Legislative assembly

With Bill 96 passed by the National Assembly, Legault preaches the unity of Quebec

The Prime Minister insists that the majority of Quebecers agree with the legislation and that Anglophones think that French “is a plus”, not a minus.

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QUEBEC CITY — Despite the emotion of the last few months of language debate, Premier François Legault said on Tuesday that he wanted to keep Quebecers of all origins united.

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“I really want us to bring people together,” said Legault, when asked about the divisions and the feeling of Anglophones, Allophones and Indigenous people that their voices were not heard by the Coalition Avenir Québec government.

“I know there are some who are adding fuel to the fire by claiming that Bill 96 will prevent English-speaking Quebecers from receiving health services in English, Legault said. “We know some people are worried. We are committed to protecting your access to health care in English. It is a historic promise that we will keep.

Legault made the comments moments after the National Assembly, after a full year of hearings and debates, passed Bill 96 revamping the Charter of the French Language.

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The final vote was 78 in favor to 29 against.

Emerging after the vote accompanied by the minister responsible for the French language, Simon Jolin-Barrette, Legault told reporters that he considered the law “responsible and moderate”, compared to the type of legislation that a party like the Parti Québécois would have offered.

Legault insisted that the majority of Quebecers agree with the legislation and that English speakers think French “is a plus”, not a minus.

“If we don’t act to protect French…it’s only a matter of time before Quebec becomes a bilingual state,” Legault said.

The sweeping 201-article bill addresses nearly every aspect of daily life for Quebecers: from capping enrollment in English-language CEGEPs to limiting the use of English in court and the government and even to the renaming of the district of Bourget to Camille Laurin, the father of Bill 101.

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The entire bill is immune to legal challenges through the use of the notwithstanding clause of the Constitution, which allows Quebec to derogate from the Quebec and Canadian charters of rights and freedoms.

The Yes came from the deputies of the CAQ and Québec solidaire. QS supported the bill despite its own reservations about the clauses affecting immigration and indigenous communities.

As announced two months ago, Liberal MPs voted against the bill, as did those of the Parti Québécois.

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The Liberals and the PQ opposed the bill for completely different reasons. While the Liberals say Bill 96 goes too far and tramples on minority rights, the PQ says it doesn’t go far enough to protect French.

For the Liberals, the vote marks the end of a long saga after getting into hot water with minorities by amending Bill 96 in committee to impose more French as a second language courses in English-speaking CEGEPs.

Asked if she expected the ghost of Bill 96 to haunt her in the fall general election, Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade said that in the end, the party did what was needed and that is what counts.

“I think they (disgruntled voters) realize that the party standing there saying no to Bill 96 is the Liberal Party,” Anglade told reporters.

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The only member of the Conservative Party of Quebec, Claire Samson, also voted against the bill. The party opposes the bill’s use of the notwithstanding clause.

A former Liberal, Chomedey MP Guy Ouellette, voted with his former party against the bill, but another former Liberal, Maurice-Richard MP Marie Montpetit, voted in favor. Former PQ MP Sylvain Roy voted in favour. All three now sit as independents.

The vote is not quite what the minister responsible for the French language, Simon Jolin-Barrette, hoped for. Early in the year-long passage process, Jolin-Barrette advocated for a unanimous vote on the bill to show that all politicians care about the future of French.

Jolin-Barrette, who described the bill as a matter of “Quebec pride,” successfully avoided resorting to closure to pass the law.

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In a way to limit legislative debate, the CAQ used the closure to pass two of its other controversial pieces of legislation, Bill 21 on state secularism and Bill 9 overhauling the immigration system.

Passing Bill 96 is another identity item checked off the CAQ’s to-do list and comes just before the CAQ’s pre-election political convention next weekend in Drummondville – where the theme will be “pride”.

But after Jolin-Barrette said in an interview with the Montreal Gazette on Friday that the CAQ government was not considering other language laws, Legault indicated he wanted to open a new political front, this time with Ottawa. , because Quebec wants more power over immigration.

Legault told reporters he would seek a “strong mandate” in the Oct. 3 general election to force Ottawa to give up the immigration powers it currently has in the family class. Ottawa has already said no to Quebec’s demands.

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Bill 96 will also clearly be a weapon in the battle of the CAQ with the PQ for French nationalist votes.

“The PQ is allied with the Liberal Party of Quebec,” Jolin-Barrette said after learning that the PQ would oppose the bill. “I no longer recognize the PQ. They abandon the French language for purely partisan calculations.

“Quebecers know that the only political party they can count on to defend the French language is the CAQ. We showed it. »

The PQ, however, was not prepared to play games with the government over Bill 96.

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“We cannot tolerate something that is misleading to say the least,” PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon said in the morning. “This bill will not reverse the decline of French in Quebec and we are proposing much stronger measures that would.

“For PQ MPs, it’s a matter of moral duty.

The main downside of the PQ with the bill is that the government has not chosen to extend the rules of the Charter of the French language to the CEGEP system. If that happened, allophones and francophones would not be able to attend.

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Québec solidaire voted with the government, even though it has tried in vain on several occasions in recent weeks to get the government to extend the six-month period during which newcomers can obtain services in a language other than French.

Bill 96 imposes a six-month limit on the period.

“There are advances (for French), but there are other things that could have been done,” said QS co-spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, adding that if QS takes power , this will render the clause inoperative.

“We’re going to fix that, but the good stuff is still there,” Nadeau-Dubois said.

The government has given itself one year after the adoption of the bill to present new directives on language policy to all government departments and agencies. These directives will determine the methods of application of the law.

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  1. Dawson College students send simultaneous emails to their MPs during the anti-Bill 96 rally last week.

    Deciphering the key points of Bill 96

  2. A woman holds a sign during the rally to oppose Bill 96 in Montreal on Saturday, May 14, 2022. The debate over the language bill has reawakened long-dormant tensions between English-speaking and French-speaking Quebecers and rekindled historic grudges that seemed to belong to a bygone era, writes Allison Hanes.

    Hanes: After a contentious debate on Bill 96, what happens next for English speakers in Quebec?

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