The hearings on Bill 14, the Parti Québécois’ proposed language reform bill, at the National Assembly last week continue to cause controversy in the anglophone community.
The bill is a new piece of legislation designed to reinforce French as the language of work, education and government. Bill 14 will make French “the normal and everyday language in which they address others and are addressed” and “[make] sure that it is possible for all who so desire to live in French in Quebec and that French is the language used in the public sphere.”
It will also repeal the provisions on the bilingual status of municipalities, increase red tape for smaller companies which will be required to offer more French services to their employees, and affect the rights of military families.
The bill that serves to tighten French in this province will restrict access to English schools.
One of the exceptions to this law is in Section 72 of the Charter of the French Language, which claims removing “an exemption for the child of a member of the Canadian Armed Forces or his spouse’s child.”
However, if Bill 14 passes it would amend this law, forcing children of a member of the Canadian Armed Forces to have to attend a French institution.
Steven Lafleur, a physiotherapy student at McGill University who was able to attend an English high school since his dad was in the military, does not agree with the changes at all.
“I think that this bill is total nonsense,” Lafleur said. “My parents are in the military and I for one have gone to English schools for the sole reason that they are in the army.”
Lafleur explained that the main reason why children of parents who served in the military would be an exception to the law is because they don’t control where they are posted.
According to section 88.0.4 in Bill 14, nothing under the subdivision of education “shall be interpreted as requiring or authorizing a decrease in the quality of English instruction dispensed by schools to students declared eligible for instruction in English.”
Lafleur was born in Cold Lake, Alta., where his parents were posted when he was born before moving to Saguenay.
He explained how difficult the transition can be for a child adapting to a new home.
“I can imagine how a child would feel if he/she would move to a totally new place, have no friends and on top of that, have to learn a new language,” Lafleur said. “By granting military children the right to attend English schools, this made it easy for those being posted in and out of Quebec.”
Lafleur stated that should the bill pass, there will be consequences.
“If the bill passes, I know of at least two schools that would probably have to close, being mostly composed of military kids,” Lafleur said. He doesn’t understand why the government would remove this privilege to children whose parents served in the Armed Forces because it really benefits them.
“Bill 14 doesn’t do anyone any favours,” said Donna Varrica, Dawson College’s communications co-ordinator. “We’re going to be worried if the bill passes because we’d lose a portion of our enrollment.”
Bill 14 wants to create a second exit test in anglophone colleges, Varrica stated. Usually, when leaving a college, you complete an exit test in the language of your school. If Bill 14 passes, it will implement a second exit exam in French within the anglophone colleges required by graduation but will not implement an English exit test in francophone colleges.
“They would create a double standard by doing this,” Varrica said. “The end results would create a graduate who has shown proficiency in both languages rather than one. In a sense, it would penalize francophones.”
The passage of the bill will be decided by the Coalition Avenir Québec, the party that holds the balance of power in the National Assembly right now.
“I seriously have no idea why the PQ would want to remove this right,” Lafleur said. “Knowing English nowadays is a huge benefit for sure, and I’m not any less Quebecois because I attended English schools.”