Quebec Told To Rewrite Language Laws

Posted on Friday, April 01 at 09:36 by Perturbed
Brent Tyler, the lawyer who masterminded the challenge of the law, said it’s impossible to say exactly how many children will benefit. It could be thousands if Quebec bureaucrats give a generous interpretation to the court decision, he said. But Tyler expressed some skepticism that will happen. “We have had to kick and fight and scream to get the slightest concession for parents (in the past),” he said. “So much of it depends on the attitude of the Quebec government. Are they going to accept the spirit of this judgment?” The court said provincial officials had been too narrow in their past decisions on who is eligible for English schooling, and should take a broader range of factors into account in the future. But that will have a practical impact only on immigrants and English-Canadians from other provinces — not on French-speaking natives of Quebec. In a separate unanimous decision, the court rejected claims that francophones should be free to choose English schooling for their children. The judges said members of the linguistic majority in the province have no constitutional right to education in the minority language. Tyler said he intends to take that part of his case “to the next level” by seeking a hearing from human rights officials at the United Nations. He acknowledged that, even if he wins there, the decision would have no legal force in Canada. But a favourable ruling at the UN might put political pressure on Quebec to further loosen its rules, said Tyler. The case had threatened to rekindle Quebec’s on-again, off-again language wars and create political problems for both the federal and provincial governments. Prime Minister Paul Martin, with a minority Liberal government in Ottawa, could be forced into an election at any time. His party already faces an uphill struggle in Quebec, where it lost ground in the last federal campaign to the sovereigntist Bloc Quebecois. In Quebec City, fellow Liberal Premier Jean Charest had been expected to face enormous pressure from nationalists if any part of Bill 101 was struck down. That didn’t happen, but the focus will now shift to the new administrative rules set by education officials in deciding future demands for English schooling on a case-by-case basis. The original measures, blocking English schooling for francophones, many immigrants and even some anglophones from outside the province, were introduced in 1977. The province argued at the time that the French language and culture could be threatened by demographic shifts, especially if newcomers to Quebec assimilated to the minority English community rather than the French majority. Provincial government lawyers told the Supreme Court that restrictions are still necessary to protect against that possibility. http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1112268043917&call_pageid=968332188492&col=968793972154&DPL=IvsNDS%2f7ChAX&tacodalogin=yes [Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on April 2, 2005]

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