Bill C-13 strikes chief as Libs posturing in advance of rumored June election

A new federal law aimed at strengthening minority languages in Canada – including the French language in Quebec – strikes one of Kahnawake’s chiefs as pre-election posturing in advance of a potential election in late spring or early summer, he said.

“That’s what this feels like,” Mohawk Council of Kahnawake Chief Mike Delisle said. “Obviously, we’ve heard discussions of an election at that time, and this could be construed as the Liberals looking for more support in Quebec.”

Delisle – who is the MCK lead on economic development and sits on the external government relations committee -- said he hasn’t yet delved into the details of the new law, but does see some irony in the relationship between this proposed new law and the sense the federal government will support Supreme Court challenges to Bill 21 (Quebec’s secularism law) and Bill 96 (which strengthened the Charter of the French Language).

“They’ve given us an indication they’ll support us on (a court challenge to) Bill 21 and as well on Bill 96,” he said. “I haven’t done a deep dive on it, but I understand where they’re coming from. I don’t agree, but I see where it’s coming from. It’s kind of ironic.”

Bill C-13, the proposed legislation to modernize the Official Languages Act, adds a new act, the Use of French in Federally Regulated Private Businesses Act, which enshrines new rights for employees of federally regulated private businesses and the consumers they serve. Text of the law shows that a lot of the details of the bills still have yet to be worked out.

The new act would apply to businesses of a size to be determined by regulation that carry on business or have a workplace in Quebec or in a region with a strong francophone presence outside Quebec and that are not currently subject to Bill 101.

Businesses in Quebec could, in fact, elect to be subject to the obligations set out in Quebec’s Charter of the French Language with respect to language of work and language of service.

The act would not apply in relation to federally regulated private businesses in respect of activities or workplaces related to the broadcasting sector. The new act would come into force in Quebec at a later date to be fixed by order in council, and two years after that date in regions with a strong francophone presence, to give the businesses concerned time to prepare for the new requirements.

On Friday, the Liberals were blocked by opposition parties from having references to the Charter of the French Language removed from Bill C-13.

Some Liberal Quebec MPs, including Anthony Housefather and Emanuella Lambropolous, have indicated they might vote against the bill when it comes up for a vote in the House of Commons.

Delisle said the language-law issue will be something the community will observe closely in coming months.

“There are lots of areas of concern and many challenges going forward, and this is just one of them,” he said.

Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase