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Bill 96: Excluding English Quebecers ignores their solidarity for French, arts and culture groups say
MONTREAL – Three English-language arts and culture groups urged the Quebec government to abandon “exclusion” of Quebec’s one million English-speaking citizens in Bill 96, its proposed legislation that would toughen rules requiring exclusive use of French in a wide range of businesses and institutions.
In a brief presented to the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) today, representatives of the Quebec Writers’ Federation (QWF), the English-Language Arts Network (ELAN) and the Quebec Drama Federation (QDF) said they are “deeply troubled by the character, spirit and content of Bill 96, and the negative impact it threatens to have on Quebec’s English-language arts community.” Together, these groups represent over a thousand artists.
They pointed to the bill’s preamble, which says French is Quebec’s only official language, noting that this ignores at least nine percent of the province’s population who are English-speaking. The groups also demanded that the government renounce its use of the Canadian constitution’s Notwithstanding Clause to shield the bill from court challenges.
Citing statistical data showing that 70 percent of English-speaking Quebecers have learned French, they said the claim that French is “in decline” in Quebec is unsupported by evidence. Their brief also noted that English-speaking Quebecers launched Canada’s first-ever French immersion programs, through which millions of Canadians have learned French.
“We are allies of the French language, and of French-language arts and culture in Quebec,” said Julie Barlow, QWF president, in presenting the brief. “It is not necessary to deny our existence to protect and promote French.”
Guy Rodgers, executive director of ELAN, said all three groups are worried that Bill 96’s preamble claim that “Quebec is a nation whose only language is French” could negatively impact English-speaking artists’ access to public funding. The government-financed Conseil des arts et lettres du Québec currently sets aside a proportion of its arts and culture grants for English-speaking writers, artists and performers.
“This funding is crucial to their survival,” Rodgers said. “We ask what safeguards the Government of Quebec and its arts funders will put in place to ensure that the principles of representation are maintained and that English-speaking artists and organizations can continue to access public funding.”
Information: Christopher Neal, Board Member, Quebec Writers’ Federation
Read the brief: