in the National Assembly
"The judgement of the Supreme Court is a document that all Quebecers and all Canadians can be proud of, It proceeds from a sensitive and generous vision of our society. It is a vision founded upon the overriding importance of the of the fundamental rights of each and every one of the citizens regardless of their language, their culture or their origins. The judgement is also founded upon a vision that recognises the fragility of the French language in North America and which recognises to the government of Quebec the duty to protect and promote the French language and culture. However, it recognises that this must be done without prohibiting the exercise of the fundamental freedoms, of which freedom of expression constitutes an element [...]
"I cannot support the use of the notwithstanding clause to secure the prohibition of the exercise of a fundamental right: freedom of expression. Furthermore, I cannot accept a law that violates the sign policy of our political party. Such a policy was frequently reiterated, over the years, and was reaffirmed in the last electoral campaign. In my opinion, the use of the notwithstanding clause to bypass the principles enunciated in the judgement of the Supreme Court is not justifiable. I am convinced that the objective of the promotion of the French language, an objective with which I heartily agree, does not justify the means used here.
"The presumption that laid behind the articles of Bill 101 that touch on signs was that it was necessary to reduce the presence, and especially the visibility of other languages to promote the French fact. I have never agreed with this presumption, I do not agree with it today, and I will never agree with it in the future. Not only is this type of reasoning faulty, it is equally dangerous because a society that feels it is justified to deny, or to reduce, the fundamental rights of some of its citizens imperils the rights of all of the citizens. Today, these are my rights; tomorrow, it may be yours.[...]
"I believe strongly in the importance of promoting the French language and culture, but the salvation of the French language must be achieved by the quality of our system of education, by the support we accord to the development and blossoming of the culture, by the competence of our human resources, as well as with the vitality and pride of Quebecers. I have personally pledged myself to this mission. At the same time, I pledge myself to fight for the fundamental rights of all Quebecers. In my opinion, fundamental rights are at the basis of the dignity of all human beings. [...]
"Our destiny, that of all Quebecers, in intimately linked. We will succeed together or we will fail together. The quality of our future will depend on our capacity to embrace cultural and linguistic diversity as a value to cherish. I am convinced that to be open and sensitive to diversity will have the effect to enrich us, not to diminish us. [...] We Quebecers possess all that we need to be a vibrant, open, tolerant and competent society. All that is requires is the will to grasp the future together.
"[ in English] The survival of French cannot be secured by promoting a unilingual image in spite of the pluralistic reality of Quebec".
© For the translation, 1999 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College