First Nations chiefs warn against attempt to deter challenge of Quebec’s future Language Act

Bill 96 attacks First Nations' constitutional language rights: Chief Ghislain Picard

First Nations chiefs warn against attempt to deter challenge of Quebec’s future Language Act

The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL) has criticized the press release of the Bloc Québécois that sought to convey a message to other federal political parties that Quebec’s future Language Act should not be contested.

Bill 96, or An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec, aims to recognize French as the province’s official and common language and to ensure that federal enterprises will be subject to Quebec’s Charter of the French Language.

“The Legault government's Bill 96 is a formal attack on the constitutional language rights of First Nations,” said Ghislain Picard, chief of the AFNQL, in a news release. The AFNQL continues to strongly object to this bill, Picard said.

Quebec may obstruct the future and development of Indigenous communities if it tries to block federal initiatives favouring the self-determination of First Nations and the recognition of their right, the AFNQL said in its statement.

“The provincial governments, in particular the Legault government in Quebec, get all worked up in the name of their so-called constitutional prerogatives and do not hesitate to use the Constitution Act of Canada for primarily electoral and partisan purposes, for example, with Bill 96, regarding the status of Quebec and its official language,” said Picard, adding that this rhetoric changes when it comes to abiding by the constitutional provisions that promote justice for Indigenous peoples.

The federal government has a mandate pursuant to the Constitution Act to establish a fundamental relationship with Indigenous peoples, noted the AFNQL, which urged the federal parties to formally commit to a federal government that ensures the constitutional accountability of provinces to Indigenous peoples. The federal parties were also asked to participate in a national debate on the issue involving First Nation governments and federal, provincial and territorial governments.

The AFNQL lamented that the Quebec government is opposing Bill C-92, or a An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, which aims to recognize the jurisdiction of Indigenous peoples in matters involving child and family services. Quebec has also joined other provinces in opposing Bill C-15, or An Act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and is seeking to reject the implementation of the UNDRIP, which is the most comprehensive international instrument covering the rights of Indigenous peoples.

The AFNQL is a regional political organization that unites 43 chiefs of the First Nations in Quebec and Labrador.

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