By Gordon Lambie
Local Journalism Initiative
The task force launched at the end of June to stop planned reforms to language laws at the provincial and federal level now has a name: the Task Force on Linguistic Policy, or Comité spécial sur la politique linguistique in French.
According to Colin Standish, the group’s founder and president, the name and its accompanying new logo are part of an ongoing process to formalize the structure of the organization while it works on highlighting issues of concern in provincial Bill 96 and federal Bill C-32.
“We’re lobbying hard with the provincial government and the national assembly committees to get ourselves heard,” Standish said, explaining that following a successful launch there are now between 425 and 450 individuals signed up as members. “All Quebecers deserve to be heard on Bill 96.”
The group also named the rest of its senior leadership team as a part of the same announcement, with Ben Huot as Vice President, Brian Rock as Secretary, Irwin Rapoport as Treasurer, Andrew Caddell as a member at large, and Marcus Tabachnick as executive director.
With both levels of government out on break for the summer and the call of a federal election widely expected before the fall, the task force president said that right now a lot of energy is being put into preparing to fight Quebec’s language reform.
“It’s going to be very much ‘game on’ after Labour Day,” Standish said, describing his group’s current focus as being on “slicing and dicing” the bill to find areas of concern.
“Bill 96 is 201 articles long and 100 page and it’s really a very nebulous bill. We know that there’s a lot of stuff in there that people haven’t event talked about.”
While still engaged in that process of analysis, Standish said that the task group has already identified significant “poison pills” in the powers of search and seizure that the bill, as presented, would hand over to inspectors of the Office quebecois de la langue française (OQLF).
“It really is very scary stuff,” the president said, pointing out articles that allow inspectors from the OQLF to search or take custody of any documents or devices of anyone present in a business being inspected for possible violations of the language law. “This is something all Quebecers should be worried about,” he added.
While the group begins to increase its public activity, Standish said that one of the main things they are looking for is the chance for anyone and everyone to participate in the hearings on the bill that are set to take place this fall.
“Right now there’s only three groups representing the English speaking community at the table, and that’s just not fair,” he said, pointing out that the population in question is roughly 1.2 million people.
Standish acknowledged that anyone who wishes to, can already write to their local member of the national assembly with their concerns or comment on the bill via the government’s website, but he argued that the chance to speak face-to-face is second to none when it comes to making a community’s concerns heard.
“That’s what gets noticed,” he said.