Anglophone leaders concerned about reference to Bill 96
By Jack Wilson
Local Journalism Initiative
Sherbrooke MP Élisabeth Brière and Compton-Stanstead MP Marie-Claude Bibeau both intend to vote in favour of language Bill C-13, the Record has confirmed. The confirmations come amidst concerns that the bill will erode rights for Quebec’s English-speaking community.
Bill C-13, federal legislation pending final approval in the House of Commons, will amend the Official Languages Act, which governs the use of French and English. The bill has garnered criticism for its references to Bill 96, sweeping provincial legislation that, among other things, restricts access to English-language services in Quebec. Bill 96 makes use of the notwithstanding clause, which allows the provincial government to opt out of its obligations under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Still, the notwithstanding clause can’t shield legislation from all constitutional requirements: rights including access to education and the justice system in both official languages precede the exemption. Alleged violations on those fronts have led to court challenges.
The reference to Bill 96 “has been our major issue with C-13,” said Eva Ludvig, president of the Quebec Community Groups Network, which represents English-language groups throughout the province. “Bill 96 is protected under the notwithstanding clause and this would mean a semi-approval of pre-emptive use of the notwithstanding clause.”