Barreau: Bill 14 is an attack on fundamental rights

The Barreau has condemned the PQ's Bill 14 calling it an attack on fundamental rights. The bar said the bill was designed to strip away the rights of anglophone Quebecers and told a National Assembly committee the change of status of anglophones to members of a community would entail a loss of fundamental rights. Meanwhile, a Montreal company warned the bill would be another barrier to business.

Workers at GE Leblanc in Quebec City don't speak much English. The company designs parts for the pork industry. However, their workers have learned to use inventory software in English - the industry standard - and since it relies on firmware updates offered in English only from outside of Quebec, Bill 14 would pose a real problem to their business.

“We tried to be conform with the law but unfortunately they didn't understand what we are doing,” said Marie-Pier Cloutier, speaking for G.E. Leblanc.

“With the Chinese and the Danish and everybody working for the company, we will have to work with the same words,” explained Cloutier.

Whether it be a bolt for a belly opener or a shaft adapter, employees ask for these parts in English as they were taught. The company states that apart from these English labels, everything else is in French. So what's the big deal? There really isn't a big deal, this is part of Premier Pauline Marois's discriminatory campaign to give the Quebec government a purpose by getting into peoples' faces. Whether parts are labeled in one language or another is irrelevant given the importance is comprehension and when you learn what a piece is, you learn it by one name. 

“If we cannot find any people speaking in English, then we may as well shut down,” said company executive Marcel Couture.

This is a bad sign given how unfavorable Quebec is to business as it stands. Apart from a ridiculous language barrier that does nothing but promote discrimination and restrict the freedoms of all Quebecers, some of the highest taxes in North America cripple Quebec's image to the business community. Without jobs and investment, how will you upkeep roads and bridges and infrastructure and healthcare and education? As we can see, none of these services are well kept at the moment. 

Not only is Bill 14 bad for business, it is creating a new face-off with the business community at the Quebec Federation of Chambers of Commerce.

“I must be frank with you that what you are proposing disappoints us greatly,” said Francois-William Simard, the director of strategy for the federation.

Simard also disputed Language Minister Diane de Courcy's claim that people can't be served in Montreal, however, she came in with her own data to say otherwise.

“The data show quite clearly that; there is a problem and it is an urgent problem," de Courcy said.

In a summary, Bill 14 tries to declare that working and living in French is a human right. This notion was shot down at the Quebec’s human rights commission. The commission's president Gaétan Cousineau told a National Assembly committee that official languages are not considered a human right around the world. He added the majority of changes the PQ want to make already exist in the Quebec Language Charter.

He said the bill would try to replace "democratic values" with "Quebec values" which raises alarm bells and questions. “Are democratic values and Quebec values similar, or identical?” he asked.

Quebec's education system also raised alarm bells. If passed, English schools could be negatively affected, especially in areas outside Montreal. One of the schools pitted at risk was St-Johns High School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, a town where many anglophone military families send their children to English school. Richard Filion, the director general of Dawson College, one of the major Quebec English CEGEPs outright called the bill discriminatory.

“Anglophones … don't want to be kept away from rest of Quebec society. They want to interact with them, to live together,” he said.

The PQ, despite acting like they have a majority mandate, only won a slim minority mandate in the recent election that toppled the 9 year mandate of Jean Charest's Liberals. They need at least one other party to oppose the bill for it to be defeated. The Liberals have already condemned the bill, but Francois Legault and his CAQ have been on the fence, however it is expected that they will join the Liberals to defeat the bill - which wouldn't be a surprise: Legault wants to be Premier of a new movement, not the lapdog of his old party.

Bill 14 is a very controversial piece of legislation and if the PQ have the guts to bring it forward in a minority mandate, imagine what they could pull with a majority. Not only does the province's top law association say the bill infringes on rights, the human rights commission questions its validity. The business society warns this kind of legislation will act to make Quebec a ghetto and scare off businesses and industries Quebecers desperately need.

What do you think of Bill 14, should it stay or should it go? Should the government have such control over what language people speak inside their businesses? Share this article, join the discussion and let us know what you think: FacebookTwitterGoogle+.

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