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Quebec’s Bill 96, which was featured in this column last week, like its predecessors, Bill 22 (1974, Bourassa) and Bill 101 (1977, Levesque), is opening up questions of the nature of Canadian Confederation. To civil libertarians, it is profoundly offensive to have a government regulating the size of different languages displayed on outdoor advertising and in-store products, and restricting access to schools on the basis of language. The whole idea of segregating linguistic groups in an officially bilingual country, and particularly of restricting the access of French-speaking secondary school and university students to English-language institutions, is deeply offensive. It is a cynical attempt to deny French speakers full access to the social and career opportunities available to North Americans by barricading Quebec youth into a unilingual French corner of this continent and restricting them from the opportunities available to the overwhelming majority of people living north of the Rio Grande River. It is doubly annoying because this effort has been justified under the guise of protecting French Quebecers from acculturation.

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