Quebec — PQ and Language

Written by  //  November 21, 2014  //  Québec  //  1 Comment

Sugar Sammy blacks out English on Metro ads after OQLF complaintsugar-sammy-ad-before
Sugar Sammy asked for an Office de la langue française complaint, and got one
Two days after putting up ads in the Montreal Metro reading “For Christmas, I’d like a complaint from the Office de la langue française,” he had to remove the English portion of the billboard ads.
On Thursday, a man named François Côté took credit for filing a complaint with Quebec’s language watchdog.
Sugar Sammy, whose real name is Samir Khullar, is well-known for his ongoing bilingual comedy shows. His tongue-in-cheek critique of cultural clashes in the province aren’t always popular, however.
10 April
Major retailers win against Quebec language watchdog in French sign battle
Store chains do not have to modify their names to operate in province: Quebec Superior Court ruling
A judge has ruled that major retailers do not have to modify their commercial names to French to continue operating in Quebec.
A Quebec Superior Court justice says businesses that have storefront signs with their trademark name in a language other than French do not contravene the French Language Charter.
Several retailers took the province’s language watchdog to court after they were told to change their names or risk losing the right to do business in the province.
The Office Québécois de la Langue Française wanted the companies to change their signs to either give themselves a generic French name or add a slogan or explanation that reflected what they sold.
The businesses included Best Buy, Costco, Gap, Old Navy, Guess, Walmart, Toys “R” Us and Curves.
28 March
PQ: un test de français obligatoire dans les cégeps anglophones
(La Presee) Pauline Marois veut également donner «la possibilité» aux étudiants francophones de «devenir bilingues lorsqu’ils sont au cégep». Ainsi, dans un prochain mandat, un gouvernement péquiste obligerait les cégeps francophones à offrir des cours d’anglais. Ce serait un moyen de dissuader les étudiants francophones de fréquenter les institutions anglophones, selon Diane de Courcy. Ces cours seraient optionnels.
Par ailleurs, la «nouvelle charte de la langue française» reprendrait les éléments du projet de loi 14 qui a été bloqué par l’opposition. Le PQ veut entre autres assujettir les PME à la loi 101. Et avant d’exiger le bilinguisme pour un emploi, une entreprise devrait prouver que la maîtrise de l’anglais est nécessaire pour le poste concerné.
Diane de Courcy a affirmé que l’enjeu des écoles passerelles et celui de l’accès des enfants de militaires à l’école anglaise ne feraient pas partie de la «nouvelle charte». Ces dossiers seraient traités plus tard.
3 March
Language police drop attack on Chelsea boutique owner
Cooper speculated that the reason her case was dealt with so quickly is because the issue brought too much negative attention to the Quebec government, particularly with the Parti Québécois expected to call an election any day.
Beryl Wajsman Quebec’s China Syndrome: A snitch society gnaws at the body of a just society
The OQLF claims that Facebook, as well as all social media, constitutes public advertising in the same way as websites and pamphlets. The OQLF spokesman even said he had jurisprudence backing up its position. But he failed to produce any. This case raises several troubling questions.
First, the language law is not supposed to apply to businesses under 50 employees. Delilah has eight. Second, electronic media in the form of internet and social media are nowhere mentioned in our language rules and regulation as they did not exist when the laws were passed. Third, what happened to the humane “triage” system the government promised after the Pastagate embarrassment? But most important of all is the overwhelming policy question the Delilah episode raises. How far is Quebec ready to go?
Social media like Facebook has free expression as a central organizing principle. It is like a virtual, electronic Hyde Park corner. Everybody can pick up a soap box, stand up on it and have their say. You can see posts on Facebook in every language from Urdu to Russian to Chinese.
But the template of Facebook, in every country, is English. The words denoting the sections are in English. “Friends,” “status,” “events” etc… This has not bothered any jurisdiction in the world except Quebec.
28 February
Facebook Exempt From Quebec’s French Language Law, Lawyer Says
Quebec’s language law does not have jurisdiction over social media because it’s intended to start conversations and not promote or sell products, according to a Montreal-based lawyer. Lawyer Michael Bergman, who specializes in constitutional and human rights issues, told CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning the Quebec government can’t regulate Facebook because it is fleeting, free communication.
Quebec defends English Facebook page for N.Y. office
Province’s language guardians ordered clothing store to translate Facebook page to French
Quebec store owner ordered to change Facebook page to French
The Quebec Charter of French Language requires catalogues, brochures, folders and commercial directories to be in French.
It’s under that law that a women’s boutique in Chelsea, Que., called Delilah (in the Parc), was recently ordered to translate its Facebook page — or face legal action.
Sylvia Martine LaForge, a spokeswoman for the Quebec Community Groups Network, a Quebec English rights group, said the law was created in the 1970s and applies to pamphlets and signs but not social media.
She said the fact the province’s New York office runs a Facebook page in English is a clear sign that social media should be exempt.
“It’s a question of social media being such an unknown territory right now,” said LaForge. “So if you say to me, will their Facebook page in New York now be bilingual, or will it have a French site and an English site, they might have to consider that.”
Quebec constitutional lawyer Julius Grey also says he believes the case is a harsh interpretation of the language law.
“I think what we have to say is that in the 1970s, when the charter of the French language was adopted, these things didn’t exist,” said Grey.
Grey says that until the law is amended to reflect the digital age, the government shouldn’t target businesses for using English on social media.
26 February
Peggy Curran: This is Montreal. Ici on parle everything
There is a big difference between the rhetorical hogwash of the campaign trail and what happens when people get elected, with or without a majority. The PQ has been milking the charter of secular values since the last time it went shopping for votes 18 months ago. Bill 14, which was supposed to extend language restrictions to companies with 25 to 50 workers, died for lack of legislative enthusiasm last fall. For all that Premier Pauline Marois muses about Quebec independence, so far the best she has to offer is yet another white paper and “collective reflection” during the next mandate.
Of course, we hope De Courcy’s threat of stricter language laws is mere campaign posturing and pandering. But suppose it did become law. How long do you think it would take before a flustered OQLF boss had to back-pedal, trying to explain to the foreign press why someone got fined or fired for saying hello?
24 February
Expect tougher language laws if PQ wins majority, minister says
A PQ majority government would make it a priority to bring back Bill 14 and to stamp out examples of creeping bilingualism like sales staff who greet customers with “Bonjour-Hi,” she said at a day-long conference on francization programs held by the Conseil du patronat.
“Montreal is not a bilingual city. Quebec is not a bilingual Quebec,” De Courcy said to reporters after her speech.
5 February
CJAD’s Dan Delmar gets a letter from the OQLF
Provocateur Communications, the media company founded by CJAD host Dan Delmar and his partner Jared Shapransky, is now in the crosshairs of Quebec’s language authorities.
The Office québécois de la langue française sent the company a letter dated Jan. 20, informing it that it must translate its web site into French, and that it must respond to the letter within the month.
Since then, there have been two exchanges with the woman who signed the letter, Vanessa Rozié, whose official title at the OQLF is “complaint specialist”. Provocateur informed her a French translation of the web site was underway, and that it would be complete within six months.
31 January
Odd new rules limit teaching of French
By Paul Donovan and Sidney Benudiz
(Special to the Gazette) While keeping French-language and English-language schools in neatly isolated silos might appeal to bureaucrats and politicians seeking to take positions for political reasons, it is harmful to both the English-speaking minority and to Quebec society as a whole.
If they were alive today, the original drafters of the Charter of the French Language would have been ecstatic if established English-language schools taught up to 70 per cent of their curriculum in French. Sadly, the current legislation (and labyrinthine point system) penalizes schools wanting to promote both strong English-language and French-language language skills.


