Charter of the French Language
The Charter of the French Language (French: La charte de la langue française), also known as Bill 101 (Loi 101), is a law in the province of Quebec in Canada defining French, the language of the majority of the population, as the official language of Quebec, and framing fundamental language rights. It is the central legislative piece in Quebec's language policy.
Proposed by Camille Laurin, the Minister of Cultural Development under the first Parti Québécois government of Premier René Lévesque, it was passed by the National Assembly, and granted Royal Assent by Lieutenant Governor Hugues Lapointe on August 26, 1977. The Charter's provisions expanded upon the 1974 Official Language Act (Bill 22), which was enacted under Premier Robert Bourassa's Liberal government to make French the official language of Quebec. Prior to 1974, Quebec had no official language and was subject only to the requirements on the use of English and French contained in Article 133 of the British North America Act, 1867.1
Bill 101 was amended more than six times since 1977. Every time, it created passionate controversies over such provisions as French on commercial signs or restrictions on enrollment into anglophone schools.2
The preamble of the Charter states that the National Assembly resolved "to make French the language of Government and the Law, as well as the normal and everyday language of work, instruction, communication, commerce and business". It also states that the National Assembly is to pursue this objective "in a spirit of fairness and open-mindedness", recognizes "the right of the Amerinds and the Inuit of Quebec, the first inhabitants of this land, to preserve and develop their original language and culture".3
The Charter of the French language consists of six titles and two schedules.
The nine chapters of Title I, pertaining to the status of the French language, declare French the sole official (chapter I), define the fundamental language rights of persons (chapter II), and defines the status of French in the parliament and the courts (chapter III), the civil administration (chapter IV), the semipublic agencies (chapter V), labour relations (VI), commerce and business (VII), and language of instruction (VIII).4
To achieve the goal of making French the "normal and everyday language of work, instruction, communication, commerce and business" and ensure the respect of French Quebecers' language rights, the Charter contains a number of key provisions and various regulations.
In the first article of the Charter, French is declared the official language of Quebec.10
The French language was previously declared the sole official language of Quebec with the adoption of the Official Language Act in 1974. Quebec is constitutionally obliged nonetheless to provide English services in the courts and the Quebec parliament (see below).
The fundamental French language rights in Quebec are:
- The right to have the civil administration, the health services and social services, the public utility enterprises, the professional corporations, the associations of employees and all enterprises doing business in Quebec communicate with the public in French. (article 2)
- The right to speak French in deliberative assemblies. (article 3)
- The right of workers to carry on their activities in French. (article 4)
- The right of consumers to be informed and served in French. (article 5)
- The right of persons eligible for instruction in Quebec to receive that instruction in French. (article 6)11
French is the declared language of the parliament and courts in Quebec. Section 133 of the Constitution Act, 1867, still in effect, nonetheless requires that bills be printed, published, passed, and assented to in French and in English in the parliaments of Canada and of Quebec.12
French or English may be used by any person before the courts of Quebec. Parties may request the translation in French or English of the judgments by the courts or decisions rendered by any "body discharging quasi-judicial functions".
The French text prevails over the English one, in case of any discrepancy, for any regulation to which section 133 of the Constitution Act of 1867 does not apply.13
The first version of the Charter of the French Language provided that Bills be enacted only in French. In 1979, the related provisions (articles 7 through 13) were rendered inoperative by a ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada in Attorney General of Quebec v. Blaikie; however, Quebec responded by re-enacting in French and in English the Charter of the French Language, leaving intact articles 7 through 13.14
In 1993, the Charter's provisions related to the language of the parliament and courts were made compliant with the Supreme Court's ruling.
The government departments, agencies are designated by their French name alone, all administrative documents are drafted and published in the official language. All communications by the administration with other governments and legal persons, between departments and internally inside departments, are conducted in the official language.
Knowledge of the official language appropriate to the office being applied for is required.
A non-official language may be used on signs and posters of the administration for health or public safety reasons.15
Public utilities and professional orders must provide service in the official language and use it for their internal and general communications. Professional orders may issue permits only to persons who have a knowledge of the official language appropriate to the practice of their profession.16
Ten articles of the charter provide for the general goal of making French the language of labour relations.
