Protesters denounce new language bill in Montreal, calling it “ insufficient ” to protect French

MONTREAL – About a hundred demonstrators gathered at Mount Royal Park on Friday evening to march for the protection of the French language and against the new update of the government’s linguistic law, Bill 96.

The demonstration was organized by the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal (SSJB) and the Young Sovereignist Movement.

The demonstrators say they are unhappy with the CAQ government’s Bill 96, which aims to reform the main provincial language law, Bill 101, while amending part of the federal Constitution.

“The proposed reform does not go far enough,” said SSJB president Marie-Anne Alepin.

For her, the bill amounts to “putting the problem back in the hands of future generations”, while “the one and only way to protect the French language is independence”.

“It’s like the boat is sinking and we are trying to fix it with Scott’s hands and paper towels when the problem is the boat itself,” said Jacques Martin, activist for the youth group of the event. He said he also viewed the new measures as “cosmetic”.

Bill 96 provides for amending the Quebec section of the Canadian Constitution to include recognition of Quebec as a nation, and a nation in which French is the only official language.

If adopted, the reform will also limit access to English-speaking CEGEPs, extend the provisions of Bill 101 to businesses with 25 or more employees and grant more power to the Office québécois de la langue française.


Parti Québécois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon attended the protest but said he was not as strongly opposed to the bill.

He said he considers the bill “not bad”, but added that it “is not proportional to the causes of the decline” of the language.

He called for, among other things, “the requirement of French for economic immigrants” and the application of Bill 101 to CEGEPs.

The demonstration, attended by people of all ages, remained calm under the watchful eye of the Montreal Police Department.

About ten members of the Jeunesse patriote communiste group, the youth wing of the Communist Party of Quebec, were present and waved several flags, including that of the Front de liberation du Québec or FLQ.

Most of the participants wore a mask and observed physical distancing measures.

According to Statistics Canada 2016 census data, 6% of Quebecers do not speak French. In Montreal, the rate is 13%.

There are 13%. 100 of Quebeckers who do not use French at work and 18 p. 100 who do not speak it at home.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 21, 2021.

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