17 December
OQLF intervenes after Creole conversation between employees
Two Montreal hospital workers of Haitian origin who sometimes speak to each other in Creole — and not exclusively in French — have raised the ire of the Office québécois de la langue française.
On Dec. 3, the OQLF warned the Hôpital Rivière-des-Prairies, an 88-bed psychiatric facility, to take action after an employee of the hospital complained to the French-language watchdog about the two workers.
The hospital was given until Dec. 20 to respond or face an investigation by an OQLF inspector and a fine of as much as $20,000. The two employees in question do speak French, and there appears to be no evidence that they refused to speak to patients or co-workers in French. But on occasion, they engaged in private conversations in Creole while on lunch or during some shifts in the presence of colleagues and patients.
14 November
Bill amending Quebec’s French language charter dies
(Global) After months of negotiation, the PQ is ending talks with the CAQ on Bill 14. The piece of legislation which so enraged the anglophone community last spring died on the order paper.
“Negotiation reached its limits and I am disappointed,” said Immigration Minister Diane de Courcy.
The minister said the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) refused tighter restrictions to boost French in CEGEPS, municipalities and small businesses. For months, the CAQ flirted with the anglophone and allophone communities, often siding with prominent members and using their arguments. But that all changed on Thursday. The third party at the National Assembly announced it is now throwing all of its political energy into passing the Charter of Quebec Values.
29 October
Bringing up baby bilingual
(The Economist) Bilingual children as young as seven months outperform monolinguals at tasks requiring “executive function”: prioritising and planning complex tasks and switching mental gears. This is probably because monitoring the use of two languages is itself an exercise in executive function. Such studies control for socio-economic status, and in fact the same beneficial effects have been shown in bilingual children of poor families. Finally, the effects appear to be lifelong: bilinguals have later onset of Alzheimer’s disease, on average, than do monolinguals.
10 October
Brains crave bilingualism
By Janet Bagnall
In Quebec, bilingualism is rarely just the ability to communicate in two languages. A practical necessity to some, it’s the Trojan Horse of assimilation to others. But researchers in neuroscience and language acquisition would like Quebecers to see it the way they do: as an extraordinary gift.
The bilingual brain is faster, more focused and more flexible than the brain of someone who knows only one language. Learning a second language helps stave off the ravages of old age, in the form of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. It can literally make students smarter, new research suggests. A U.S. study found that the effects of a bilingual education are so powerful they can overcome the negative impact of extreme poverty and deprivation on a child’s cognitive development, propelling those children into the top ranks of cognitive development.
These findings have been piling up on the plus side of the bilingualism ledger for the past several years, without, it seems, having much impact on how bilingualism is viewed by Quebec’s political leaders.

Dr. Joe Schwarcz:
Within the last ten days I’ve been in New York, BC and Washington. I was there to talk about various issues in chemistry but in each instance the topic of conversation with my hosts quickly focused on “pastagate.” I felt ashamed to be from Quebec. We have become the laughing stock of the world. It is sheer lunacy that with numerous legitimate issues to be addressed , the narrow minded Quebec politicians worry about the French language losing its eminence because of what they see as a treacherous restaurant menu. And it’s equally disturbing that while the Parti Quebecois commits these linguistic atrocities, the Federal government just stays silent.
The simple minded critter who was in charge of the language police, and that is the proper description, claims that her heart was in the right place. Maybe so, but it is her brain that is missing.
Our infrastructure is crumbling, our education system is a mess, our emergency rooms are stressed to the limit and we are funding the Office de la Langue Francaise to the tune of some 30 million dollars a year. This is a crime! A colossal misappropriation of public funds. We are actually paying people to go around measuring signs and telling stores to cover up “on” buttons on microwave ovens. It is time to disband this foul operation and put the expertise of the employees to use in measuring the depth of potholes. Filling them probably lies outside their capability.
It is truly amazing that Minister Diane de Courcy, when announcing the resignation of the head of the OLF and declaring that questions in English would not be entertained, did not recognize the irony of standing in front of a sign declaring “Un Quebec for Tous.” Surely that rusty brain needs some oiling. Educated Americans used to be ashamed to say that George W. Bush was their president. Compared with our premier, he was an intellectual giant. — Published on his Facebook page, March 8, 2013 and shared over 3,000 times in less than a week

