During COVID-19 we should be focusing on building capacity in our hospitals and not further destroying the local economy.
This past month, the OQLF announced it had issued a fine to Deli 365 for using English-only signage, the owner of Kitchen 73 claimed that an OQLF officer mocked his frustration, and the owner of Pâtisserie Italia recounted what she called a "disappointing" experience with the agency.
The OQLF has contested claims made by the owners of Pâtisserie Italia and Kitchen 73.
The change.org petition suggests that the recently announced $5 million in additional funding for the OQLF should instead go toward education in the province.
MTL Blog has reached out to the OQLF for comment and will update this article when we get a response.
Le Marché Fooderie, a kosher market on Avenue du Parc, and Cible Jeu, in Ville Saint-Laurent, both pleaded guilty to violating section 52 of the Charter, which says "Catalogues, brochures, folders, commercial directories and any similar publications must be drawn up in French."
The infractions were specifically related to their websites, and each business was fined $1,500.
Guy LaRue, a notary in Verdun, pleaded guilty for posting public signs in French and another language, with French not being clearly predominant. He was fined $600.
Diebold Nixdorf Canada, which specializes in global banking and retail technologies, was fined $1,500 for violating section 140 of the Charter, meaning it did not submit its "francization program" to the OQLF within six months of receiving a notice about it.
"The francization program is intended to generalize the use of French at all levels of the enterprise," the Charter says.
This article's cover photo was used for illustrative purposes only.
Five months later, McGill has issued one statement and launched three investigations. But the accusers — who asked to be called "the girls" to protect their safety — told MTL Blog they've been left in the dark.
They said they received no updates on how investigations are progressing or whether the accused is facing any penalties.
Meanwhile, they said the student has continued attending classes.
McGill has been following its protocol for investigations into allegations of sexual assault — but this protocol has left the girls and other students in limbo for the majority of the school year.
"We can't feel safe on campus with him lurking around, viewing us as prey," one of the girls, Eva*, told MTL Blog.
Most of the girls were minors at the time of the alleged assaults, as was the accused student, whose name has not been released by the university or the police.
Eva told MTL Blog the accused student frequented bars near McGill residences where he would "talk to, touch and kiss [girls] who were drunk," and that he would persistently "beg" female students to "hook up."
In written testimonies shared with MTL Blog, each of the girls outlined how the accused student sexually assaulted them both off and on campus.
One of them said the accused sexually assaulted her when she was "completely blacked out" from alcohol.
What was McGill's reaction?
McGill responded to the December petition within three days. A statement written by Deputy Provost of Student Life and Learning Fabrice Labeau assured the student body and the general public that McGill was "looking into the matter."
"Our foremost concern right now is student wellbeing," Labeau wrote. He expressed what he called a "steadfast commitment to a campus community where everyone feels safe."
Though none of the girls had formally reported their assaults to McGill at the time — something Eva said was because "the resources weren't publicized and the social consequences for reporting were immense" — that changed by the end of December.
Eva said one of the girls filed a police report, and three of the girls filed complaints with McGill, initiating three internal investigations. However, neither the police nor the university was able to confirm details of these investigations to MTL Blog.
A month later, the university had not issued any new statements nor updated the girls involved, Eva said.
MTL Blog asked Cynthia Lee, McGill's associate director of media relations, to confirm the status of the investigations in February. She said that according to McGill's Policy Against Sexual Violence, "when a formal report is made, the University must immediately appoint an external Special Investigator to conduct a full and impartial investigation."
She also said "the entirety of this process is covered by confidentiality regulations," and that she could not disclose any further information.
The silence surrounding the allegations began to disturb other McGill students who said they had to interact with the accused student in their classes.
Anna Ni told MTL Blog she attended an online psychology course with the accused student, where she said he would participate in group discussions while he was part of the ongoing investigations.
She said McGill's ambiguous response to the allegations made her feel "small and voiceless."
"I am grateful for the fact that McGill has resources that can help students struggling with this situation, but McGill's vagueness in their [statement] gave me the impression that they were not actively taking care of this situation," she said.
