Good morning, Monsieur Arseneault and members of the committee.
I am Arielle Warten, an English-speaking Quebecker currently attending Concordia University in my third year of sociology. Attending with me today is fellow English-speaking Quebecker Houston Rifai, who will introduce himself shortly.
We represent a group of young English-speaking leaders who attended the Bishop's Forum. The Bishop's Forum is an initiative supported by the Government of Quebec's Secrétariat aux relations avec les Québécois d'expression anglaise.
We are here today to share our perspectives on Bill C‑13, which will have profound effects on young English speakers living in Quebec. We are people who have grown up as members of a linguistic minority, and who plan on continuing to build our lives in Quebec. We are bilingual and bicultural, and want an opportunity to contribute to Canadian and Quebec society.
Our group would like to make a few points regarding Bill C-13.
Over the past five years, public discourse surrounding our official languages has gone from a collaborative, positive discussion to a divisive exercise pitting English and French against each other. Official language rights are now being played in a zero-sum environment, which is ignoring the very real changes faced by English-speaking Quebeckers.
Bill C-13 proposes to include specific mention of the Charter of the French Language within Canada's Official Languages Act. We remind you that as amended by Bill-96, the Charter of the French Language operates notwithstanding the fundamental rights and freedoms of Quebeckers.
Bill C-13 proposes to create new language rights for francophones only with respect to their communications with federally regulated businesses, effectively creating special rights for a majority population instead of a minority population. As young English-speaking Quebeckers, we feel abandoned by the federal government in this proposal.
We are concerned that Bill C-13's emphasis on the protection and promotion of French threatens the duty of federal institutions to take positive measures to enhance the vitality of the English-speaking community of Quebec.
Thank you. We will now hear from Houston Rifai.