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‘Anxiety and frustration’: Demonstrators protest against language law in Quebec – Montreal

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Demonstrators marched in downtown Montreal to protest Quebec’s controversial language bill on Saturday, demanding it be removed to preserve the rights of Anglophones, Allophones and indigenous communities.

Protesters, who gathered at Dawson College before marching more than two kilometers to the office of Prime Minister Franois Legault, made an 11-hour prayer against the legislation, which aims to strengthen the province’s French-language statute.

Draft Law 96, which is expected to pass this month, will impose tougher language requirements on jobs and municipalities.

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People take part in a demonstration against Bill 96 in Montreal on Saturday, May 14, 2022.

CANADIAN PRESS / Graham Hughes

It also seeks to restrict the use of English in the courts and public services, to give search and seizure authorities without a warrant the Quebec language regulator, and to restrict enrollment in small English colleges, called CEGEPs, where students will have to take more French courses.

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READ MORE: Defenders of health care and rights in English stress the danger of bill 96

Several thousand marchers returned home with the bilingual element of Quebec society on Saturday morning, chanting “Mon CEGEP, mon choix” and advertising billboards reading, “I am not a second-class citizen.”

Marlene Jennings, a former Liberal MP in Montreal, said Bill 96 “breaks the social contract” with the Quebecers, while Robert Leckey, dean of McGill University School of Law, said he would “toughly cross” constitutional restrictions. .

“Anyone can use English and French in the courts of this province. It is related to the constitution. And using English in Quebecourt involves having a judge who understands the language, “he said, addressing the demonstrators in English and French, as most speakers did.

Leckey was referring to the provisions in the bill that state judges should no longer be bilingual and that a company’s statements in court should be in French, or translated into it.

Bill 96 also calls for a preventive clause unchanged, leaving aside the fundamental rights of equality embodied in both the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Quebec.

READ MORE: Quebec doctors warn language Bill 96 could impair patient care

“Should our elected lawmakers pass laws that they know are unconstitutional?” Leckey asked the crowd.

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Russell Copeman, executive director of the Association of School Boards in Quebec, said he supported efforts to protect the French language, but described Bill 96 as “discriminatory”.

“I think what you are seeing is a depth of anxiety and frustration that is quite extraordinary in the English community,” he said in a telephone interview.

Indigenous communities also have concerns about potential law.

“We are being recolonized again under Bill 96,” said Kenneth Deer, an Indigenous rights activist from the Mohawk Nation in Kahnawake. “We do not force you to learn our language; do not force us to learn yours. ”

Kahnawake Mohawk Council Chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer said the requirement for young people to master a third language – French – carries colonial overtones and would make it more difficult for them to succeed.

“Trying to encourage young people to learn our indigenous language is challenging in itself,” she said by telephone.

“We always want to encourage our young people to reach the stars. “But if they want to be doctors, lawyers, nurses – any of those professional orders will now require very strict French skills.”

The demonstrators flowed mainly along the Sainte-Catherine road, where many retail stores were located concerned about the impact of stricter language rules in the workplace.

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The changes will subject companies with 25 or more employees to “franchising” – government certification that the use of the French language is generalized in the workplace – from 50 currently.

Meanwhile the cost of the bill for a company with approximately 50 employees will range between $ 9.5 million and $ 23.5 million, according to estimates by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Costs range from translation fees and legal services to administrative charges, such as setting up a job appraisal to ensure French penetrates all sides of the company.

More than a dozen provincial and federal liberal lawmakers were in attendance Saturday, including Quebec Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade.

Waiting for the protesters outside the prime minister’s office was a group of pro-Bill 96 students, armed with guitars and tambourines, who greeted the marchers with classic Quebecois songs by Jean Leloup and Gilles Vigneault.

They shouted “Vive leQuebec” and “Vive le franais” between the texts. Demonstrators on both sides were covered in Quebec flags and some quarrels erupted amid the 30-degree Celsius heat, but the general atmosphere remained optimistic.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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