Unfortunately, Bill 102 isn't dead yet

Écoles passerelles - Loi 115

Forgotten, but not gone. That's the status of Bill 103, the Charest government's proposed language legislation that includes proposals that could weaken legal protection against linguistic discrimination in the private as well as the public sector.
Bill 115, the "light" version of Bill 103 that became law last week, does not replace the original, which remains before the National Assembly.
And the sponsor of both bills, Culture Minister Christine St-Pierre, said on the Radio-Canada television talk show Tout le monde en parle last Sunday that the government still intends to pass Bill 103.
(St-Pierre also assured her audience that anglophone objections to the new restrictions on admission to publicly funded English schools had "no influence" on the new law.)
Bill 115 consists mainly of the schooling restrictions that were (and still are) in Bill 103.
It was hurriedly introduced and passed in less than 24 hours, after the government invoked closure to reduce the opposition's debating time, to meet a deadline set by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Bill 103, the one still before the Assembly, would also require universities and colleges to make students and staff aware of their language policies.
They would have to report on the implementation of their language policies and take any corrective action the government requires. So would public agencies.
Even the smallest town could be required to adopt a language policy and report to the government on its implementation.
Fines for violations of the French Language Charter, Bill 101, would increase several fold, to a maximum of $6,000 from the present $700 for an first offence by an individual and to $20,000 from $1,400 for a first offence by a business.
And the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms would be amended. Some of the proposed amendments would introduce new rights to receive education in French, learn French, benefit from integration measures and contribute to Quebec culture.
But Bill 103 would also introduce into the charter's preamble a reference to French as not only the official language of Quebec but also "a fundamental aspect of its cultural patrimony and social cohesion."
And it would introduce a clause requiring courts and tribunals interpreting the charter to "take into account both the fact that French is the official language of Quebec and the importance of ensuring its perpetuity."
The latter two proposed amendments could give French precedence before the charter's protection for "full and equal" rights and against discrimination, notably on grounds of language.
And unlike the constitutional Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Quebec charter applies to the private sector as well as the government.
But the government is sending contradictory signals about its intentions concerning Bill 103.
Yesterday, government sources told me that the government intends to pass Bill 103 before the Assembly adjourns for the winter recess, which is scheduled to start on Dec. 10.
But it hasn't set a date yet for resumption of debate on the bill, and its adoption could be delayed if other proposed legislation is given priority.
Now that Bill 115 has met the Supreme Court's deadline, there's no urgency to adopt Bill 103. Indeed, there no longer appears to be any need for it.
Nobody was clamouring for the measures in Bill 103 other than the ones needed to respond to the Supreme Court ruling.
The government threw them in to try to make the school measures, which theoretically would allow a few more children into English public schools, more acceptable to French-speaking public opinion.
But the school measures are now law, and a nationalist attempt to mobilize opinion against the legislation fizzled.
And it might be significant that the government introduced Bill 115 instead of simply using closure to pass all of Bill 103, and included the fine increases in what's supposed to be legislation on the language of schooling.
That might be a sign that, whatever St-Pierre says, the government prefers to leave the rest of Bill 103 to die a quiet death on the Assembly order paper.

Laissez un commentaire

Aucun commentaire trouvé