The council of commissioners of the New Frontiers School Board (NFSB) is publicly raising concern over the federal government’s Bill C-13, which aims to amend the Official Languages Act.
The proposed legislation has been widely criticized by organizations advocating on behalf of the English language minority in Quebec, including the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) and the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA), for protecting the use of French in federally regulated private businesses in Quebec and its acknowledgement of the Quebec Language Charter.
John Ryan, the chair of the NFSB council of commissioners, says they are very concerned by the bill’s lack of protection for minority language rights in this province. They are especially worried by the bill’s seeming endorsement of Quebec’s Bill 96, which amended the Language Charter, and the way it passed by the National Assembly using the notwithstanding clause. As a result, the NFSB will be sending a letter to every Liberal MP in Quebec denouncing the bill and its potential impacts on linguistic minority rights.
“Our board in particular does not normally react to things in this way, but this raises enough questions that our action can be seen an indicator of the amount of concern there is within the English community,” says Ryan, of the letter-writing campaign. As the only remaining elected representatives of the anglophone community, Ryan says school boards have a strong voice. Though, he admits, with a Superior Court decision looming on the constitutionality of Bill 40, there is a chance their right to speak on behalf of the English community may soon be diminished.
The QCGN has also issued an open letter addressed to David Lametti, the minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, which calls on the government to amend Bill C-13 to ensure that “language rights created by parliament are extended to both official languages.” This letter, which has now been signed by well over 2000 people, can be accessed and signed online at qcgn.ca/open-letter-parliamentarians.