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PM ignoring Bill C-13 puts Canada at risk

March 8th,2023 | Valley Voices

By Andrew Caddell

An open letter to PM Justin Trudeau,

Prime Minister, I am writing to express the profound concerns of the English-speaking community of Quebec about the current discussions in committee over revisions to the Official Languages Act, Bill C-13.

My organization represents thousands of Canadians, who support a moderate approach to language policy in Quebec. As you know, the Act was passed in 1969 by your father’s government after the extensive national discussions of the Bilingualism and Biculturalism Commission spearheaded by your father’s mentor, Frank Scott. The purpose of the law then and now was to ensure services to minority linguistic communities across the country and support their capacity to work in their official language. Since that time, the English-speaking community and its institutions have worked collaboratively with francophone minority communities to support one another. In fights for francophone school boards, provincial laws and support for the status of the French language, there has been solidarity. Many people forget the expression “Two Solitudes” used by Hugh MacLennan in his book, [which] comes from a poem that states, “Love consists of this: two solitudes that meet, protect and greet each other.”

Bill C-13 has many redeeming qualities, not the least of which is the effort to encourage the flourishing of the French language in the rest of Canada. However, by encouraging the idea there is only one minority language group in Canada worth supporting, you are not only abandoning the anglophone community of Quebec in the short term, you are opening up a Pandora’s box, which could lead to the elimination of jobs for English Quebecers in the federal public service and federally-regulated businesses, the elimination of English school boards via loss of Section 23 rights, and the continued marginalization of a community of 1.25 million Canadian citizens.

Your government has also managed to incorporate the egregious provincial law 96, and its unethical preemptive use of the notwithstanding clause, into federal legislation. Law 96 is nothing but a vengeful attack on our community. It does nothing to promote the French language and instead emphasizes the creation of a separate, ethnocentric, French-speaking nation-state in Quebec — … [a] precursor of the independence of Quebec and the end of Canada as we know it.

While incorporating Law 96 into Bill C-13 might have been seen as a clever political ploy to appeal to so-called “soft nationalists,” it is unprecedented and appalling. By collaborating with the Bloc Québécois, the Conservatives and NDP have shown their own lack of concern for Canada’s future. The only true leaders emerging from this mess are the handful of dissenting Liberal MPs with the courage to speak out for Canadian values, notably Marc Garneau, Marc Miller, Anthony Housefather and Emmanuella Lambropoulos.

In short, your government’s actions and those of Premier François Legault, have put the English-speaking community of Quebec, Canadian official bilingualism and the unity of Canada, in crisis. Consequently, I call upon you to regain control of the legislative process, remove the references to the Charter of the French Language and reverse the harmful amendments being imposed by the opposition parties. If that is not possible, withdraw this extremely troubling legislation. Then you should call a national meeting of leaders of minority linguistic communities, and create a path for understanding and solidarity between our communities that leads to a stronger, more equitable Official Languages Act.

Andrew Caddell is the president of the Task Force on Linguistic Policy in Quebec.

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