Employers are to draw up written communications to their staff and publish job offers or promotions in the official language.
An employer cannot dismiss, lay off, demote or transfer a staff member on the sole account of his being exclusively French-speaking or of possessing insufficient knowledge of a non-official language, or because that member demanded the respect of his right to work in French. As a job requirement, knowledge or a specific level of knowledge of a language other than French is prohibited, unless the nature of the duties require it.
The Commission des relations du travail (Commission of Labour Relations) arbitrates in case of disagreement over the necessity of knowing a non-official language to perform a given work. The burden of the proof is on the employer.17
Product labels, their instructions, manuals, warranty certificates as well as restaurant menus and wine lists must be in the official language. Other languages may be used, provided the official language's prominence is at least equivalent.181920
Catalogues, brochures, folders, commercial directories and other such publications, must be in the official language. All software (for example, video games and operating systems) must be available in French unless no French version exists.21
Signs and posters must be in the official language and they may also be in another language provided the official language be markedly predominant.
A number of exceptions to the general rules for commercial products, signs, and advertising:
- Products destined exclusively for export;
- Educational products for the teaching of a language other than French;
- Cultural and ideological companies, groups, signs, and literature (including non-French broadcasters, newspapers, etc.);
- Companies (usually multinational corporations) that sign an agreement with the OQLF permitting an exemption from the francization requirement. (However, the rules regarding the right of a worker to work in French still apply.)22
In many parts of Quebec, various signs with bilingual French and English text of equal sizes can be seen, although French is usually slightly predominant on these signs; for example, it is located to the left of other languages so that it is read "before" the non-French text when reading left-to right. Formerly, the size and colour of text in other languages were tightly regulated as well.
The language of instruction from kindergarten to secondary school is French. (The instruction language is the language in which the classes are taught. Learning of English as a second language is mandatory for all children attending French school beginning in elementary school.)
Articles 87, 88 and 89 provide for the use of Amerindic languages and Inuktitut as language of instruction. The rate of introduction of French and English as languages of instruction is left to school committees and parents' committees.23
At the request of parents, the following may receive instruction in English:
- a child whose father or mother is a Canadian citizen and received elementary instruction in English anywhere in Canada, provided that that instruction constitutes the major part of the elementary instruction he/she received in Canada;
- a child whose father or mother is a Canadian citizen and who has received or is receiving elementary or secondary instruction in English in Canada, and the brothers and sisters of that child, provided that that instruction constitutes the major part of the elementary or secondary instruction received by the child in Canada.
The original 1977 Charter provided for the English instruction not on the basis of a parent having received his instruction in English in Canada, but in Quebec only. This came to be amended following the adoption of the Constitution Act 1982, which defined the educational right of French and English minorities in all provinces under section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Office québécois de la langue française is the commission responsible for conducting the policy pertaining to linguistic officialization, toponymy and francization of civil administration and enterprises. It also has the mission of "monitoring the linguistic situation in Québec", promoting the official language, and conducting research. In 2005-2006, the budget of the OQLF was of $18.5 million CAD.24
The Conseil supérieur de la langue française (Superior Council of the French language) is an advisory council whose mission is "to advise the minister responsible for the application of the Charter of the French language on any question relative to the French language in Quebec".25 It works in close collaboration with equivalent bodies in France, Belgium and Switzerland.
Language in Canada is defined federally by the Official Languages Act since 1969 and is part of the Constitution of Canada since 1982. Parts of the Charter of the French language have been amended in response to rulings by Quebec Courts which were upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Before 1982, the only part of the Charter of the French Language that could be challenged constitutionally was that of the language of legislation and the courts. It was challenged in 1979 by Peter Blaikie, Roland Durand and Yoine Goldstein (Attorney General of Quebec v. Blaikie).
In 1982, the patriation of the Canadian constitution occurred as the British Parliament passed the Canada Act 1982. This act enacted the Constitution Act, 1982 for Canada (including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) whose section 23 introduced the notion of "minority language education rights". This novelty opened another door to a constitutional dispute of Quebec's Charter of the French Language.
