News

9 Key Changes Proposed In Quebec's New French Language Bill

It touches on CEGEPs, workplace music, judges, immigrants & more.
9 Key Changes Proposed In Quebec's New French Language Bill

Last week, Quebec introduced Bill 96 — a sweeping new French-language bill that impacts everything from immigrants and local businesses to schools and signage.

The tabled legislation would amend the existing Charter of the French Language (aka Bill 101) and includes over 20 new changes to legislation that promote the use of French in Quebec. Here are nine that you should know.

Editor's Choice: Quebec's New Bill Means Businesses Could Get Sued For Not Serving Customers In French

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.

It also laid out a plan to provide more powers for the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF).

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.