The English-speaking Community. An Integral Part of a Sovereign Québec

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The English-speaking Community. An Integral Part of a Sovereign Québec. Report
Montréal: Parti Québécois, 1993, 49 p.

SUMMARY: In the fall of 1991, the Parti Québécois established a Task Force to consult representative organizations and members of the English-Speaking community of Québec and formulate recommendations to establish the party's policy on the status of Anglo-Quebecers in a sovereign Québec. The members of the Task Force who signed the report were: Jeanne L. Blackburn, Rita Dionne-Marsolais, Michel Bourdon, Robert Dole, André Gaulin, Henry Milner and David Payne.




1.1 Origin and mandate

1.2 Operations


2.1 Fears regarding sovereignty

2.2 A declining population

2.3 A network of institutions

2.4 Commercial signs: a symbolic issue


3.1 The French Language Charter

3.2 French in Québec in 1993

3.3 French: the only official language of a sovereign Québec


4.1 Minority rights at the international level: an overview

4.2 An asset for a sovereign Québec

4.3 Analysis and recommendations

4.3.1 Rights recognized in the Québec constitution

4.3.2 Guarantees for institutions

4.3.3 Access to the civil service

4.3.4 Knowledge of the French language

4.3.5 A public communications network

4.3.6 The language of signs

4.3.7 Road signs

4.3.8 Instruments of dialogue and exchange


Appendix A

Appendix B



In the fall of 1991, the Parti Québécois began a dialogue with members of Québec's English-speaking community, to reach a better understanding of their concerns and how they viewed their future role in a sovereign Québec. Continuity and openness have been the hallmarks of this initiative, demonstrating the party's firm commitment to include Quebecers of all origins in the process of building a sovereign Québec, thus guaranteeing the affirmation of an open, modern and dynamic society.

On various occasions, Parti Québécois leader Jacques Parizeau has expressed his party's intentions regarding the English-speaking community. As he states in his preface to the Parti Québécois program: "This collective dream (of sovereignty) is intimately linked to the deep respect that has always been shown for the rights, institutions and language of our English-speaking compatriots. Many misunderstandings have been created and nourished by the fundamental ambivalence of the Canadian system, which has always prevented Québec from totally asserting itself as a predominantly French society. A sovereign Québec which is sure of itself and its culture turn the coexistence of its French-speaking majority and its English-speaking minority into an ever more promising source of collective enrichment."[1]

When Québec achieves sovereignty, Anglophone and Francophone Quebecers, like members of other cultural communities, will be joined together by common citizenship. Freed from the federal straitjacket, a sovereign Québec will finally have a free hand, with the necessary leeway to develop its potential in all fields of endeavour. The language question then will be posed in a different light.

Given its unique geopolitical and linguistic situation, a sovereign Québec will have to remain vigilant to preserve its French character. Sovereignty will not change the fact that English is still spoken by nearly 300 million people in North America and exerts a major influence. This is inherently advantageous to English-speaking Quebecers, who thus will not be isolated in a French State.


It would be wrong to perceive the aspirations of Quebecers as irreconcilable with the needs and fundamental rights of the English-speaking community, with its aspirations of flourishing within Québec. This community rightly questions the place that will be made for it and the rights it will enjoy once Québec becomes a sovereign state. This is why the Parti Québécois established a Task Force, mainly to consult representative organizations and members of the Anglophone community and formulate recommendations to establish the party's policy on the status of Anglo-Quebecers in a sovereign Québec.

Structure of the report

This report is divided into four parts. Part I reviews the origin and mandate of the Task Force and explains its approach. Part II discusses the concerns and expectations of the Québec English-speaking community. Part III provides some reference points on the recent progress of language legislation and the current status of French in Québec. Finally, Part IV emphasizes the Anglophone community's important contribution to the birth of modern Québec and sets forth a series of recommendations to recognize the rights of English-speaking Quebecers and protect their institutions so that they can become full-fledged participants in a sovereign Québec.



1.1 Origin and mandate

The Task Force was established following the National Council meeting held in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue in September 1991. On that occasion, the Parti Québécois organized a conference on the role of Anglophones in a sovereign Quebec. Four speakers from the English-speaking community addressed the delegates:

- Robert Keaton, Chairman of Alliance Québec,

- Joseph Rabinovitch, Director of the Association of Jewish Schools and member of the Conseil supérieur de l'Education,

- David Payne, former MNA for Vachon and President of the Association des anglophones dans un Québec souverain, Donald Johnston, former MP for Saint-Henri/Westmount and President of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Creation of the Task Force responded to the expressed need to continue and extend this dialogue between the Parti Québécois and the Anglophone community. The Task Force was given a mandate to help prepare the party’s policy on the status of the English-speaking community in a sovereign Quebec. in particular, it was supposed to:

- take stock of the situation of the English-speaking community in the cultural, economic and social fields, particularly with regard to its rights, its achievements and its contributions to Québec’s development;

- establish a dialogue with representatives of the English-speaking community on all questions concerning it;

- identify the best constitutional and legal means to ensure that the English-speaking community can manage its institutions, particularly in the fields of education, health and social services and foster its full participation in Québec society;

- formulate recommendations to the appropriate decision-making bodies within the Parti Québécois.


1.2 Operations

In accordance with its mandate, the Task Force sought to reach as many members and representatives of Québec's English-speaking community as possible to establish a dialogue on the questions that concern them. It issued both personal and institutional invitations for this purpose. For different reasons, most public educational institutions preferred not to meet with the Task Force officially, with CEGEPs citing their status as public bodies, and school boards mentioning their participation in the work on the Chambers Task Force.

However, key people in the English-speaking community, both in health and social services and in education and culture, agreed to discuss the issues with us. Others asked to meet with our Task Force on their own initiative. Their cooperation and the quality of their participation were greatly appreciated. A list of the individuals and organizations whose views were heard can be found in Appendix A. The Task Force also published an ad in The Gazette on November 4, 1991, inviting all interested members of the public to submit their comments in writing. Following this appeal, the Task Force received 137 letters, despite the boycott declared by the leader of the Equality Party and the head of Alliance Québec.

The Task Force also studied various documents made available through the party's documentation service and by various members specializing in economics, political science, the labour movement, sociolinguistics, history, culture, law and other fields.



Québec's English-speaking community has been deeply concerned for some time now. The constitutional stalemate, combined with its own declining population are fuelling the community's uncertainty about its future. Québec Anglophones have a negative perception of certain aspects of Québec's language legislation, especially the 1988 provisions regarding signs (Bill 178). However, they can rely on a solid network of institutions and are proud of their contribution to Québec's development.

2.1 Fears regarding sovereignty

During the interviews and discussions between members of the Task Force and participants, we reminded them that this Parti Québécois initiative was based on the assumption of a sovereign Québec and that we were well aware that this would be somewhat upsetting to English-speaking Quebecers.

Most of the participants in our consultation expressed reluctance to situate their thinking in the context of Québec sovereignty. Nonetheless, out of a spirit of openness and a desire for rapprochement, they agreed to go along with this hypothesis, prompted by the feeling that the idea of Québec sovereignty could no longer be rejected out of hand.

It is no secret that there is little support for the sovereignist option among English-speaking Quebecers. For the vast majority of them, it is a source of anxiety. The sovereignist hypothesis also means a fundamental change of perspective for English-speaking Quebecers, since it would transform them from a majority into a minority. In their view, sovereignty simply means the loss of Canada, a country they cherish. Far from being convinced that it will gain them another country, Québec, they feel deeply torn by such a choice. To some extent, English-speaking Quebecers have the impression that they must choose between their pride in being Quebecers and their chance to be Canadian. They also feel left out of the current political debate.