Alliance Quebec, an anglophone rights lobby group, was founded in May 1982. It is mainly through this civil association that various lawyers challenged the constitutionality of Quebec's territorial language policy.
||This section's representation of one or more viewpoints about a controversial issue may be unbalanced or inaccurate. (August 2012)|
The Charter of the French Language has been received poorly by many anglophones.
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and provinces outside Quebec criticized the Charter strongly. In his memoirs, Trudeau described Bourassa's Bill 22 as a "slap in the face", as it ran contrary to the federal government's initiative to mandate bilingualism. Except for New Brunswick, most other provinces that accepted grudgingly Trudeau's bilingualism initiative never fully implemented it, likely in protest to Quebec's language laws. The most notable case was Ontario, where Premier Bill Davis refused to grant full status to francophones, despite the fact that the infrastructure was already in place.2627clarification needed
Political opposition to the Charter and earlier francophone-favoring language legislation has had limited success, given the support of the laws by the Parti Québécois and Quebec Liberal Party. Legislative initiatives prior to Bill 101 were often denounced by francophones as insufficient, such as An Act to promote the French language in Quebec (Bill 63). After Bourassa passed the Official Language Act, opponents turned their support to the Union Nationale in the 1976 election, but despite that short resurgence of support, the party collapsed in the subsequent election. Court challenges have been more successful: Many of the key provisions of the initial language legislation having been rewritten to comply with rulings. Despite compliance since 1993 of the Charter with the Canadian constitution, opposition to the Charter and the government body enforcing it has continued.
According to Statistics Canada, up to 244,000 English-speaking people have emigrated from Quebec to other provinces since the 1970s, and the Quebec population of those whose mother tongue is English had dropped from 789,000 in 1971 to 575,555 in 2006. According to the 2006 Canadian census, 575,555 (7.6% of population) in Quebec declare English as their only mother tongue, 744,430 (10%) use mostly English as their home language, and 918,955 (12.2%) comprise the Official Language Minority, having English as their First Official language spoken.28 Because many anglophones relocated outside of Quebec after the introduction of the Charter in the 1970s, several English-language schools in Montreal closed their doors. This is only partially the cause, since the restrictions on who can attend English schools are also an ongoing drain on the English school system. Many companies, most notably Sun Life, Royal Bank and Bank of Montreal (which even considered removing "Montreal" from its name), moved their major operations to Toronto as a consequence of the adoption of this law.29 This concerted fleeing of business and subsequent loss of thousands of jobs is sometimes said to have hindered Quebec's economy and allowed Toronto to overtake Montreal as Canada's business centre. On the other hand, Toronto's advantage had been growing since the 1930s and had become apparent in the 1950s, and is also related to the greater importance of the U.S., rather than Britain, in Canada's economy. It can also be said that this movement led to a larger role for Quebec Inc.clarification needed in Quebec's economy.
Levying fines of up to $7000 per offence, Charter enforcers were widely derided in English media as the "language police" or "tongue troopers". While the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) provides several warnings before resorting to legal sanctions, alleged abuse of its power has led to charges of racism and harassment.30 The OQLF urged stores to remove imported kosher goods that did not meet labelling requirements, an action perceived in the Jewish community as an unfair targeting that coincided with a high-profile case against the well-known Schwartz's delicatessen, the owner of which was told that the apostrophe in his sign was illegal.31 In 2002, there were reported cases of harassment of allophone merchants who refused to speak French.32
The 2004 annual report of the OQLF was criticized by a columnist of The Gazette who complained of a "totalitarian mindset in the bureaucracy".33 The columnist believed the report contained sections describing the continued prevalence of languages other than French in two-thirds of Montreal's households as an "alarming" trend, because it would present a formidable challenge to francophones in Montreal.34 In reality, the report judged alarming the fact that adoption of English as home language by allophones grew faster than the adoption of French as home language.35
The use of the notwithstanding clause in the 1990s to circumvent the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms with regards to signage also drew a reaction in other Canadian provinces; the syndrome de Sault Ste. Marie was a series of symbolic but divisive resolutions by some municipalities outside Quebec declaring their towns unilingually English in protest of this supposed infringement on the rights embodied in the charter. It is often believed that the controversy over the Charter was what caused the Meech Lake Accord and Charlottetown Accord to fail. It should be noted that the Supreme Court in their ruling regarding the signs case which led to the use of the notwithstanding clause, ruled that in fact any sign law was a violation of the freedom of expression right.
