Approximately 25 people gathered at 11 a.m. on Monday in front of the Office québécois de la langue française to protest Bill 101 and the Parti Québécois’ (PQ) plan to tighten it.
Bill 101, or The Charter of the French Language, defines French as the official language of Quebec and dictates fundamental language rights.
PQ leader Pauline Marois has announced plans to strengthen Bill 101, most notably with a provision that would prohibit francophones and allophones – those whose mother tongue is neither English nor French – from attending English colleges.
“Public money should not be used to anglicize Quebecers,” Marois told Le Devoir in French. “We have the responsibility to send a message to new Quebecers: here we speak French.”
According to protester Antoinette Mercurio, “Bill 101 did some good because a lot of people learned the French language, that’s great. But now, it’s becoming extreme.”
The protest was organized on Facebook by the Quebec Office of the English Language, a Montreal-based non-profit dedicated to the preservation and promotion of English in Quebec.
Michael Bradley, one of the organizers of the Facebook event, said in a message to The Daily that he wanted to be very clear that the protest “doesn’t come off as anti-French.”
“We are fighting not only for anglo rights but also for francophone, allophone, and immigrant rights,” he said.
According to the protest’s Facebook page, the goal of the protest was to “replace Bill 101 with 199 to make QC bilingual so that we ‘exist’ to the ethno-nationalists.”
Bill 199, or the Charter of the French and English languages, was introduced to the national assembly in 1993 by MNA Neil Cameron and would have made English and French the co-official languages of Quebec.
Many of the protesters were at least bilingual.
“I’m trilingual,” explained protester Mario Lauri. “I have Italian, I learned French no problem. They don’t need to come and tell me I can only speak one language. Why are they dumbing me down like this?”
One protester, Ania Kwiatkuwski, said that her mother had been verbally assaulted at a grocery store the day before for speaking English to a friend and had to be aided by security guards.
“I’m here to stand up against that kind of hate, abuse, and intolerance,” she said.
The protest was also joined by members of Language Fairness for All (LFA), a group from Cornwall, Ontario.
According to the LFA’s website, the group advocates for fair hiring practices for all Canadians through representation by population.
The website also states, “English is the working language of Canada and much of the world. A grasp of all other languages should be considered an asset, but not mandatory. People are equal, but languages are not.”
“Hopefully Quebecers will make a stand for themselves,” said LFA representative Christopher Cameron. “I’m here for the 1.5 million allophones and anglophones that have very little right comparatively because of these language laws.
According to the CBC, Marois’ new version of Bill 101 would require businesses that employ 11 or more employees to use French in all staff communications, close “bridging” schools that allow students to transition to English public schools, and expand the bill to CEGEPs, trade schools, and adult education centers.