Impassioned MP Housefather vigorously defends minority language rights in House of Commons

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“Many in Quebec’s English-speaking community wonder whether anyone ever speaks up for them,” said Mount Royal Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather. “I have spoken out for minority language rights my whole life and do so in the House of Commons as well.”

This video of Housefather’s back and forth with the Bloc Québécois shows just how impassioned the MP is when debating a proposed bill that would give English-speaking Quebecers in the federal civil service fewer rights to work in their language than any other civil servant in Canada.

“In this video my vision of Canada comes out loudly and clearly in both official languages,” Housefather said.

Thank you, Anthony, for always standing up for your constituents and all Canadians, especially on matters of linguistic rights and basic human rights. You are a formidable representative, a masterful spokesperson.

 

Opinion: Bill 86’s school board reforms are no threat to the anglophone community

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Why I support the call for an Office of Anglophone Affairs

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The need for an Office of Anglophone Affairs to represent the interests of 800,000 English-speaking Quebecers is reasonable and quite evident.

First, having three cabinet members of the Quebec Liberal Party who come from the English-speaking community does not absolve the government from its ongoing obligation to its English-speaking population. Cabinet members come and go, so do governments, and cabinet members have many more responsibilities than uniquely watching out for linguistic issues of their constituents.

The last four decades have shown us that English-speakers promoted to cabinet are no guarantee that the rights afforded to the English-speaking community will be respected in each ministry and throughout the government.

No disrespect or lack of appreciation to our Anglo MNAs, past or present. Their competencies are far from limited to their mother tongue. In D’Arcy McGee riding, for example, David Birnbaum is off to a great start, is very interested in his constituency and his assistance is quite sincere, I have no doubt. Lawrence Bergman was a model MNA, of the highest calibre. Robert Libman (Equality Party) was elected specifically because of his position on language and Bill 101 and had wide community support because he was a thorn in the side of the government – a voice specifically for the English-speaking community.

An Office  of Anglophone Affairs would be such a representative body that is sorely lacking in Quebec City.

Editorial: An Office of Anglophone Affairs is needed now more than ever | Montreal Gazette.

Second, in an era when a judge of the Quebec Court rules that it is legitimate for the government to deny the rights and freedoms guaranteed to all Canadians and Quebecers, such as this week’s ruling to uphold Bill 101 with respect to marked predominance of French on signs, it is clear that the Quebec English-speaking community needs greater presence within government. An office, as suggested by Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, would be a good start.

Smaller English wording on signs will convince more people to speak French? Nonsense. This is nothing more than the government, through its OQLF, bullying small business owners, who have enough trouble making a living in this province without being restricted from communicating with their non French-speaking customers.

It is harassment of Anglo seniors who have difficulty reading much too small English wording in the few cases where English is even provided.

It is an insult to English-speaking Quebecers that their language is diminished by such mean spirited laws that do absolutely nothing to promote the French language

It is pure politic and it is contrary to what Philippe Couillard told us in last year’s election campaign (‘English is not the enemy’).

Finally, Quebecers were screaming their support for freedom of expression, alongside people of good will all across the planet just two weeks ago. Where are they today? Where are our business leaders demanding their freedom of expression to run their businesses as they see fit in order to create wealth in our province? Where are those politicians who waved their signs upholding freedom of expression? Where are all those marchers?

We’re quick to cry for freedom for everyone all over the world. I fully support that. But what about right here in Quebec, in Canada, where we have something called a ‘Notwithstanding Clause’ that allows our own government to deny our rights? What about our own freedom of expression?

All other provinces have an office for their French-speaking communities. Anglo Quebecers need a voice too.

