Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal
A rights response to language laws
|CJAD/SUBURBAN||25 January 2012|
A new anglo voice?
by Richard Deschamps
A new group currently gathering momentum is looking to act as an umbrella group
The group, called Canadian Rights in Quebec -- CRITIQ for short -- has a similar
And it was created, in part, to counter the possibility of tougher language laws coming
"They've been in the formation stages ever since the PQ got elected," says Mike Cohen,
A unique rights response to fighting language laws
A new and unique minority language rights organization has been formed to meet the radical challenges of the Marois government. CRITIQ, Canadian Rights in Quebec will use the language and the law of civil rights to beat back those challenges. CRITIQ believes that language is truly a civil rights struggle. And that It is time to call it that. It believes it will capture the popular imagination not only in Canada, but in the United States as well.
Spearheaded by businessman and dynamic long-time rights activist Gary Shapiro, the executive comprises a broad spectrum of Quebec society. In meeting with the group several times I was struck by the lack of acrimonious rhetoric and the breadth of inclusive vision as fully comfortable Quebecers who simply believe, as Clifford Lincoln once said, "Rights are rights are rights." Among other executive members are former union leader James Wilson, national political columnist Barbara Kay, publisher Alexandre Meterissian, political activist Richard Yufe, former federal Immigration Minister the Hon. Gerry Weiner, attorney Aaron Makovka, ACT for Canada co-founder Valerie Price, and Omar Choudhury.
CRITIQ has laid out four principles that clearly and candidly express its mission and vision. 1. The equality of French and English as Official Languages. CRITIQ supports the fundamental freedom of Canadian citizens residing in Quebec to choose in which language they wish to live, work, and receive education for themselves and for their children. 2. Freedom of choice in education. CRITIQ calls for the provincial government to accept linguistic equality through the formal recognition by the National Assembly of English as one of Quebec’s two “official languages”. 3. Freedom to live without fear of revolutionary secession. CRITIQ recognizes the binding nature of the judgment rendered by the Supreme Court of Canada in Reference Re Secession of Quebec , and in particular supports the fundamental right of any region, municipality or aboriginal territory of Quebec to remain part of Canada following any secession of Quebec. CRITIQ opposes actions having the effect of denying any Canadian of these rights. 4. Denunciation of all language-based intolerance and discrimination in Quebec. Toward that end to advocate on behalf of all Quebecers, not merely English-speaking Quebecers, in favour of government policy that recognizes the equality of the French and English languages in Quebec.
In a departure from past minority rights organizations, CRITIQ is functioning as a clearing house providing moral and material support for groups using other tactics to raise awareness, voice grievances, organize demonstrations and continue court challenges. CRITIQ will not demand that other groups in common cause strictly follow its direction or opinions. Rather, working in parallel, it will help those groups that choose the streets, or the courts or the press or government lobbies as their arenas of opposition and engagement.
CRITIQ sees itaelf as the big tent and beIieves that in this manner it will excite people to involvement by avoiding the turf wars of the past. It is an approach that has not been tried before. It's name will not always be connected with every event or expression, but every group fighting in its own way for civil rights will be able to avail itself of the reserve of talent and resources that CRITIQ offers. Its philosophy is that the more groups there are the better. In the truest sense, CRITIQ - while expressing its own views and using its own tactics in its name - has created perhaps the broadest alliance of Quebec citizens - anglophone, allophone and francophone - fighting for their civil rights as Canadians.
CRTIQ also does not intend to alienate itself from the established parties in the Quebec political establishment, but rather find individual allies within it. It believes alienation from the political process did not do non-francophone communities justice in the past. CRITIQ will make common cause with Francophones, so many of whom are revolted by this government's restriction of educational opportunities for their children and its overtly segregationist policies of assuring Francophone majorities on the basis of geography. It will also make a call on our federal representatives to give Quebecers the minority language protection afforded in Sec.133 of the Constitution and the equality protections afforded in Sec.15 of the Charter. CRITIQ believes if non-francophone communities are to survive, it must engage with Ottawa to engage the resources and power of the civil rights section of the federal Department of Justice.
CRITIQ is a non-profit organization and takes no government funding. For more information on membership, goals or to make a contribution, you can visit www.critiq.ca or go to CRITIQ's page on Facebook.