The Parti Quebecois will chose a new leader next week, but before they do they have to sort out their position on language and specifically, the role of the English language in the province.
Candidate Martine Ouellet wants all commercial advertising and signage to be in French.
“I think it’s really important that the face of Quebec be French,” she said. “Individual bilingualism is really, really good, but I would say state bilingualism, that’s not good here in Quebec.”
During a recent candidates’ debate in Montreal, Ouellet mistakenly said other provinces in Canada enforce English-only signage. When her opponent Alexandre Cloutier pointed out that the Supreme Court of Canada ruled against this type of law because it restricts freedom of expression, he was booed.
Another leadership candidate says going back to French-only signs would be a mistake for Quebec.
“I was in the fight for retaining dominance of French and presence of English and Chinese and Italian on these commercial signs back in 1996 and my ally in that was Camille Laurin, himself – the father of Bill 101. And I say, listen, if dominance of French is good enough for Camille Laurin, it’s good enough for me. These are not the fights we have to re-fight,” Jean-Francois Lisée said.
However, the cultural debate is one that keeps resurfacing during this leadership race. Cloutier proposes a type of “cultural passport” for immigrants and students – he wants to give them $50, but only to attend “francophone” cultural events.
“It’s a promotion to try to bring a new link with the francophone community; that’s the aim of it. It doesn’t mean we put away the English culture, that’s just not the aim of the measure,” Cloutier said.
The election for a new Parti Quebecois leader will take place on Oct. 7.