Moreover, the possibility of sovereignty prompts many members of the English-speaking community to wonder whether they should stay in Québec. Polls have already reflected this reality. The authors of several letters to the Task Force emphasized that they had no future in a sovereign Québec and would leave. Approximately 65% of the respondents nonetheless offered constructive comments, and while some are thinking of leaving, they have not yet made up their minds. Their ambivalence is nurtured by the fact that they


often have deep roots in Québec, feel very attached to it and have contributed to its development. Nonetheless, they wonder about their place as a minority group in a sovereign Québec. Most of the people interviewed expressed their desire to stay in Québec in the event of a change in political status and to carry on their full participation in the development of Québec society.

Anglophones have questions and apprehensions about the prospect of sovereignty. Generally, they are poorly informed about the real issues at stake and the process of achieving political sovereignty. Their concerns are not limited to their fundamental rights and encompass economic implications. Their most frequent questions pertain to foreign interest income, particularly from U.S. sources, Canadian pensions or other additional retirement income, Canadian passports; English-language educational institutions, health services and the possibility of travelling outside Québec.

The Parti Québécois inspires distrust in many Anglophones who accuse it of neglecting the English-speaking component of Québec society. They are particularly aggrieved that the party has made no efforts to reach them directly. Most say that all they know about the Parti Québécois and its program is what they get from the English-language media, a certain image of intolerance and even hostility in their regard. Most participants therefore would like the party to have more contact with them and inform them about its program and its plan for society.

2.2 A declining population

From its meetings with various representatives of the English-speaking community and analysis of the correspondence it received, the Task Force noted a general feeling of anxiety about the future. Many people see their situation as precarious and claim that it is going from bad to worse. The exodus of the younger generation and its corollary, the ageing and gradual disintegration of their population base, represent the greatest Anglophone concern. According to some, the decline in their demographic weight and the non-renewal of the English-speaking population compromise the existence of a dynamic community. They even fear that some of their established institutions are in danger.

Available data confirm this demographic decline. Québec has about 750,000 people whose working language is English, largely concentrated in the Montréal region. Anglophones represented 11.1% of Québec's total population in the 1991 census compared to 14.7% in 1971. The Anglophone group is eroding at an annual rate of 2.5%. Sociologist Uli Locher, a professor at McGill University, sees three reasons for this phenomenon. First were


departures, which totalled 94,000 in the years from 1971 and 1976, 131,000 from 1976 to 1981 and 71,000 from 1981 to 1986. Second, during the past three decades, arrivals never accounted for even half the number of the departures. The the third reason is the relative decline in the Anglophone birth rate.[2]

In Locher's opinion, "the Anglophone decline is irreversible, at least in the foreseeable future, since in addition to the departure of young people and the falling birth rate, the mortality rate will remain high, due to the heavily ageing population. English-speaking Quebecers are being affected by all three phenomena at once."[3]

Nonetheless, Anglophone departures should be placed in their proper context. Québec's interprovincial migration balance has been negative for the past thirty years. Other provinces have also suffered from the competing attraction exerted by Ontario, British Columbia or even Alberta at certain times. Furthermore, the declining population of some rural regions to the benefit of urban areas has hit the French-speaking community just as hard as the English-speaking minority.

Thus, the exodus of young Anglophones to other provinces is nothing new, nor is it exclusive to Québec. It is mainly driven by economic and cultural reasons. Young Anglophones leave Québec mainly for professional motives. They feel that their career opportunities are better elsewhere in Canada and the United States. This is partly due to Québec's economic difficulties and to an unemployment rate that historically has remained higher than in Ontario. As Phyllis Lambert emphasized, Québec urgently must tackle economic problems, innovate, and develop niches in such future-oriented sectors as communications, telecommunications and engineering consultancy, where Québec has made some interesting market breakthroughs. These and other areas of the economy provide stimulating jobs and allow the development of attractive expertise for foreign markets. Members of the Equality Party's youth wing who met with our Task Force also underscored the fact that economic recovery is necessary to counter the exodus.


The language factor also plays a role in understanding the Anglophone exodus from Québec. The proportion of bilingual Anglophone youth has grown significantly in the past fifteen years.[4] However, French continues to be a second language in which their fluency varies depending on the circumstances.[5] These young people see their Anglophone status as a potential professional handicap. They feel underrepresented in the civil service at both the Québec and federal levels and believe that they are passed over for appointments to key positions. In short, they are anxious about their future in a Québec where social advancement depends on knowledge of French, and they view the possibility of living and working in English as an attractive alternative.

Finally, as we shall see, this demographic decline affects various sectors of activity, especially with regard to Anglophone community institutions.

2.3 A network of institutions

Québec's English-speaking community is especially attached to the institutions which it has created in all spheres of its social and cultural life. Some of these institutions are more than a century old, while others are now integrated in the public system or, at least, are largely funded by the State, some owe their creation, expertise and influence to the initiative and dedicated efforts of members of the English-speaking community. Québec society also owes much to the support provided by the Anglophone community in the development of the arts in all their forms.

McGill University is one of the jewels of the Québec Anglophone community. It has deep roots in the business world, health care and research institutions and cultural organizations. Its reputation for excellence extends far beyond the borders of Québec and Canada. Its administrators maintain that the university is a model of multiculturalism, due to the many varied origins of its teaching staff and student body.

McGill presents itself as Québec's window on the world. However, university authorities have stressed their concerns about foreign student admission policies, which are considered too restrictive. They fear that such policies will


compromise the recruiting of top-quality postgraduate and doctoral students and thus undermine the quality of McGill's programs.

In short, English-speaking Quebecers have invested heavily and take great pride in the development of their educational, social and cultural institutions, and want them to continue to serve their community. In his brief to the Task Force, Richard Holden summed up this feeling well:

"... ther are some basic institutions to which the English-speaking community is intimately attached and I beseech the Task Force to recognize this fact. Among such institutions we find our hospitals, universities, schools, libraries, theatres and cinemas, information media, museums, churches, municipal organizations, social organizations, our representation in Parliament and on the councils of professional corporations such as the Bar Association, the medical profession, architects, chartered accountants and many other associations and committees that go into making up our society (Chambers of Commerce, union movements and social clubs)."[6]

Members of the English-speaking community, however, express grave fears about the impact of their declining population on the future of some of their institutions. Combined with the effects of Bill 101, which directs the children of immigrants to French schools, this decline has affected the field of education through a marked decrease in English school enrolments over the past two decades. This has resulted in the closing of numerous institutions and threatened the survival of many others. Enrolments in English elementary and secondary schools fell 57% from 250,000 in 1972 to 108,000 in 1990. During the same period, French school enrolments decreased by 24%. However, the ministère de l'Éducation anticipates that the number of students attending the English system will stabilize in the years ahead.

While English elementary and secondary schools currently account for 10% of Québec schoolchildren, the situation is quite different at the postsecondary level. For the past ten years, English-language CEGEPs have represented approximately 17% of total college enrolments. Anglophone universities (McGill, Condordia and Bishop's) admitted 23.8% of all students (in absolute number) in 1990-1991. Although this represents a relative decrease of 12 percentage points compared to 1971-1972, English-language university enrolments rose by 25,000 students during that period. The growth of French-language universities is even more vigorous due to the increased accessibility


of higher education to young Francophones and the arrival of large numbers of adult students.At any rate, there is no doubt that the proportion of students enrolled in Anglophone colleges and universities still largely exceeds the demographic presence of the Québec English-speaking community.