Aside from the civil rights infringement, the Charter has faced legal challenges because the restricted education opportunities have hindered not only unilingual but bilingual anglophones' employment.citation needed Although the Charter made French the official language of government and civil administration, the same cannot be said of the private sector. Despite nearly 30 years of the Charter, it has never been applied as rigorously as intended because to do so would violate civil liberties. English is still often made a requirement by employers in Montreal, including many French-Canadian owned ones, and, to a lesser extent, in Gatineau and Quebec City, with the workforce in Montreal remaining largely bilingual despite the Charter.
On November 14, 1988 the political and human rights watchdog organization Freedom House published “The Doctrine of ‘Preponderance of Blood’ in South Africa, the Soviet Union and Quebec”36 in its journal Exchange. Introduced by Zbigniew Brzezinski (an anglophone who lived in Montreal) former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s National Security adviser, the essay compared the language of instruction provisions of the charter with South African apartheid statutes and jurisprudence. However, the Supreme Court of Canada refused the discrimination-based-on-ancestry argument under the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms in Gosselin (Tutor of) v. Quebec (Attorney General) on the grounds that it conflicted with section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The criteria used by Quebec to determine if parents are entitled to have their children instructed in the language of the minority are the same as those found under section 23 of the Canadian Charter.
The 2001 report of the Estates-General on the Situation and Future of the French Language in Quebec identified the negative perception of Quebec's language policy in the rest of Canada and the United States as a problem to solve. It stated:
In Canada and abroad, the linguistic policy of Quebec is too often negatively perceived. The business community and the media in particular know it very little. For their part, the Americans remain opposed to a legislation that appears to them to reduce individual liberties and limit the use of English. For them, language and culture are two separate elements, they do not see how the protection of Quebec culture also includes the protection of the French language, even though 35 American States have adopted declarations proclaiming English the official language. Thus, must be developed the perception that Quebec culture is a part of the North-American heritage and that it is necessary to preserve it. It is also important to correct the erroneous perceptions regarding the Quebec language policy and its application.37
Recommendation 147 of the report suggested the creation of an institutional television and radio campaign targeting both Quebec citizens and certain publics abroad to inform on the facts of the situation of French in North America and the language policy of Quebec. Recommendation 148 suggested the creation of a watch to correct the errors made "both in good faith and bad faith" in the media.38
As part of the effort to correct the errors of perception, the OQLF conducted an inquiry on the influence of Quebec's language policy abroad in countries where the fragility of certain languages prompted the use of legislative measures. It requested and published the opinions of various experts from Spain, Israel, the United States, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Wales, Australia and Flanders in a special issue of the OQLF's Revue d'aménagement linguistique celebrating the 25th anniversary of Quebec's Charter of the French language in 2002.
