The Parti Québécois government has proposed a bill, Bill 14, to reinforce the use of French in Quebec society, and will be facing a heated debate on its proposal, as public hearings begin this week. Bill 14 amends the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms to state that the “right to live and work in French” is, in Quebec, a fundamental right.
Some fear that the proposal goes too far in that it imposes French as the main language of communication, especially in workplaces, as it extends the use of mandatory French to small businesses. On the other hand, others argue that the proposal does not do enough to stop the increasing use of English, especially in Montreal.
In the next two months, a National Assembly committee will examine approximately 85 briefs and 1,200 online questionnaires from the public as part of the debate to ensure that French remains, as stated in the bill, “the normal and everyday language” in Quebec, and a “strong vector of social cohesion.” The party denies that it would be using coercion to combat the increasing use of English. “Is it coercion to say that you must be able to work in French and give businesses the means to do it? I don’t think so,” said Diane de Courcy, the minister responsible for the French Language Charter.
The French Language Charter has been amended more than six times since its adoption in 1977. Each amendment has triggered emotional debates, such as the use of French on commercial signs. This proposed amendment will likely generate similar emotions and debate.
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