The Task Force took note of the report presented to the Minister of Education last January by the Task Force on the English-Speaking School System. It also met with that group's chairperson, Gretta Chambers. Essentially, the Anglophone community expressed the need to administer its own school boards and to obtain firm guarantees in this regard. Thus, it wants provisions protecting the English school system to be entrenched in the Québec Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The consolidation of the English school system would also require increased support for small schools, better training for teachers, a pedagogical regime, and curricula better suited to the reality and needs of the community. The Chambers Report further recommends that access to the English school system be extended to all children of immigrants, if the child was being educated in English or it at least one parent comes from an English-speaking country. The authors of the report maintain that the English system would benefit from a healthy renewal and that the impact on the French sector would be marginal.

Other participant in our Task Force's consultation made various recommendations regarding the status of their institutions and their rights. Hence, most participants proposed that school boards be organized on a linguistic rather than a confessional basis and that their children's right to an education in English be guaranteed in the Constitution. Older English-speaking Quebecers are worried about the accessibility of health and social services in their language.

Anglophones also drew attention to their underrepresentation in the civil service at both the Quebec and federal levels (they account for less than 1% of the Quebec civil service) and in the administration of government agencies. They want equitable representation on decision-making bodies.


2.4 Commercial signs: a symbolic issue

The consultation conducted by our Task Force provided no great surprises on how Anglophones perceive the commercial sign provisions of Bills 101 and 178. The vast majority of them feel offended by the ban on displaying signs in their own language. The inside/outside distinction introduced in Bill 178 is perceived as offensive. Some Anglophones argue that the provisions of Bill 101 were clearer and, to some extent, more acceptable. They also point out that this situation tarnishes Québec's image among Anglophones in the rest of Canada and abroad and they recognize that the sign issue can be exploited to discredit Québec.

Although the individuals consulted admit that the sign provisions have little effect on their everyday lives, they nonetheless want it to be more flexible. While they consider the use of the official language in signs to be an established fact and while many even agree that French should have priority, they insist on the possibility of displaying signs in their language as well. To some extent, this would be a symbolic gesture of recognition of the English-speaking community. Finally, several participants wonder whether a sovereign Québec will always need this type of legislation for the French language to flourish.



French, of course, was the language of New France. In fact, the regional variants of the French language were unified in North America a century before this occurred in France. The aftermath of the Conquest brought French and English into conflict. Over the next two hundred years, the historical collision of languages in Québec and Canada went through many developments and turbulent periods under various political regimes. Appendix B gives the highlights of the evolving status of the French language up to the adoption of the French Language Charter.

3.1 The French Language Charter

In August 1977, the Parti Québécois government adopted the French Language Charter, commonly known as Bill 101, declaring French to be the official language of Québec. This was the culmination of an arduous process of restructuring the relationship between language groups in Québec, a process which began after the British Conquest in 1759. Its preamble is worth rereading:

"Whereas the French language, the distinctive language of a people this is in the majority French-speaking, is the instrument by which that people has articulated its identity. Whereas the Assemblée nationale du Québec recognizes that Quebecers wish to see the quality and influence of the French language assured, and is resolved therefore to make of French the language of Government and the Law, as well as the normal and everyday language of work, instruction, communication, commerce and business. Whereas the Assemblée nationale du Québec intends in this pursuit to deal fairly and openly with the Québec English-speaking community and the ethnic minorities, whose valuable contribution to the development of Québec it readily acknowledges, and to respect their institutions. Whereas the Assemblée nationale du Québec recognizes the right of the Amerindians and Inuit of Québec, the first inhabitants of this land, to preserve and develop their original language and culture. Whereas these observations and intentions are in keeping with a new perception of the worth of national cultures in all parts of the earth, and of the obligation of every people to contribute in its special way to the international community."


Bill 101 defines fundamental language rights:

- the right of every person to have the civil administration, health services and social services, public utility firms, professional corporations, employee associations and all business corporations doing business in Québec communicate with him or her in French;

- the right to speak in French in every deliberative assembly;

- the right of workers to carry on their activities in French;

- the right of consumers to be informed and served in French;

- the right of every person eligible for an education in Québec to receive it in French.

However, it includes various provisions which define the exercise of these rights. Children of immigrants now are required to attend French schools. The law is intended to ensure the francization of the workplace and of various commercial practices, such as signs. It also entrenches recognition of the rights to receive an education in English for children whose parents attended English elementary schools in Québec. Furthermore, under Section 113f, some municipal administrations, as well as health and educational organizations, are afforded a bilingual status that allows them to use English on signs in their internal communications and in their communications with one another. These organizations nonetheless must draft an access plan for services in French. It must be emphasized, however, that these organizations have not all been diligent in fulfilling this obligation[7].

The French Language Charter has experienced a turbulent history over the past fifteen years. Various court judgments, particularly by the Supreme Court of Canada, have struck down several of its provisions, cutting breaches and holes that have turned Bill 101 like a Swiss cheese. First, sections regarding the language of legislation were ruled to be contrary to Section 133 of the British North America Act of 1867. The adoption of the Constitutional Act of 1982 and the coming into force of the Canadian Charter of Rights opened the way to new legal challenges and to major changes in Québec's legislative structure. Under Section 23 of the Canadian Charter, the "Canada clause" has


replaced the Québec clause with reference to education, meaning that children whose parents attended an English elementary school anywhere in Canada, and no longer only in Québec, are entitled to be educated in English (in elementary and secondary schools). At most, paragraph 2 of Section 23 stipulates that "Canadian citizens whose child has received or received education" in English in Canada "have acquired the right for their children to attend elementary and secondary schools in the language of that education". This means that if a child of any Canadian citizen (Francophone, Anglophone or allophone) is studying in English in an unsubsidized private school (not under Section 72 of Bill 101) or in any other Canadian province, all his brothers and sisters who lie in Québec thereby acquire the right to receive education in English in a public or subsidized private school[8].

Unilingualism in commercial signs was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1988, inciting the Québec government to invoke the notwithstanding clause to exempt itself from the application of the Canadian Charter of Rights and maintain unilingualism in outdoor signs, while allowing the use of English inside some categories of small and medium-sized business establishments. This was the specific object of Bill 178 which was so heavily criticized in both English-speaking and French-speaking communities.

The language legislation was amended in other ways on the Québec's government's initiatives. We need only think of the less stringent regulations introduced in 1983 or in Bill 142, adopted in 1986, which obliges each regional council ("conseil régional" - now called "régie régional") to develop an access program for English-language health and social services for English-speaking people in its region.

While Bill 101 has undergone a major facelift due to factors both external and internal to Québec, it nonetheless has allowed the French language to achieve substantial progress in several areas of community life.


3.2 French in Québec in 1993[9]

The status of the French language in Québec has generally improved over the past decades, largely due to language legislation. However, the francization process is still unfinished, particularly with regard to the language of work.

The proportion of the population speaking French as their mother tongue rose from 80.7% in 1971 to 83.3% in 1991[10]. On the Island of Montréal, however, this proportion has declined in recent years, from 61.8% in 1986 to 58% in 1991. The proportion of allophones (those whose mother tongue is neither French nor English) increased from 17.8% to 22.1% in the same period, while the English-speaking population remained more or less stable at 20%. It is likely that this "defrancophonization" of the Island of Montréal will increase in the years ahead, because of the propensity of the vast majority of immigrants to settle there[11].

Knowledge of the French language made significant strides among Anglophones, rising from 37% in 1971 to 59% in 1991[12]. The proportion of allophones claiming at least to know French grew from 47% to 68% during the same period. Furthermore, according to the 1991 census data, transfers of people from another language group are largely to the benefit of English. Out of those allophones who completely abandoned their mother tongue for another language, 37% turned to French and 63% to English.

