Kahnawake students lead protest against Quebec's Bill 96

Following demonstrations last weekend in Montreal where thousands walked through the downtown core in protest of Quebec's French-language laws, students in the Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) community of Kahnawake led a walk of protest Saturday.

Several dozen students, former students and supporters from the community walked along Highway 132 and onto the Mercier Bridge with signs denouncing Bill 96. 

Teiotsatonteh Diabo was one of the organizers of the protest. She graduated from Kahnawake Survival School two years ago and attended her brother's graduation on Friday.

She also has a sister in Grade 9, and they are all concerned that requiring more French in college will deter students from pursuing post-secondary education.

"They're worried that CEGEP is going to be near impossible with the new French courses that they're going to implement," said Diabo, who said very few residents in Kahnawake can speak or understand French fluently.

"A lot of the younger ones are like, we don't know if we want to go to CEGEP now," she said.

The students will be joined by the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake and other community members who have been vocal about their opposition to Bill-96.

Minister Responsible for the French Language Simon Jolin-Barrette wrote the bill and told CTV News after the bill was first presented that it was always top of mind not to cause divisions, but just to protect the French language.

"When I wrote that bill, it was always on my mind not to cause division and not to take out rights for the English communities and the Aboriginal people also," he said. "It's only about protecting French because we see that French is in decline."

Diabo explained that most students in Kahnawake grow up with a goal of learning their mother-tongue Kanien'kéha (Mohawk language) in addition to English. Pressure to learn French on top of the two is something that she feels will cause unnecessary stress.

"Can you imagine us having to catch up in French as well?" said Diabo.

Though Bill 96 would not apply on the territory of Kahnawake, community members from the community across the Mercier Bridge from the Island of Montreal leave for health services, grocery shopping, school, work and other reasons.

"You can't expect us to all of a sudden learn French," said Diabo.