 

Read more:

Court quashes challenge to Quebec’s sign law (The Gazette)

Judge shoots down sign law challenge (CTV News)

Suburban | Feb. 4, 2015 | Click to enlarge

Suburban | Feb. 4, 2015 | Click to enlarge

We tweet in French, Quebec Police Force

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Conversation with the Quebec Police Force on Twitter, July 30, 2014

Conversation with the Quebec Police Force on Twitter, July 30, 2014

 

How ludicrous it is that the provincial police will not communicate with hundreds of thousands of English-speaking Quebecers plus hundreds of thousands more tourists and visitors unless they are asked a question in English?
This nonsense has gone unchecked for far too long and it’s high time that the Liberal government correct the overzealous policies of its departments that are nothing short of mean-spirited, disrespectful and counter-productive in the dispensing of public safety and public service messages.
The Surete du Quebec / Quebec Police Force has a mandate to serve all who live in or visit Quebec. They have an obligation to communicate with the people they serve, through various means including social media. Yet, their policy on use of English on Twitter, as indicated above, shows a blatant disregard for all English-speaking Quebecers and English-speaking visitors. Public safety messages are broadcast in French only. To hell with English, they’ll only reply to specific questions in that other language. And forget seeking out a job with the QPF, errr SQ, in English, as that section is in French only on their website.
Premier Couillard made it clear in the election campaign, barely four months ago, that English is not a disease and English-speaking Quebecers are not the enemy here. Our language does not diminish the French language at all. He said not a single Quebec parent doesn’t want their children to be bilingual. It’s time to prove he meant what he said and to loosen the stranglehold that Bill 101 has on every public agency, department and service under the Quebec Government. Then, even the SQ could wish us all a happy and safe vacation.

Cotler breaks federal MP silence on repressive language legislation

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The following article appeared in The Metropolitain.

Our Linguistic Duality Must be a Legal Reality

By Hon. Irwin Cotler on April 22, 2013

In the words of René Lévesque, “A nation is judged by how it treats its minorities.” Regrettably, linguistic minorities in Canada have often had to fight for just treatment, and that struggle continues against the backdrop of several troubling recent developments that threaten the rights of minority language communities throughout the country. Simply put, it is critical to ensure that minority language communities feel welcome and are able to thrive, and this is as true for Anglophones in Quebec as it is true for French-speakers elsewhere in Canada.

Regrettably, Quebec Anglophones have recently come under increased pressure in the form of Bill 14, which would amend the French Language Charter with the goal of enhancing protection for French. All Quebecers – indeed, all Canadians – have an interest in ensuring the continued vibrancy of the French language and culture in our province, but this can and must be accomplished while respecting the rights of the English-speaking minority.

To that end, Bill 14 is problematic in several respects. It would:

• Allow the provincial government to strip municipalities or boroughs of bilingual status against their will if the population of mother-tongue Anglophones drops below 50%.

• Empower OQLF inspectors to seize property without a warrant, and to refer infractions for prosecution without giving alleged offenders an opportunity to comply.

• Prohibit English CÉGEPs from considering Francophone applicants – regardless of merit – until all Anglophone applicants have been accepted.

• Remove an exemption allowing members of the armed forces to send their children to English schools.

• Modify the Charter of the French Language by replacing “ethnic minorities” – a defined term in international law – with “cultural communities,” a concept lacking legal clarity.

• Make French the “normal and everyday language” in which government agencies are addressed, and require citizens applying for government assistance to apply in French or pay for translation. As the Quebec Bar Association recently noted, this could limit access to justice in English, particularly for low-income Anglophones and Allophones seeking legal aid.

Moreover, as the Quebec Bar Association also noted in its analysis of the legislation, Bill 14 could allow public servants to refuse to acknowledge anything said to them in English and require that files be translated in French at the expense of the applicant. Further, it places new and unnecessary burdens on employers with multilingual staffs, while translation inconsistencies in the bill may give rise to unnecessary litigation while burdening the delivery of social services.

Above all, however, Bill 14 would amend the preamble of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms to say that “rights and freedoms must be exercised in keeping with … the values of Quebec society, including … the importance of its common language and the right to live and work in French.” In so doing, Bill 14 renders Quebec’s Charter a document designed to entrench the supremacy of the majority, whereas a primary purpose of constitutions is to establish individual and minority rights that cannot be suppressed by simple majority rule.

