Montreal vehicle convoy protests Bill 96

“Detrimental effect,” said Mario Napolitano, an event organizer for a protest called the ‘Rolling for Rights Procession,’ when speaking out against the impacts of Quebec's French language law Bill 96. Gareth Madoc-Jones reports.

Montrealers opposed to Quebec’s language law took part in a vehicle convoy Saturday.

Drivers honked their horns in vehicles plastered with signs opposing Bill 96 as they made their way through the city.

The “3rd Rolling for Rights Procession” was organized the group Bridging Ethnic Communities and the Task Force on Linguistic Policy.

“We’re doing the rolling procession against Bill 96 because this bill is going to have tremendous negative effects on our city and our province,” said Mario Napolitano with Bridging Ethnic Communities.

“The protest today is to get everyone involved, spreading awareness.”

Bill 96 convoy protest Oct. 14, 2023. (Alan Sukonnik, CityNews)

Organizers say they are concerned about future language requirements of Bill 96 coming into effect. They also want previous measures repealed.

“There’s a protest because Bill 96 is having a detrimental effect on Quebecers, everyday Quebecers,” said Marc Perez of the Task Force on Linguistic Policy. “And that’s why with the lawsuit that the Task Force has launched on May 31, we want to challenge the bill, we want to take the bill down.”

“I want the complete bill repealed because if we don’t repeal it, it’s just an open door for them to come at us with more regressive language laws,” added Napolitano. “And Montreal could blossom, we’re a trilingual city. If we would put an end to this infighting, at the end of the day, the premier is getting Quebecers to be divided, instead of uniting Quebecers. If Quebecers were united, Montreal could truly become an international city.”

Bill 96 convoy protest Oct. 14, 2023. (Gareth Madoc-Jones, CityNews)

Quebec’s language law reform, which received royal ascent last summer, tightened the province’s language laws and affirmed that French is Quebec’s only official language and the common language of Quebec.

It has drawn much criticism and legal challenges from the province’s English and Indigenous communities.

The Quebec government has described the law as a moderate response to what it says is the declining use of French in the province, particularly in Montreal.

“It’s not fair that (Quebec Premier François) Legault keeps repeating, ‘Montreal doesn’t speak French, Montreal we hear English in the streets, not French,'” said Perez. “He’s attacking a specific community and that’s not the way to do it. Montreal is the bread and butter of Quebec. And we want to be part and we are. And nobody’s going to tell us otherwise.”

The protesters were also speaking out against the federal government’s Bill C-13, which seeks to protect the use of French in federally regulated private businesses.

“Bill C-13 is a bad bill because let’s say that you work for CN and you want to apply for a promotion,” said Napolitano. “If you’re not perfectly bilingual, you are at a disadvantage of getting that promotion regardless if you were working in that current job for 20 years. And that’s wrong.”

Napolitano says it is important to continue spreading awareness about Bill 96 and its impacts.

“Every time we do a rally, we spread awareness, we get more volunteers, companies donate more money and we keep moving our movement,” he said.

—With files from The Canadian Press

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