The language of education

Bill 101 probably produced its quickest and most tangible results in the field of education. The proportion of students registered in the French sector in relation to total Québec school enrolments (preschool, elementary and secondary) has now reached 90%, up from 83% in 1976. Much of this situation can be explained by the compulsory enrolment of allophone


students in French schools, except for those with at least one family member who has already obtained English schooling in Québec or Canada.The proportion of allophone students studying in French increased from around 20% in 1976 to 75.5% in 1990-1991 and will continue to rise as new arrivals join the existing population. The situation is no less disturbing with regard to the integration of allophone schoolchildren into the French-speaking majority, especially in Montréal. The proportion of native-born Francophones in Montréal Island schools has declined constantly since 1971, standing at 52.5% in 1989-1990. Demographer Michel Paillé predicts that by 1996 "French-speaking schoolchildren on the Island of Montréal will no longer form the absolute majority, if the number of immigrants per year and their heavy concentration on the Island of Montréal remain high."[13]

It is also interesting to note that Bill 101, even though it does not apply to college education, has also had a substantial influence on the allophone enrolment in the French-language colleges.While 14% of new allophone students registered in colleges in 1980 were studying in French, this proportion rose to 41% in 1990. We must emphasize that the first "generations" to grow up under Bill 101 are now reaching college age[14]. The fact that they attended French elementary and secondary schools had a significant impact when they chose the language of college and university instruction.

The language of work

The French language had an uncertain and even precarious status in the workplace in the early 1970s. The predominance of English in many circles largely was explained by the often Anglophone (Canadian or American) ownership of business. In its 1972 report, the Gendron Commission gave a harsh diagnostic of the use of French in the workplace, particularly in Montréal, and among more educated workers.

"In concluding this intentionally very detailed description, it is clear that while the French language is not disappearing among Francophones, neither is it the predominant language in the Québec labour market. French only appears to be useful to Francophones. Even in Québec, it is a marginal


language, since non-Francophones have little need for it and many Francophones in important positions use English as or even more frequently than their mother tongue."[15]

Through the French Language Charter, the Québec government sought to remedy this situation, by requiring businesses with 50 or more employees to obtain a francization certificate, attesting that specific francization objectives have been achieved as defined in a program.

The certification process continued as well as could be expected over the years. As of March 31, 1992, 66.4% of large companies (100 or more employees) and 82.6% of small and medium-sized businesses (50 to 99 employees) were certified. Major variances exist depending on the sector of the economy. Only 61.5% of large manufacturing companies had obtained certification, compared to 89.4% and 88.8% in the primary and construction sectors. Furthermore, in the manufacturing sector, francization has made less progress in large, technology-intensive companies (54.4%) than in large companies that make little use of technology (65.8%).

A recent study by the Conseil de la langue française[16] reveals that the use of French in the workplace varies considerably depending on the type of job. Thus, in the Montréal metropolitan region, 66% of manual workers say they generally use French at work, compared to only 36% of administrators and 37% of professionals. The use of English still continues to predominate in the upper socioprofessional groups.

We recognize nonetheless that important progress has been made in the past thirty years in terms of "francophonization" of highly-skilled workers. Thus, the proportion of corporate management positions held by Francophones increased from 30.5% in 1959 to 58% in 1988, which still is well below the demographic proportion of Francophones in the Québec population. To the degree that the chosen language of communication with employees mainly depends on the superior's mother tongue, francophonization of management positions should help to increase the use of French at work.


In conclusion, French undeniably has gained ground as the language of work, at the same time that a growing number of Francophones have entered the economic scene. Due to the insufficient results obtained to date and the resistance to francophonization encountered in some circles, we cannot yet state that the objectives of the French Language Charter have been achieved.

3.3 French: the only official language of a sovereign Québec

According to the members of the Task Force, it is clear that French will be the only official language of a sovereign Québec: the language of legislation, administration, justice, work, education, communications, commerce and business. The expression of Québec' identity will continue to depend heavily on the affirmation of the French language. In this sense, the preamble of the French Language Charter is still just as relevant today and its principles should be integrated into the main body of the Constitution of a sovereign Québec.

Bill 101 has allowed the French language to make significant headway in Québec over the past fifteen years. Nothing indicates that this law will become obsolete when Québec achieves political sovereignty. The Task Force feels that, for the foreseeable future, Bill 101 will have to continue as the basis of the language policy of a sovereign Québec. However, it can be foreseen that some of its provisions will be modified to reflect the new context of the evolving relationship between the various communities, particularly the fact that a single French State will preside over Québec's linguistic and cultural destiny.



4.1 Minority rights at the international level: an overview

A sovereign Québec intends to respect its commitments to its minorities in the light of existing conventions and pacts. Québec also intends to respect and protect the acquired rights of its English-speaking minority. Having learned from its own historical experience as a "minority", Québec intends to participate fully in the on-going debate in the international community, which is seeking a better definition of the tools for minority protection.

The main instruments which currently exists to protect minorities is the International Pact Respecting Political and Civil Rights. It is also useful to mention the work accomplished by the Council of Europe on "national minorities" and the European Convention on Human Rights. The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe has also adopted documents prohibiting any discrimination against minorities.

After the First World War, most treaties provided for special protection of minorities. The conservation and preservation of the cultural autonomy of minority groups was guaranteed in these treaties "by safeguarding language, religion, literary and educational culture, folklore, psychological and sentimental affinities, and practical means of preserving this intellectual and moral heritage [...]".[17] During the same period, treaties emphasized fundamental freedoms and human rights, while endorsing the right of peoples to self-determination.

It should be noted that United Nations documents do not mention positive protection of minorities. Apparently, in the current state of international law, "states [...] sometimes have the obligation, within the limits of their resources, to help their minorities by providing them with the necessary means to preserve and develop their minority culture and language."[18] On the other hand, according to Professor Humphrey of McGill University, "most States do


not want to help their minorities preserve their cultural identity, and desire to assimilate them".[19]

However, several States give more constitutional guarantees to minorities than are recognized in international law. They allow publication of legislative texts in the minority language and the possibility for minority citizens to address the administration in their own language. Several constitutions guarantee a person under arrest the right to be informed of the grounds for this arrest in a language he or she understands.

In general, the right to use a minority language includes its use in social or commercial relations of a private nature, in dealing with the State or before the courts, as well as the right to develop the knowledge and use of this language through education.

However, many countries consider the right to be taught in one's mother tongue as an obstacle to assimilation and to the strengthening of national identity. Even the European Convention on Human Rights does not specify the language in which instruction must be given for the right to education to be respected. In Switzerland and Belgium, in most cases, education is provided in the official language of the territories. In Austria, where there is only one official language, minorities are entitled to attend secondary level institutions in three languages.

Other countries have concluded reciprocity agreements with their respective minorities. This was the case in Germany and Denmark in 1955, for example. Some States created internal structures to favour active participation by their minorities in public life. One such example is Finland, with its Swedish minority.[20]

The language of signs

Considering the importance which English-speaking Quebecers attach to the legislative provisions regarding commercial signs, the Task Force thought it appropriate to look at the situation prevailing elsewhere in the world.


From a sample of 181 States, 77 of them sovereign and 104 regional, Jacques Leclerc[21] established that one third of them, namely 29 sovereign and 27 regional States, have legislation concerning signs.

Legislation applies to official (or public) signs and unofficial (or private) signs. Eighteen sovereign States and seventeen regional States make it compulsory to use an official language on public signs (government inscriptions and notices, road signs, place names). Fifteen of these States require exclusive use of the official language in part of all of the national territory. Fifteen States impose bilingualism for all official signs. Only Canada and Ireland extend institutional bilingualism throughout the country. In the other thirteen States, bilingualism is only compulsory within certain territorial limits.

