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By Hunter Cresswell

A Quebec English community network feels their community is being left out of the Quebec National Assembly’s hearings on a controversial language reform bill, so it’s organizing its own series of hearings.

Starting Sept. 9, the Quebec Community Groups Network will host hearings over two weeks on Bill 96, which the network’s website describes as “an attack on your individual and our collective rights.”

“It is critical that the voices of Quebecers are heard,” QCGN president Marlene Jennings stated in an Aug. 19 press release. “For that reason, the QCGN has decided to conduct a parallel consultation to measure the pulse of the community and to convey a strong and clear message to the government.”

“Considering the complexity and breadth of the proposed legislative changes, the proposal to invoke the notwithstanding clause to sidestep both our provincial and federal rights charters, and the fact that Bill 96 includes a unilateral amendment to the Canadian Constitution, the narrow scope of the government’s consultation is unacceptable,” Jennings stated.

In June, 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. 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. The Quebec Community Groups Network is one of those groups included, but the Quebec English School Boards Association, which the Western Quebec School Board is part of, and other English groups were left off that list.

The 100-page Bill 96, tabled by the governing Coalition Avenir Quebec party in the National Assembly in March, amends the Charter of the French Language, 24 other Quebec statutes, the Constitution Act of 1867, and one other regulation. It’s a sweeping language reform that heavily favours the French language. English advocates worry about its impact on English speakers and English-speaking communities in Quebec.

“Our goal is to amplify underrepresented voices and reinforce the QCGN’s own brief to the National Assembly,” Jennings stated. “Otherwise, too many voices will remain shut out of the discussion on legislation that would abrogate fundamental rights under the cover of language legislation.”

QCGN hosts information on the bill at qcgn.ca/bill-96.

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