As the Supreme Court stated in the reference on Quebec’s secession, “there are occasions when the majority will be tempted to ignore fundamental rights in order to accomplish collective goals more easily or effectively. Constitutional entrenchment ensures that those rights will be given due regard and protection.” Accordingly, while the Francophone majority may certainly seek to ensure the sustained vitality of its language and culture, the rights of the Anglophone minority must be protected even if their protection complicates the majority’s goal.

In constitutional democracies such as ours, it is the constitution that protects minority rights from what Alexis de Tocqueville called “the tyranny of the majority.” Indeed, without constitutional safeguards, a majority-elected legislature would be legally empowered to oppress minority groups. Therefore, for Quebec’s Charter to subordinate all other rights to the importance of the majority’s language would be to undermine the very raison-d’être of a human rights charter.

Inasmuch as the language minister has expressed her hope that the amendments to the preamble will affect Supreme Court decisions about Quebec’s language laws, Bill 14 seeks manifestly to reduce constitutional protections for linguistic minorities. Yet such protections must be robust, both for Anglophones in Quebec and Francophones elsewhere in Canada.

Last October, at a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union held in Quebec City, Canada signed an international agreement to “uphold cultural, linguistic, ethnic, racial, political and religious diversity as a global value which should be celebrated, respected, encouraged and protected within and among all societies and civilizations.” It is time for government decisions – at both federal and provincial levels – to adhere to this noble ideal.

Irwin Cotler is the Member of Parliament for Mount Royal and the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. He is an Emeritus Professor of Law at McGill University. 

 

Hearings into Bill 14: Bill 101 should not be subject to tinkering, civil rights lawyer says

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Lawyer Julius Grey seems to have adopted the CAQ approach of suggesting that with changes to Bill 14 it would be an acceptable law.  Furthermore, he even concludes that Bill 101 should be allowed “to do its work and not try and change it.” So much for language and human rights.

Grey, apparently, is increasingly out of sync with the community he purportedly seeks to protect.  The English-speaking community has little interest in whittling away what few rights it has left.  The threat of Bill 14 hangs heavy upon English-speaking Quebecers, but Grey acts as if it is merely a minor discomfort to be shaken off.

What’s more, Grey argues that the imposition upon small business is not too heavy a burden. The business community doesn’t even agree with him. Ridiculous, Mr. Grey.

On the other hand, I salute the representatives of CRITIQ, the newest group to speak out for linguistic equality. Montreal Lawyer Richard Yufe, newspaper publisher Beryl Wajsman and former Cote Saint-Luc Mayor and D’Arcy McGee MNA Robert Libman presented their brief before the National Assembly yesterday calling for Bill 14 to be struck down in its entirety.

Wajsman, editor-in-chief of the Suburban, is unabashedly outspoken in human and language rights issues.  Libman, who lead the Equality Party in the National Assembly from 1989 to 1994, stood for his party’s namesake, equality.  These worthy goals, sadly, seem unattainable today to Quebec’s English-speaking community.  However, it’s only through the continued efforts of these leaders, and others like Cote Saint-Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather, that we will eventually succeed in making Quebec a better society for all.

Hearings into Bill 14: Bill 101 should not be subject to tinkering, civil rights lawyer says (Montreal Gazette)

 

Petition MNAs to vote down Bill 14

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Several petitions are circulating online calling upon Members of the National Assembly to vote down the evil and repressive language legislation proposed under Bill 14.

One petition calls upon Francois Legault and the members of the Coalition Avenir Quebec to vote down the bill in its entity.  Click here. This one has a little over 1000 signatures with a goal of 10,000.

Another petition is entitled “Rejection of the proposed amendments to the Charter of the French language (Bill 14).”  This one is found directly on the Quebec National Assembly website. This petition has been signed by more than 32,000 people and is online until May 14, 2013,

Why not sign both?  The bill is mean and would slash fundamental rights of Quebecers.  It would punish English-speaking Quebecers yet again.  It restricts the educational freedom of our remarkable military personnel.  It strips powers from our cities and towns and threatens those with bilingual status.  There’s much more and it’s all bad and none of it will help improve the situation of the French language.

Sign a petition.  Call your MNA. Write a letter to the editor.  Get involved.

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