In a screenshot Ni took of her classmates discussing the accused student's presence in the course via group chat — which she shared with MTL Blog — one student asked, "I thought the school took care of this? Why is he still allowed to study?"
Amrita Kaur, a first-year student unaffiliated with the girls, told MTL Blog that McGill's communications to the student body following the incident — mainly emails consisting of links to support resources — felt "empty."
She emailed the Office of the Dean of Students to express her "extreme disappointment" in the school for allowing the accused student to attend classes "as if nothing ever happened."
"Now I wonder if it's true [...] all great institutions sweep sexual assault under the rug," she wrote in her email to McGill, which she forwarded to MTL Blog.
She said she did not receive a response from the university.
Lee told MTL Blog that at McGill, until an investigation is complete, "disciplinary actions cannot be taken pre-emptively […] however, interim measures are put in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those directly affected."
Possible accommodations include late withdrawal from a course or a change in residence — but they only apply to survivors.
MTL Blog found that according to the Policy against Sexual Violence, the university can take pre-emptive disciplinary action if "there may be a risk of harm to any Member of the University Community."
MTL Blog asked Lee if the fact that the accused student was still attending classes meant that the university did not see him as posing a threat to university community members.
She did not directly respond to the question.
What is the 'Code of Silence'?
There is a legal reason why the university claims it is limited regarding what it can divulge about sexual assault investigations.
Brooklyn Frizzle, vice-president of the Students' Society of McGill University (SSMU), told MTL Blog they believe universities use this law as a "scapegoat" to justify a lack of transparency in cases of sexual violence.
Frizzle said this wasn't the first time students' questions about a case involving sexual misconduct were left unanswered.
"I've lost track of how many emails to the Dean of Students or to the Provost that I've seen, to which there was no response because the university can't legally give a response," they said.
Last year, representatives from l'Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) started a petition to amend the Act so post-secondary institutions could "inform victims of the disciplinary measures taken against their aggressors."
"Evidence shows that [the Act] contributes to victims' lack of trust in institutional channels, since it keeps the person most affected by the complaint from accessing crucial information for their healing process and to their sense of safety at school and/or work," the petition read.
McGill's Policy states that all investigations should be conducted within 90 days. According to this timeline, the girls' investigations should have ended by April.
But even when the investigations are complete, the Code of Silence means the girls cannot be informed of the penalties that may or may not be imposed on the accused student.
As Lee told MTL Blog, "details or updates concerning particular cases cannot be provided to anyone outside those immediately involved."
This means other students won't know if they can expect to see the accused student in their classes again next semester.
Could the 'Code of Silence' change?
While the public may never know if and how the accused student has been disciplined, McGill's Annual Report on the Policy against Sexual Violence gives some indication of the number of investigations the school has conducted.
McGill provided MTL Blog with a copy of the Annual Report, which specifies that, in 2020, eight of nine completed investigations yielding "a finding of sexual violence" resulted in disciplinary action.
These actions included "admonishment and conduct probation, formal reprimand [and/or] cease and desist communication and contact orders," but it's unclear which actions applied to which investigations.
Out of 18 incidents of sexual violence reported to the university in 2020, 83% were submitted by women. Just one report was submitted by a man, while two were submitted anonymously.
In May, a National Assembly committee presented its findings on possibly amending Bill 64. However, whether the amendments pass remains to be seen. For now, those involved can only know that the investigations are finished.
A 2016 Université Laval study found that 36.9% of Quebec students, faculty and staff experienced some form of sexual violence by another person affiliated with their university.
"It feels constant, like there's [always] some big allegation of sexual violence that we're talking about that we're trying to pressure the university to respond to," Frizzle said.
"It's just the name [that] changes every semester."
*The source's name has been changed at their request to protect their safety.
With files from Ilana Belfer, MTL Blog.
If you require resources or assistance surrounding sexual assault in Quebec, the CAVAC helpline is available 24/7. Those who may need support can call 1-866-532-2822. Other crisis lines and 24/7 options can be found at The Lifeline Canada.
