The End of Bilingualism? Trudeau government will recognize French as the official language of Quebec

In an unprecedented turn of events, the Trudeau government is set to scrap one of the critical principles of Canada, that of bilingualism, and will recognize French as the official language of Quebec.

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The report by La Presse lays out the Trudeau government plan: Languages Minister Mélanie Joly will table an amendment to the Official Languages Act by the end of the current parliamentary session.

The amendment will affirm that Quebec’s official language is French, an unprecedented break with the founding Canadian principle of bilingualism as laid out in the Official Languages Act preamble: “WHEREAS the Constitution of Canada provides that English and French are the official languages of Canada and have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and government of Canada”

The Trudeau government is taking a favorable stance to the new language bill set forward by the Quebec government, bill 96. 

According to numerous experts, bill 96 would create a dangerous “charter-free zone”. The Legault government will use the notwithstanding clause to prevent constitutional challenges to the bill.

Bill 96 includes a variety of measures which will limit the access to English education in the province. Access to various government services will also be made more difficult. 

Concerns about bill 96, as compiled by Global News, include the following: 

“They have several major areas of concern, which include:

  • Access to justice and the right to use English in the courts.
  • A further decline in enrolment at English schools.
  • The new rules will introduce complicated constraints on when an agency can communicate with the public in English.
  • Many municipalities will lose their designated bilingual status if they don’t pass a resolution to maintain it.
  • New laws mean all federal institutions may have to follow Quebec’s language laws, including federally regulated institutions that normally would be subject to the Official Languages Act.
  • Language inspectors will have too much power, even having the right to inspect private phones and computers in businesses to make sure use of French is being followed.
  • Use of the notwithstanding clause to recognize that “Quebecers form a nation” could be based on language.
  • The bill will see a sweeping override of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter.
  • Concerns it will create essentially a charter-free zone in Quebec.

At the court level:

  • Litigants will need to attach French translations to pleadings drawn in English.
  • English judgements will need to be accompanied by French versions.
  • Judges will only need to speak French to get appointed to the bench.

Commerce and labour relations:

  • Narrowing the use of non-French on signs.
  • Strengthened role of francization committees in the workplace.
  • New requirement that all consumers have the right to be served in French.”

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