The provincial government's proposed strengthening of the Charter of the French Language – with the measures that would be imposed under Bill 14 – have angered and frustrated many locals – and many are now fighting back in the hopes the proposed law will be defeated by the opposition in Quebec City when the ruling Parti Quebecois puts the motion up for a vote.
Jacques Cartier MNA Geoff Kelley said the petitions aren't surprising, given the nature of the proposed law.
"It's not surprising, because Bill 14 is a bad bill," he said. "People are looking for a way to express that dissatisfaction, over municipalities potentially losing their bilingual status, making life more difficult for medium-sized businesses and restricting the educational options of children of Canadian soldiers who are serving our country. I could go and on," he said.
Kelley pointed out that English-speaking Quebec residents that stayed after the great exodus of the early '80s stayed, seeing the type of language rhetoric being drummed up by nationalists -- and the government – is disheartening.
"For those who stayed and been part of the solution and not the problem, by learning the language and turning out a generation of bilingual kids, (Bill 14) is tough to stomach. You get the sense, that in the eyes of the PQ, being English is a problem, not an asset."
Earlier this month, the Lester B. Pearson School Board responded to the government's proposals in no uncertain terms, calling the new law "overbearingly bureaucratic," in its brief.
"We find the education sections and regulations of the proposed legislation to be overbearingly bureaucratic, unacceptably subjective, unfairly restrictive, and detrimental to the growth and development of the constitutionally-guaranteed English school sector," said the brief, signed by Pearson chair Suanne Stein Day. "We believe that Bill 14 is an outright attempt to further inhibit and ghettoize the English community and to tighten the already overly restrictive regulations governing English language schools. We call on the leadership of Quebec, to have the courage to stand up and say that all Quebecers are equal and deserve the support, protection, and encouragement of its government, regardless of their language or ethnicity," Day wrote.
The board's Central Parents' Committee has also gotten in on the act with a petition on the National Assembly's website calling for the government to pull the proposed law, given the enthusiasm with which the board, its students and the parents of those students have embraced the French language and bilingualism.
The petition, which can be accessed through the CPC's website or on the National Assembly website, has already garnered 6,624 signatures in a short period of time. The CPC's brief to the government calls on lawmakers to see English not as a threat to the language, but rather as a complementary aspect to life in the province.
"English instruction should not be viewed as a “langue étrangère” but as a value added
component, helping Quebec move into the future and compete effectively on the world stage," said the brief, authored by committee chair Laura Derry. It continues, "we actively question the perception that the English education system in Quebec is a threat to the French language. We see it as complementary and would like to see more efforts at cultural exchanges between French and English schools. Both sides would benefit from improvements in communication and the sharing of cultural values. Due to the minority status of English in Quebec, we see that much could be gained from such exchanges."
The brief goes on to exhort legislators "to create more opportunities for English educational institutions to participate in more French cultural experiences that excite young people."
To sign the petition, visit www.assnat.qc.ca/en/exprimez-votre-opinion/petition/Petition-3559/index.html