English-speaking Quebecers worry about workplace regulations as Ottawa gets set to revise Official Languages Act
MONTREAL -- On the day the federal Liberal government tabled a document to revise the Official Languages Act, reaction in Quebec has been mostly positive – but there's some concern about how the province's English-speaking population will be impacted by regulations to the work sector.
In addition to beefing up French across the country, the plan aims to protect all official language minorities, including the English-speaking population in Quebec.
"One thing that is positive around the English community, is it's seen as official minority in Quebec. I think is a positive thing," said Quebec Liberal leader Dominique Anglade.
The Quebec government wanted French to be the only language granted minority status in the country, but the federal paper gives it to both French and English, calling for a new linguistic balance in Canada.
The Societe Saint-Jean Baptiste doesn't think the plan goes far enough to stop the decline of French in Quebec, and is calling for an end to institutional bilingualism in the province.
"We absolutely must eliminate institutional bilingualism," said Marie-Anne Alepin, president of the organization that fights for linguistic and identity rights of francophones. "It's flagrant. There's a drop in French in Quebec. It takes drastic measures, very strong measures."
But English community groups in the province are worried. They say when it comes to the workplace, this is the first time Ottawa is legislating in favour of one official language, by protecting the right of Quebecers in federally-regulated private enterprises (like airlines, banks and telecommunications), to work in French.
"It's going to have a chilling effect on our employability," said Kevin Shaar of the Quebec Community Groups Network. "We already face greater unemployment problems compared to the francophone majority. We have a median income that's already lower than the francophone majority."
Shaar said anglophones make up less than one per cent of the provincial public service, and they're underrepresented federally as well.
"There's nothing more important to the vitality of the community than the ability to work. There's nothing more important to retention of our youth than the ability for them to find jobs," he said.
A group of experts will make recommendations in the next 60 days.
Ottawa has promised that the bill, which is expected to pave the way for language reform for the next 50 years, will come sometime in 2021.