Bill 96: Young Mohawks Fear For Their Language

The Mohawks, who express themselves primarily in English, will be directly affected by the reform of the Charter of the French Language, which provides for the addition of three French courses to the education of students taking English-speaking CEGEPs. Successful completion of two French courses was already required.

Even if their right to preserve their language and culture is protected by the Charter, the Aboriginal people are not specifically mentioned in this legislative project, which they strongly oppose. Today they are asking Quebec to exempt them from the application of Bill 96 or, better yet, repeal this bill.

It’s an attack on our languagelaunched Ra’nikonhri:io Lazare, a 22-year-old teacher.

% de la population du Québec parlent français. Nous, on est 300 à parler notre langue, que je maîtrise peu d’ailleurs”,”text”:”On comprend que c’est pour protéger la culture, mais 85% de la population du Québec parlent français. Nous, on est 300 à parler notre langue, que je maîtrise peu d’ailleurs”}}”>We understand it’s to protect culture, but 85% of Quebec’s population speaks French. We are 300 people and speak our language, which I don’t know much aboutexplained Teiotsatonteh Diabo, who plans to attend Dawson College in the fall.

It is sad that I am forced to learn French for my own language. That’s how many people in the community think.

This 19-year-old young woman recalls some painful parts of her country’s history, which somehow survived the residential aboriginal schools and other attempts at assimilation.

We are a small community. We don’t have much left and we have to protect what we have left. This is our message and I hope it will reach François Legault. I hope he will listen to us and put himself in our place.

Teiotsatonteh Diabo (center) walks with her younger sister Ionientana:wen and other members of Kahnawake’s Mohawk community.

Photo: Radio Canada

Dozens of protesters gathered in front of the Kahnawake Survival School before starting their march to Mercier Bridge. Access to education was at the heart of their concerns.

I think of all those young people I teach. This law will have a lot of influence on them when it comes time to choose what they want to do in life.said Ra’nikonhri:io Lazare.

Mr. Lazare fears the legislative project will block the future prospects of future generations of Mohawks by creating new barriers to access to higher education.

This naturally reduces the possibilities for our young people to go to CEGEP and university.

The majority of people here speak English, said Ka’nahsohon Kevin Deer, an elder from Kahnawake. They should not be punished for wanting to go to school.

According to Teiotsatonteh Diabo, making it harder for young Aborigines to access education is everything else. The social infrastructure system developed in Kahnawake to ensure greater community autonomy would be the first to suffer.

It will affect my sister’s upbringing, mine, but it will also affect our health system. We will have a hard time keeping our hospital in the community and we will always have to go to Montreal for all things healthcaresaid Teiotsatonteh Diabo.

Even though François Legault recently assured that health care will always be accessible in English after the reform, the young woman fears that her business will eventually be swallowed up by the French-speaking system.

96 va nous faire retourner encore plus loin en arrière.”,”text”:”On a déjà été assimilés. Le projet de loi96 va nous faire retourner encore plus loin en arrière.”}}”>We are already assimilated. Bill 96 takes us even further back.

No consultation

As the youngest walked under a blazing sun and the sound of car horns, Ka’nahsohon Kevin Deer waited patiently for their return in front of the school. Sitting next to a tree, he kept a fire going for the ceremony that preceded the departure.

Nearly 50 years after Law 101, the eldest has the impression of reliving the same scenario. While he remains hopeful, he finds it difficult to accept the government’s reluctance to talk to the First Nations and study their demands for Charter reform, a reform for which Aboriginal people were not consulted.

We have made treaties of peace, friendship and respect, argues Ka’nahsohon Kevin Deer. The way the government behaves, it’s like we don’t matter. We do not pass any law without consulting those involved. That’s what bothers us.

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