EMSB chair says CAQ motion on Bill 96 criticism is an 'attack' on Quebec anglophones

The Legault government and the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) are attacking each other in the lead-up to public hearings on Bill 96, a sprawling reform of Bill 101.

On Wednesday, the National Assembly passed a motion condemning the "contemptuous remarks about the Quebec nation" made by the EMSB on Sept. 1.

The school board's chair went to the press to say that he felt the motion was an "attack" on Quebec's anglophones.

Saying he was "deeply disappointed" in the government -- and in the Liberal Party which supported the motion -- Joe Ortona suggested it was unfair to criticize the Sept. 1 resolution since it has since been amended.

"This is another example of an attack on us, the school board, and the English-speaking community," Ortona said at a virtual news conference on Wednesday.

Last week, Premier François Legault called the EMSB a "radical" group.

The school board accused the bill of "unilaterally rewriting the constitution to recognize Quebec as a nation where the only language is French."

"Quebec is not a "nation,'" the Sept. 1 resolution said. "The Quebec intelligentsia deliberately uses the word 'nation' to evoke a reality that exists only in its own mirage. The only accurate word to use to define the reality of Quebec is 'province.'"

On Sept. 14, the EMSB sent out a press release saying that it had deleted the language about the nation from the resolution, but that it still opposed Bill 96.

Among other things, they argue that the use of the notwithstanding clause is not necessary to protect and promote the French language in Quebec.

The motion targeting the EMSB, adopted unanimously in the National Assembly on Wednesday, also denounces "any form of 'Quebec bashing' or Quebecophobia."

"Criticizing a bill in itself is not 'Quebec bashing,'" Ortona said. "The law is not unanimous throughout Quebec ... and we must be able ... to debate."

This does not make the dissenting minority anti-Quebecers, Francophobes or participants in the 'Quebec bashing', he insisted.

The study of Bill 96 begins next week.

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Sept. 15, 2021.