A new language policy in the Canadian province of Quebec is set to be unveiled in the coming weeks aimed at ensuring that all ministries and organisations offer public services almost exclusively in French, reports the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Speaking with reporters on 5 November at Quebec's National Assembly, Premier François Legault laid out who, he believes, has the right to get their electricity bill in English or be served in English when they renew their driver's licence or health insurance card.
"If your parents went to English school, you have rights in Quebec, and we will respect those rights. If you're a new immigrant, we have to talk with them in French. That's the difference," said Legault.
"It's in the rules. We just apply the Bill 101," he said, referring to the charter.
The premier had been asked to define who is a "historical anglophone," after Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, also responsible for the protection of the French language, said a new language policy would ensure ministries and organizations offer public services almost exclusively in French.
The policy, according to Jolin-Barrette, will apply to communication with individuals as well as companies.
When speaking with the host of Radio-Canada's Tout un matin, Patrick Masbourian, Jolin-Barrette said all immigrants should have the opportunity to learn to speak French and that Quebec has invested a lot in ensuring there are programmes for them to do so.
Nothing will change for the "historic English minority," he explained, they "will always be able to receive all the services in their own language."
Exceptions will also be made for Indigenous people, but not for new immigrants to the province.
“Sustainability” of the French language
The new guidelines come following a report by the Conseil supérieur de la langue française, the government's French-language advisory board, which discovered shortcomings in the government's language policies, and deplored the fact that practices vary from ministry to ministry.
The new policy will help create a uniform set of standards, ensuring a “sustainability of the French language” by making the state a model to follow, Jolin-Barrette said.
The minister blamed the current situation on “the previous Liberal government”, which he said "didn't care" about making sure the government is exemplary in its use of French.
English-speaking business owners are concerned the proposed policy will make it difficult to operate in Quebec, as critics of the new guidelines are quoted by CBC as claiming it underscores a “disconnect between Jolin-Barrette and the real world”.
Canadian politician Carlos Leitao queried how anyone would be identified as a "real Anglo."
According to him, the Immigration Minister “doesn't have a clue what the reality of an immigrant family is in the 21st century."
Greg Kelley, who represents the Quebec Liberal Party in the National Assembly of Quebec, pointed out this policy is "kind of another message to the rest of us, that you're not quite part of this Quebec, and it is not an inclusive message whatsoever."
"It's an extremely slippery slope when you start making very broad statements like that, that there is a historic community," Kelly is quoted as saying.
According to constitutional lawyer Julius Grey, the guidelines would send out a false impression to immigrants that French is the only language in Quebec, as he deplored that the government is trying to divide people by creating this "historical Anglo community."