It would create a new "language policy of the State"
The minister of the French language would create a new "language policy of the State" that would apply to government bodies, government departments and municipal bodies.
This policy would lay out rules that government agencies have to follow in terms of whether they can use a language other than French in their communications.
It would also include ways to "control the quality of French used in an agency." And it even includes a section on "vocal music" in a government agency workplace for the "implementation of a French-language environment" that prioritizes Quebec "cultural works."
It would add two new clauses to the Canadian Constitution
The provincial government wants to amend the Canadian Constitution to include two new clauses: one declares Quebec a nation, and one says Quebec's only official language is French.
It could prompt changes to municipalities' bilingual statuses
Bill 96 proposes that municipalities could lose their official bilingual statuses if census data proves that less than 50% of their population considers English their first language.
However, CBC News reported that the government added a loophole allowing municipalities to vote to keep their bilingual status — regardless of demographics — "as long as that vote happens within 120 days of the bill's adoption."
Montreal does not currently have official bilingual status.
In a May 13 statement, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said, "As the only French-speaking metropolis in North America, Montréal will be an ally of Bill 101 and its reform."
It would mean additions to ministries, commissioners and OQLF powers
The government proposed creating "Francisation Québec" within the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration, which would serve as a point of access for people who want to learn French.
It would also open a position for a French-language commissioner who would monitor the progression of the language situation in Quebec.
There would be an early French requirement for new immigrants
The government proposed that all government communication with new immigrants to Quebec will be in French after six months of their arrival.
However, the bill states that "An agency that provides services in a language other than French to immigrants shall, where the volume of the demand for such services by those persons warrants it, give preference to using their mother tongue."
Judges and Members of the National Assembly would not need to be bilingual
The government's bill proposes that provincially-appointed judges need not be bilingual to be appointed, "unless the Minister of Justice and the Minister of the French Language consider that the exercise of that office requires such knowledge and that all reasonable means have been taken to avoid imposing such a requirement."
The bill also says those appointed to the National Assembly do not need to know a language other than French.
Smaller companies — with 25 or more employees — would form "francization committees"
The current Charter of the French Language requires companies with 100 or more employees to form francization committees.
These committees evaluate the state of the French language at the company and report to the management of the company as well as the OQLF.
The new bill would apply this to companies with 25-99 employees as well.
Businesses with non-French trademarks would have "predominantly French" signage
The government wants businesses with registered non-French trademarks to make their signs "predominantly French."
In a press conference last week, Premier François Legault explained that a company like Canadian Tire would have to make the explanation of its business activities, such as "centre de rénovation," larger than its trademarked name on all signage.
It would cap spots at English-language CEGEPs
The Quebec government wants to place a cap on the number of students who can enroll in English CEGEPs, as well as the number of students receiving English-language education in French schools.
As well, the Quebec government will not grant a Diploma of College Studies (DEC) to students living in Quebec who do not have spoken and written knowledge of French as laid out by the minister of higher education.
To evaluate students' knowledge of French, the government is creating a uniform exam for all CEGEP students in Quebec, regardless of their language of instruction.
However, students who have received CEGEP education in English and been declared eligible to receive instruction in English, according to Quebec law, are not required to take that exam to get a DEC.
However, Jolin-Barrette said he doesn't think it would be customers who'd sue companies individually.
He said the OQLF will "accompany" businesses that are the subject of complaints to "bring about a change" and ensure that, going forward, customers are served in French.
A lawyer weighs in
Virginie Bourgeois-Plante of Devichy Lawyers told MTL Blog that it's not yet clear how the law, if passed, could be applied in this context.
"What we have right now is that the OQLF [goes through] the penal court. What that law [does] is it opens the door to civil suits [...] but in the end, the courts might see it differently," she said.
"Often, you put an amount of money on that," Bourgeois-Plante said, but she noted it could be difficult to determine how much customers should be compensated through civil lawsuits in those situations.