Quebec’s majority government passed its contentious bill revising the Charter of the French Language in a vote that lasted only minutes in the National Assembly this afternoon.
Dissent over Bill 96 has intensified in recent weeks, with thousands of people protesting, denouncing the bill for impeding the rights of Anglophones, allophones and Indigenous communities.
The bill is far-reaching, limiting the use of English in courts and public services and imposing stricter language requirements on small businesses and municipalities.
It also caps the number of students who can attend English-language colleges, known as cégeps, and increases the number of French courses college students must take.
Two opposition parties voted against the law. The Parti Québécois said the legislation did not go far enough in protecting the French language in Quebec, while Quebec Liberal Party leader Dominique Anglade denounced the bill’s use of the notwithstanding clause. law, saying it went too far.
The notwithstanding clause allows a province to derogate from fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Instead of simply applying the clause to specific parts of Bill 96, the government applied the clause to the entire bill, making every aspect of the far-reaching law immune from legal challenges based on the chart.
Québec Solidaire voted in favor, despite concerns about the clause in the bill that requires refugees to learn French within six months of arrival, after which they can no longer access services in another language.
Pascal Bérubé, the PQ’s language spokesman, said his party would have preferred the law to extend the Charter of the French language to CEGEPs, which means that French speakers and the children of people who have not attended the English school should attend CEGEP in French.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault and Simon Jolin-Barrette, the minister responsible for the French language, defended the bill following the protests, calling protesters’ fears unfounded and saying Quebecers allowed to study in English will have access to services in their language.