Quebec’s Bill 96 not expected to impact Nunavik, KRG says
‘We want to have our own language protections,’ says Inuk councillor
New Quebec legislation aimed at giving the French language more prominence across the province should not impact the use of Inuktitut in Nunavik, the regional government says.
Kativik Regional Government councillors expressed concerns to the organization’s legal department last week about Bill 96, Quebec’s newly tabled Act respecting French, the official and common language of Quebec.
Bill 96 proposes changes to Quebec’s 44-year-old Bill 101 to beef up protections for French as it’s used in business, education, immigration services and court systems.
The bill proposes stricter rules to ensure French is used in the workplace, capping the number of students who can attend English-language CEGEPS, or colleges, more prominent use of French in commercial signage and removing bilingual status from municipalities that do not have an English-speaking population of at least 50 per cent.
“The purpose of this bill is to affirm that the only official language of Québec is French,” the act says. “It also affirms that French is the common language of the Québec nation.”
But Nunavimmiut say they’ve yet to be consulted on the new legislation.
“This is very touchy,” Kangirsuk councillor Jeannie Nungak said during KRG council meetings May 31 in Tasiujaq.
“We protested Bill 101 when it was first introduced. We are the original people of this land. Even if we are fewer, out rights shouldn’t be trampled.”
Bill 101 does indeed uphold the use of Indigenous languages in Quebec. Inuit registered under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement are exempt from the language laws set out in the act.
The bill also provides for the use of Inuktitut as the language of instruction in Nunavik’s schools.
While the full impact of the new legislation remains unclear, the director of the KRG’s legal department told councillors that the regional government is not aware of any potential changes for Nunavik.
“At this time, we don’t feel there’s any cause for alarm of Bill 96,” said Johanne Fortin. “It does not appear to have any impact on the KRG or the Northern Villages. It would appear we’re excluded from its application.”
Fortin said the legal department will continue to monitor the legislation as it works its way through Quebec’s legislature.
But some councillors said that exemption isn’t enough; they want to see provincial legislation that will also move to strengthen Inuktitut in Nunavik.
“You, as a French person, will see your language strengthened, while we suffer,” Inukjuak councillor Sarollie Weetaluktuk told legal department staff, in Inuktitut.
“We don’t just want you tell us that we won’t be affected — we want to have our own language protections. We want to work together to determine what Inuit want to see in the future.”
Weetaluktuk said Inuit want a say in the province’s language legislation, as it goes through a consultation period at Quebec’s legislature this fall.
Bill 96 also proposes to amend section 90 of the Canadian Constitution to indicate that Quebec forms a nation, and that French should be the only official language of Quebec.
The legislation would also create a minister of the French language in Quebec as well as a French language commissioner.
You can see the full legislation here.