It only took a few minutes in the National Assembly for the CAQ government to pass Bill 96 on May 24, with the Liberals and the Parti Québécois voting against the proposed reform to the province’s language law. It is a bully of a bill, beating down on minority linguistic, Indigenous, and ethnic communities without any hindsight into the potential implications this may have on Quebec society in general. For example, it does almost nothing to promote the use of the French language. Instead, it simply falls back on vilifying the use of English.
This is not in any way an attempt to say that all Quebecers and Québecois need not work together to protect the French language and Quebec’s unique culture. There is no denying that as a francophone nation in North America, there is a prescient need to have policy in place that not only protects French but allows it to flourish. Would it not make sense then to have a policy in place that would make our common language and culture more accessible? The Bill promotes an insular and repressive vision for Quebec. Its wide reach does nothing but build and reinforce barriers between Quebec’s majority and minority communities.
These walls, while ever-present, feel more permeable in communities such as ours, where citizens make a general effort to respect and co-exist with one another. This Bill casts our relatively harmonious cohabitation in a negative light and treats it as a threat to Quebec’s identity. French culture exists beyond this Bill and cannot be defined only in its opposition to English; as a protector of culture, Bill 96 misses its mark. We are so much more than this as a province. Sarah Rennie