Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — “Bill 101 reform” will harm vulnerable English-speaking Jewish seniors and could spark another exodus of young Jews from Quebec, the B’nai Brith organization said Monday.
Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith, said his community shares many of the concerns already raised by other cultural organizations and city politicians – including that the legislature has preemptively invoked the provision notwithstanding, to pass the new language law. against potential legal challenges based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
But beyond those general concerns, he said, the law will have special implications for Quebec’s Jewish community, many of whose members speak English as a first or second language.
Mr. Mostyn is concerned that elderly immigrants from Ukraine and the former Soviet Union are no longer able to access services in English, and that young Jews are leaving the province because they no longer feel welcome.
Speaking at a press conference in Montreal on Monday, he argued that this reform of the French Language Charter “is effectively pointing a gun at Quebecers’ minds by forcing them to use French in contexts where accommodations were previously possible for non- French speakers”.
According to Mr. Mostyn, this law violates the rights of minorities to participate fully in Quebec society and will lead to a reduction in health services and social programs for Quebecers who do not speak French.
Prime Minister François Legault has repeatedly tried to reassure Anglophones that this reform will not stop people from being treated in English, and he has accused critics of the law of fomenting unnecessary fear.
But Marvin Rotrand, director of the human rights league at B’nai Brith, said he believes the law is “pretty clear”: Anglophone healthcare will not be protected in non-emergency situations, such as doctor’s appointments.
He also said the law will make it more difficult to recruit rabbis from outside Quebec, as the reform tightens up an exception that allows these religious leaders to send their children to English-speaking Jewish schools.
He argued that previously children of rabbis could attend English schools for three years – and that this exemption could be extended. However, under the new law, this grace period has been shortened and cannot be extended any longer.
They fear “a second exodus”
The former Montreal city councilor believes the combination of this “Bill 101 reform” and the state’s Secularism Act, which bans certain officials from wearing religious symbols at work, could lead to many young members of the Jewish community have to leave Quebec.
mm. Rotrand and Mostyn fear a “second exodus,” similar to what happened in the 1970s and 1980s, when many Jews left for Toronto because of the sovereignty movement in Quebec and the adoption of the Charter of the French Language, commonly referred to as “Law 101.” . †
According to Mr. Rotrand, Quebec’s Jewish community is made up of approximately 53% Anglophones, many of whom are elderly, and 20% of them live below the poverty line. “There’s a certain vulnerability there,” he said. If the (Jewish) community is to grow, it needs the support of the Quebec government and our fellow citizens.”
The “Law on the Official and Common Language of Quebec, French” was passed in the National Assembly on May 25 by 78 votes to 29. It extends the franchise process to small and medium-sized businesses with 25 to 49 employees, tightens admission to English-language CEGEPs, and limits access for some to communications and government services in languages other than French.
While there are exceptions for members of the “historical English-speaking community” in health, public safety and education, Rotrand argues that many members of the Jewish community are ineligible because they were born or attended school outside of Canada.
Meir Edery, who recently earned a law degree from a French-speaking university, said Monday that he felt unwanted in Quebec by the law, even though he speaks French. This law “creates a climate of fear, a climate of fear against English speakers — and against me, even though I’m perfectly bilingual,” he said.
While some groups, including England’s Montreal School Board, have filed or plan to file legal objections to the law, Rotrand said it was “premature” to say whether B’nai Brith would do the same.
He said the agency first wanted to review the final text of the law to see if the Quebec government would be willing to make minor changes — or work with the community to implement it.