Montreal

Kahnawake youth stop traffic on Honoré Mercier Bridge to protest Bill 96

Dozens from Kahnawake, Que., stopped traffic on the Honoré-Mercier Bridge on Saturday, saying they're worried Bill 96 will be a setback for the community already struggling to keep the Mohawk language alive.

The language law will be a setback for the community struggling to keep Mohawk alive, activists say

Dozens from Kahnawake stopped traffic on the Mercier bridge on Saturday, saying they're worried Bill 96 will be a setback for the community struggling to keep its language alive. (CBC News)

Dozens of young people from Kahnawake, Que., stopped traffic on the Honoré Mercier Bridge on Saturday, saying they're worried Bill 96 will be a setback for the community struggling to keep the Mohawk language alive. 

Quebec's newly proposed and controversial language law is expected to pass in the National Assembly this coming week.

The bill would reform several pieces of Quebec legislation, including the Charter of the French Language, touching everything from education and health to the rights of immigrants to be served in other languages.

"We do not have a lot left. We have a little land left, our language. We only have about 300 speakers compared to 85 per cent of French speakers in Quebec," said 19-year-old Teiotsatonteh Diabo, who helped organize the protest. 

Diabo said Indigenous people should be exempt from sections of the law that would force them to speak French or take French courses, which are proposed at the CEGEP level. 

"Not everyone can focus on French," said Diabo, who is heading to Dawson College next year. 

"You need to understand that we are still in the middle of trying to save our culture and language from all the assimilation and residential schools that you [the Quebec government] put my people through," she said, adding she intends to learn the language one day. 

Teiotsatonteh Diabo says she will struggle in CEGEP if she's forced to take on French courses. (Jennifer Yoon/CBC)

Ranikonhriio Lazare said he's worried about the impact the law could have on his daughter. If she has to study in both English and French to get a higher education, it will only move her further away from Mohawk. 

Ranikonhriio Lazare also helped organize the protest, with the help of many students from the Kahnawake Survival School. (Jennifer Yoon/CBC)

"I have a baby on the way, and I want that future to be there for her so that she can speak our language," said Lazare, a Mohawk speaker for the last five years who teaches the language in the community. 

Last week, protesters flooded the streets of Montreal to show their opposition to the bill.

With files from Jennifer Yoon

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