Here's What We Know About Quebec's Major Revisions To The French Language Charter

Bill 101: Coming soon to a business near you...
Here's What We Know About Quebec's Major Revisions To The French Language Charter

The provincial government has announced its intention to strengthen Bill 101 aka Law 101 in Quebec. 

In a press conference on November 24, the minister responsible for the French language, Simon Jolin-Barrette, said a bill proposing major revisions to the Charter of the French Language will be tabled at the National Assembly's next parliamentary session. 

He vaguely explained that — if the bill passes — budgetary and administrative measures will be put in place to expand Bill 101 "towards the linguistic recovery of Quebec."

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According to Jolin-Barrette, the objective is to "reaffirm, without [complexities], that the French language is and must be the only common language of Quebecers."

Meanwhile, the City of Montreal is also working on an action plan to address "the situation of our common language," as Mayor Valérie Plante called it.

She took to Twitter to respond to a TVA investigation that found nearly half of all establishments downtown greeted customers in English only. It also found a Victoria's Secret employee who did not speak French.

In the same tweet, Plante asked for the collaboration and financial support of the province.

Jolin-Barrette said Bill 101's revisions are still being ironed out, but the government's announcement "indicate[s] to Quebecers that there are going to be tough measures."

How will this affect Anglo-Quebecers?

Jolin-Barrette clarified several times that the revisions won't affect English services offered to Anglo-Quebecers.

"I want to be very clear," he said. "We will always respect [...] the institution of the English community and [...] the bill that we will table will not affect the rights of the English-speaking community."

That said, the specifics remain to be seen.

How will this affect schools in Quebec?

Jolin-Barrette said that although he is still "fine-tuning" the action plan, he believes it's "fundamental to ensure that [colleges] [...] offer courses in French and especially that Quebecers can study in French at CEGEP and university, and can also work in French."

"It's very clear to me that the usual language of study should be French," he said.

Currently, Bill 101 only permits children who obtain a certificate of eligibility to attend English school. They are eligible if:

  • They received the major part of their elementary or secondary school instruction in English in Canada;
  • Their sibling did the major part of their elementary or secondary studies in English in Canada;
  • Their parent did the major part of their elementary studies in English in Canada;
  • Their parent attended school in Quebec after August 26, 1977, and could have been declared eligible for instruction in English at that time

How will this affect businesses in Quebec?

Jolin-Barrette implored Montreal's government to do its part in getting a handle on the decline of the French language among local merchants.

"Montreal is part of Quebec, and there is a shift to be made," he said, noting however that "the Quebec state must be part of it" and that measures specifically targeting Montreal would be part of the action plan.

"One thing that is certain, for the Government of Quebec, it is very clear that companies under federal jurisdiction must be subject to Bill 101."

Federally regulated workplaces include airports, banks, radio and TV broadcasting, railways and more — tabling revisions to Bill 101 could mean changing the way those businesses operate when it comes to language.

In the same press conference, Jolin-Barrette touched on the "Bonjour-Hi" debacle for which Montreal has become infamous.

He said he does not intend to apply Bill 101 to the use of 'Hi' in local businesses.

"I do not intend to intervene for private businesses in relation to the 'Bonjour/Hi'," he said.

"I think, on the other hand, that Quebecers have the right to be served and informed in French. That is fundamental."