29 August
Bill 14 appears doomed, Marois concedes
Holds hope that compromise possible after talks with Coalition Avenir Québec
The chances that Quebec’s new language legislation, Bill 14, ever gets adopted by the National Assembly are very slim, Premier Pauline Marois conceded Thursday.
In a clear step back from the language issue, Marois blasted the Liberals for consistent stonewalling of the bill, but because she leads a minority government she has to face the fact the bill is most likely going to die on the order paper.
She still hopes talks with the second opposition party, the Coalition Avenir Québec, will yield a compromise, but admitted things appear bleak.
30 July
Bouton Biodome parrotPolly wants un craquelin
(The Economist) EARLIER this month Canadians were shocked to learn that Bouton, an English-speaking parrot at the Montreal Biodome in the French-speaking province of Quebec, was being deported to Toronto following a surprise visit to the zoo by a representative of the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF), the body charged with ensuring the primacy of French in Quebec. The story [Parrot removed from Montreal Biodome after learning too much English], published by the Beaverton, a satirical magazine, turned out to be a spoof. But Quebec’s linguistic intolerance is all too real. …
In 1976, when the PQ, which is responsible for the linguistic legislation, first came to power, around 800,000 of Quebec’s 6.2m people were English-speakers. By 2011 that fell to fewer than 600,000, even as the province’s population rose to 8m. There may be plenty of reasons why Anglophone Quebeckers have upped sticks. Fleeing before they meet Bouton’s hypothetical fate could be one.
23 May
PQ wants to force federally regulated firms to abide by French language charter
Opposition parties ask why issue wasn’t raised in Bill 14 hearings
The Parti Québécois government says it plans to compel federally regulated companies to comply with Quebec’s French Language Charter, by withholding public contracts from any business or agency that doesn’t.
That would include companies in the banking, transportation and telecommunications sectors.
The proposal was first raised by Language Minister Diane De Courcy last December, when Bill 14, an act to amend the French language charter, was first introduced.
However, the idea appeared to have fallen by the wayside.
21 May
Beryl Wajsman: Advance the attack! A response to the De Courcy-Lisée letter
(The Metropolitain) … they failed to address the central point – Bill 14 is not necessary and is nothing but an attempt to solidify the `pur et dur` base through more politics of division. Not enough because the Bill demeans all Quebecers, francophones as well as non-francophones. Not enough because the government is still not willing to stop the economic destruction of Quebec by ceasing to put up these false issues of discord. … we hope you will use the arguments set out here as the content of that dialogue. Because if the Ministers truly want to be empathetic – and to be given the “benefit of the doubt on their good faith” – then we cannot lose in our fight against this egregious, draconian and unnecessary legislation. Advance the attack! This letter, intended or not, gives us all the ammunition we need to win.
17 May
Lisée and De Courcy: We have listened
The amendments that will be tabled will result in a new and improved law to protect linguistic security and vitality — for everyone
By Jean-François Lisée and Diane De Courcy, Special to the Gazette
Perhaps we ought to have seen it coming, but some of our proposals were interpreted by a number of people in the anglo community not as starting points for discussion, but as an attempt to reduce the rights of English-speakers in Quebec.
The bill now goes on to a new stage and we will be tabling a number of amendments. At the same time, there will be discussions with the Coalition Avenir Québec on some of the issues.
Don Macpherson reacts (strongly):
A major omission and half-truths in piece by Lisée
… Another example: The article said “some people” have portrayed a proposed amendment in Bill 14 to the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms as discriminatory. And it implied those people are legislative illiterates who don’t know how to read a bill.
What the article neglected to mention is that these “some people” in question are the Quebec human-rights commission and the province’s bar association.
… But now, the article said, we must accept cuts in services in English to the sick and elderly to help “sustain the critical mass of the French-speaking majority, especially in Montreal,”
What Lisée meant by that, as he has made clear in the past, is that there aren’t enough people speaking French in the privacy of their own homes.
But not even Lisée had the nerve to come out and ask anglos in The Gazette to “empathize” with the PQ’s opinion that there are too many of us.
And another thing (or two) about Lisée and De Courcy on Bill 14
… In admissions to English-language CEGEPs, Bill 14 would favour graduates of English-language high schools over applicants from French-language ones.
That, the two Parti Québécois ministers said, is to help anglo kids whose education is “cut short” because they’re squeezed out of college by graduates of French schools with better marks. … They want to prevent non-anglophones from going to English CEGEPs. Political considerations, however, prevented the government from keeping the PQ’s promise to anti-English hawks to apply Bill 101′s restrictions on admission to English schools to the colleges.
They also neglected to mention that Bill 14 would require would-be graduates of English high schools and colleges to pass more difficult French tests. This could prevent some students from graduating, and discourage others from going on to CEGEP.
30 April
Parti Québécois moves forward on Bill 14
Liberals vow to oppose it
(The Gazette) With the Liberals digging in their heels, the Quebec government Tuesday set in motion the next phase in the adoption of its new language law, Bill 14.
29 April
Let’s talk — calmly, CRITIQ says

Founder and president of the Institute for Public Affairs, Beryl Wajsman, left and Civil Rights Lawyer Julius Grey, right, discussing at the panel table during the Canadian Rights in Quebec (CRITIQ) conference held on Sunday.  Photograph by: Marie-France Coallier , The Gazette

