Decades after Bill 101 catalyzed a mass exodus of Anglophones out of Quebec, the province wants all those English-speakers back.
That is, at least, the sentiment put forward by Quebec premiere Philippe Couillard when giving a speech at a Quebec Liberal Party youth wing policy convention over the weekend.
"Your presence is necessary, desired," said Couillard, according to reports. "We need you for a better future for all Quebecers."
“The English language is part of who we are, it’s part of our history," Couillard also said, seemingly pushing for increased bilingualism in Quebec.
Couillard also called on Quebecers not to "sneer" at anyone in the streets for speaking English, even though the same type of thing used to happened to Quebecers.
This plea for Anglophones to come back to Quebec comes at a strange time.
At the same convention Couillard made his speech, the Quebec Liberal Youth wing rejected a pilot project that would have gone toward aiding the province's suffering English school boards.
The pilot project would have allowed Francophones students to register at English schools to boost enrolment-rates.
And only a few days ago, Quebec political leaders, particularly Parti Quebecois Leader Jean-Francois Liséee, said Anglophones shouldn't be able to immigrate to Quebec.
Liséee's statement was a reaction to 2016 census data suggesting that more Anglophones were living in Quebec towns and cities, even more remote areas.
The data put forward by the StatsCan census, however, is likely inflated. Some are even calling it straight-up wrong.
Either way, despite what the premiere of Quebec may say, it doesn't look like all French-speakers in the province are pleased with the idea of bringing in more Anglophones.
Couillard even said that Bill 101 isn't going anywhere. But when it came to the potential softening of Quebec language laws, the premiere did say “let’s see what we can do.”
Obviously, that kind of vague statement doesn't amount to much. Still, though, the province's head political leader seems to be on-board with increasing the amount of Anglophones living in Quebec, who would need to learn French and become bilingual, of course.
That's quite a shift from what we're used to, so maybe Couillard's remarks will herald a push for increased bilingualism in our fair province.
A survey conducted by Leger for Quebec's largest worker's union, the FTQ, found that most workers in the province support Bill 96 and think it's a good idea to make French the only language at work.
Seventy-three percent of respondents "consider it urgent to protect the French language in Quebec," according to the survey.
The survey was held among 2,000 workers, including 500 respondents born outside of Canada or whose parents were born outside the country.
Sixty-nine percent of respondents aged 18 to 34, classified as young workers, agreed with the "urgency" to protect the French language with Bill 96. Meanwhile, 53% of respondents classified as immigrants or children of immigrants agreed.
In total, 71% of survey respondents agreed that French should be the language spoken in the workplace. However, only 48% of immigrants surveyed agreed with that sentiment.
The FTQ said that it was concerned by the 27% of respondents who found it "normal to have to work in English in Quebec."
"It's not normal to have to work in English in Quebec," FTQ secretary-general Denis Bolduc said in a press release.
"This survey clearly demonstrates our concern that French must be protected, but at the same time it highlights our concerns about the future of French in the world of work."
In a press conference Friday, Quebec Premier François Legault sharply criticized both the moderator and debate consortium responsible for the English-language leaders' debate. The premier called the phrasing of one question from the moderator an "attack" on Quebec and its values.
"What we saw at the leaders' debate was an attack against Bill 21 on secularism, against Bill 96 on language. [...] claiming that protecting French is discriminatory or even racist is ridiculous. [...] Quebec is a nation, free to protect its language, its values, and its powers."
"I was very surprised that somebody who was supposed to be the referee decided to be part of certain teams saying that those laws are discriminatory," he said about debate moderator Shachi Kurl.
In her opening question to Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet, Kurl called Quebec's Bill 21 and Bill 96 "discriminatroy to religious minorities, Anglophones, and Allophones."
Blanchet, who expressed fury at the line after the debate, accused Kurl of calling Quebecers "racists and xenophobes."
Legault echoed Blanchet's statement the following afternoon.
"That was an attack, for sure, against Quebec and against our responsibilities," the premier decried.
"The vast majority of Quebecers agree to forbid religious signs [for] people in authority positions. Bill 21 doesn't apply to the rest of Canada so please, it's none of your business."
While there's a myriad of possible reasons as to why Trudeau is ahead in the province, his handling of the pandemic could be the biggest. Among the Quebecers polled, 46% believed that health care is the most pressing issue in the upcoming election and 53% said the current prime minister "has performed well on pandemic management."
Politics and the Fourth Wave: As concern over COVID rises, are the Liberals poised to benefit?… https://t.co/znhujEMXZU
"We, the undersigned, demand that the Government of Quebec publicly reject, as of now, the idea of a mandatory vaccination passport and that it commit itself to do like the Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, has done, that is to say, prohibit the obligation to present a vaccination passport in order to attend certain events and practice certain activities," the petition states.
Samson, a former Coalition Avenir Québec member who switched sides in June, held a press conference about the petition alongside Conservative Party of Quebec leader Eric Duhaime on August 12. They explained that the party had already collected 133,000 signatures on a previous petition that did not meet the criteria of the National Assembly.
"We reviewed the wording [...] So we're going to ask these hundreds of thousands of people to re-sign their petition on the National Assembly website, and we're going to invite Quebecers who don't agree with the vaccine passport to come forward as well," Samson said.
The petition, which was posted to the National Assembly website on August 12, had garnered more than 75,000 signatures at the time this article was published.