Among the 56 States that have adopted sign laws, 28 regulate unofficial or private signs. Three of them impose the official language without requiring its exclusive use. Seven States require exclusive use of the official language on commercial signs. Québec stands out by imposing unilingualism throughout its territory and by allowing bilingualism for some categories of establishments (such as bookstores). In conclusion, legislative provisions regarding the language of signs vary widely. There is no standard to which all States would attempt to conform.


4.2 An asset for a sovereign Québec

The Parti Québécois acknowledges the contribution and the historic role of English-speaking Quebecers in the development and evolution of Québec society. The Parti Québécois government also recognized this contribution when it drafted its cultural policy in 1978.

The following excerpt from the Québec government's white paper on cultural development, "Pour une politique québécoise du développement culturel", is a case in point:

"A rich, strong society naturally longs to endow itself with institutions that allow it to best satisfy its cultural aspirations, to train future generations in the important and growing responsibilities that must be passed on to them, and to ensure its optimal well-being and progress. At the turn of the nineteenth century, the Québec English-speaking community,


for the first time, was able to lay the foundations of this institutional network."

"We can only mention the most important and significant elements. For example, McGill University, rich in material endowments, did not take long to win fame for academic excellence. Its educational philosophy on the acquisition and transmission of knowledge has long been a model for other Canadian universities, which it has often provided with leadership, standards and faculty. McGill has carved out an international reputation in many disciplines. The important role played by Sir George Williams University (Concordia) in the field of continuing education is well known. In the domain of health services, Québec's English-speaking hospitals, thanks to their financial resources and their North American connections, have been able to establish and harmonize the various imperatives of quality health care, good clinical education and research. In the arts, particularly in Montréal, Anglophones played a pioneering role on many occasions. They created the Montréal Philarmonic Society in 1877. Early in the twentieth century, the Montréal Orchestra was founded under the direction of McGill University's Dean of Music. Montréal's most outstanding museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, was a primarily English-speaking institution for a long time. Two other important facilities, the McCord Museum and the Redpath Museum, were created by the English-speaking community. Anglophones also have made an abundant, high-quality contribution to painting, theatre, dance, vocal art, contemporary music, etc. [...] It is therefor important to acknowledge the benefits provided by the English-speaking community to Québec society.[22]"

Thus, whether in the economy and education or in culture and health, English-speaking Quebecers have left an indelible mark on Québec's social fabric. They have graced Québec with internationally renowned cultural, educational and health care institutions that benefit our entire society.

The Anglophone community will be an invaluable asset to a sovereign Québec in yet another respect, by providing Québec with an open door to two great civilizations. English-speaking Quebecers have developed an intricate network and communications worldwide in many varied


fields, especially in Anglo-Saxon countries. A sovereign Québec will be wide open to the world. In an era of freer international trade, an increasingly global economy and fast-paced technological change, it is crucial to multiply business relations and opportunities for contact with foreign countries. Furthermore, a sovereign Québec will participate as a full member in many international organizations. The English language often takes a major place, alongside French, as a tool of communication. In this light, there is no doubt that a dynamic English-speaking community will be an invaluable asset.

For Québec's Anglophone community to play a full-fledged role and participate in the development of Québec society, it is important that its members choose to stay in Québec. However, our Task Force in realistic. A sovereign Québec will not succeed in totally halting English-speaking emigration, any more than the Québec o today or yesterday. In part, this is a natural phenomenon, due to the opportunities for individual mobility in Canada and North America, especially for young Anglophones.

However, it is possible to reduce the number of departures by ensuring that English-speaking Quebecers feel just as comfortable in Québec as members of the Francophone majority, so that Québec is an attractive place for everyone to live. To achieve this, it is essential for Anglophones to take part in our collective project and for their future place in a sovereign Québec to be established immediately. The Parti Québécois has both the responsibility and the obligation to be clear in this regard.

For these reasons, the Task Force has formulated several recommendations to recognize the individual rights of English-speaking Quebecers and guarantee the development of Anglophone minority institutions.


4.3 Analysis and recommendations

4.3.1 Rights recognized in the Québec constitution

For the Task Force, it is self-evident that a sovereign Québec will fulfil all of its responsibilities to the members of the English-speaking minority. They will continue to enjoy rights already granted to them. In addition, a sovereign Québec will have its own Constitution which will entrench the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, under terms of implementation that are yet to be defined.

In this perspective, the Task Force recommends:


That the Constitution of a sovereign Québec guarantee the following rights:

- the right to express oneself in English in the National Assembly;

- the right to express oneself in English before the courts;

- the right to a network of English educational institutions, from preschool through university.

The Task Force further considers that the right to education in English cannot be universally applied to all Québec schoolchildren regardless of origin. It is a historic right recognized for English-speaking Quebecers. For elementary and secondary schooling, Bill 101 already has established certain specific criteria, defining access to English educational services. As a result, the vast majority of new arrivals now enroll in French schools. This is an important achievement of Bill 101.

To halt the decline of the English-speaking school system, the Task Force created by the Minister of Education and chaired by Gretta Chambers recommends that access to English schooling be extended to all children of immigrants, if the child was educated in English or if at least one parent comes from an English-speaking country. For


several reasons, we do not believe that it is a good time to move in this direction. First, a sovereign Québec will be a French-speaking State and it is important that other countries receive a clear message. Québec has decided to project its image as a country where immigrants must learn and speak French if they want to integrate and participate in the host society.

Nothing should compromise existing efforts to attract a greater number of immigrants who are French-speaking or who wish to integrate into a French-speaking society. As noted by the Minister of Cultural Communities and Immigration, Monique Gagnon-Tremblay, Québec cannot allow itself to have to classes of immigrants: those who have the right to attend English schools and t hose who do not. Education continues to be a key instrument for francization and integration of new arrivals. Moreover, they very noting of an English-speaking country leaves room for interpretation, and the proposed change could have unforeseen consequences.

The preservation of a dynamic English-speaking school system, with a large enough student population, primarily depends on the decision of English-speaking Quebecers to stay in Québec. The solution to the problem of small schools, whose continued existence in other regions is often shaky, does not really depend on opening English schools to children of immigrants, approximately 90% of whom settle in the Montréal metropolitain area.

Furthermore, the current Parti Québécois program stipulates that the provisions of Bill 101 concerning compulsory French schooling would also apply to CEGEPs. The Task Force has reservations about this policy. On the one hand, CEGEP is a postcompulsory level of education attended mainly by adults. It should be noted that adult students under the various school boards are not subject to Bill 101. On the other hand, available data indicates that a growing number of young allophones tend to enroll in French CEGEPs. Education of new arrivals in French at the elementary and secondary levels has already had a ripple effect which should be accentuated in a sovereign Québec.

If this trend continues, the Task Force feels that the Parti Québécois should reconsider this article of its program and change its mind about extending the restrictions on access to English schooling to collegiate institutions. Finally, the Task Force favours maintaining the current provisions of Bill 101 for people living temporarily in Québec.


In conclusion, the Task Force recommends:


That in a sovereign Québec, the right currently recognized in the French Language Charter regarding access to English schooling be maintained.

4.3.2 Guarantees for institutions


Québec currently has 18 active Protestant school boards that educate the majority of their students in English. There is also an English-speaking sector in about forty Catholic school commissions. In reality, most English-speaking Catholic students living outside the Greater Montréal region attend Protestant schools under various administrative arrangements.