Let’s talk — calmly, CRITIQ says
(Montreal Gazette) Strong words and appeals for calm dialogue were both on the agenda on Sunday as Quebec’s newest civil rights group hosted its second conference in two months.
Canadian Rights in Quebec (CRITIQ), which now claims to have nearly 10,000 members (one-third of them francophone), [was] formed in late January in response to the tabling of Bill 14 — a controversial piece of legislation that will revamp the Charter of the French Language (Bill 101) in Quebec.
19 April
Bill 14 hearings a rough-and-tumble ride
Out of the total of 86 briefs, the commission heard from 75 groups and citizens. Another 4,285 persons answered the online questionnaire.
Don Macpherson: What’s next for Bill 14?
… the concerns about individual rights and freedoms were given short shrift by the Parti Québécois language minister, Diane De Courcy. She ignored them completely in her communiqué assessing the hearings. And in her news conference, De Courcy refused to commit herself to making any amendments to the bill as a result of the hearings.
…  whether and how much of the bill will pass depends on the Coalition Avenir Québec party, which holds the balance of power — as well as on the government.
The CAQ caucus appears to be divided. Party leader François Legault has said he would like to vote for the bill, but some Coalition MNAs are believed to be against it. So far, the 19-member caucus has been able to agree only that three provisions in the bill, adversely affecting small businesses, officially bilingual municipalities and school-age Canadian Forces children, must be changed or dropped.
18 April
Public hearings on Quebec’s controversial Bill 14 wrap up
CÉGEP officials call proposed language law amendments discriminatory …
On Tuesday the government also heard from the Quebec Human Rights Commission.
Opinion: Changes proposed by Bill 14 risk serious rights violations
By Pearl Eliadis

Last Friday, the Quebec Bar Association testified at legislative hearings in Quebec City on Bill 14, which proposes to amend several laws, including the French Language Charter, and impose new restrictions on (mainly) anglophone rights
When I first wrote about Bill 14 last fall (Opinion, Dec. 11, “Bill 14 chips away at English minority rights”), I highlighted the bill’s proposed change in definition of “ethnic minorities” to the nebulous “cultural communities.” Other writers have discussed this as well. The proposed new term, in my view, is worrisome because it serves as prologue to a litany of substantive rights violations in the bill.

10 April
Julius Grey Mtl GazetteBill 101 should not be subject to tinkering, civil rights lawyer says
The Charter of the French Language is not the kind of law politicians should tinker with every few years for political reasons, respected civil rights lawyer Julius Grey says.
And one of the newly minted minority rights groups — this one including former Equality Party leader and MNA Robert Libman — has urged Quebec to reconsider Bill 14 in the name of social peace and linguistic harmony.
“I have adopted the slogan the nationalists had in the 1990s, ‘Ne touchez pas à la loi 101,’ ” Grey quipped as he opened his presentation to the National Assembly committee studying the bill.
… Unlike the more aggressive tone at Tuesday’s hearings, Grey’s presentation went off without a hitch with a number of committee members saying they were honoured he appeared.
Everyone shook his hand.
The mood was equally relaxed an hour earlier when the group, Canadian Rights in Quebec (CRITIQ), presented its brief and that despite the fact the group’s document blasts the bill to smithereens.
Group members included Libman, an architect who was the MNA for D’Arcy McGee from 1989-1994, Richard Yufe, a Montreal lawyer, and newspaper publisher Beryl Wajsman.
Acrimony marks return of Bill 14 hearings
During an emotional day featuring sometimes inflammatory presentations and with one French-language activist, Mario Beaulieu, revealing he has received death threats, Diane De Courcy said the debate over her bill has taken on an acrimonious tone.
Abolish Quebec’s anglo hospitals: hardliners
A hard-line language group’s proposal to abolish anglophone hospitals has Quebec cabinet ministers scrambling to say this is not going to happen.
9 April
TIME Magazine Profiles Quebec’s Orwellian War On English And How It Is Doing Irreversible Damage

7 April
Josh Freed: Language peace is all around us
I recently spent the night in an oasis of language peace, far from the feuds of Bill 14, Pastagate, quibbling language inspectors, fuming angryphones, exhausted otherphones — and debates over whether to say “Bonjour hi,” or just use sign language.
No, I wasn’t in Ontario – I was in the Quartier Latin near lower St. Denis St., usually student protest headquarters. But on this night it was home to a monthly discussion group called “Génération d’idees” that brings together young people in their 20 and 30-somethings.
14 March
Don Macpherson: Most of Bill 14 now seems sure to be passed
The CAQ does hold the fate of Bill 14 in its hands, since the official-opposition Liberals oppose any change to the present language legislation and the Coalition holds the balance of power in the National Assembly.
But it’s important to note that the CAQ has come out against only four of the 94 sections of Bill 14 — and only in their present form.
12 March
Quebec unions share ‘horror stories’ of civil servants who used bilingualism to help citizens
As the union sees it, a “shameful bilingualism” is invading the civil service, and union president Lucie Martineau said the Parti Québécois government’s Bill 14, which updates the language charter known as Bill 101, does not go nearly far enough to correct things.
(National Post) As hearings began Tuesday into Quebec’s proposed tightening of its language law, the main union representing provincial civil servants had some horror stories to share about life on the frontlines.
The details were so shocking that employees’ names and workplaces were withheld to protect them from possible repercussions, the Syndicat de la fonction publique et parapublique du Québec (SFPQ) wrote in a brief tabled at the National Assembly.
There was the perfectly bilingual clerk at Revenue Quebec who frequently meets people who are more at ease discussing their tax questions in English. The clerk prefers to go along rather than turn “a tax problem into a language debate” and possibly spark a complaint.
There was a technician dealing in benefits who was asked to submit an English version of a form to a Quebec-based company because its payroll department was in Winnipeg, and staff there did not understand French.
11 March
Once they start laughing at you, you’re throughand when the Economist is writing about you?
It is generally the case with figures of authority that when the masses start laughing at you, you are through.
(The Economist | Johnson) … Journalists with a sense of the ridiculous quickly piled on. An analysis of international media coverage of Quebec showed the story, quickly dubbed #pastagate on twitter, received 60 times the coverage of a trip by Pauline Marois, the premier, that had been meant to drum up investor interest in the province.
You can walk: Prominent Bill 14 supporter tells people who can’t order metro tickets in French Hateful and stupid!

