Ruling puts nationalist sentiments on bubble

Loi 104 - Les écoles passerelles - réplique à la Cour suprême

RHÉAL SÉGUIN - A Supreme Court decision on a law that closed a loophole in Quebec's French-Language Charter could awaken dormant nationalist sentiments and help the Parti Québécois boost support for sovereignty.
Language remains the cornerstone of Quebec nationalism, with the defence of French a pillar of the Quebec sovereignty movement. Yesterday's ruling is likely to revive the mass protests that erupted each time the Supreme Court struck down provisions in the 1977 French Language Charter, Bill 101.
The Mouvement national des Québécois called the decision a total lack of respect" of Quebeckers, saying it confirmed "the dismantlement" of Quebec's language law.
Under Bill 101, children from immigrant and francophone families must attend French-language schools. But under a provision known as the Canada clause, if one parent or one child attended an English-language school, that family is exempted from the bill's restrictive provisions. The province passed Bill 104, which amended the charter to prevent parents from qualifying for the exemption by enrolling one child briefly at a private English school.
A lower court ruling two years ago that found Bill 104 unconstitutional was upheld by the top court yesterday.PQ Leader Pauline Marois called the Supreme Court ruling an invitation to bypass Bill 101 for those who can afford it. All parents need to do to have their children educated in an English-language public school, she said, is pay for a short time at a private school.
"The Supreme Court, a court appointed by another nation, once again hacks to pieces one of the fundamental instruments of the Quebec nation. What is the Premier proposing to do to correct the situation?" Ms. Marois asked.
Premier Jean Charest must strike a balance between the need to protect the French language and complying with the ruling. He refused to support a PQ motion denouncing the decision and defended the court's legitimacy to rule on the question.
"[Ms. Marois] angers Quebeckers when she says that the court is from another nation. ... It's upsetting for those who want to live in our society without cutting each other up into pieces," Mr. Charest replied during a fiery exchange in the National Assembly.
One of the more controversial options being examined would be to extend Bill 101's restrictions to private schools. The minister responsible for the French Language Charter, Christine St-Pierre, said the final objective must be to protect Bill 101.
"We are very disappointed with this ruling," she said.
"We have one objective, and that is, we want to protect the French language in Quebec. From our point of view, immigrants should send their kids to French schools. This is what we want," Ms. St-Pierre said.
Failure to gauge the public's mood on this issue could cost the Charest government a heavy political price. In 1988, then-premier Robert Bourassa caused a mutiny among anglophone members of his Liberal caucus when he invoked the Constitution's notwithstanding clause to override a Supreme Court decision that struck down the ban on using English on commercial signs.

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