Injustice for some, victory for others, Bill 96, although passed by a large majority in the National Assembly on May 24, has caused much talk, in several languages.
Bill 96, submitted to the National Assembly in May 2021 by the Minister in charge of the French language, Simon Jolin-Barrette, aims to reform the Charter of the French Language (Bill 101) introduced by Camille Laurin in 1977, when René Lévesque ruled Quebec.
The new law also changes various structures of society, including education, access to justice, the world of work, immigration, to name a few.
When it was passed, 78 deputies in the Blue Chamber voted in favor against 29, who were against it. MNA for Vaudreuil, Marie-Claude Nichols, spoke out against the bill and its adoption.
“In recent weeks, many citizens have expressed their concerns regarding the implementation of PL96. Several testimonials touched my heart and I must confess that I have shared their concerns. For example, I recently voted against this bill.”let them know on her social networks.
a divisive law
There is no doubt for the honorable Member that the adoption of the bill will only divide society. However, she specifies: “It is in my core values to protect and promote French, while respecting the fundamental prerogatives of Quebecers”.
In the same publication, Marie-Claude Nichols denounces the fact that Bill deprives 96 students of the right to choose the language in which they want to pursue their higher education.
“By restricting enrollment in English-language CEGEPs, this bill deprives students of the right to choose their course of study. I am thinking in particular of young people from my riding school Vaudreuil, for whom it will no longer be possible to attend John Abbott College, which is near us, but also of those who want to learn English and who aspire to it to work in international companies. †
Remember, the law states that beginning with the 2023-2024 school year, English-speaking CEGEP students will take three additional French courses and places in English-speaking colleges will be limited to 30,834.
Marie-Claude Nichols also regrets the changes that will be made to immigrant services and access to justice. “By shortening the period during which a newcomer can communicate with the government in a language other than French to six months, the PL96 imposes barriers to the integration of immigrants; even the experts say this delay is unreasonable.”
She adds: “By requiring the judiciary to apply linguistic criteria when selecting judges, this bill will lead to a shortage of staff in the judiciary and, consequently, to longer delays in English-language court cases.”
The French language debate in Quebec is not new. As early as 1867, with the entry into force of the Confederation, the French-Canadian leaders of Quebec noted that the rights of French-speaking minorities in other Canadian provinces were under threat, especially in the field of education.
Closer to our times, in 1969, Union Nationale leader Jean-Jacques Bertrand passed Bill 63 after a debate erupted between francophones and Italians in Montreal over the language to be used in schools. The first demanded that it be French, the second that it be English.
To calm things down, Mr. Bertrand passed Bill 63, which officially recognizes free choice in the language of instruction, while requiring children educated in English to acquire a working knowledge of Molière’s language.
It was finally in 1974 under a liberal government led by Robert Bourassa that French became the official language of Quebec. This new law requires all immigrants arriving in the province of la belle to enroll in a French school.
“The Quebec Liberal Party has always stood up for the defense of the French language; it was our government that made French the official language of Quebec in 1974, with Bill 22, which managed to strike a balance between preserving French and preserving individual freedoms. It is this balance that the PL96 lacks. The Liberal Party defends the rights of all Quebecers, regardless of their origin or the language they speak; this is why the PL96 bothers me, and why I’m suing it. By adopting it, the CAQ government is dividing a society like ours only where it is good to live.”concludes Marie-Claude Nichols.