Aislin Bill 101Anglos’ turn to say: ‘Ne touchez pas à loi 101’
(The Gazette) Diane De Courcy is discovering something many of her predecessors have: Being Quebec’s language minister is no walk in the park. When De Courcy arrives at the National Assembly Tuesday morning to kick off five weeks of hearings into Bill 14, which revamps the Charter of the French Language, she will be a minister facing a convergence of many forces.
On the one side, are language hardliners calling on her to — as a headline in Le Devoir stated last week — “tighten the screws,” on the 36-year-old language law. On the other are the minorities, especially the anglophone community. Pastagate-empowered and organizing for a fight, this group says it will be docile no more.
Minus the old Alliance-Quebec anglophone rights group, a new group, Canadian Rights in Quebec (CRITIQ), has emerged in the wake of the bill. A spokesperson said Monday the group now has more than 5,000 members.
10 March
Beryl Wajsman: Language laws make Quebec an outlaw régime in international law
Ever since Bill 22, cultural nationalists – whether to placate sovereignists or to demonize non-francophones for votes – have show a wanton disregard for legal order. And opponents of nationalists need to differentiate between opposition to political nationalism and cultural nationalism.
8 March
louise-marchandQuebec language watchdog resigns in wake of ‘Pastagate’
(National Post) The head of Quebec’s French language watchdog has resigned following a series of embarrassing controversies.
The departure of Louise Marchand, president of the Office Quebecois de la langue francaise, was confirmed by the PQ government Friday morning.
Marchand’s exit follows a series of news stories that have drawn considerable ridicule upon the agency — in Quebec, the rest of Canada, and even abroad.
La présidente de l’OQLF démissionne
7 March
PQ Scraps English-Immersion Plan
(Canadian Press) A plan to teach every Quebec child English in the sixth grade is being scrapped by the new Parti Quebecois government. The plan was created by the previous Liberal government and it would have placed all sixth-graders, those not already in English schools, in an intensive immersion program for half the year.
The new Parti Quebecois government, which is generally more nationalist on language matters, says it doesn’t actually have a problem with schools adopting that immersion program. But it says they can do so on a voluntary basis.
The move came after the provincial teachers’ union had complained that the objective of creating a wall-to-wall program for every school, by 2015, was unrealistic. It said the need for such a program, as well as the availability of English teachers, varied widely from one region to the next.
6 March
CRITIQ launch draws near record numbers opposed to Marois’ policies
(The MetropolitaIn) In what many have called the largest gathering against discriminatory Quebec acts that curtail civil rights since Premier Bourassa used the notwithstanding clause in 1989,some 800 people crowded into the downtown Delta Hotel in order to attend a conference staged by CRITIQ ( Canadian Rights in Quebec.) CRITIQ is a broad alliance of anglophones, allophones and francophones dedicated to ensuring that constitutionally enshrined Canadian civil rights – particularly with respect to language – are respected in Quebec.
It was clear from the speakers, and the attendees during question period, that there is a broad Montreal stirring across ethnic lines fed up with the Marois’ government’s overt assault on the province’s ethnic and linguistic minorities. Five of the city’s better-known activists spoke to the crowd about the urgency of defending their rights.
“The few cannot continue to fight for the many alone forever,” said Beryl Wajsman, publisher of the Métropolitain and President of the Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal. “Our individual rights are being challenged and now it’s our duty to rise up together and ensure that they are protected and respected. This is one law too far.” Beryl Wajsman: It Is Not Over! Stay Vigilant And Resolute/
Conseil supérieur de la langue française: Quebec must adopt hardline approach to make French common language
(The Gazette) Entitled “Reinvigorating the Linguistic Policy of Quebec,” the opinion was made public Wednesday by Robert Vezina, president of the Conseil, on the eve of hearings at the National Assembly on Bill 14, which seeks to reinforce Bill 101, the French language charter, first adopted in 1977.
With its opinion, the organization in essence supports the government in its effort, notably provisions on making French obligatory in businesses with 25 to 49 employees.
The Conseil indicates it is worried by the anglicisation of the business world and urges Quebec to take the measures necessary to reverse the trend.
Coincidentally comes this from the European Commission – what a contrast:
Learning foreign languages can become a way for Europeans to exit the economic doldrums and find employment opportunities across borders, says language and culture Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou.
As well as producing more mobile and language-savvy citizens, European institutions and businesses should learn to better cope with a multilingual society, Vassiliou told a conference of policymakers and academics at the European Economic and Social Committee on Tuesday (5 March), an EU consultative body.
“If we want more mobile students and workers, and businesses that can operate on a European and world scale, we need better language competences – and these must be better targeted to the current and future needs of the labour market,” she said.
The latest European Commission figures show that in 2011 just 42% of European 15-year-olds were competent in their first foreign language, despite often having learned it from seven years of age. [what were they learning before that?] Furthermore, the figure differed hugely across different EU countries, with 82% for Sweden and just 9% for Britain.
Bill 14 appears doomed to defeat
The Parti Quebecois’s plan to toughen Bill 101 could be in trouble.
(CTV) The Coalition Avenir Quebec confirmed Wednesday the existence of a draft of a letter stating it will oppose the most controversial aspects of Bill 14, the proposed legislation to beef up Quebec’s French language law.
In the letter, the CAQ stated it is opposed to the following provisions of Bill 14:
The right to remove a municipality’s existing bilingual status
Removal of the right of children of francophone military parents to attend English school
New measures forcing companies with 26 to 50 employees to conduct their internal communications in French
Measures to restrict francophone and allophone students from attending Anglophone CEGEPS.
Most of PQ language bill will not pass
(CJAD) A leaked internal letter for the CAQ shows that the party will block the most controversial elements in the Parti Quebecois’ language bill.
The CAQ wields the power to decide whether or not the bill will pass into law. The Liberals have already said they will vote against bill 14 in its entirety.
A letter that the CAQ is providing to its riding associations says large amounts if the legislation will have to go on the chopping block.
1 March
The new, heavier-handed Quebec language regime
(Globe & Mail) Under the section of the Charter of the French Language governing the OQLF as it currently stands, inspectors can “request” documents from people or businesses suspected of language violations. Under the amendments proposed in Bill 14, inspectors will have the power to “require the production of any book, account, record, file or other document for examination or for the purpose of making copies or extracts,” and to “seize any thing which he or she believes on reasonable grounds may prove the commission of an offence.” Those are policing powers, not powers of inspection. [emphasis added]
As well, where currently someone alleged to have committed an infraction is given time to comply before charges are laid, Bill 14 removes the mention of a compliance period. Instead, once an infraction is suspected, the OQLF “shall refer the matter to the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions so that appropriate penal proceedings may be instituted.”
23 February
SAQ sells Italian wines -- in Italian Quebec language police strike again, tell ‘caffe’ to ‘F’ off
Quebec’s language police have struck again, telling an Italian restaurant to take the “F” off, eh.
The Office quebecois de la langue francaise — bureaucrats who ensure French is Quebec’s dominant language on street signs and elsewhere — has told Conti Caffe to drop one “F” from a sign outside its Quebec City establishment.
That’s because “caffe” is Italian and, perhaps, confusing for those looking for a French “café,” CTV News reported.
Quebec language police claim Italian restaurant menu has ‘too much Italian’

