board that includes former Liberal MP Marlene Jennings as president and former Liberal senator Joan Fraser who is a board member, the TFLP’s list of founding members includes some seasoned veterans of the first wave of resistance to Bill 101 more than four decades ago.

Veterans back to contest

These include former Equality Party leader Keith Henderson, as well as constitional lawyer Brent Tyler, a firebrand who filed many legal contestations of Bill 101 over the years on behalf of companies and individuals who were at odds with the Parti Québécois’ 1977 Bill 101 language legislation.

Both were speakers during last week’s webcast. Ben Huot, vice-chair and policy chair at the TFLP, said the brief was the culmination of an article-by-article analysis of Bill 96 which took place over several months, with university professors, lawyers, professionals and concerned Quebecers participating

“Bill 96 is not just a language law, it is a fundamental restructuring of our society, our country, our province (not nation), the relationship between people and the state, and between each other,” said Colin Standish, the Task Force’s president.

TFLP accuses gov’t of lying

“The CAQ government has said repeatedly, ‘This Bill does not take away the rights of English-speakers,’ added Standish. “Those statements are not opinions or biased observations… those statements are lies.”

In an executive summary of its brief on Bill 96, the TFLP says, “The Bill serves to erode, erase and extinguish the fundamental freedoms of all Quebecers, be they French-speakers, English-speakers, newcomers or Aboriginals. The Bill surgically excises the English language and its speakers and institutions from Quebec,” and “in effect, Bill 96 deinstitutionalizes the English language and its speakers in Quebec.”

Pet peeves with Bill 96

Here is a list of the Task Force’s primary reservations about Bill 96:

It does not promote, “protect” or increase the French-language in usage, home language, mother-tongue or first official language spoken (FOLS).

Bill 96 effectively erases the English-language, its institutions and individual speakers from civil society and public administration in Quebec.

The proposed unilateral Constitutional amendment is, in itself, unconstitutional and ill-advised public policy that will affect other aspects of the Canadian Constitution. (s. 159)

Changes to the interpretive framework for Bill 101 and the Quebec Charter and other laws will distort fundamental freedoms and human rights. (ss. 63, 65, 66, 120, 138, 133- 136) 5. Freedom of expression, commercial expression and practice, work and employment, contractual liberty and freedom of education are constrained for all Quebecers, of all linguistic groups.

The use of provincial and national notwithstanding clauses will suppress basic human rights for all Quebecers in extreme and illegitimate ways at home, at school, the workplace and in their commercial transactions.

Children’s names and Bill 96

Among the more extravagant measures the TFLP claims to have found in Bill 96 is an article which amends the old language legislation by striking out the word “English” in a section pertaining to the naming of a child. This, the TFLP maintains, would force some people to use francicized names.

“Where a name contains characters, diacritical signs [accents etc.] or a combination of a character and a diacritical sign that are not used for the writing of French, the name must be transcribed into French,” reads the new article as it would supposedly appear in Bill 96.

“It’s sort of outlandish. If people from around the world or indigenous Canadians, if they have anything that’s sort of not an Anglo/Celtic name, they would be forced to be solely in French going forward,” said Standish.

“It’s a very bizarre little change. I don’t know why we can’t let people name themselves for themselves or what they parents decide.”

Fines from $21,000 – $90,000

Describing some of the monetary penalties imposed upon those who violate Bill 96, the TFLP claims that a fine ranging from $21,000 (individual) to $90,000 (corporate) could be levied upon any person or company found guilty of allowing a child to be instructed in English when they are legally ineligible.

“Bill 96 is not just a language law, it is a fundamental restructuring of our society,” said TFLP president Colin Standish.

Standish gave the following example (although he suggested he wasn’t completely certain, as the government has yet to explain in detail the exact impact of the law which hasn’t been passed by the National Assembly yet).

Bill 96 and Story Time

“If you let your child in your home read a story book in English to a neighbour’s child, who lacks a Section 23 right – let’s say they’re a new Canadian or a French speaker without the right to English education – you can have a $21,000 fine,” he said, while adding that if you are running a business from home, the fine could be up to $90,000.

“This is actually in Bill 96. This is not a ridiculous example where I’m trying to distort and pervert what’s actually in the law. You could have a $21,000 to $90,000 fine for merely tolerating a child’s receiving instruction in English if they don’t have a Section 23 right. That’s how far this law goes in perverting and distorting our rights and freedoms.”

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