November 24, 2020 – The Coalition Avenir Québec government will soon make changes to Quebec’s French language charter. Simon Jolin-Barrette announced that he will table legislation to modify Bill 101 early in the new year. But as Gobal’s Raquel Fletcher reports, he has revealed few details of what that plan will actually look like, which is causing some anxiety in the English community. Read more
November 24, 2020 – Quebec’s Minister Responsible for the French Language, Simon Jolin-Barrette, announced on Tuesday a plan to table a bill aimed at strengthening French in the province.
“Quebec was born in French, and it will stay French,” Jolin-Barrette said at a news conference on Tuesday. Read more
Provincial political parties intent on re-igniting the language debate, QCGN President Geoffrey Chambers expresses concern. “This is a pattern of inventing problems and then spending a lot of time and energy on socially disruptive actions to create divisions and frustrations where we don’t need them.”
The Coalition Avenir Québec government’s receptiveness to the creation of a Commissioner of the French Language is a worrying sign and could potentially send the wrong message, says QCGN President Geoffrey Chambers: “This is a gesture or a reaction or a move that tries to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.”
Christopher Skeete, the MNA responsible for relations with English-speaking Quebecers, says the province will stand its ground when it comes to bilingual signage at a Lachute hospital.
“I think the premier was quite clear in his statements that we’re going to be supporting the decision that happened there,” said Skeete.
“But at the same token, we should never forget this has no incidence on services that are being rendered to the English-speaking population.”
Earlier this month, a decision from the Lachute hospital caused an uproar.
After a meeting from the Office québécoise de la langue française (OQLF), the hospital decided to remove English-language signage from its facility.
The Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) believes the government is being too strict with their interpretation of the province’s French-language charter.
Quebec Premier François Legault is defending an order forcing a hospital in Lachute to remove its bilingual signs.
It comes after the Office quebecois de la langue francaise, which enforces the province’s French language charter, recently contacted the hospital and told it take down English signs inside and outside the facility.
Asked about the decision Thursday in Montreal, Legault said the change is necessary.
“We have to follow the law and they didn’t. They weren’t respecting the law. Bill 101 has to be respected that’s what we’ll do,” he said. “As you know, Anglophones will keep on having the right to have services in education in health care. I don’t see the importance of having bilingual signs.”
After the Office québécois de la langue française mandated a Lachute hospital remove its English-language signage, Quebec Premier François Legault says he doesn’t see the importance of bilingual signage.
“They weren’t respecting the law. Bill 101 has to be respected; that’s what we will do,” Legault told reporters.
“Anglophones will keep on having the right to have services in education, in healthcare… so I don’t see the importance of having bilingual signs.”
The Quebec Community Groups Network disagrees with Legault’s stance.
“It’s a clear violation of the law and his interpretation is mistaken,” QCGN president Geoffrey Chambers reacted.
Critics are panning the decision to remove English from signage at the Lachute hospital, calling the move concerning and upsetting.
The regional health authority, the CISSS-des-Laurentides, announced last month that it was removing the signage to be in line with Quebec’s language law, Bill 101.
CBC News first reported that nine Lachute-area mayors are opposing the decision, calling it “deeply disappointing.”
The Liberal critic for relations with English-speaking Quebecers, Greg Kelley, says he understands why people in the lower Laurentians are upset.
“We heard feedback right away from that community, people calling our riding office, flagging things on social media,” said Kelley. “They’re extremely upset and concerned.”
MONTREAL — An edict from Quebec’s language watchdog that a hospital northwest of Montreal must remove English from its bilingual signage has angered municipal officials.
The Office quebecois de la langue francaise, which enforces the province’s French language charter, recently contacted the hospital in Lachute, Que. and told it take down English signs inside and outside the facility.
Scott Pearce, the mayor of nearby Gore, said the language watchdog is needlessly stirring up trouble in a community that prides itself on not having any language strife.
“A lot of Quebec could learn from our region. We don’t have these language debates. We get along great. We love each other, we do things together, we work together,” Pearce said Wednesday. “Maybe that problem exists elsewhere, but it doesn’t exist here, so don’t bring your problems here is how we look at it.”
This op-ed was published in the Montreal Gazette on August 31, 2017 and co-signed by James Shea, president and Geoffrey Chambers, vice-president.
“Bill 101’s adoption 40 years ago marked a milestone in Quebec language politics. To better understand its significance, we must see it as part of a longer continuum. History, nuance and context will best serve as our lenses.”
The Charter of the French Language did not make French the sole official language of Quebec. Premier Robert Bourassa did that in 1974, with Bill 22. He was, in turn, building off Union Nationale premier Jean-Jacques Bertrand’s Bill 63. That 1969 law sought to establish French as the working language.
Similarly, the operation of the Charter of the French Language has evolved significantly through the four decades that followed its adoption in 1977. Bill 101 initially restricted the use of English in the courts and the National Assembly. It asserted that laws must be adopted only in French. Those limitations were stuck down by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1979.
Restrictions preventing English schooling in Quebec for the children of Canadians educated in English in other provinces were ruled unconstitutional. Rules governing signs and many other provisions have also been the subject of successful court challenges. The second government of premier René Lévesque substantially amended the Charter. Other significant changes were made on six subsequent occasions.
Bill 101 remains a perennial prospect for judicial review. For example, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Art. 26.3, grants parents “a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” To protect the French language in Quebec, the Supreme Court has allowed this right be abridged for most Quebecers, a group that includes all francophones and all non-Canadian migrants. However, this suspension of civil liberties for the vast majority of Quebecers can only be temporary and transitional. Their underlying rights are not erased forever. Instead, these rights are suspended, to allow a period of adjustment. Current rules that govern access to English schools could and should eventually be changed by the courts, without any change in Bill 101 itself.
So while the Charter may have brought language peace, or at least a climate of much reduced strife, it is not a carved-in-stone defining instrument of language practices. Rather, it should be viewed as one of the controlling elements in an evolving discussion about social practices.
Even Bill 101’s most basic asserted principle — its ringing declaration that “French is Quebec’s only official language” — is on closer examination a resounding statement of intention that flies in the face of constitutional, legal and practical reality. The right to use English is constitutionally guaranteed in the courts, in the legislature and in English schools. Further, it is legally guaranteed in health and social services legislation, whenever citizens deal with Revenue Quebec and in hundreds of other circumstances protected by various Quebec statutes.
The federal Official Languages Act recognizes official language minorities in all provinces. The English-speaking community of Quebec is by far the largest and in many ways the most complex.
The government of Quebec has denied and ignored the existence of an official language minority. How can there be such a thing in a jurisdiction with one official language?
Now, however, a dialogue has begun to create a secretariat in the premier’s office to address the needs of the English-speaking community and to begin to remedy the profound ignorance and indifference of the Quebec civil service to the fact of English Quebec.
Yes, our four decades under Bill 101 and our roughly half-century of language legislation have given rise to very real and relevant grievances. But this evolving process has also fostered discussion, provided us opportunities to engage and presented us venues to argue in our interest. Things don’t ever stay the same. And they don’t always get worse. Let’s work to make them better.
1819 René-Lévesque W.
Montreal, Quebec H3H 2P5
Phone: 514-868 9044
Fax: 514-868 9049