Repercussions coming on Bill 96 if no changes are made: Sky-Deer

·2 min read

Mohawk Council of Kahnawake Grand Chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer said there will be some sort of blowback onto the Quebec government if they decide to go forward with Bill 96 in its present form. The proposed Bill 96 could severely curtail the likelihood of receiving life-or-death information in English for community members.

“This is attempted assimilation and cultural genocide,” Sky-Deer said Tuesday afternoon at a press conference alongside Assembly of First Nations for Quebec and Labrador Ghislain Picard and other notable Indigenous leaders in Quebec City. “We see these kinds of bills and it indicates to us that the government is claiming supremacy over us, like our laws, traditions and cultures don’t matter. When settlers first came here, we set up a relationship and a partnership and we feel like those principles are being dismissed and violated. Like we don’t matter.”

In response to what Kahnawake might do if Bill 96 is not modified to exclude Indigenous people, Sky-Deer said “you’ll see on the news tonight.”

Hundreds of students and community members conducted a march on Highway 132 the same time as the press conference.

Bill 96 would be a strengthening of Quebec’s Bill 101, which is also known as the Charter of the French language. Bill 96 could limit access to health care, education and justice services in English for community members.

“This legislation will affect health care, court proceedings – our community members must go to Longueuil for court proceedings, but in our community most people are fluent in English and Kanien'kéha. English is the foreign language we have become accustomed to, and adding another burden of a third language is another barrier being placed on Indigenous people in this province,’ she said.

Sky-Deer added that no matter what she and other Chiefs tell the government, the plight of Indigenous people in Quebec is ignored time and time again.

“It always feels like that when we start to get to where we want to be, which is an autonomous, independent people and we ask to be recognized as such, those concerns are falling on deaf ears,” Sky-Deer said.

She and other Chiefs across the province are demanding that Indigenous communities be exempt from the bill, meant to strengthen the French-language in the province.

They argue that students in Indigenous communities already face so many barriers that adding another may be a bridge too far for Kahnawake students.

“We see this as an attack and a threat on our rights as people,” she said.

Late last month, Chiefs from across the AFNQL held a press conference to detail their plans for a governance office to further exercise their rights to self-determination, after stating the government has simply decided to ignore their concerns over and over.

“We’re just not going to take it anymore,” Sky-Deer said that day.

Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase

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