James opposes Péquistes’ “political police”

Reactions to Bill 14
By Robert Frank

Nelligan’s representative in the Quebec legislature is concerned about provisions of Quebec’s proposed new language law, Bill 14.

“Especially the section touching the new political police that they have created, giving the [language] minister unusual powers that didn’t exist before,” Yolande James told The Suburban. On election night, the feisty former cabinet minister had vowed to stand in the way of any Parti québécois efforts that will prejudice cultural communities.

“To me, it speaks of the whole way that the Parti québécois sees the language issue,” she said in an interview, Dec. 13.

She described the péquistes’ strategy as a zero-sum game, in which the only way that one side can win is for the other to lose.

“They approach it as one against the other, as opposed to seeing the reality that people in Quebec are more bilingual than they have ever been in. That’s a very positive thing.”

“The whole premise that French has lost ground in Quebec because [some] people don’t use French as their first language at home is wrong,” James continued. “People are speaking French.”

“Obviously it is always important to remain vigilant about protecting the French language,” she added. “I believe in that.”

“But the way that you do that is by encouraging people to learn the language and not pitting people one against another, which is the way I have always seen the Parti québécois act.” 

Small business threatened

James is also wary of provisions of Bill 14 that will force small businesses—which create more jobs than large corporations—to francicize once their complement reaches 26 employees. Current, Quebec’s language laws force them to do so when they reach 50 employees.

“We should be encouraging small businesses rather than burdening them with a load of bureaucracy in the name of what?” she asked. “This is attacking the wrong people for the wrong reasons. We’re in the midst of a global economic slowdown. We should be supporting businesses and encouraging them to conduct their affairs in French.”

James said that while she will respect the review process for the newly tabled bill, “If there was a vote on it today, you don’t have to guess which side I would be on. I would obviously not be favourable to that sort of thing.”

She concluded by promising to continue to hold the Quebec government accountable in 2013, and repeated her election night declaration, promising that “I will still be in the government’s way next year.”

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