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Bill 96 gains royal assent: Legault to monitor stats on French use in homes


Quebec's controversial reform to the French Language charter achieved royal assent Wednesday, setting in motion several new regulations aimed at maintaining the province's common language.

Bill 96 passed in the National Assembly on May 24. Quebec MNAs voted 78-29 in favour of the law, with opposition members from the Liberal Party and Parti Québécois voting against it.

The reform has implications for nearly every government sector.

Among those implications, English CEGEP students will take more classes in French, new immigrants will eventually need to speak French in government communications, and changes are coming to the system for deciding how many judges in Quebec must be bilingual.

Quebec’s brand new French language ministry is charged with maintaining the status of French in the province. Its lead, newly appointed French Language Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, is in the process of forming a team.

Premier François Legault says he'll be following statistics on the use of French in the years to come in order to gauge the success of the bill.

That analysis will be based on two metrics in particular: the use of French in the workplace, and the use of French at home.

The latter encouraged a barrage of questions from reporters during a scrum in Quebec City on Wednesday asking whether the premier intended to influence how Quebecers speak to each other in their own homes.

Legault only confirmed he would monitor the statistic. However, he added, "if there isn’t anyone speaking the language at home … French will eventually disappear."

"I would like also to have new indicators about the language spoken in public places."

The effort to protect French in the province stems, in part, from a recent study from the Office quebecois de la langue francaise that projected fewer Quebecers will speak the language at home in the decades to come. 

The study predicted that between 74 and 76 per cent of Quebecers would speak the language at home by 2036. In 2011, 82 per cent did.

The Office says a part of that shift is caused by a growing proportion of immigrants in Quebec's population. In 2016, most immigrant families spoke a language other than French or English at home (39 per cent). About 33 per cent spoke French at home, and 14 per cent spoke English.

"We want it to be the common language," said Legault. "That’s the language at home, it’s the language at work, [and] it’s the language in the public sector."

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But some don't think tracking the language spoken at home is a good indicator of the status of French in Quebec.

"The allophones are able to speak French quite extensively," said Jack Jedwab, president of the Association of Canadian Studies.

"We have very high percentages of them speaking French, but it just happens not to be their home language," he said. "So, if the premier is deliberately seeking to use that indicator, he knows it’s going to demonstrate a slight decline in the use of French at home."

He says Quebec should have more realistic goals considering the province's linguistic diversity.

"Montreal is not going to be Chicoutimi. It is not going to be Rimouski," he said. "Anyone who hopes to make it that, in terms of the public use of the two languages, is being unrealistic and unfair."

-- with files from CTV News' Matt Grillo. Top Stories

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