Bill 96 passes in National Assembly against Indigenous objections

·3 min read

Bill 96 passing yesterday in the National Assembly in Quebec City doesn’t mean the fight against legislation that she called “colonial and paternalistic,” is over, said the associate director of the Kahnawake Education Center minutes after the new law came into being Tuesday afternoon.

“I’m kind of at a loss right now,” a crestfallen Falen Jacobs said. But we’re not just going to sit back and take it. This is just another knife in our already bloodied back. The fact of it is French is not in danger,” she said.

A language spoken by millions in Quebec and by tens of millions more around the world in different countries isn’t in as much danger as Kanien'kehá:ka is, and don’t Indigenous people have a right to protect their own language and culture as well, Jacobs said.

“Indigenous people have not even be considered (in Bill 96 negotiations),” and the government’s silence in the face of repeated requests to have a discussion with justice minister Simon Jolin-Barrette and premier Francois Legault speaks volumes about their desire to conduct a dialogue.

Bill 96 passed 78-29, with the Liberals and the PQ voting against the bill.

“We at KEC sent a request to have a discussion about it. We didn’t get a response but their silence, in my mind, is a pretty clear indication, they didn’t want to engage in any kind of discussion,” she said.

Students in Kahnawake have the option of pursuing French studies in elementary school, but English and Kanien'kehá:ka are the primary languages of education in the community, Jacobs said.

“French is the third language for most students here, and our focus is on revitalizing our own culture. French is not an endangered language, but ours is,” she said,

Jacobs said the concern is not just the added French courses for CEGEP students – currently, students at English CEGEPs must pass two French second-language courses. Three more (in four semesters of classwork) would present issues for students at English CEGEPs.

Bill 96 makes no such concession for English second-language courses at French CEGEPs.

“I know the struggles our students face already – not just the French courses, but how they are marginalized in other ways – and all the other issues that will be affected, such as health care and the justice system. It really impacts everything,” Jacobs said. “We want to be able to prepare our students for any life path they choose. That’s what it’s really about, and we know that this law will limit their choices, and by extension, their choices in their life paths.”

Jacobs said that the next steps for Kahnawake are to put their heads together and come up with a response.

“We’re going to have to re-strategize as a community, because it’s a community-wide issue, it will take a community-wide solution,” she said. “We’re not just going to sit back and take it.”

Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase

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