Online info session on new Quebec language law on Wednesday March 8
The Task Force on Linguistic Policy is facing a challenge meeting a fundraising goal to contest Quebec’s Bill 96 in the Supreme Court of Canada, but hopes to make up the difference through new pledges.
“It’s been somewhat disappointing – we haven’t gotten the kind of response that we would have liked to have seen,” says Andrew Caddell, president of the task force.
The TFLP was set up in 2021 by a group of English-speaking Quebecers in response to the CAQ government’s Bill 96 and Bill C-13, the federal government’s revision of the Official Languages Act.
Bill C-13 by spring
Bill 96 was passed into law by the Quebec National Assembly in June 2022, while it is expected Bill C-13 could be passed by the House of Commons in Ottawa by this spring. The TFLP hopes to represent English-speaking Quebecers who stand to be impacted by Bill 96, including:
General plaintiffs acting as public interest litigants on a constitutional question; businesspeople or corporations whose business and commercial affairs will be affected by Bill 96 and don’t have the capacity to comply with the new requirements for francization; businesses whose internal documents and software only use English and who would be liable to arbitrary search and seizure by the Office Québécois de la langue française.
The task force has chosen the Bergman law firm to act as its litigation counsel. The plan is to file a comprehensive lawsuit against Bill 96 in its entirety.
$100K needed, says Caddell
“We’re raised about $20,000 – which isn’t bad,” says Caddell. “But we need to raise about $100,000. And the only way we’re going to get that is if people understand that, you know, we can win. But this will be a long and fairly drawn-out battle.”
Among the Bill 96 cases the Task Force plans to contest before the courts, according to Caddell, are ones involving students impacted by new French language requirements at CEGEPS, recently-arrived Canadians who won’t be allowed to be served in English after six months, and people who do not have historic-Anglophone status, who won’t be entitled to service in English beginning in June, because even though they use English as their most frequently spoken language, their mother tongue is not English.
Regarding the fundraising shortfall, Caddell said, “We’re really, really reaching out to say look, if we’re going to fight this law, which is going to explode on the English-speaking population of Quebec as of June 1, we have to be prepared for it, we have to be able to go to court.
“And although the notwithstanding clause is wrapped around this bill – well it is and it isn’t – the notwithstanding clause applies to only certain parts of the charter, it doesn’t apply to other parts of the charter or the constitution.” He maintains it only applies to sections 2 and sections 7 to 15 in the Canadian charter.
The rule of law
“So, for example, the right to have laws or information from the courts or from government provided to you in English, that’s in the constitution, that’s section 133. And therefore, that should be maintained. But this government doesn’t seem to think that the Canadian constitution either is worth much or exists, so we have to remind them of that.”
While Bill 96 was enacted by the National Assembly last year, provisions of the legislation are only being implemented gradually. “The way that the law was built was that there were certain parts of it which were going to come into effect on certain dates,” says Caddell.
‘this government doesn’t seem to think that the Canadian constitution either is worth much or exists’
“The law was passed a year ago, so that there are a couple of sections in the bill which say these sections will come into effect on a certain date within one year or two years of the passage of the signing into law of the bill.
Bill 96 info session March 8
“And in the meantime, public servants are drawing up regulations that will flow from those sections of the law. We don’t actually know what those regulations are going to be, because they won’t be published until such time as the new sections of the law will come into effect.”
Task force organizers will be holding an online legal info session on the Bill 96 issue with Bergman law firm associates on Wednesday March 8 from 7:30 to 9 pm. Registering for the event can be done on the the TFLP’s home page (https://protectourrights.ca).