Should we refuse to grant citizenship to newcomers settled in Quebec on the pretext that they do not speak French? A proposal from Bloc Quebecois à histoire singulière is presented as a test for the Trudeau government of its commitment to French in the province.
Federal MPs will debate on Thursday a Bloc bill that seeks to require “sufficient knowledge” of French for applicants for Canadian citizenship in Quebec. Obtaining citizenship already requires proficiency in one of the country’s two official languages.
A previous version of this project had not even had the right to be discussed by elected officials two years ago, during the previous legislature. The Liberal-majority procedural subcommittee in Ottawa then prevented any debate on the proposal, on the pretext that it was unconstitutional.
“The Liberals are now in the minority. They were not able to block the bill, ”explains the Bloc Québécois member for Pointe-de-l’Île, Mario Beaulieu, author of the resuscitated text. With proof of a legal opinion that The duty was able to consult, he assures that the proposal would pass the test of the courts, contrary to the opinion of his political opponents in November 2018. Two constitutional experts consulted do not contradict him.
“The idea of requiring a language condition is not foreign to Canadian law. Nothing is immediately obvious that would violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, ”believes Patrick Taillon, professor of constitutional law at Laval University. “If there was a political will, personally, I do not see any stake on the constitutional question”, confirms constitutional expert Benoit Pelletier, of the University of Ottawa.
Politically, however, the idea is likely to cringe.
“I am thinking of asylum seekers, of people who are more vulnerable, who have not been able to learn French. It would result in leaving them in a temporary status [de résident permanent], without access to a passport or the right to vote, ”said Guillaume Cliche-Rivard, president of the Quebec Association of Lawyers in Law of theimmigration.
The Bloc Québécois, for its part, intends to use this bill to test the authenticity of the change in the discourse of the Liberal Party, recently more vocal on the strengthening of French in the province. Yesterday, Justin trudeau for example, recognized in the House the importance “that Quebec be above all francophone” and said it supports Bill 101 “in what it does in Quebec”.
“If the Prime Minister recognizes that the French fact is threatened […] is he going to tell his caucus to vote in favor of the bill introduced tomorrow by the Bloc Québécois? “Asked the Bloc leader, Yves-Francois Blanchet, during question period.
The government’s sincerity on this issue was called into question this week following a question from backbench MP Emmanuella Lambropoulos, who said she wanted “to see evidence” of the decline of French in Quebec. Yesterday, the president of Liberal Party of Canada in Quebec, Chelsea Craig, returned to tweets calling Bill 101 “oppressive” for Anglo-Quebecers. Despite the apologies of the two women, the elected members of the opposition see it as proof of the Liberals’ insensitivity to the common language of Quebec.