A Shocking Attack on the Anglophone Community
Article by Anthony Housefather, as it appeared in the Montreal Gazette, December 5, 2012
The amendments proposed by the Parti Québécois government to the Charter of the French Language contain numerous provisions that will have a negative impact on non-francophone communities, if they ever come into force.
The proposed amendment that scares me the most is one which attacks the institutions and municipalities built and developed by the English-speaking communities of this province.
As everyone knows, since the Charter of the French Language was first adopted we no longer have purely anglophone hospitals or municipalities. We have those institutions which were designated as having bilingual status under Section 29.1 of the language charter because in 1977 they had a majority non-francophone population, or user base.
In the late 1980s, the Office québécois de la langue française determined that the town of Rosemere had lost its majority non-francophone population, and tried to strip it of its bilingual status. Following a referendum where a majority of residents of Rosemere voted to retain bilingual status, the Liberal government modified the provisions of the charter to prevent a municipality or hospital from losing its bilingual status unless its own town or city council or board of directors requested it.
This was a reassuring provision that grandfathered bilingual status and lessened the fears of many living in these communities, or working or using these institutions, that a drop in the non-francophone population could mean the government could revoke certain historical rights.
In connection with its forced merger legislation in 2000, the PQ government of the day adopted sister legislation that made it virtually impossible for any new municipality or institution to obtain bilingual status. Instead of the majority of the population needing to be non-francophone, or to speak English at home, the government changed the rules to requiring a majority of residents to have English as their mother tongue.
As such, if Greek, Italian, Yiddish or Polish was your first language, but you had been part of Quebec’s English-speaking community your entire life, you did not count any longer as part of the number needed to qualify for bilingual status.
While this was a change that was not a fair way of counting the English-speaking community, the fact that existing municipalities and institutions were grandfathered made the fear of such a change of less concern.
Of course it should be noted we are the only jurisdiction in the world where municipalities are prevented from being bilingual unless a majority in their population comes from the minority community. By contrast, in Finland, if five per cent of a municipality comes from the Swedish minority, bilingualism is required.
Now things get even worse. With the new Bill 14 introduced Wednesday, the PQ is proposing to amend the language charter to once again allow the government and its French-language agencies to strip a municipality or hospital of its bilingual status. Every 10 years, a review would take place, based on census numbers, and following such a review, a municipality or hospital could lose bilingual status if it is found to have less than 50 per cent English mother-tongue residents, or user base.
This is a shocking proposal that should strike fear in many.
A large number, if not the majority, of municipalities and institutions that have bilingual status today would not qualify under the new rules.
There are a number of cities on Montreal Island and elsewhere today where more than two thirds of residents speak English at home, although less than 50 per cent are of English mother tongue. And I would be very surprised if there is any hospital in this province that would be able to say a majority of its patients have English as their mother tongue.
This proposal by the PQ is a true attack on the English-speaking community as a whole — and I call upon the Quebec Liberal Party and Coalition Avenir Québec to join together to defeat this legislation.
Tell your member of National Assembly you don’t support Bill 14
Contact D’Arcy McGee MNA Lawrence Bergman (who represents all parts of CSL) – firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact the Interim Leader of the Quebec Liberal Party Jean-Marc Fournier – email@example.com