The provincial liberal party unveiled a sweeping, 27-point plan for protecting and promoting the French language in Quebec on Friday morning.
“I think we found a really good balance between protection because there needs to be a good solid plan to protect the French language, but also promotion,” said Liberal leader Dominique Anglade.
The plan has five main principles it adheres to, including strengthening the use of French in the workplace, and providing citizens with the tools needed to improve their French.
The Liberals say they consulted widely across the province to devise their plan, including with the anglophone community, who they believe should view their plan as a partnership.
They claim they don’t want anglophones to feel it’s an assault on their rights.
“I have talked to a lot of anglophones who don’t feel attacked, it’s the other way around. We have to look at it, how do we work together?” said Anglade. “There is a clear principal around partnership with the anglophone community and the need to maintain services to the English community. We are not fighting with services offered to the English community.”
Some tenets of the Liberal plan include:
- Creating a new body to replace the Office québécois de la langue française, the government agency responsible for enforcing the Charter of the French Language;
- Appointing an independent commissioner of the French language;
- Requiring English CEGEP students to complete three courses in French to graduate;
- Maintaining admission quotas at CEGEPS from 2019;
- Applying Bill 101, the Charter of the French Language, to small businesses with 25-49 employees;
The party claims it consulted widely in devising its plan. However, one major Anglophone group, the Quebec Community Groups Network, complains it was ignored.
“Her party under her leadership came out with a whole series of proposals that we weren’t consulted on,” said QCGN head Marlene Jennings. “How is that demonstrating that you actually believe the English speaking minority can be a partner and ally when you don’t even consult us?”
Jennings said the QCGN agrees with many of the Liberal proposals in principal, especially the creation of an independent language commissioner.
“We welcome that they are proposing the post of a new commissioner, that the mandate of the commission is to conduct research and conduct scientific studies on the situation of the French language in Quebec,” Jennings said. “Right now much of what is being promoted in the Francophone media especially, is not based on science and evidence based. So we think that is a good thing.”
The liberals said they would hire agents to help businesses improve their French. But several downtown Montreal business groups slammed this idea, saying the Liberals should focus on helping merchants survive COVID-19 instead of engaging in language wars.
“The merchants are dying, they need help, they don’t need punishment and more rules and more regulations,” said Sandy Greene, the director of the Crescent Street Merchants Association. “They are not concerned about language debates, they are concerned about keeping their doors open and surviving and feeding their families. This is shameful.”
Others said there is no need for a crackdown on English in Montreal.
“They are ridiculous,” said Alain Creton, the president of the Peel Street Merchants Association. “I have been in Montreal since 1967, I am telling you, downtown Montreal, it’s more French than ever.”
The governing Coaltion Avenir Québec is expected to unveil its own language policy later this year.