Jonas Žilinskas, lecturer at University of Šiauliai, in Lithuania described the state of the Lithuanian language after a prolonged Russian rule over his country:
One proclaimed a policy of bilingualism which was expressed only by the obligation made to Lithuanians to learn Russian while Russians did not bother to learn Lithuanian. If the written Lithuanian language were more or less protected by writers through newspapers and publishers, the spoken Lithuanian language was degraded. Often, in the institutions, it was only a language of oral communication, the greatest part of technical documentation and correspondence being written in Russian.39
This "false bilingualism" was followed by the Sąjūdis movement during which the people of Lithuania declared their language the sole official language and began working on a language policy modeled on the experience of Quebec.39
Mart Rannut, vice-dean of research at the Department of philology of the University of Tallinn, in Estonia, recalled the influence of Quebec's expertise in the field of linguistic human rights and language planning which helped countries that have gained independence from the former Soviet Union and concluded that "Bill 101 indirectly touched one sixth of the planet".40
Ina Druviete, at the time dean of the department of sociolinguistics at the Linguistic Institute of Latvia, noted the similarities between the language policies in all three Baltic States and that of Quebec. All policies aiming "to prevent language shifts and to modify the hierarchy of languages in the public life. The principal sectors of intervention were the language used in the government agencies and the administration, in meetings and office spaces in particular, in corporate names, information and education. The principle of territorial linguistic rights was instituted."41
In Wales, the language policy of Quebec had a great influence, but could not be implemented as it was in the Baltic States because Welsh speakers do not form a majority in this constituent country of the United Kingdom. According to Colin H. Williams, professor and researcher at the Welsh Department of Cardiff University particular lessons followed in Wales which stem from the experience of Quebec are:
- The acquisition of detailed census data and explanatory facts aiming at clarifying the public discussion
- The linguistic legislation (official language status, right to speak Welsh before the court, Welsh Language Board responsible to administer the law)
- The iconography of the linguistic landscape
- The progress in the teaching of the Welsh language42
In Israel, while the "penetration of English in the sociolinguistic organization of the country" is perceived, according to Bernard Spolsky, professor emeritus of English at the Bar-Ilan University, as a threat to Hebrew, the language policy has thus far only influenced linguists and some politicians. He writes:
Periodically, Israeli politicians present bills to proclaim Hebrew the sole official language of the country. Presently, Hebrew shares this title with Arabic only, because a measure was taken soon after the foundation of the State, in 1948, to modify the British policy, which imposed three languages, and gave up English. The last attempt at giving a judicial protection to Hebrew goes back to December 2000: two bills were then rejected.43
In Catalonia, according to Miquel Reniu i Tresserras, president of the Comissió de Lectorats and former chief executive officer of the Catalan language policy, Quebec's legislation has constituted a "reference model" and the OQLF and the equivalent body in Catalonia are in close collaboration.44
In the United States, Joshua A. Fishman, professor emeritus at Yeshiva University, in New York observes that whatever the subject "all our sources, greater public to academic, all contribute to give a negative impression concerning Quebec".45
- Language demographics of Quebec
- Language policy
- Minority language
- French language
- English-speaking Quebecers
- Children of Bill 101
- Official bilingualism in Canada
- Toubon Law
- Ford v. Quebec (Attorney General)
- Devine v. Quebec (Attorney General)
- "British North America Act, 1867", in Wikisource, retrieved April 24, 2008
- The Charter of the French Language — Preamble, on the Web site of the Office québécois de la langue française, retrieved April 23, 2008
- Charter of the French Language, Title I
- Charter of the French Language, Title II
- Charter of the French Language, Title III
- Charter of the French Language, Title IV
- Charter of the French Language, Title V
- Charter of the French Language, Title IV
- Charter of the French Language, Title I - Chapter I
- Charter of the French Language, Title I - Chapter II
- Charter of the French Language, Title I – Chapter III
- Repère et jalons historiques, on the Web site of the Office québécois de la langue française, retrieved April 28, 2008
- The Charter of the French Language - Title I - Chapter IV, on the Web site of the Office québécois de la langue française, retrieved April 28, 2008
- Charter of the French Language, Title I - Chapter V
- Charter of the French Language, Title I - Chapter VI
- The Charter of the French Language - Title I - Chapter VII, retrieved May 10, 2010
- OQLF. Selling or distributing your products in Québec, retrieved May 10, 2010
- OQLF. Requirements at a glance, retrieved May 10, 2010
- Charter of the French Language, Title I - Chapter VII, Section 52.1
- Charter of the French Language, Title I - Chapter VII
- Charter of the French Language, Title I - Chapter VIII
- Rapport annuel 2006-2007, on the Web site of the Office québécois de la langue française, retrieved February 18, 2008
- Mandat, on the Web site of Conseil supérieur de la langue française, retrieved February 18, 2008
- "Five years after Bill 101". CBC News. 1982-03-02.