In principle, the new Public Education Act adopted in 1988 (Bill 107) provides for reorganization of the school system on a linguistic rather than a confessional basis. Some nuances are needed here, since in Ottawa and Québec City in particular, linguistic school boards have been superimposed on the existing confessional school boards. Elsewhere in Québec, because of the right of dissent recognized by law to persons of minority religious persuasions, new school boards could be created. Before coming into effect, these provisions were submitted to the courts to test their constitutional validity, particularly regarding the scope of the confessional guarantees stipulated in Section 93 of the British North America Act of 1867, reproduced in the Constitutional Act of 1982. After a favourable judgement from the Court of Appeal, the case is now before the Supreme Court.

It must be mentioned that the Protestant school boards are in the forefront of opposition to deconfessionalization of the school system largely due to considerations other than strictly religious ones. They doggedly cling to the protection granted by the Canadian Constitution since 1867, protection which would not apply to linguistic school boards created under a Québec law. However, with a continuing


growth in enrolments in the French sector of the Protestant school boards, as in the case of the Protestant School Board of Greater Montréal, it is possible that the English-speaking community will lose control of some institutions. Add to this the fact that a minority of students currently enrolled in the Protestant system identify themselves as Protestants. For many parents, the Protestant sector is already considered to be nondenominational, or at least an expression of religious pluralism.

The Parti Québécois has called for the creation of linguistic school boards for many years. This was one of the main objectives of Bill 3, adopted in 1984 and struck down the following year by the Superior Court, mainly because it presumably infringed on the rights and privileges of the confessional school boards. In the eventuality of Québec's accession to sovereignty, there will no longer be any obstacle to this reorganization of the school system on a linguistic basis, better suited to the realities of modern Québec society. However, the Task Force favourably welcomes the desire expressed by the English-speaking community to control the administration of its educational institutions. This is a justified demand made by French-speaking minorities everywhere in Canada, a demand that our Task Force considers is not only legitimate but essential to self-expression by minority cultures. It therefore recommends:


That the Constitution of a sovereign Québec recognize the right of the English-speaking community to administer its educational institutions.


Furthermore, to the extent that the English-speaking institutions of higher learning are in integral part of the cultural heritage of the English-speaking community and benefit Québec society as a whole, the Task Force recommends:


That the educational, cultural and scientific contribution of English universities and colleges be recognized through appropriate channels.

That English universities retain their status as English institutions of higher learning.

That English CEGEPs retain their status as English educational institutions.

Health and social services

Several institutions in the health care system, particularly hospitals, were established by members of the Québec English-speaking community. They are as much a part of the heritage of English-speaking Quebecers as are their educational institutions. In all, 90 health and social services institutions are recognized as bilingual under Section 113f of Bill 101. Under the provisions of Bill 142, restated in Bill 120, many other institutions are also required to make health and social services available in English.

Therefore, according to the various access programs decreed by the government, 166 other institutions currently are required to offer certain services to English-speaking individuals in their own language. On all, about 250 institutions must offer services in English, or 30% of the approximately 800 institutions in the system. On the Island of Montréal, this obligation affects more than 50% of the institutions. In conclusion, the English-speaking community enjoy an appreciable number of rights regarding access to health and social services. The Task Force considers that these rights must be maintained, without causing the entire staff of these institutions to become bilingual.


It therefore recommends:


That a sovereign Québec provide the English-speaking community with health and social services in its language.

That the existing provisions of Bill 120 be maintained for this purpose.

That a sovereign Québec State recognize the bilingual status of certain health and social service institutions which are part of the heritage of Québec's English-speaking community, in order to ensure the continuity of these institutions.

4.3.3 Access to the civil service

Anglophones occupy a marginal position in the Québec government. They account for barely 0.8% of the entire civil service. However, they are better represented in the parapublic sector, mainly in the educational and health care systems. This situation is not the product of discrimination, but is due to combination of factors: greater Anglophone interest in private sectors jobs, a sometimes insufficient knowledge of the French language, little feeling of identification with the civil service, concentration of government departments and agencies in Québec City... When competitions for civil service positions are opened, which is increasingly rate, few Anglophones apply. It is therefore important that there be a more intensive effort to encourage members of the English-speaking community to join the civil service, particularly by recruiting in the English universities and CEGEPS.


It is essential that the civil service adequately reflect the real face of Québec society in all its diversity. The Task Force therefore recommends:


That a sovereign Québec institution a civil service affirmative action program for members of the English-speaking community and that it adopt the necessary measures to welcome and integrate English-speaking federal civil servants into the Québec civil service.

4.3.4 Knowledge of the French language

Since French will be the sole official language of a sovereign Québec, it is obvious that members of the English-speaking minority should have the opportunity to learn and master this language. The teaching of French as a second language is already compulsory in English schools, but it is recognized that it does not always measure up to the curriculum objectives set by the Ministère de l'Éducation. While the rate of bilingualism among young Anglophones has risen in recent years, nearly half of those in the 15-24 age bracket claim to be unable to express themselves adequately in French.

Many young Anglophones often feel unprepared to enter the labour market and obtain jobs where French is the predominant working language. Under Bill 101, an appropriate knowledge of French is required for members of professional corporations practising in Québec (Sec. 35). Furthermore, "to be appointed, transferred or promoted to a position in civil administration, a knowledge of the official language appropriate to the office is necessary" (Sect. 20).


The Task Force therefore recommends:


That special attention be paid to the teaching of French as a second language in English elementary and secondary schools, particularly through curriculum enrichment, the introduction of formulas for intensive French Instruction, reliance on French as an auxiliary language of teaching in certain subjects, the use of a greater number of French textbooks in teaching and the purchase of more books in French for libraries, so that all pupils acquire a good knowledge and mastery of the official language.

That the curricula of English-speaking CEGEPs provide for compulsory French courses so that students improve their knowledge and mastery of the official language.

That adult education services ensure that French courses are provided to all people who need them to improve their level of participation in Québec society.

4.3.5 A public communications network

The English-speaking community currently benefits from a public radio and television broadcasting system throughout Québec, operated by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Several private stations located in Québec also broadcast a varied selections of programs in English.

Radio and television are a community's vital channels of information, cultural diffusion and entertainment. In a sovereign Québec, English-speaking Quebecers will continue to have their own channels of communication.

A sovereign Québec will maintain a public network of radio and television stations and integrate the services of Radio-Québec, Radio-Canada and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, including the CBC English services currently operating in its territory.


Needless to say, Québec's public English-language network will be able to draw upon the networks of other English-speaking countries for many of its programs. But it is important to maintain Anglo-Québec production. It is also important to ensure dialogue, exchange and good cooperation with the French-language network. The English-language communications network should not contribute to shutting Anglophones into an exclusively Anglophone world. While favouring openness to the world, it especially will have to foster the appropriation of Québec culture and the participation of Anglo-Quebecers in the development of this culture.

The Task Force therefore recommends:


That public radio and television in a sovereign Québec offer programming in English.


That the future Régie québécoise de la radiodiffusion et de la télédiffusion issue liceces to meet the needs of the English-speaking community.


4.3.6 The language of signs



4.3.7 Road signs

If we want to improve safety on the roads, it is important to refrain from recommending longer written directions on road signs. Instead, the number of written directions should be reduced and there should be more use of internationally recognized pictograms. Section 29 of Bill 101 already provides that "the French wording can be completed or replaced by symbols or pictograms". Pictograms cannot replace place name indications, but these do not concern road safety. They should only appear in French, as stipulated in Bill 101.

To our knowledge, 15 year after the law on traffic signs was introduced, there are still no statistics correlating unilingual signs and an increase in traffic accidents.

4.3.8 Instruments of dialogue and exchange

Considering the importance of maintaining the dialogue with English-speaking Quebecers and ensuring their full participation in public life, the Task Force recommends:


That an Advisory Council be created, with its members appointed by the government on the recommendation of the organizations most representative of the English-speaking community. One of the mandates of the Council will be to advise the government on all questions related to the development of the English-speaking community.


