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By Hunter Cresswell

As it did with draft Bill 96, the Quebec Community Groups Network said it isn’t happy with the planned hearing on the controversial language bill.

On June 30, the Quebec National Assembly announced that the Committee on Culture and Education will hold special consultations and public hearings on Bill 96, starting Sept. 21.

“The QCGN is deeply disappointed that the government of Quebec is severely limiting participation in public hearings on Bill 96 and that it did not issue a wider invitation to Quebecers. Instead, government officials pre-selected participants with a strong bias in favour of the legislation,” a June 30 QCGN press release states.

Out of the 50 groups or people invited to the hearings between Sept. 21 and Oct. 7, there are only three groups representing the English-speaking community. QCGN is one of those groups.

“The QCGN urges the government to reconsider and invite a broad cross-section of Quebecers to participate in public hearings on Bill 96. Quebecers need to take the time to build a consensus on the type of society we wish to live in,” the release states.

The governing Coalition Avenir Quebec party tabled Bill 96 in the National Assembly in March. It amends the Charter of the French Language, 24 other Quebec statutes, the Constitution Act of 1867, and one other regulation. If the current draft of Bill 96 passes, language police can come into businesses without a warrant to search through phones, computers, and documents to ensure that communications are in French.

According to a recent QCGN analysis, the bill could also make seeking justice in court in English more expensive by charging for translation, limit permits for students in Quebec to study at English schools to three year periods, decline enrollment in English primary and secondary schools, keep the unemployment rate of English speakers – which is higher than French speakers – stagnant, and much more.

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