- Martin, Susan Taylor. (August 9, 1999). "In Quebec, some take law as sign of discrimination", St. Petersburg Times, (Florida), page 1A. Retrieved December 5, 2004.
- B'nai B'rith. 1996 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents. Retrieved November 26, 2004.
- (Gravenor, 2002)
- Macpherson, Don. (November 25, 2004). "OQLF report borders on bigotry", The Gazette (Montreal), page A27
- L'Office québécois de la langue française. (2004) Rapport annuel de gestion 2003–2004 (PDF), page 13. Retrieved November 26, 2004.
- The passage on page 13 of the report translates: "The number of persons who use French at home is therefore more important than the number of persons of French mother tongue. However, English as a home language continues to make gains in the order of 2%, while those made by French are of no more than 1.7%. These gains are all the more alarming since in 2001, English was used alone or with other languages in at least one household out of three on the Island of Montreal (35.7%), French being for its part used in two out of three households (66.6%).
- Freedom House article by Tony Kondaks
- Le français, une langue pour tout le monde, report of the Estates-General on the Situation and Future of the French Language in Quebec, August 20, 2001, page 184-185
- Charter of the French Language, page 186
- Jonas Žilinskas. "Le problème du bilinguisme en Lituanie aujourd'hui", in Revue d'aménagement linguistique, 2002 (translation)
- Mart Rannut. "Le Québec et l'Estonie", in Revue d'aménagement linguistique, 2002 (translation)
- Ina Druviete. "La Charte de la langue française et les lois linguistiques dans les Pays baltes", in Revue d'aménagement linguistique, 2002 (translation)
- Colin H. Williams. "L'influence de l'aménagement linguistique au Québec au-delà de ses fontières : Le Pays de Galles", in Revue d'aménagement linguistique, 2002 (translation)
- Bernard Spolsky. "L’aménagement linguistique au Québec : regard d'un Israélien", in Revue d'aménagement linguistique, 2002 (translation)
- Miquel Reniu i Tresserras. "Le Québec et la Catalogne", in Revue d'aménagement linguistique, 2002 (translation)
- Joshua A. Fishman. "La perception du « fait français » québécois aux États-Unis", in Revue d'aménagement linguistique, 2002
- Law and regulations
- Charter of the French Language, Éditeur officiel du Québec (online through the Canadian Legal Information Institute, current as of 14-Feb-2011)
- 29 regulations adopted under the Charter of the French language, Éditeur officiel du Québec, (online through the Canadian Legal Information Institute, updated on March 14, 2008)
- The Constitutional Act, 1867, (U.K.), 30 & 31 Victoria, c. 3. (online through the Canadian Legal Information Institute, updated December 10, 2002)
- The Constitutional Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (U.K.), 1982, c. 11 (online through the Canadian Legal Information Institute, updated December 10, 2002)
- L'Office québécois de la langue française. (1997–2007) All reports of the OQLF and CSL from 1997 to 2007 (in French)
- Commission d'enquête sur la situation de la langue française et sur les droits linguistiques au Québec (1973). The Position of the French language in Québec: Report of the Commission of Inquiry on the Position of the French Language and on Language Rights in Québec, Québec: Editeur officiel du Québec
- Chevrier, Marc (February 1997). Laws and languages in Québec: the principles and means of Québec's language policy, Québec: Ministère des relations internationales, 31 pages
- Clark, Ramsey (June 14, 1993) A legal opinion on international law, language and the future of French-speaking Canada, a legal opinion for the Mouvement Québec Français, New York, 24 p.
- Baum, Gregory (1991). "Ethical Reflections on Bill 101", in The Church in Quebec, p. 134-157 ISBN 2-89088-487-2
- Kondaks, Tony. (November 14, 1988) “The Doctrine of ‘Preponderance of Blood’ in South Africa, the Soviet Union and Quebec”, Freedom House, Exchange
- Website of the Office québécois de la langue française (English section)
- Educaloi – La Loi vos droits – Citizens – Charter of the French Language
- Bill 199 Charter of the French and English Languages (Equality Party of Quebec)
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