Lisée in linguistic hornet's nest
Published Thursday, January 31, 2013 8:45AM EST
The minister responsible for Montreal and Anglophones has unwittingly stirred up the language debate.
In this case it began with Jean-Francois Lisée answering questions on radio station CJAD.
Host Tommy Schnurmacher and Lisee were discussing why the STM, the agency that provide bus and metro service in Montreal, has very few bilingual employees.
For years the STM has said that its legal interpretation of the Charter of the French Language was such that it believed it was not allowed to have bilingual employees, and Lisee disagreed.
"STM are you listening? It's OK when you make the case that you have employees in areas where part of the clientele are anglophone and they are in contact with anglophones. Just call the Office de la Langue Francaise, make the case and you will be able to hire bilingual employees in some of these places," Lisée said.
The minister was essentially pointing out that Article 46 of Bill 101 allows for public agencies to be granted exceptions.
However noted French-language crusader Mario Beaulieu has taken offense to that declaration.
In an opinion piece published in Le Devoir on Wednesday, Beaulieau wrote that Lisee's declaration "is at the same time irresponsible and contradictory."
He went on to write "the STM is one of the last bastions of French in Montreal. Tourists of all languages are well served by pictograms."
Beaulieu also attributed the so-called decline of French in Montreal institutional bilingualism.
The minister fired back with a post on his blog, writing that Beaulieu's attacks are misguided.
"My crime? Simply saying, in English, that Bill 101 stipulates, and has for the past 30 years, that if an employer demonstrates that knowledge of English is required for a job, then an employee can be authorized to learn and speak in English."
He went on to write "In downtown Montreal where there are hundreds of thousands of English-speaking tourists and tens of thousands of McGill and Concordia students, the STM could easily make the case that some rudimentary English would help serve them."
The latest volley in the battle comes from Imperatif Francais, a Gatineau-based linguistic rights group, which is demanding Pauline Marois reprimand Lisée for his statement.
In a statement the group says Lisée was wrong to suggest it was acceptable for institutions to be bilingual when all "Quebecers have not only the right, but the the obligation, to learn French and to speak it."
Jean-Francois Lisée talks to residents of Westmount (Jan. 17, 2013)