Bill 96: First Nations denounce a “colonialist government”
Representatives of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL) on Tuesday denounced Bill 96 promoted by the CAQ government.
This 100-page bill intends to thoroughly review the Charter of the French language. In an amendment tabled at the end of April, it is expected that “rights holders” in English-speaking CEGEPs will have to take three courses “in” French rather than three courses “in” French as the bill provided. after the Liberals introduced a First Amendment. The bill does not provide any special status for Indigenous languages.
The AFNQL is saddened to note that the First Nations have proposed a series of amendments “to make the law reconcilable with their inherent rights protected by the Constitution”, but that these have been “ignored or rejected”. The Association also says it has tried to meet with the Minister responsible for the French Language, Simon Jolin-Barrette, on several occasions to discuss solutions, but these requests remain unanswered.
At a press conference, the Chief of the AFNQL, Ghislain Picard, declared that at this stage of the evaluation of the bill, it is no longer the time to negotiate. It is asking no more and no less that aboriginal communities be exempted from the bill. “When he received the Viens report in 2019, Mr. Legault said that “the Quebec state would not impose its solutions [on First Nations]”. However, this is exactly what the Government of Quebec is doing today with Bill 96,” he lamented.
At his side, Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer, the grand chief of the council of the Quebec Mohawk community of Kahnawake, believes that the impacts on the lives of First Nations will be greater than just on their education. “You know, we're trying to move forward in an environment, at a time when everyone is talking about reconciliation. We tried to create a relationship with Quebec, and now […] it goes against this nation-to-nation relationship and this relationship of equality that we seek to be able to have an important dialogue.”
We do not want to see this bill go forward without any form of exemption or consideration for Indigenous peoples, our languages, our cultures that have been here since time immemorial.
Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer, Grand Chief of the Mohawk Community Council of Kahnawake
“The passage of Bill 96 will force the exodus of our students to other avenues, other schools outside Quebec, also fears Ghislain Picard. It’s a stunning irony, that finally, the first occupants of the territory in Quebec are forced to go and study outside their territory, and that’s something that we consider completely unacceptable. p>
“We affirm clearly and with a common voice today our absolute refusal to submit to Bill 96 and all other laws infringing on our rights”, also supports the head of the AFNQL.