Quebec group has sold out the anglos it claims to represent

Its refusal to defend the rule of law and the English language is shocking


What a gutless, visionless brief. The Quebec Community Groups Network presumed to speak for Quebec's English-speaking community last Thursday before the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on accommodation practices. Its brief, titled Reasonable Accommodation Concerns of English-Speaking Quebecers, left this anglo thoroughly disgusted.
The commission's hearings aim at a searching reflection on the fundamental values of Quebecers, and how these might or might not be adapted to cultural minorities. They provided English-speaking Quebecers with a rare opportunity to examine and proclaim publicly their own deeply cherished values. So what did the QCGN do?
It quoted the mandate announced by Premier Jean Charest when he announced the inquiry: "The Commission will make recommendations to the government to ensure that the practices of accommodation respect the common values of all Quebecers."
Then, coming to the heart of the matter, the QCGN went on: "The premier proposed some values that he considered common to all Quebecers, including: equality between men and women. The primacy of the French language. The separation of church and state and the preservation of the secular nature of provincial institutions.
"We agree that these are the foundations of our society, and we seek to participate in the society-wide consultations with those values as the starting point."
What? The QCGN accepts these three values as "common to all Quebecers" as "the foundations of our society" and the "starting point" of English-speaking Quebecers when they reveal their fundamental values as Quebecers? For shame.
Not one of the three is the most fundamental value for anglos. Far more important is the rule of law. That is bedrock. And it is a value that needs to be asserted by anglos because of the readiness to flout it on the issue of secession, equally by Parti Québécois premiers such as Jacques Parizeau and Lucien Bouchard, and Liberals Robert Bourassa and Jean Charest. All four defended the right of Quebec to secede without recognizing the conditions set by the Supreme Court of Canada: That secession could only be legal if it was assured by an enabling amendment to the Constitution of Canada, and that in turn required meeting the four conditions set by the court: It must respect democratic clarity, the rule of law, the federal principle, and the rights of minorities. Charest's government is now defending before the courts Bouchard's Bill 99 of the year 2000, which claimed Quebec's right to secede unilaterally on the strength of winning a bare majority in a referendum.
A second fundamental value that needed asserting is the principle of federalism. Anglos are attached to Canada above all, they fear secession above all, and they would challenge before the courts any attempted secession that did not fulfill the conditions set by the Supreme Court.
The QCGN accepts as a fundamental value "the primacy of the French language." How can they endorse such a principle without a clear definition of what it means? In 1867, the fathers of Confederation clearly intended that, in Quebec, the status of French and English should be equal. They never endorsed any concept of the primacy of French. On the contrary, through Section 133 of the 1867 Constitution Act, they decreed that French and English should have equal status in the legislature and the courts of Quebec. They decreed by Section 80 that the "protected counties," ridings in the Eastern Townships where anglos were in majority, should have boundaries that could not be modified by the Quebec government. (This guarantee, made pointless by the exodus of anglos, was repealed in 1970.)
There were verbal assurances that the equal rights of anglos would be protected. There were the federal powers of disallowance and reserve, which allowed Parliament to overturn any provincial law. It was assumed that a Parliament where English-speakers were in majority would forever protect anglos from discrimination. Since these powers fell into disuse, they were not invoked to overturn Bourassa's Bill 22 in 1974 or the Charter of the French Language, which both pretended that only French was an official language of Quebec, even though Section 133 made English an official language beyond the power of the Quebec government to overturn. That attempt by Bill 101 was found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court did find that legislating the "clear predominance" of the French language on commercial signs would be legal. But this restriction on the freedom of speech - that is, on another fundamental anglo value - was justified on the grounds the French language was threatened. The court relied on data from before the Quiet Revolution.
That case needs to be re-argued with current data, that show the French language thriving in Quebec and not threatened. But the QCGN, compliant, submissive and servile, will clearly not take up the defence of freedom of speech. It defends "the primacy of the French language," as a more paramount anglo value.
William Johnson, a Quebec journalist, is former president of Alliance Quebec.
To read the QCGN brief, go to:

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