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Charest too weak to defend French language: PQ Leader

In politics, image counts for more than hard facts


Premier Jean Charest's leadership is so weakened that it has handicapped his ability to stop the erosion of the French language in Quebec and he must consider resigning, says Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois.

"I call on him [Mr. Charest]… to reflect on his future and reflect on the actions he hasn't taken and that considerably harm Quebec's image," Ms. Marois said during a news conference, referring to the allegations of corruption leveled against the Liberal government over the last year.

Ms. Marois, along with more than 30 groups, launched a coalition Tuesday urging Mr. Charest to repeal Bill 103 which seeks to comply with a Supreme Court of Canada ruling, calling for the reinstatement of so-called "bridging schools."

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In October 2009, the top court struck down Quebec legislation that banned the "bridging schools" that children of francophone and allophone parents attended in order to eventually enroll in an English language public school.

The government responded to the court decision by reinstating the schools. Children will now be able to attend the private non-subsidized English-language schools for at least three years and be eligible to request a transfer to an English language public school. Bill 103 must be adopted by October 22 in order to comply with last year's Supreme Court decision.

Under Quebec's French Language Charter, commonly known as Bill 101, only children of a parent who attended an English-language school in Canada are allowed to enroll in Quebec's English-language public-school system.

Opponents to Bill 103 argued that the legislation represents a "major breach" in the French Language Charter. They are calling on the government to impose Bill 101 on all private schools, which would bar francophones and allophones from attending them in order to gain access to English public schools. The PQ called on the government to invoke the notwithstanding clause in the Canadian Constitution in order to override the Supreme Court decision.

The coalition estimated that as many as 12 per cent of francophones living in Montreal's predominant anglophone West Island district speak English at home. "It's the beginning of the assimilation process," Ms. Marois said.

Public hearings on Bill 103 ended on Tuesday with the minister responsible for the French Language Charter, Christine St-Pierre, hinting that amendments will be introduced in order to respond to groups and individuals who oppose the legislation. However Ms. St-Pierre rejected the coalition's call to repeal the legislation.

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