Quebec government tells language watchdog: bite more often
quebec, quebec language, Christine St-Pierre
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, March 30, 2012 4:35PM EDT
QUEBEC CITY - Facing a barrage of linguistic controversies, the Quebec government has announced it wants the provincial language watchdog to bite more often.
Despite a hiring freeze across Quebec's public service, the government will hire 43 employees at the Office quebecois de la langue francaise to fill vacancies left by departures.
The government is also asking language inspectors to be more proactive _ and take action not only after they get complaints, but also beforehand.
Quebec laws allows the agency to take legal action and seek fines from commercial establishments that don't respect rules like French predominance on signs.
But recent news reports have offered anecdotes of the laws being ignored in Montreal, and that has created political headaches for the Charest Liberals.
The governing party, heavily supported by Anglos, has faced severe criticism from opponents who accuse it of being too weak in protecting French.
Language controversies began ramping up last summer, when the Harper government announced the hiring of people who can't speak French as Supreme Court justice, auditor general, and senior government spokesman.
Since then stories about slights against the French language, and anecdotes of people struggling to get served in French, are frequent features of news reports in Quebec. The latest this week was the story of a patient in a Montreal hospital who struggled to be understood by staff.
The flareup of such controversies has coincided with a drastic rise in support for the Parti Quebecois, which has enthusiastically taken up the cause in recent months.
Christine St-Pierre, the cabinet minister targeted by the PQ, calls the state of the French language in Montreal ''worrisome.''
The Office quebecois de la langue francaise received 3,661 complaints last year _ about 1,000 more than a year earlier.