CBC Digital Archives

Five years after Bill 101

On March 31, 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld Quebec's language law but ruled that the province must allow greater access to English schools. Back in 1977, when the Parti Québécois first introduced Bill 101, critics compared it to "lunatics taking over the asylum." Under Bill 101, even the "apostrophe s" in Eaton's, became illegal. The charter's defenders said such measures were necessary to protect the dwindling French culture and language from English dominance. CBC Archives looks back at the most debated law in Quebec.

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It's been five tumultuous years since the Parti Québécois first introduced its controversial language policy but demonstrations against the bill continue as seen in this CBC Television report. English Quebecers are still upset and bitter about the changes that have taken place under Bill 101. But it's not a sentiment shared by all anglophones. "This is a French place," says Quebec anglophone writer Sheila Arnopoulos, "It's very important we go along with the majority."

Camille Laurin, the author of Bill 101, has successfully restored Quebec as a French society but at a heavy cost, particularly to poor, working-class anglophones. The enforcement and testing of French in the workplace has meant job loss for many low-income professionals and new immigrants. Despite the hardship, it seems most anglophones have come to live with Bill 101. "We understand French is a priority but we don't have to forget English," explains a Greek community leader. 
. The exodus of anglophones has been substantial. According to Statistics Canada (2003), Quebec lost 244,000 English-speaking Quebecers to other provinces over the past 30 years.
. The same stats show that the population of those whose mother tongue is English has dropped from 789,000 in 1971 to 190,000 in 1996.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: March 2, 1982
Reporter: Susan Reisler
Duration: 12:40

Last updated: February 20, 2013

Page consulted on November 6, 2014

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