OTTAWA – The Green Party of Canada fully supports the protection of the French language as part of our national identity, as well as Quebec’s right to take measures in this regard. We also believe that it is possible to design effective measures to protect the French language without infringing upon the rights of minorities and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.“The government of Quebec has the right to protect the French language and to strengthen its use within the province ,” said Green Party Leader Annamie Paul. “However, there is an ongoing debate amongst constitutional experts regarding Bill 96, with many experts having expressed concern that the Bill could have major consequences for how we interpret the Canadian Constitution and its amendment procedure under the Constitution Act, 1982. There has only been an initial analysis of Bill 96 by the Department of Justice, which parliament did not have an opportunity to study. Bill 96 requires a comprehensive analysis, by a parliamentary committee, to clarify whether there are any constitutional concerns, and what the enactment of the Bill might mean for other provinces who might seek to take comparable action in the future.
“The Liberal government’s response to Bill 96 was woefully inadequate, as was the response of the other federal parties. One of parliament’s core duties is to protect the Constitution and to defend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To fulfil that role, it is critical that a full legal review of these bills be undertaken to inform a thorough debate in both houses of parliament, before these proposals proceed.”
Shaughn McArthur, Green Party candidate for Pontiac, Quebec, and party critic for international affairs and defence said: “The pre-emptive use of section 33 of the Charter – the “notwithstanding clause” – suggests that Bill 96’s sponsors are aware that it could interfere with Charter rights. It also invites further uses of the “notwithstanding clause” – which was originally intended for use in exceptional circumstances – by other provinces.”
“Greens believe that French language and culture is stronger when Quebec is stronger and united, and that it is important to ensure that any proposed laws serve to reinforce social cohesion and protect the rights of all Quebecers,” said Ms. Paul.