At public hearings on Bill 96 on Thursday, the heads of the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) went head-to-head with Quebec French language minister Simon Jolin-Barrette.
The proposed law is an ambitious attempt by the government to update Bill 101. The minister says the new bill will not negatively affect English institutions, but those institutions disagree.
“There is nothing in Bill 96 that affects the rights of the English-speaking community here in Quebec, or the institutions. I want to ensure that, ”Jolin-Barrette told Russell Copeman and Dan Lamoureux, CEO and President of QESBA, during the hearing.
Copeman disagrees, saying that the CWC government’s new initiative to make French language laws more stringent will affect English speakers.
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“I don’t know how you can say that there is nothing in the bill that affects the institutions of the community. I mean, that’s obviously not correct, ”Copeman told reporters.
Copeman and Lamoureux had tense exchanges with the minister during the hearing.
“English schools are perfectly capable of preparing young people to integrate into Quebec society and to speak French,” Copeman told Jolin-Barrette.
In response, Barrette read a quote from Bernard Tremblay, president of the Federation of Quebec CEGEP.
“And I quote,” Jolin-Barette said, quoting Tremblay. “’I have heard from the directors of the CEGEPs in English that the French of the Anglophones who attended the school meetings in English is horrible, and they do not speak French, or they speak practically no French'”.
Hearings on Bill 96 began Tuesday at the National Assembly and will see nine days total of testimony on the proposed law of interested groups and individuals.
“We have serious concerns,” Copeman said.
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One of his concerns is the bill’s plan to limit the time foreign nationals can have their children study in English schools, possibly hurting already declining enrollment.
“Any measure that reduces that number will have a negative effect on the quality of education that we can provide,” she said, explaining that the parents of US Vice President Kamala Harris were able to enroll her at Westmount High School under the current rules. .
The association expresses concern that the bill could limit its ability to communicate in English with other organizations, and is concerned that if the government uses the bill to declare French the only official language of the province, which contradicts the Canadian constitution, unilingual judges can be hired.
“Isn’t it possible that this is going to reduce access to justice in English? These are questions that I think need to be clarified, ”Copeman said.
The hearings will continue until October 7.
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