By Gordon Lambie
Local Journalism Initiative
On Thursday the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) began the first of four days of virtual consultation with representatives from across the province’s English communities on Bill 96. The online hearing was organized by the advocacy group after only three organizations were invited to represent all of Quebec’s English-speaking people at the parliamentary hearings on the new language bill later this month. Although that list has since been expanded, QCGN President Marlene Jennings said that the organization plans to include all of the presentations from its hearings as a part of the brief it presents at the National Assembly.
“We are coming together to share our views on Bill 96 An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec,” Jennings said in her opening remarks. “This bill is not a simple update of the Charter of the French Language. Its 201 sections would amend 25 pieces of provincial legislation, and it seeks to amend the Constitution Act, 1867. Nor is Bill 96 just about the protection and promotion of French; it seeks to fundamentally change the foundations of how Quebec is governed.”
The QCGN president criticized the provincial government for failing to fully explain what is in the bill, and particularly the aspects that touch on increasing power to the Office de la langue francaise, access to services, and the use of the notwithstanding clause.
Although the organization has been clear about its concerns in recent weeks, Jennings made a point of saying that the QCGN can see some merits in Bill 96.
“The QCGN – like the community we serve –is proud to support the protection and promotion of the French language, and the unique cultures of Francophones in minority communities across Canada, and our home here in Quebec,” she said, adding that the bill’s creation of a universal right to French instruction is a, “welcome development.”
The first day of hearings saw presentations from Michael Bergman of Bergman & Associates, former MNA and MP Clifford Lincoln, and Former QCGN President Geoffrey Chambers, among others. The hearings are set to continue Sept. 13,14, and 15. Anyone wishing to tune in can register to participate at https://qcgn.ca/event/qcgn-bill-96-hearings/