Massimo Lecas, the owner of high-end Italian eatery Buonanotte … said the authorities told him to provide a French translation for the Italian words — including words such as “meatball” and “calamari,” for which he had already provided helpful French keys.
Update Quebec tongue troopers backtrack on Buonanotte’s menu
5 March
Dan Delmar: How a pasta-bowl tempest is changing Quebec
Pastagate became a worldwide news phenomenon, from Italy to the UK to the United States. As others have noted, international coverage of this story has been greater, by several orders of magnitude, than Quebec Premier Pauline Marois’ much-ballyhooed (in Quebec) trip to Scotland.
It is important to remember that Lecas’ ordeal is painfully common in Quebec. In fact, in the days following Pastagate, dozens of restaurateurs came out of the woodwork to share similarly absurd OQLF horror stories. … Facing intense media scrutiny and ridicule, the OQLF dropped its case against Buonanotte, while Lecas is revelling in all the publicity his restaurant has received. He’s even printed “j’aime le pasta” t-shirts.
What’s important here in Quebec is that the scandal has had legs in the francophone media.
… To question language dogma in Quebec is to poke a malnourished tiger in the eye. The mission of the OQLF rests upon the improvised, statistically disproven theory that the French language is on the verge of extinction because of the presence of English and other languages. Most rational observers would note that the only way to ensure a language’s survival is through education rather than repression, but all rationality is lost amid the insecurity that dominates the discourse on culture in Quebec.
25 February
Aislin _ Lunctime at OQLF BRILLIANT SPOOF!
Dear Diary: ‘We busted right in through the front door with our dictionaries drawn’
(National Post) Monday
The name’s Guy Brossard, Quebec language cop. Twenty-one years on the force, three divorces, a bum liver and a bad case of loving the “taverne” too well. I pack a Petit Robert and a flask of maple syrup. They call me a man of justice, that thin blue line that protects this province’s guileless “gens du pays” from what some would call soft ethnocide. Right around five o’clock I was just about to head home for a date with a bottle of bourbon when she stepped in: lips as red as a Canadiens sweater, eyes like a Holstein cow and legs that went for kilometres. You could say the dame was worth a stare. My mind was already working out the numbers on a physical negotiation when she piped up with a complaint: “They tell me you’re the best, Brossard, well, some I-talian joint downtown just tried to sell me a plate of ‘pasta.’ ”
24 January
PITY THE FRANCOPHONE PARENT IN QUEBEC! The language of education in Quebec – why does the majority continue to favour the minority?
By John Buchanan
(The Metropolitain) Ever since the PQ returned to power (and in the election campaign beforehand) language has been back on the political agenda. A draft law with new provisions to bill 101 is presently before the National Assembly, proposing to tighten the language rules for businesses with at least 26 employees (down from 50) and requiring CEGEPs to give priority to English students first before granting spots to francophones. In addition, the proposed law – in a perverse way – guarantees that any French employee cannot be fired because they are unilingual, raising the spectre of an endless parade before the tribunals of wrongful dismissal cases, based on language, and a fear amongst businesses of hiring unilinguals.
The PQ continues to bemoan the so-called decline of French although recent studies issued in no way suggest that French in the workplace and at home is in significant decline.
[Editor’s comment: 1) I do not have the citations, but do know that a number of linguistic experts have made the point that early training in a second language produces more flexibility in reproducing sounds that are different from those of the first language, eventually enabling the speaker to replicate more ‘foreign’ sounds in other languages (I think this is the phenomenon referred to as an ear for languages).
2) We had a very dear friend, a Polish architect who spoke at least five languages, who maintained that people who speak only one language tend to only accept one way of looking at things, while those who have learned how to express themselves in two or more languages (particularly those with very different grammatical structures and syntax) are more likely to realize that there is more than one way of thinking about a topic. Not always true – some people can be pig-headed in multiple languages – but worth considering.]
20 January
Don Macpherson: Lachine Hospital transfer proposal a consolation prize
Now that the Parti Québécois is in power, it helps to know Mario Beaulieu, the spokesman for several anti-English pressure groups.
He opposed the construction of the new McGill teaching hospital, and he has had his hawk’s eye on the Lachine Hospital since its transfer to the MUHC was announced. …
The Lachine Hospital looked like a consolation prize to the hawks for their disappointment with the “new Bill 101” the Marois government proposed Dec. 5.
With Bill 14, the government reneged on its “CEGEPs 101” promise to the hawks to restrict admission to English-language colleges.
And that promise was to compensate hard-line nationalists for PQ leader Pauline Marois’s refusal to commit to holding a sovereignty referendum.
Now it looks as though Hébert will disappoint the hawks again, by leaving the Lachine Hospital in the MUHC.
But that doesn’t mean the end of language politics in the health sector.
One of the objectives of Bill 14 is to restrict access to public services in English at the provincial as well as the municipal level, including the health sector.


