Quebec to table long-awaited reforms to French language charter Thursday

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The Legault government will table its long-awaited reform to the French language charter on Thursday.

In a tweet posted Tuesday evening, Premier Francois Legault teased the news by saying an "important" announcement is coming Thursday after meeting with Quebec's language minister, Simon Jolin-Barrette.

The reform bill is expected to be called 'An Act Respecting French, the Official and Common Language of Quebec.'

It's not yet known which reforms will be unveiled Thursday, including how they will be applied to CEGEPs or how they will affect Montreal where the debate over the French language is a hot-button issue. The CAQ government has said previously that it intends to table its changes to Bill 101 before the end of the current parliamentary session on June 11. 

Marlene Jennings, head of the Quebec Community Groups Network, or QCGN, said the organization is watching "with some trepidation."

“Our experience has been that governments will tell us, ‘We have no intention of diminishing or eroding your rights as an official language minority community,’ but we ended up being collateral damage, because we weren't consulted upstream,” she said, adding that the minority English community has rights – but they’re not always applied.

“The preamble of the Charter of the French language states so clearly, that the application and interpretation of the charter has to be done with the spirit of fairness and open mindedness to the rights of the English-speaking minority Quebecers, to an acknowledgment that our institutions have contributed positively and greatly to Quebec society. That's not how we've always seen it applied or interpreted.”

On April 22, the premier said at a news conference he would not shy away from using the notwithstanding clause to shield the bill from legal challenges. He said, very bluntly, that he would likely use the legal tool to "to protect our collective rights."

The reform to Bill 101 is one of the government's biggest portfolios, with language minister announcing a $17-million investment last month to promote French in Quebec, including a $2.7 million grant to the Association des societes de developpement commercial de Montreal.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said she wants to see what's in the bill before commenting, but that she's in favour of strengthening language laws.

"To be very honest with you, I want to see their plan first. I don't have any scoop, I haven't seen it, so I think it's important before making any type of announcement to see what's in there. I do share the objective," she said, adding that she still wants Montreal anglophones to have access to services.

"I want to assure that everybody gets services because that's what a city does. So there has to be a balance, but I'm definitely behind the government in terms of the objectives."

LISTEN ON CJAD RADIO 800: Languages commissioner shares anglo concerns

-- This is a developing story that will be updated. 

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