However, a sovereign Québec, as the chief centre of the French-speaking community on the North American continent, will continue to have a primary responsibility towards Francophone minorities in Canada. It will wish to maintain relations with these communities. Canada also will have an interest in the future of Québec's English-speaking community. In this perspective, the Task Force recommends:


That a permanent intergovernmental (Canada-Québec) commission be created on the minority language rights to be protected and promoted by both parties, and on the objects of cooperation in fields involving minority languages, such as education, higher learning, telecommunications and culture.



The Parti Québécois Task Force which, as mentioned earlier, was launched in a spirit of continuity and openness, produced very fruitful results. This exercise in consultation and reflection made it possible to build stronger bridges, take a constructive look at the relationship between the Francophone and Anglophone communities and thoroughly examine the critical factors on the horizon as Québec moves towards political sovereignty.

While many challenges face any State wishing to achieve full sovereignty, one of the most important, in our view, is to ensure the integration of every component of society. This means putting aside old conflicts between French and English speaking language groups and looking to the future. We must lay the foundations of a new spirit of cooperation between the two communities.

Québec is a land where democratic traditions are firmly rooted. Respect for differences and diversity is still a basic postulate for the Parti Québécois to keep in mind when developing a clear position regarding our English-speaking compatriots. As Laval University constitutional expect Guy Laforest told our Task Force, "Québec must suceed where Canada has failed".[23]

In its discussions with the English-speaking community, the Task Force identified some critical issues: "first, the important of continuing and nurturing dialogue and the necessity of recognizing and giving value to institutions that are part of the Anglophone community's heritage; also, the importance of encouraging active Anglophone participation in public life and the necessity of adopting measures to ensure this community's vitality."


The Parti Québécois, in adopting Bill 101 in 1977, recognized that English-speaking Quebecers have rights that must always be protected. The preamble of the French Language Charter provides a clear indication of the spirit in which this objective must be pursued: "... to deal fairly and openly with the Québec English-speaking community and the ethnic minorities, whose valuable contribution to the development of Québec it (Assemblée nationale du Québec) readily acknowledged, and to respect their institutions".

It is not trivial to reiterate that Québec already show more respect for the rights of its English-speaking minority than Canada does with regard to its Francophone minorities. A sovereign Québec will have to demonstrate its clear intent to maintain this course.

Being a Quebecer primarily means expressing the desire to live together in a modern society, open to the rest of the world. The goal of Québec sovereignty is a call to citizens of all origins. The Parti Québécois must explain the nature and scope of its plans to its English-speaking compatriots. By making an immediate commitment to recognized their rights and to regard them as an integral and dynamic part of a sovereign Québec, the Parti Québécois hopes, in return, that it can count on the full-fledged participation of English-speaking Quebecers in the development of our society, once sovereignty is achieved.

The members of the Parti Québécois Task Force on the status of the English-Speaking community in a sovereign Québec;

Chairperson, MNA for Chicoutimi and member of the National Executive Committee of the Parti Québécois

Chairperson, National Treasurer of the Parti Québécois


MNA for Pointe-aux-Trembles and member of the Montréal Regional Caucus of the Parti Québécois MNAs

Director of the Modern Languages Module at the University du Québec à Chicoutimi

Professor, writer and President of the Parti Québécois Association for the Chaudière-Appalaches region

Professor political science at Vanier College

President of the Assocation des anglophones dans un Québec souverain and former MNA for Vachon




CAMILLE LAURIN, Member of the Conseil exécutif national of the Parti Québécois;

JACQUES-YVAN MORIN, Professor of Law at the Université de Montréal;

RICHARD HOLDEN, MNA for Westmount;

JOSÉE LEGAULT, political scientist specializing in Anglo-Québec studies;

DAVID LEVINE, Executive Director, Centre Hospitalier de Verdun, President of the Assemblée des directeurs généraux d'hôpitaux;

JEREMY WEBBER, Professor of Law at McGill University;

RODERICK MACDONALD, Professor of Law at McGill University;

GARY CALDWELL, Professor at Condordia University and Director of the Institut québécois de la recherche sur la culture;

JULIANO D'ANDREA and ERIC REICH, representatives of the Equality Party Youth Wing;

GRETTA CHAMBERS, Chairperson of the Task Force on the English-Speaking School System and Chancellor of McGill University;

CONSEIL DU PATRONAT (its President, Ghislain Dufour, representatives of the English-speaking community and CEOs);

MOUVEMENT QUÉBEC FRANÇAIS (its spokesperson and representatives of several of its ten constituents organizations);

McGILL UNIVERSITY (its Principal and Vice-Chancellor, David L. Johnston, and Deans of its Faculties);

ALEX PATERSON, Chairman of the Board of Governors of McGill University;

PHYLLIS LAMBERT, founder, President and CEO of the Canadian Centre for Architecture;




WILLIAM TETLEY, Professor of Law at McGill University;

VAUGHN DOWIE, Deputy Executive Director of CSS Ville-Marie;

PIERRE-ÉTIENNE LAPORTE, President of the Conseil de la langue française;

GEOFFREY CHAMBERS, Presiden and Chief Executive Officer of Cygnus;


JOHN GARDINER, Vice-Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Ville de Montréal;



GUY BOUTHILLIER, President of the Mouvement Québec Français;

HUGH SCOTT, Principal of Bishops' University;

GUY LAFOREST, political scientist, Université Laval.



History and Evolution of Language Laws in Québec

After the British Conquest, Anglo-Canadians took control over the economy, commerce, industry and public administration, which historically led to the relative anglicization of Québec. For example, in the early 19th century, Québec City was heavily bilingual, a situation which continued until around 1850, when Montréal too the lead, with its larger population and heavy contentrations of unilingual Anglophones. As Canada, which was home to about 60,000 French-speaking citizens and some 100 English merchants in 1763, also began to attract an English-speaking population, the two languages came into collision[24] in the Saint Lawrence Valley. First the English merchants and then the American Loyalists who settled in the Eastern Townships opposed the Quebec Act, which the government of King George III had adopted in 1774 for strategic and political reasons. The two groups demanded their own colony with an elected Assembly.

These events led to the Constitutional Act of 1791 and the potential birth of a two nations concept of Canada. The Lower Canada Legislature held the first debate on the language of the Legislative Assembly. The history of Lower Canada, which ended with the rebellions of 1837-1838, put two communities at odds with different views of their destiny. Francophones, united in the Parti des Patriotes, demanded control of the civil list by the Assembly and the improvement of agriculture. Anglophones, on the other hand, favoured commerce and navigation (canals) and, through their control of the Upper House, the Legislative Council (made up of people appointed by London and the Governor), held real power.

The new political regime instituted by the Act of Union (1840), as conceived by Lord Durham, was intended to achieve the quiet assimilation of Francophones, who began to call themselves French-Canadians[25] The Francophones of Lower Canada paid for the debts of "Upper Canada" and, despite a much larger population, were only entitled to the same number of deputies as Anglophones in the Union Parliament. From then on, until 1848, Parliament would only function in English.


But a system that was supposed to lead to assimilation had a different outcome. Instead, Anglophones and Francophones created a coalition (Lafontaine/Balwin) to demand ministerial responsibility, or Responsible Government, which London eventually granted. The political system of United Canada pitted the more or less reconcilable world views of two language and cultural groups against each other, and lead to a new division of territories and powers.