18 November
Walmart and other major retailers take Quebec government to court over French signage requirements
Several major retailers are taking the Quebec government to court over the provincial language watchdog’s insistence they modify their commercial brand names to include some French.
The retailers include some of the biggest brand names in North America — Walmart, Best Buy and Costco. Their lawyers are expected in Quebec Superior Court on Thursday.
Quebec’s language watchdog, The Office Quebecois de la Langue Francaise, wants the retailers to change their signs to either give themselves a generic French name or add a slogan or explanation that reflects what it is they’re selling.
2 November
Opinion: A challenge to Jean-François Lisée
By Robert Libman,
Actions speak louder than words. On election night, Sept. 4, Pauline Marois actually uttered a few words in English and extended her hand to reassure an uneasy anglophone community about its future in Quebec. This was surprising enough, but she then took the unprecedented step of naming a minister responsible for relations with the anglophone community, Jean-François Lisée.
Lisée then proactively initiated a meeting with the heads of Montreal’s English school boards, something that former premier Jean Charest had previously refused to do. Lisée got appreciative marks from some for making this effort, which school-board officials cautiously greeted as a positive first step.
Many anglophones, however, saw this as nothing more than lip service, and their skepticism was reinforced by some of Lisée’s subsequent musings on the latest census figures, and his swipe at Justin Trudeau for Trudeau’s comments opposing any strengthening of Bill 101.
18 October
Janet Bagnall: Daycare proposal has some operators fuming
(Montreal Gazette) Many people involved in Quebec’s daycare system guessed, correctly it seems, that the government’s proposal to make French the only official language for children under the age of 5 of might not last out the week. The fact that the proposal appeared more trial balloon than serious policy-making didn’t make them any happier that their new government was even thinking of forcing children in daycare to speak French.
Desy Sacripante is the owner of Razmataz Kidz, a private daycare with 75 children. She said that she created a niche in what was a rapidly growing daycare market by offering a bilingual daycare program.
“I have my permit. I have my niche. And now you’re going to tell me that I can’t offer an English program when most of my clientele are allophones and want English? My clientele want their children to be competitive in the economic market. They want their children to speak English.
Under the Parti Québécois government, English is being removed from primary and secondary school and the CÉGEP system and now possibly the early childhood education centres, said Sacripante. “Where will children learn English? Does (Premier Pauline Marois) never expect them to leave Quebec?”
Quelques questions pour J-F Lisée
Par Steve Ambler le 30 août 2012
(The Metropolitain) Prenons deux individus, les deux parlant bien le français, le premier de Bordeaux et le deuxième de Shanghaï. Le premier parle français à la maison, et donc selon la logique du PQ vaut plus que le deuxième. C’est intéressant puisque on réussit de cette façon à contrôler non seulement la langue utilisée au travail mais aussi la langue utilisée à la maison. Est-ce que le PQ réfléchit aussi à une façon de contrôler la langue dans laquelle les individus pensent ? Maintenant, ajoutons un troisième individu au mélange. Un juif sépharade dont la famille est arrivée au Québec du Maroc avec le grand exode des juifs du monde arabe en ’48. Il parle français à la maison. Il parle le français à la maison, mais il est orthodoxe. Donc, il porte le kipa par conviction et, pour cette raison, ne peut travailler pour la fonction publique québécoise. Selon cette deuxième logique, il vaut moins comme personne que l’individu de Bordeaux, présumément d’origine catholique et peut-être portant une croix (ce qui est parfaitement acceptable). Lorsqu’on compare la valeur de l’individu de Shanghaï avec la valeur du juif sépharade, laquelle des deux logiques prédomine ? Est-ce que l’individu de Shanghaï vaut plus ou moins que l’individu d’origine marocaine ?
23 August
Jonathan Kay: Pauline Marois’ assaults on democratic values
This week, for instance, Ms. Marois revived a 2007 proposal that would bar non-French speakers from holding public office in Quebec. It would even bar non-French speakers from funding political parties or petitioning the legislature. As many aboriginal leaders have pointed out, one of its primary effects would be to bar virtually all First Nations figures, especially older ones, from electoral politics. (Even today, many aboriginal students study only English and their ancestral tongues.)
Indeed, the idea is so outrageous that on Wednesday, the PQ was forced to backtrack — putting out a statement to the effect that anyone already residing in Quebec, of whatever linguistic ability, would be excluded from the language requirement. Yet even this leaves open the possibility than a non-French-speaking Canadian citizen who arrives in Quebec in the future — whether from Toronto, Yellowknife or Madrid — would be unconstitutionally stripped of his or her democratic rights because they don’t speak one of this country’s two official languages. It is a disgrace that any serious politician in Canada would think to propose such a plan. (iPolitics) Pauline Marois offers menu of reprehensible nationalist policies
Seems a little correction was in order
22 August
Amid backlash, PQ clarifies French requirement for public office run
… faced with an uproar from non-francophones and native groups, the party issued a statement Wednesday flatly contradicting the leader. Non-francophone Canadians already residing in Quebec would be excluded from the language requirement since they are automatically Quebec citizens, the statement said.
The party’s flip-flop was the latest twist in a campaign where Ms. Marois has often played up identity issues in a bid to woo the francophone electorate.
