Bill 96

Legault on Bill 96: “As Premier, my first priority is to protect the French language”

Growing up in the West Island, Legault says he witnessed “the fragility of the French language in Montreal.”

Quebec Premier François Legault held a press conference with French Language Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette this morning following the tabling of Bill 96 in the National Assembly. The bill has been introduced as a reform of the French language charter Bill 101, and is now being called “the new Bill 101.”

Legault opened the press conference by saying that, growing up in the West Island, he witnessed “the fragility of the French language in Montreal.”

“The French language will always be vulnerable because of Quebec’s situation within North America. As Premier, my first priority is to protect the French language. Every generation has a responsibility to protect the French language, and now it’s our turn.”

—François Legault

Legault appealed to all Quebecers, regardless of language or origin, to unite around the French language and be proud to live in Quebec in French.

The Premier also explained that Bill 96 pre-emptively invokes the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to avoid legal challenges.

François Legault and Simon Jolin-Barrette

The main objectives of the new law are to ensure the predominance of the French language in higher education (hence a cap at 17.5% on spots available to francophones at English CEGEPs), in businesses and among arriving immigrants, whose integration into Quebec society will involve increased “francisation.” Jolin-Barrette said that the CAQ wants to increase the number of immigrants choosing to live in French upon arriving in Quebec from 53% to 90%.

Francisation will also be imposed on small businesses with over 25 employees (Bill 101 previously only applied to those with over 49 employees) and on federally chartered businesses, which will be required to offer services and documentation in French, and to communicate in French internally. Failure to comply with the laws could result in the suspension of revocation of permits.

Bill 96, “An Act Respecting French, the Official and Common Language of Quebec,” will also create a new French Language Ministry, and a new way for Quebecers to lodge complaints against businesses that don’t serve them in French. Jolin-Barrette noted during the press conference that the “Bonjour hi!” greeting isn’t being outlawed, but that businesses are invited to simply use “Bonjour” instead.

The French language charter reforms are also dredging up the old conflict over signage, which was an obsession for the Office Québécoise de la Langue Française in the ’90s. Bill 96 states that “on public signs and posters visible from outside premises, French must be markedly predominant.” Legault mentioned, as an example, that in the case of Canadian Tire — a trademarked name with no registered French version (à la Poulet Frit Kentucky) — a sub-name such as “Centre d’auto” must still be dominant.

Jolin-Barrette also noted that “it’s time to put an end to institutional bilingualism.”

To see the English version of Bill 96 in its entirety, please click here.

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