Bill 96 Has Passed Quebec's National Assembly In A 78-29 Vote

The law means big changes for CEGEP students and immigrants.

MTL Blog, Associate Editor
Clouds gather over the austere Quebec National Assembly building, in contrast with the flowering greenery planted out front.

Clouds gather over the austere Quebec National Assembly building, in contrast with the flowering greenery planted out front.

Bill 96, a controversial French language reform touted by the provincial government, passed in Quebec's National Assembly by a landslide on Tuesday. The vote came down to 78 for the bill and 29 against it with opposition coming from the Parti Quebecois and the Liberals. The PQ said the bill's protection of the French language doesn't go far enough, while Liberal leadership said the legislation violates the rights of anglophone residents.

"The position of the CAQ is balanced, unlike that of the PQ, which is too restrictive, and that of the Liberals, which does not want any limits," Premier Francois Legault said in a statement.

English-speaking Montrealers have long protested the legality of the bill, which many claim infringes on their rights and "further marginalizes the English-speaking community."

The Montreal Bar has publically said the bill may reduce some Quebecers' "access to justice," because it removes a legal provision for judges to speak and understand more than French and puts the onus for translation of legal documents on non-French-speakers.

But the CAQ claims that Bill 96, titled "An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Quebec," simply strengthens the status of French in the province. It not only makes Quebec's only official language French but also designates government communication with new immigrants will be strictly in French after six months of their arrival.

Earlier this year, Premier Francois Legault and Liberal leader Dominique Anglade clashed over the bill's changes to the provincial education system, including an overhaul of the CEGEP curriculum that would see more French classes added to the graduation requirement for anglo students starting in the fall of 2024.

"Anglophones represent 9% of the population in Quebec. Anglophone CEGEPs have 17% of places in Quebec. With Bill 96, the CAQ will freeze the number of places in English-speaking CEGEPs," tweeted Legault.

To which Anglade replied: "Quebec students must be able to study in the CEGEP of their choice, whether in French or in English. Francois Legault's paternalism and divisive attitudehas no place."

First Nations communities have also protested the Bill 96 reforms, saying they will disadvantage students who are already struggling in English and trying to learn Indigenous languages but will now need to learn French in order to graduate.

"Our children are now expected to be fluent in three languages? We're concerned that the futures of many of our kids will be closed off," spokesperson for the Mohawk Band Council in Kahnawake Joe Delaronde told MTL Blog.

Under Bill 96, the government will now create a uniform exam that all Quebec CEGEP students will need to pass to graduate, regardless of their language of instruction.

Sofia Misenheimer
MTL Blog, Associate Editor
Sofia Misenheimer is an award-winning writer, editor and former radio journalist with a passion for finding hidden gems in the city.