Some commentators are even speculating that such proposals, which are likely to be overturned by the courts, are part of a deliberate attempt to hike up antagonism against federal institutions.
French fluency a prerequisite to public office under PQ government
MONTREAL – Under a Parti Québécois government, anglophones and immigrants would not be allowed to run for public office unless they spoke French, leader Pauline Marois told reporters Tuesday.
“This is what we call the right of eligibility, and it seems to me that out of respect for our language, which is the official language of Quebec, it is normal that someone who wants to represent citizens should speak this language,” Marois said during a press conference at a provincial nurses’ federation.
Marois said that if elected, she would reintroduce a controversial PQ bill requiring all new citizens of Quebec to learn French. But the new bill would go even further than the initial version of Bill 195, tabled in 2007.
To be eligible to run in provincial or municipal elections, a non-francophone would have to speak French well enough “to be able to explain his ideas, explain his point of view,” Marois said.
The proposed law would apply to people born and raised in Quebec, including members of First Nations, as well as immigrants.
“The principle is not whether you come from elsewhere or you come from here. The principle is that you have to be capable of communication with the citizens,” Marois said.
The PQ leader declined to explain how the government would test would-be candidates’ French skills. Would there be a written test, an oral one, or both?
“A written or an oral test has not been planned. We could look at the tools that already exist,” she said.
Civil-rights lawyer Julius Grey blasted the proposal as “part of the new identity face this campaign has taken and it’s very regrettable.”
“I think it’s a remarkably bad idea and it’s one that is manifestly unconstitutional and there’s absolutely no doubt that people like myself … will be in court the next day after it’s passed,” Grey said.
He said the proposed law would infringe Section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which provides the right to participate in democratic affairs and does not have a test.
Grey compared the proposed law to the Jim Crow literacy tests given to African-Americans in the U.S. South to prevent them from voting.
“It’s quite shocking that you would interfere with the electorate’s choice,” Grey said. He noted that voters are quite capable of rejecting candidates whose language skills are not up to scratch.
“The attempt by the government to get in and stop them from running is unjustifiable. I can’t see any good that comes of it, nor is it fair, nor does it have anything to do with democratic principles,” he added.
Marois said candidates would not have to be “perfectly bilingual, but at least out of respect for the citizens of Quebec (they) would have to know the rudiments of the French language.” She noted that her own English “is deficient, as you know, but I think I succeed in expressing my thoughts quite well anyway, so people could be inspired by my experience.”
The PQ tabled Bill 195 at the height of the debate over the “reasonable accommodation” of religious minorities. It would have required immigrants to have a working knowledge of French before they could become citizens of Quebec. The bill was not adopted because the PQ was not in power at the time.
Marois said the details of the law would be worked out after the election.
“Obviously, this law will be debated. There will surely be a parliamentary commission,” she said.
In Monday night’s debate, Premier Jean Charest accused the PQ leader of infringing on non-francophones’ democratic rights.
But Marois said she saw no problem with limiting the political rights of language minorities since immigrants need to have a working knowledge of English or French to obtain Canadian citizenship.
Landed immigrants 18 to 54 must take a test to become citizens. It evaluates general knowledge of Canada and the ability to speak basic English or French.
Marois has also pledged to limit access to English CEGEPs to those eligible for English schooling, and to bar civil servants from wearing religious garb such as a Muslim head scarf or Jewish skullcap. However, she said government workers would be allowed to wear a discreet cross and that the crucifix in the National Assembly would remain because it is part of Quebec’s heritage.
Grey said he found it unfortunate that the PQ has been focusing on divisive questions of identity rather than addressing more important matters. “All of those things have taken away from the real issues, which are medicare, education, social justice, the economy and corruption,” he said.
At the press conference at the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé (FIQ), Marois promised to give nurses authorization to write prescriptions for ointments to treat wounds and to order X-rays and lab tests. Earlier, she spoke to supporters at a pizza restaurant on St. Denis St. in the Latin Quarter.

One Comment on "Quebec — PQ and Language"

  1. GS August 22, 2012 at 12:12 pm ·

    I don’t see how this would be legally possible –particularly in predominantly anglophone districts or for native communities. It’s probably designed to stimulate les ardents and provoke a fight with Ottawa, part of the PQ’s announced strategy. On the other hand, for all practical purposes, how much would it matter? Aren’t there only a few unilingual anglophone municipal mayors still active–and for how much longer? L’Assemblée nationale is effectively 100% francophone, is it not? French is already the official language of the province. Voting to extend the mandate of a government whose major success seems to have been to allow corruption & collusion to systematize itself across all elements of public procurement hardly seems reasonable –unless one wishes to opt out of all political choice no matter what. Why not vote CAQ, unless of course one is entirely satisfied with one’s incumbent PLQuist? Parties will compete for the “anglo” vote if it is available to them.

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