QCGN holding public consult on Bill 96 prior to government hearings

QCGN president Marlene Jennings during a recent Our Place in Quebec and Canada conference held by the organization.

The Quebec Community Groups Network is holding a public consultation for groups and individuals in the second week of September on Bill 96, prior to the Quebec government's own hearings on the proposed expansion of the province's language law, which begin Sept. 21.

"Despite the far-reaching impact of the Bill, the government has invited only 50 individuals and groups to present... [and] many individuals and organizations who would not only have liked to appear at the public hearings but also have something to say have not been invited," says a public consultation invitation from QCGN president Marlene Jennings. "Participation from Quebec’s English-speaking community is currently limited to the Townshippers’ Association, the Consortium of English-language CEGEPs, Colleges and Universities of Quebec and the QCGN."

The notice says "more voices need to be heard," thus the reason for the QCGN public consultation.

"We are inviting a wide cross-section of Quebecers to participate. While bringing attention to the wide range of concerns with Bill 96, this initiative will also inform the QCGN’s brief to the National Assembly. We invite you to submit a written brief on Bill 96 by Friday, Aug. 27, 2021. Our intention is to share this with the National Assembly committee studying the Bill. We are also asking if you are interested in appearing at our hearings, and we will reach out directly with further detail."

The Suburban has heard that individuals, not just members of groups, want to participate in the public consultations, and the individuals feel enabling a large number to participate would send a strong message to the government.

We spoke to QCGN communications director Rita Legault about the potential extent of individual participation.

"There's been a series of invitations that have gone out to groups and individuals that have been participating in a number of different processes; and on our website, in the coming days, there will be a link so that people can demonstrate their interest."

Legault says the public is being asked to send their comments, views, and briefs. We asked if any individual in the community can participate.

"Yes. We're trying to get the word out through a variety of different means, and that's one of them. They can send their comments to info@qcgn.ca."

Would members of the general public be able to participate in a Zoom version of the public consultation?

"At this point, we're asking them to send us their comments in the form of a letter, brief or e-mail. From that list, it depends on how many people want to appear. For the hearings we did on the education bill, we didn't have so many that we couldn't handle that in a day of public hearings. [In this case], we have no idea what the expression of public interest will be. We may not be able to listen to absolutely every single group. But we're going to get the comments from every group and then we'll set a day or two of hearings.

"We'll see how much we can handle."

Would indicating to the government that a large list of individuals participated send a strong message to the CAQ hearings?

"Absolutely," Legault said.

Would the QCGN be willing to work with other groups to logistically make it more possible for many individuals to take place in Zoom hearings.

"We haven't had any groups ask us to do that, and if you get too many people involved, it gets confusing. At this point, we have certainly sent invitations to our very representative groups of people who have demonstrated interest in this issue.

"We can't hear from absolutely everybody, in the same way the government can't.... We certainly feel confident we'll be able to get a good cross-section of opinions, and groups and individuals coming forward participating in the written comments and public hearings."

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