Quebec City – In controversy and division, the new version of Law 101, Bill 96, was adopted Tuesday in the National Assembly. The renewed version of the French language charter received 78 votes from elected officials, while 29 elected officials voted against it. Nobody refrains.
At a press briefing, Prime Minister François Legault took a cautionary note by saying, in English, that for French Quebec the Bell 96 was a matter of “survival”. He said he believed that without such a language framework, it was only a matter of time for Quebec to become bilingual.
With this legislation, his government is thus sending a “very strong signal” in favor of the French language in Quebec, particularly with regard to the working language, he said.
“French, the language of business, is the most important,” he says, to ensure the sustainability of the French language.
Law 96 extends the franchising process to companies with between 25 and 49 employees, and so they also have to obtain a “commercial franchising certificate”, just like larger companies, with 50 or more employees, to prove they are doing well . in French. The Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) sector is often seen as a factor in the integration of immigrants into the English-speaking community.
Bill 96 will also apply to federally chartered businesses that are incorporated in Quebec, such as banks.
“This is the beginning of a major linguistic revival,” pleaded the bill’s minister, Simon-Jolin-Barrett, who called the legislation a “first step” toward more French-speaking Quebec.
Il s’est dit convaincu que la loi 96, nouvel encadrement linguistique survenant 45 ans après l’adoption de la loi 101 en 1977, contribuera à freiner le déclin du français, nommément à Montréal, parceira qu’ute qu’elle to ès from society.”
It is a fact that the reform of the French language charter, introduced in May 2021 entitled “A Law Respecting the Official and Common Language of Quebec, French,” throws a very wide net, with over 200 articles encompassing a range of challenges.
To protect it from legal challenges, the law even includes an exception clause, which would apply to the entire law, as was the case with Law 21 on the secularization of the state. Bill 96 would be included in the Canadian constitution, in order to formally establish that Quebecers constitute a nation and that French is the only official and lingua franca of Quebec.
Originally, the French language charter, known as Bell 101, was sponsored by Camille Lorraine in the government of René Levesque, before it was largely butchered by the courts. In particular, it stipulated that children of immigrants should attend French schools.
The right to work in French and only in French will be better regulated and better protected in principle, by defining the conditions that could require knowledge of a language other than French to get a job.
Anyone who speaks French or anyone who speaks French will be able to do this, as any company: the state has now made it a basic right. Currently, among allophones, French transmissions are preferred by 55%. Quebec targets 90% of this part of the population.
Law 101 will not extend to CEGEP. Quebec chose instead to limit the expansion of its network of English-speaking colleges, but without imposing a backlash on it. We want to freeze the acceptance rate for English-speaking CEGEPs at 17% of the total accepted into the college network, even if the English-speaking community makes up only 9% of the population.
As for the healthcare available to the English-speaking community, the Prime Minister sought to be reassured, by emphasizing that Bill 96 changed absolutely nothing in the current situation.
“I will be very clear: We will ensure that the status quo remains, that is, people, regardless of their origin, who need English-language services will be able to continue, as they currently do, in having English-language services,” he insisted.
Quebec will create a ministry for the French language. The mandate of the office québécois de la langue française (OQLF), which will continue to receive complaints from citizens, will be strengthened, having gained the power to coerce offenders “even in the absence of a complaint”.
The law also confirms the National Assembly’s creation of the position of Language Commissioner, a kind of watchdog tasked with independently investigating the evolution of the linguistic situation in Quebec.
There are also plans to create a single window for group grants to immigrants, ‘French Quebec’, which will report to the Department of Immigration.
The State must lead by example and ensure, with exceptions, that its oral or written communications are exclusively in the French language. Departments will adopt a language policy.
The companies will have to do their part and they will have three years to make sure the offer gives “clear control” of the French language.
Opposition parties, some of whom saw the law as not going far enough, and others that it went too far, did not share the government’s enthusiasm.
The Liberal Official Opposition voted against it, because it believed the bill infringed on the rights of English speakers, while the opposition PQ voted against because the bill lacked the sting needed to reverse direction and avoid French backsliding.
The only member of the Conservative Party of Quebec (PCQ), Claire Samson, a former member of the Conservative Party, also voted against the controversial legislation. Its leader, Eric Dhaimi, argued at a press briefing that the bill undermined rights and freedoms, which his party could not accept.
For its part, Quebec Solidere, with dozens of elected members, was the only political party to vote for 96 members, but coolly, it expressed major reservations, especially on the issue of public services provided only in French. After six months of access from allophones, a period considered too short.
Mary Monpetite, a former liberal of Maurice-Richard, supported Bill 96, unlike her previous party caucus. In a press briefing, she said that when she was part of it, the Liberal Caucus was in favor of 96 legislation that had the advantage of “strengthening the protection of the French.”
But on the whole, Minister Julien Barrett will not be able to rally the opposition parties around his approach and his vision of things, regarding his proposal for a new linguistic framework likely to provide better protection for the French in Quebec.
Contrary to what the government claims, according to the leader of the Parti Québécois (PQ), Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, Bell 96 declared the decline of the French language in Quebec, due to the lack of a position that was necessary to ensure its sustainability.
“We don’t have to provide moral support for something misleading,” the CPC leader commented Tuesday morning at a press conference, stressing that his political party would vote against reform, despite its little real progress. It was a matter of “moral duty” in his eyes.
The main sticking point for PQ was the government’s refusal to extend Bill 101 to include CEGEP. But there are other issues that made him say Bill 96 lacks teeth, including the question of the bilingual status of the municipalities, which they would be able to retain even if the majority of the population is French-speaking, and the absence of indicators to measure progress. Thanks to this law.
While supporting it, Quebec Solidere considers the Bell 96 a “missed opportunity”. The party considers “arbitrary and unacceptable” the six-month deadline imposed on French-only public services for all persons and refugees, an “unworkable clause”, Parliament Speaker, Gabriel Nadeau Dubois, said at a press conference on Tuesday. A spokeswoman for these issues, Representative Ruba Ghazal, herself a native of Bill 101, said she had tried to persuade the minister to extend the deadline by six months, but to no avail. It also criticizes the government for not respecting the preservation of indigenous languages.
Despite their reservations, the elected representatives deemed it “responsible and reasonable” to vote in favor of 96, with a commitment to amend the law, if the QS took power on October 3.
Liberal MP Carlos Letao, of Portuguese descent, went so far in a press conference about the six-month period to also assert that the CAQ government was showing “complete ignorance of the reality of immigration” with this article.