I nearly fell out of my chair when I heard in the Throne Speech last Fall that the long-awaited Official Languages Act (OLA) overhaul would now scrap linguistic equality and French would now be prioritized over English. Spurred by spurious reports of declining French usage in stores in downtown Montreal, the federal government has proposed that a new French-predominant OLA, or Bill 101 as advocated by the Bloc, NDP, Conservative, and the Quebec government, will now apply to all federally regulated workers in Quebec to alleviate the situation.
All these proposals are based on false premises: that renouncing linguistic equality is necessary, that French is threatened in Quebec, and that federally regulated labour markets discriminate against francophones. However, it is not the use of French in federally regulated labour markets that is the issue. The proposals further highlight the real language and labour issue in Quebec: the poverty and exclusion of English-speakers and non-francophones from the labour market.