Quebec accused of having launched a “war of cultures” against the English with a strict French law
Quebec is set to introduce a new strict French language law restricting the use of English in public services in what critics have called a “cultural war” against its English-speaking residents.
The ruling nationalist party in the province, the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ), says strict measures are “urgent” for the survival of the French language given the dominance of English in global popular culture.
“This is nothing against English-speaking Quebecers,” said Premier of Quebec, François Legault. “It’s about protecting French.
But English-speaking residents of the province say Bill 96, which is expected to come into force next year / 2022, discriminates against bilinguals and denies them basic freedoms.
The bill seeks to unilaterally amend the Canadian Constitution to affirm Quebec as a nation and French as its official language, using a mechanism designed to protect it from constitutional challenges.
The radical bill proposes more than 200 changes to the historic charter of the French language of 1977, including stricter requirements for businesses to operate in French and strict limits on the number of Francophones who can attend English-language colleges.
Among the more controversial proposals are the additional powers given to government language inspectors to raid offices and gain access to computers and phones of all businesses – including media organizations – suspected of violating the new law.
The draconian measures have ignited rhetoric around the debate, with prominent Canadian lawyer Anne-France Goldwater comparing the new espionage powers to the “Gestapo”.
Simon Jolin-Barrette, the Quebec minister responsible for the French language, introduced the bill in response to studies by the Office de la langue française du Quebec which indicate that the number of people who use only French at home and at work is down.
“The time has come to take strong action,” Jolin-Barrette said during recent legislative hearings on the bill.