The Dominion of Canada (the Confederation of 1867) was created by London to unify the various British North American colonies under a single administration with two levels: a central government with extensive prerogatives and four provincial governments with autonomy in their areas of jurisdiction. Some of these jurisdictions, though assigned exclusively to the provinces, were encroached upon over the years. The challenge inherent in founding a new country and holding it together in the face of the expansionist ambitions of the giant to the south was already problematic. While Francophones conceived of a Canada made upon of two nations, Anglophones saw Canada as a country of provinces, one of which had the cultural peculiarity of being a bilingual enclave. The Canadian experience accentuated the latter pointer of view, as new provinces were created ans as many groups of immigrants integrated into the dominant language group.

British constitutional law, which originally applied to Canada, did not recognize the right of a linguistic minority to express itself in the language of its choice.[26] Only Section 133 of the British North America Cat of 1867 expressly protected language rights. The use of French was permitted in all pleadings or procedures on the courts of Québec and Canada and in the debates of the Parliament of Canada and the Québec Legislature. The use of French and English was compulsory in the laws, archives, minute books and journals of these bodies. However, Canada did not interpret this as an obligation. With Confederation, the federal government became unilingual English and the Province of Québec was turned into an immense bilingual district.[27] According to economist François-Albert Angers, Québec at that time believed that Canada consented to bilingualism. Later history showed the contrary, with the abolition of French schools in Manitoba in 1890, Regulation 17 in Ontario, etc.


In Québec, the defence of the status of the French language remained in the hands of the clergy and the traditional elites who, for over a century, held to a messianic rather than a political conception of its presence and influence. This defence had more to do with "correct usage" and good will than with language rights. In 1952, the few participants in the Third Congress of the French language in Québec who even dared to speak about language legislation were dismissed as eccentrics or revolutionaries.

The language problem returned to Québec' political centre stage in the 1950s. during Maurice Duplessis' first term of office, language legislation requiring French on product labels had already been enacted through the Department of Agriculture.

With the Quiet Revolution and the rise of the nationalist movement, there was a quickening of tensions between languages groups. The debates on the educational integration of new Quebecers led to the "Saint-Léonard crisis" of 1969. The Bertrand government tabled draft legislation (Bill 85), which was withdrawn before adoption and replaced with Bill 63. The legislature wanted to ensure that English-speaking children in Québec, as well as new arrivals, acquired a working knowledge of the French language. However, Bill 63 aroused a general outcry among Francophones because it was perceived as entrenching linguistic freedom of choice. This law, vigorously opposed, was eventually repealed.

In 1971, the Consumer Protection Act stipulated, that contracts had to be drawn up in French, except if the consumer requested otherwise. In 1973, an amendment to the Companies Act stipulated that "a company ca be formed only under a French name or under a name that includes both a French and an English version".

On July 31, 1974, Bill 22, entitled the "Official Language Act", was adopted by the Québec government. This law made French the official language of Québec. It defined the mandatory use of French in civil administration, public utility companies, professional bodies, labour relations, business and education. While granting some priority to the French language, it sanctioned some degree of bilingualism. For the language of education, Bill 22 introduced the ambiguous criterion of mother tongue, which led to the introduction of the much-criticized language tests.

Parallel to Québec' linguistic concerns, much legislative activity occurred in the same field at the federal level and in certain other provinces. In 1969, with the adoption of the Official Languages Act, the Canadian Parliament declared English and French to be the official languages of Canada and guaranteed their equality in parliamentary and federal government institutions.


The adoption of the Constitution Act of 1982 by the Canadian House of Commons and the British Parliament brought the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms into force. Section 16 and 22 of this Charter confirmed and consolidated existing language rights. Section 23 made it constitutional for any Canadian parent to send his or her children to and English or French school, depending on the parent's mother tongue or language of schooling. This section had the effect of negating some of the provisions of Bill 101 and entrenched the Canada Clause.



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  1. Parti Québécois Program, Parti Québécois, Montréal, 1991, p. 7.
  2. In 1981, the synthetic fertility rate for Quebecers whose mother tongue was English was 1.28 compared to 1.64 for French-speaking Quebecers and 1.98 for Quebecers with another mother tongue.
  3. LOCHER, Uli, "Perspectives d'avenir des jeunes anglophones du Québec". Relations, September 1991.
  4. The rate of bilingualism among young Anglophones (under 25 years of age) was 57.8% in 1986.
  5. Less than 50% of English-speaking graduates of English colleges are said to have satisfactory proficiency in oral French. (Georges Mathews, "Les deux solitudes, encore et toujours." Paper presented at the symposium "L'avenir du français, langue seconde au cégep". May 1991).
  6. HOLDEN, Richard. Brief presented to the Task Force.
  7. As of March 31, 1992, 108 municipal bodies, 30 educational bodies and 90 health and social service establishments were "recognized" as offering services to a majority of people from a language group other than French. The proportion of these organizations holding compliance certificates stood at 40% in the educational sector, 73.2% in the municipal sector and 94.5% for health and social service establishments.
  8. To establish the right to education in the language of the minority, Section 23 also introduced the criterion of the "first language learned and still understood" (mother tongue). However, this clause was not applicable in Québec unless it was ratified by the National Assembly (Section 59 of the Canadian Charter).
  9. Most of the data in this section is taken from Indicateurs de la situation linguistique au Québec, Conseil de la langue française, 1992.
  10. Data from single and multiple answers to the question on mother tongue in the most recent Statistics Canada census.
  11. Paillé, Michel. Nouvelle tendance démolinguistique dans l'île de Montréal, 1981-1986. Conseil de la langue française, Québec, 1989.
  12. These statistics indicate that more than 400,000 people living in Québec, especially in the Montréal metropolitan region, do not know French.
  13. Paillé, Michel. Nouvelle tendance démolinguistique dans l'île de Montréal, 1981-1986. Conseil de la langue française, Québec, 1989, p. 109.
  14. 73% of allophone or anglophone students of other mother tongues who had attended French high schools began their college education in French in 1990. However, this represented a decline from the 81% level achieved in 1986.
  15. Rapport de la Commission d'enquête sur la situation linguistique de la langue française et sur les droits linguistiques au Québec, Livre 1, La langue de travail. La situation du français dans les activités de travail et de consommation des Québécois, December 1972, p. 111.
  16. BÉLAND, Paul. L'usage du français au travail. Situation et tendances. Conseil de la langue français, 1991.
  17. BROSSARD, Jacques. L'accession à la souveraineté et le cas du Québec. Conditions et modalités. PUM, 1976, Montréal.
  18. WOEHRLING, José. Les aspects juridiques de la redéfinition du statut politique et constitutionel. Commission sur l'avenir politique et constitutionnel du Québec, Document de travail no 2, 1991.
  19. Professor Humphrey of McGill University, cited in Le Québec souverain et le droit des minorités.
  20. Professor Humphrey of McGill University, cited in Le Québec souverain et le droit des minorités.
  21. LECLERC, Jacques, La guerre des langues dans l'affichage. VLB éditeur et J. Leclerc, Montréal, 1989, 410 p.
  22. Gouvernement du Québec, Pour une politique québécoise du développement culturel. 1978, pp. 67-68.
  23. LAFOREST, Guy, Presentation to the members of the Task Force, March 26, 1992.
  24. The term "choc des langues", translated in the sense of a "collision of languages", comes from political scientists Guy Bouthilier and Jean Mayrand. See the essay Le choc des langues au Québec, P.U.Q., 1972.
  25. See the classic essay on this subject by Jean Bouthillette, Le Canadien-français et son double. L'Hexagone, Montréal, 1972.
  26. TETLEY, William. Les droits politiques et scolaires au Québec et au Canada. (Histoire législative et Journal politique personnel). Centre international de recherche sur le bilinguisme, Québec, 1986, p. 32.
  27. ANGERS, François-Albert, Les droits du français au Québec. Éditions du jour, Montréal, 187 p.