Language laws are always a hot topic in Montreal, and one of the things that gets the most amount of attention are the signage laws.
This however is not a post about that. I'm not going to talk about the laws or the recent changes made to the signage policies.
I'm just going to play a game that we enjoy around the office.
We're going to imagine what Montreal businesses would be named if the tables were turned.
What if every shop in Montreal had to have an English name, what would these francophone businesses be called?
Here are few of the ones we came up with:
Bureau En Gros = Fat In Desk
Initially I was going to make this "Fat Desk". But then I realized there would be nowhere to put the O with the pencil in it.
Complexe Desjardins = Complexe of the Gardens
Now the Complexe Desjardins sounds like some kind of Game of Thrones reference. Meet Daenerys of House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals, Protector of the Realm, Complexe of the Gardens, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons.
The Québec solidaire (QS) political party is proposing what it calls an "OQLF of Indigenous languages," or a House of Indigenous Languages (Maison des langues autochtones).
Such an office would work to "revitalize, protect, enhance and promote the 11 Indigenous languages" within what is now Quebec, "support organizations that offer Indigenous language courses or immersion programs" and "increase the visibility of Indigenous languages in the public space," according to QS.
The House of Indigenous Languages is one part of the party's proposed Indigenous Language Law (Loi sur les langues autochtones), which it says would also "establish the linguistic rights of First Nations and Inuit," enabling, for example, "access to translators in hospitals or signage in Indigenous languages in courthouses."
The proposal comes as the National Assembly considers the Legault government's Bill 96 language law reform.
"The status quo means that languages are disappearing and speakers are left to fend for themselves in our public services," QS spokesperson Manon Massé said in a statement. "After the collective awakening of the last few years, this is no longer acceptable."
Benjamin Gingras, a member of Québec solidaire's Commission nationale autochtone from the Anishnabe community of Timiskaming First Nation, added that "for many Aboriginal people, learning our ancestral language, sometimes threatened with extinction, is a way to reclaim our culture, our history, but also our traditional way of seeing the world."
"It's more than words, terms or verbs, it's a question of the cultural vitality of the First Nations in Quebec."
QS wants the Quebec government to work with Indigenous nations on the proposed law.
The Montreal bar association has been looking into elements of Bill 96 and is raising concern that certain articles could "infringe on the principle of access to justice which is at the heart of Quebec's democratic society," particularly for English speakers and bilingual people.
The association has pointed to five articles in the Bill that could affect "access to justice:" 9, 12, 13, 55, and 208.6.
Article 9 of the Bill, for instance, states that "a certified French translation shall be attached to any pleading drawn up in English that emanates from a legal person. The legal person shall bear the translation costs."
The association says that "requiring a party to bear the costs of a translation" affects access to justice and that there could be delays with processing a translated case report.
"In addition," the association continued, "there is reason to wonder about the availability of a sufficient number of legal translators in private practice."
Article 12 of Bill 96, meanwhile, relates to the appointment of judges in Quebec, stating they "shall not be required to have knowledge or a specific level of knowledge of a language other than the official language unless the Minister of Justice and the Minister of the French Language consider that the exercise of that office requires such knowledge."
For the association, this is troubling because the provision doesn't "take into account the reality of litigants in Montreal, where the percentage of cases in which English is required alone justifies the presence of judges or administrative judges who are bilingual or who have sufficient knowledge of English."
In a statement, the president of the Montreal bar, Junior Laguerre, said that "it is important to guarantee all citizens access to justice without hindrance or barrier, whether linguistic, economic or temporal."
"We, therefore, ask Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette to make the necessary amendments to the bill, so that it achieves its objectives without harming access to justice for all," Laguerre concluded.
Le Marché Fooderie, a kosher market on Avenue du Parc, and Cible Jeu, in Ville Saint-Laurent, both pleaded guilty to violating section 52 of the Charter, which says "Catalogues, brochures, folders, commercial directories and any similar publications must be drawn up in French."
The infractions were specifically related to their websites, and each business was fined $1,500.
Guy LaRue, a notary in Verdun, pleaded guilty for posting public signs in French and another language, with French not being clearly predominant. He was fined $600.
Diebold Nixdorf Canada, which specializes in global banking and retail technologies, was fined $1,500 for violating section 140 of the Charter, meaning it did not submit its "francization program" to the OQLF within six months of receiving a notice about it.
"The francization program is intended to generalize the use of French at all levels of the enterprise," the Charter says.
This article's cover photo was used for illustrative purposes only.
It would create a new "language policy of the State"
The minister of the French language would create a new "language policy of the State" that would apply to government bodies, government departments and municipal bodies.
This policy would lay out rules that government agencies have to follow in terms of whether they can use a language other than French in their communications.
It would also include ways to "control the quality of French used in an agency." And it even includes a section on "vocal music" in a government agency workplace for the "implementation of a French-language environment" that prioritizes Quebec "cultural works."
It would add two new clauses to the Canadian Constitution
The provincial government wants to amend the Canadian Constitution to include two new clauses: one declares Quebec a nation, and one says Quebec's only official language is French.
It could prompt changes to municipalities' bilingual statuses
Bill 96 proposes that municipalities could lose their official bilingual statuses if census data proves that less than 50% of their population considers English their first language.
However, CBC News reported that the government added a loophole allowing municipalities to vote to keep their bilingual status — regardless of demographics — "as long as that vote happens within 120 days of the bill's adoption."
Montreal does not currently have official bilingual status.
In a May 13 statement, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said, "As the only French-speaking metropolis in North America, Montréal will be an ally of Bill 101 and its reform."
It would mean additions to ministries, commissioners and OQLF powers
The government proposed creating "Francisation Québec" within the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration, which would serve as a point of access for people who want to learn French.
It would also open a position for a French-language commissioner who would monitor the progression of the language situation in Quebec.
There would be an early French requirement for new immigrants
The government proposed that all government communication with new immigrants to Quebec will be in French after six months of their arrival.
However, the bill states that "An agency that provides services in a language other than French to immigrants shall, where the volume of the demand for such services by those persons warrants it, give preference to using their mother tongue."
Judges and Members of the National Assembly would not need to be bilingual
The government's bill proposes that provincially-appointed judges need not be bilingual to be appointed, "unless the Minister of Justice and the Minister of the French Language consider that the exercise of that office requires such knowledge and that all reasonable means have been taken to avoid imposing such a requirement."
The bill also says those appointed to the National Assembly do not need to know a language other than French.
Smaller companies — with 25 or more employees — would form "francization committees"
The current Charter of the French Language requires companies with 100 or more employees to form francization committees.
These committees evaluate the state of the French language at the company and report to the management of the company as well as the OQLF.
The new bill would apply this to companies with 25-99 employees as well.
Businesses with non-French trademarks would have "predominantly French" signage
The government wants businesses with registered non-French trademarks to make their signs "predominantly French."
In a press conference last week, Premier François Legault explained that a company like Canadian Tire would have to make the explanation of its business activities, such as "centre de rénovation," larger than its trademarked name on all signage.
It would cap spots at English-language CEGEPs
The Quebec government wants to place a cap on the number of students who can enroll in English CEGEPs, as well as the number of students receiving English-language education in French schools.
As well, the Quebec government will not grant a Diploma of College Studies (DEC) to students living in Quebec who do not have spoken and written knowledge of French as laid out by the minister of higher education.
To evaluate students' knowledge of French, the government is creating a uniform exam for all CEGEP students in Quebec, regardless of their language of instruction.
However, students who have received CEGEP education in English and been declared eligible to receive instruction in English, according to Quebec law, are not required to take that exam to get a DEC.