One might question why CAQ minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, chose a moment in the middle of a viral pandemic, to announce new measures towards enforcing the French language charter. Nonetheless, on Monday September 21st, Jolin-Barrette said at a news conference that the OQLF (Office quebecois de la langue française) will be hiring additional employees to help attain the goal. “We have to be very clear. French is the common language and we need to give the resources to the OQLF to make sure the law is enforced and respected,” he said and referred to an OQLF study released last August showing that 63% per of businesses in Montreal want employees to be able to speak English, and that the French language was losing ground, particularly in the area.
Montreal is a multi-cultural city. Businesses cater to a global world and the most prominent and recognized language, used also by tourists, is English. But not according to Jolin-Barrette. ‘Protection of the French language is a priority for your government’ he wrote on his Facebook page (translated from French). ‘Today I announced a historic reinforcement of the action of the Office québécois de la langue française. With an investment of $5 Million, three new regional offices will open and 50 new posts will be created. Of these, 20 will be fully dedicated to accompanying companies with fewer than 50 employees, where the needs are critical. This is a first concrete measure of your government’s action plan to protect, promote and enhance the French language’.
There are small businesses who are exempt from parts of Bill 101, but Jolin-Barrette said ‘many don’t comply with even the minimal requirements and that 70% of complaints made to the OQLF target smaller businesses’ and ‘it is up to the government to ensure Quebecers retain the right to work in French and that business signage conforms to the law’. These small businesses and stores could probably expect more surprise visits from the province’s ‘language police’ under the new measures.
He was asked about the concerns of the English-speaking community and said it “is not against English institutions… we can do both. Respect English institutions, but also respect French in our society.”
Premier Francois Legault appeared to be at odds with his Minister over some of his measures in the past, including his idea to deny government services in English to everybody but members of the province’s ‘historic’ Anglophone community – which prompted disbelief at the very idea and how to define it. It also prompted CJAD’s Aaron Rand to launch his amusing line of ‘Historic Quebec Anglo’ T-shirts and website, ‘The unofficial site to help you determine whether you are in fact a historic Quebec Anglophone’.
Nonetheless, the English language is under attack again in Quebec. Perhaps Anglos have more to worry about it right now, like following the Covid-19 protocols and safety measures or dealing with all the changes it has brought into their lives in the fight against the virus.