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Canadian Party of Quebec officially launches in Montreal

“Bills 21, 40 and 96 … seek to extinguish English-language speakers and institutions from Quebec. In this election, acquiescence is no longer an option.”

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The Canadian Party of Quebec is in favor of a full repeal of Bill 96, the sweeping language law adopted in May by François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec government to overhaul and strengthen the Charter of the French language. Bill 101, as the Charter is known, was adopted in 1977

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At the official launch of the province’s newest political party on Monday, founding leader Colin Standish called repealing Bill 96, should his party be elected, “our flag in the ground. No other party is saying it so explicitly.”

The omnibus 201-clause law modifies 24 laws and one regulation “and restructures our country and society and province in fundamental ways,” he said at the event, held at McGill University’s Faculty Club.

Among other things, the law links access to government services in English to eligibility to attend English schools, says government agencies can provide services to immigrants in a language other than French only for the six months following their arrival, and grants powers of search and seizure. without a warrant to the Office québécois de la langue française to inspect businesses.

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One of the most contentious elements of Bill 96 is its use of the notwithstanding clause to override fundamental rights guaranteed in Canada’s and Quebec’s Charters of Rights and Freedoms, so that those who feel the law infringes on those rights are unable to use the charter to challenge the law.

Keith Henderson, a member of the executive of the Canadian Party of Quebec, a former leader of the now-defunct Equality Party and one of several supporters who spoke at Monday’s event, said he is proud of the party’s stance against Bill 96, which he called an “outrageous rights-denying extension of Bill 101.”

The new party is also opposed to other CAQ legislation, including Bill 21 on state secularism and Bill 40, which abolishes school boards in the province.

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“Bills 21, 40 and 96 have restructured our country and society in fundamental and illegitimate ways,” Standish said. “These laws seek to extinguish the English-language speakers and institutions from Quebec. In this election, acquiescence is no longer an option.”

He said his party hopes to run a full slate of 125 candidates, but, realistically, is focusing on recruiting candidates in Montreal, western Quebec and the Eastern Townships. “We are confident that we will win seats in the National Assembly,” he said.

He said the party is in talks with potential candidates throughout Quebec. There is “an elaborate vetting process,” he said.

Asked to respond to concerns voiced by some that the new party would divide the anglophone vote and further marginalize anglophones and other minorities, Standish said: “It’s infuriating because I think that all Quebecers, particularly English-speaking Quebecers, are not beholden to any one party, that they should be able to choose the option that best represents themselves, their families and communities for the betterment of Quebec. Instead of just holding our nose at the ballot box, we can choose a better option.”

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The Canadian Party of Quebec received its official authorization on June 15; Standish said the party’s platform is still under development and will be made public during the campaign for this fall’s election.

The party has received criticism from former MNAs describing it as an Anglophone protest party — but Standish says that is not the case.

“Obviously, we’re anchored in minority and language rights and respect for the constitution, but we feel that those are unifying principles, that defending basic rights and freedoms for all our languages ​​— including the French and English languages, Indigenous languages, and ensuring that newcomers are incorporated in a rational way, not forced to speak French in six months’ time — are going to be unifying for all Quebecers,” he told the Montreal Gazette in advance of Monday’s launch.

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The party’s red and blue logo, unveiled Monday, depicts a maple leaf and fleur-de-lys nestled in an interlocked C and Q.

Standish, born and raised in the Eastern Townships, is a ninth-generation Townshipper. I have attended Bishop’s College School and Queen’s University. The Cowansville resident holds law degrees from Université Laval and Osgoode Hall Law School and practices law in Sherbrooke.

Katelyn Thomas contributed to this report.

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