The Parti Québécois government’s recently proposed changes to Quebec’s French Language Charter is sparking another round in the language debate.
No one can really be too surprised. But what is stunning is the corrosive quality of the move. The divisiveness is the same, but how the Quebec community overall is reacting to it is different. There are indications that we no longer have the stomach for this flavour of pettiness.
What will be interesting to see is how municipal leaders will react, as one of the proposed changes included in Bill 14 is the power to strip a town of its official bilingual status if its English-speaking population dips below 50 per cent.
On the island of Montreal, 12 suburbs provide services in both French and English. Under the proposed changes, six of them would have to stop supplying residents with information in English. These six include four in the West Island: Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Dorval, Kirkland and Senneville.
Baie-d’Urfé, Beaconsfield and Pointe-Claire would be be able to continue to provide services in both languages – for now – because the latest census figures still show that a small majority of residents in these municipalities list English as their mother tongue.
The two other West Island towns – Lachine and Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue – do not have bilingual status.
What is being proposed in Bill 14 is big. Will there be a fight? Or, will the PQ back down?
Earlier this week, Jean-François Lisée, the minister responsible for anglophones and the island of Montreal, has already backtracked. In a statement on Monday following a speech in Montreal, as reported by The Gazette’s Philip Authier, the minister said: “I argued with others that it should not be at 50 (per cent). It should be at 40. I felt it was important to make it rather difficult to take away the status, which is worth a lot.”
Perhaps the PQ will put the new rules on the books and promise not to enforce them right as a way of slipping them in without provoking a fight? Don’t put it past them.
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