Townshippers’ Association was extremely disappointed with the news of the adoption of Bill 96 this week in the National Assembly. Despite opposition from numerous groups and organizations across the province – who have been voicing their concerns about the bill’s shortcomings since it was first tabled more than a year ago – this ill-conceived piece of legislation was adopted without any significant changes. Today, we join our voice to the voices of other groups and organizations across the province who are expressing their concerns and frustrations about this new piece of legislation. We wish to make it clear that this bill does not reflect our hopes, or our vision, for an inclusive Quebec.
While in full agreement that the protection and the promotion of the French language and culture is imperative to preserving Quebec’s unique character, we do not agree that Bill 96’s sweeping use of the notwithstanding clause is the way to accomplish this goal. We firmly believe that there are more effective and inclusive ways to celebrate and protect the French language – and specifically to do so without taking away the rights and freedoms of Quebecers.
Bill 96 will have a significant impact on all Quebecers. It will place caps on the number of students who can attend English-language CEGEPs, it will criminalize the use of the English language in countless situations, it lacks clarity around access to services in English, and it will have a significant impact on legal and justice procedures. Bill 96 will also have important repercussions for small businesses, and it will remove the bilingual status of several municipalities across the province.
As an organization that is committed to helping English speakers access services in English, Townshippers’ Association is particularly frustrated by the lack of clarity in the bill concerning access rights and eligibility criteria for services in English, in both the private and the public sectors. Despite assurances that the act respecting access to health and social services will be maintained, we remain concerned about how accessible these services will be for English speakers and about the kind of structure that will need to be put in place to enforce the new regulations brought into effect by Bill 96.
Going forward, our organization will continue to work in partnership with other English-language organizations across the province to rally against this deplorable piece of legislation and to continue to bring attention to its shortcomings. Townshippers’ Association is committed to supporting all Townshippers who wish to use English as their chosen language of expression and we will continue to advocate on their behalf, and on behalf of other English speakers across the province.