QUEBEC CITY -- President of the Parti Quebecois (PQ) youth wing Laurence Desgagne said Saturday that imposing Bill 101 at the college level is necessary because we are returning to the days when employees had to speak English with their bosses.

The PQ is meeting at the virtual national council this weekend to vote on extending the Charter of the French Language (Bill 101) to the college system.

PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, originally an opponent, is now ready to vote for it.

Young PQ members are concerned about the enthusiasm of Francophones college students to study in English, which is particularly evident in Montreal.

The English-language CEGEP system has quotas and selects the best students, so it sends the message that "English is the language of success in Quebec, the language of success in the workplace," Desgagne lamented in her speech.

She recalled the situation that prevailed before the adoption of Bill 101 by the Rene Levesque government in 1977.

"We are going back to a time when the bosses spoke English and the workers had to speak English to understand them, when Francophones played a secondary role," she said.

The young PQ members are calling for the provisions of Bill 101 on the language of instruction to be extended to the college system.

In other words, attendance at CEGEP in French would be mandatory for Francophones.

In 2020, 46.1 per cent of students were attending an English-language institution and 53.9 per cent a French-language institution on the Island of Montreal.

The debate on extending Bill 101 to the college system is almost as old as the law itself. One of the most often cited reservations is that it would impose the choice of a French-language CEGEP on young people who have reached the age of majority or who are in the process of doing so.

The debate has long divided the PQ.

In the 2000s, MNA Pierre Curzi was the ardent promoter of this proposal and it was on the agenda of the Pauline Marois government that was elected in 2012.

It was subsequently dropped from the platform during the years of leader Jean-Francois Lisee.


The PQ leader will not require a unanimous vote by his caucus members in favour of imposing Bill 101 on the college system.

Rather than say whether or not there is unanimity in caucus, St-Pierre Plamondon dodged saying that the parliamentary wing was very much in favour.

In a news conference on Saturday afternoon, he explained that he was not going to impose a unanimous vote on the youth wing's proposal.

The PQ leader himself justified his about-face, having been against this measure to strengthen Bill 101. He now says he is in favour, because the context has changed, according to him.

-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published April 17, 2021.