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In Canada’s Quebec, indigenous people continue to fight French law -Breaking


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO The Quebec Premier Francois Levault poses during a press conference following a meeting in Toronto with Canada’s province premiers on December 2, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio//File Photo

Allison Lampert

MONTREAL (Reuters] – Quebec’s Tuesday adoption of a broad law to encourage French usage has aggravated already simmering tensions between indigenous groups. These groups see the act as an imposition, and have vowed that they will fight this.

The majority of Quebec legislators passed Bill 96. It imposes stricter standards to enforce French usage. This includes mandatory French classes and limiting government agency use of any other languages.

Francois Legault (Quebec Premier) who is up for election in October, called Bill 96 the best reform in almost 50 years to preserve the French language, which has been spoken in North America mostly in English. Advocates and leaders of indigenous communities in Quebec argue that the law places additional pressures on those who want to protect their culture.

Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people has been a problem in recent years. Last year, the discovery of the bodies of what are believed to have been thousands of indigenous children close to former government-funded residential schools brought attention both the human rights violations suffered by these communities over the generations as well as their struggle for justice.

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The law will require additional French-language classes at English-colleges for immigrants and to allow them to speak French with some government agencies. This is in addition to other modifications. The law is being opposed by English-speakers and native people who seek an exception.

Mike Delisle is a Chief at the Mohawk Council Kahnawake. This First Nations Reserve in Southern Quebec said that they will use all means to make their voice heard. He said that there has not been a specific decision.

In Quebec’s majority French-speaking province, language remains an important issue. Unhappiness with English’s dominance fueled the rise of Parti Quebecois in 1970s.

Quebec has the option to use judicial language in order to avoid legal battles regarding Bill 96. However, some lawyers have raised concerns about court challenges.

Canada’s Justice minister David Lametti stated Wednesday, when asked by reporters about any concerns regarding the law. Any reaction will depend on how it is implemented.

French is not something we oppose. Delisle explained that French can be a good option, but it is possible to talk with us about how language has been affected.

Indigenous students who learn their language Kanien’kéha, English and French, already take after-school French lessons to prepare for Quebec’s two-year junior colleges, said Robin Delaronde, director of the Kahnawake Education Center.

Kenneth Deer is a proponent for indigenous rights and was forced to learn English at a federal school when he was ten years old.

Martin Papillon from the Universite de Montreal said Legault might have managed to calm tensions through a meeting with opposing parties and exempting First Nations.

Yet, he said that English services in Quebec were superior to similar services in French elsewhere.