The Association des municipalités de banlieue (AMB), a group of 15 mayors of suburbs on Montreal Island, has unveiled its list of recommendations to the Quebec government as part of the Bill 96 hearings and is pleading with the government to allow bilingual municipalities to retain their status should the bill become law.
Bill 96 states that a municipality that currently has "bilingual status" could have its status revoked by the OQLF if the area's English speakers don't represent the majority of the population — the threshold required by the Charter of the French Language for a municipality to obtain the status.
The municipality would then be required to pass a resolution reaffirming its bilingual status within 120 days of the OQLF's warning that it's about to lose its designation.
The OQLF would also be required to publish a list of bilingual organizations and municipalities within Quebec.
"We believe that the bilingual status of certain municipalities must be maintained, even in the event of a demographic decline," Beny Masella, president of the AMB and mayor of Montréal-Ouest, said in a statement.
"It's important to have the flexibility necessary to offer optimal services to all the citizens of our municipalities."
The AMB's recommendations include that "Bill 96 must be inspired towards achieving a balance in the respect of the linguistic rights of all Quebecers."
The organization asks that "in the event that Bill 96 is adopted, the government recognize the validity of the resolutions already adopted by certain related cities, which reiterate their desire to remain bilingual."
"I am [...] with the efforts that have been made by our administration to promote the French language in recent months, completely at odds with a position such as that of a current mayoral candidate."
Plante was invited to speak at the National Assembly hearing on Bill 96 on Tuesday evening and was asked by Minister Responsible for the French Language Simon Jolin-Barrette what she thought of a candidate's plan to make "the city of Montreal become bilingual and multicultural."
The candidate in question, Balarama Holness, would move to officially recognize Montreal as a bilingual city and promote multiculturalism.
In a statement of support for the principles in Bill 96,Plante said she hopes French becomes the "social glue" of the metropolis.
"We have to promote the French language by giving ourselves the means and tools to bring people together."
The Montreal bar association has been looking into elements of Bill 96 and is raising concern that certain articles could "infringe on the principle of access to justice which is at the heart of Quebec's democratic society," particularly for English speakers and bilingual people.
The association has pointed to five articles in the Bill that could affect "access to justice:" 9, 12, 13, 55, and 208.6.
Article 9 of the Bill, for instance, states that "a certified French translation shall be attached to any pleading drawn up in English that emanates from a legal person. The legal person shall bear the translation costs."
The association says that "requiring a party to bear the costs of a translation" affects access to justice and that there could be delays with processing a translated case report.
"In addition," the association continued, "there is reason to wonder about the availability of a sufficient number of legal translators in private practice."
Article 12 of Bill 96, meanwhile, relates to the appointment of judges in Quebec, stating they "shall not be required to have knowledge or a specific level of knowledge of a language other than the official language unless the Minister of Justice and the Minister of the French Language consider that the exercise of that office requires such knowledge."
For the association, this is troubling because the provision doesn't "take into account the reality of litigants in Montreal, where the percentage of cases in which English is required alone justifies the presence of judges or administrative judges who are bilingual or who have sufficient knowledge of English."
In a statement, the president of the Montreal bar, Junior Laguerre, said that "it is important to guarantee all citizens access to justice without hindrance or barrier, whether linguistic, economic or temporal."
"We, therefore, ask Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette to make the necessary amendments to the bill, so that it achieves its objectives without harming access to justice for all," Laguerre concluded.
The report recommended that Quebec acknowledge systemic racism. It also said racism and prejudice played a role in Echaquan's death.
"The only place where I don't agree is when we say that there's a 'system' because for me a 'system' is coming from upstairs, coming from the top people, and I don't see this in the health care network, for example," Legault said at a press conference on Tuesday, following the release of the coroner's report.
"What happened to Mrs. Echaquan is terrible [...] and few employees, not only one, didn't deliver the right services to her."
He reiterated that people who believe in systemic racism in Quebec don't have the same definition that he does.
"We don't have a system [of racism], top to bottom, and it's a question of fact," he said.
He emphasized the need to "stop dividing Quebecers" with arguments about systemic racism.
"Even [the coroner who wrote the report] Mrs. Kahmel, she's saying that we have not to put all the emphasis only on words. We have to put emphasis on actions to change the situation and, on that, I fully agree," said Legault.
"I'm not sure what it's like to see your daughter, your sister, your mother, your friend, your lover disappear from one day to the next without a trace. And on top of that, to have the impression that your government doesn't really care, or at least not enough. No one should have to go through that in Quebec," Legault continued.
"I'm convinced that the vast majority of Quebecers are ready to fight racism."