Legault pens letter to Trudeau about Bill 101 reforms, stressing need to protect French language

·3 min read
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier François Legault met Friday for the first time since the federal election. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier François Legault met Friday for the first time since the federal election. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Premier François Legault has written a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, touting the merits of his government's proposal to bolster language laws in Quebec.

Legault posted the letter on Facebook Saturday, in a post addressed to his supporters.

"As premier of Quebec, my first duty, my very first duty, is to protect our language," Legault wrote.

On Thursday, the province tabled Bill 96, a wide-ranging piece of legislation that could become the province's most stringent language law since Bill 101 passed in 1977.

It could have serious ramifications on businesses, courts, education and immigration.

If adopted, Bill 96 will make French the only required language in the workplace, putting the onus on some businesses to explain why their employees need to speak English, or any other language.

It would also cap the number of students in English CEGEPs, while giving priority access to anglophone students.

In a bold move, the province is also seeking to amend the Canadian Constitution, adding clauses saying Quebec is a nation and that its official and common language is French.

The CAQ government has pre-emptively invoked the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to protect it from legal challenges. The clause was also used when the province's religious symbols law was passed.

Simon Jolin-Barrette, the minister responsible for the French language, is in charge of drafting reforms to Bill 101.
Simon Jolin-Barrette, the minister responsible for the French language, is in charge of drafting reforms to Bill 101. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Legault's letter stops short of asking the prime minister about not getting involved in any legal challenges — a warning he had issued when it came to the religious symbols law, also known as Bill 21.

Instead, the premier is asking Trudeau to support the CAQ government's efforts to protect the French Language in Quebec.

"Mr. Prime Minister, I am writing to you to inform you that my government is getting ready to make an important move in order to assure the future of the French Language in Quebec," Legault wrote to Trudeau.

"We have to face the facts: despite the measures adopted in recent decades, the decline of French continues. A strong gesture is needed to reverse this trend."

Despite the fact the CAQ is invoking the notwithstanding clause for Bill 96, Legault assured Trudeau that the law does not violate any fundamental rights.

"To assure the adequate protection of the French language, the bill relies on every tool at Quebec's disposal, including the notwithstanding clause," the premier wrote. "The bill respects the rights and institutions of Quebec's English-speaking community."

Legault ended his letter inviting Trudeau to reach out to him should he have any questions regarding the bill.

Since it was tabled, the federal government has been tightlipped about its position.

"We are aware of the bill tabled by the Government of Quebec and will study its contents carefully," Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages Mélanie Joly said in a statement on Thursday.

"As we stated in our reform document last February, the protection and promotion of French is a priority for our government.

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