Will Bill 96 encourage learning French or avoiding Quebec?

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Bill 96, the new language law that considers French the only official language in Quebec and limits the use of English in the province, was adopted last week. There are many controversies surrounding this Bill and recently there were protests across Quebec against it. What is obvious is that many Quebecers, including anglophones in the Pontiac, are frightened they might not be able to communicate with authorities, doctors, lawyers, etc. in their language and therefore they may choose to leave the province. In addition, every year many allophones immigrate to Quebec; these new immigrants will only have six months to learn French.

Francois Legault recently stated that no Quebecer should be worried about this Bill affecting their health care. But why shouldn’t they be worried?

The bill is mandating that all communication in governmental services, including health care, be in French, with some exceptions. How can we assure people that their doctors won’t be hesitant to speak to them in English or that they will be able to participate fully in court, because judges don’t need to be bilingual anymore? The other day the Journal office received a phone call from an elderly anglophone woman who was worried about not being able to communicate with her doctors anymore. A group of physicians recently warned that the Bill is negatively affecting people’s mental health.

Recently a veterinarian in the Pontiac had her Quebec license revoked because she was not bilingual. This happened while the Pontiac needs more vets and more doctors. There are already so many things lacking in Quebec’s health system, new language laws will just make it worse.

Of course, protecting the French language in Quebec is important but will this way of forcing people and limiting their rights work? Quebec still needs immigrants to come and work here, to give and receive services. They will only have six months to learn French. Has anyone who was involved in writing this Bill learned French as a second language? French is my third language; I started learning it when I was 18 and I was studying it every day. I can assure you that 6 months is not even enough time to learn basic communication! Encouraging immigrants and students to learn French is beneficial but forcing them to pass courses in French and learn French in a short time will just make them avoid Quebec and make the province more isolated.

Even though Bill 96 has passed into law, we still need to inform ourselves about it and express our concerns through our regional representatives. Quebec is our home whatever the language we speak; we deserve to receive services in the official language of our choice.