Quebec's minority government may allow Bill 14, its controversial amendment to Quebec's French language charter, to die on the order paper, in order to throw its political energy into the so-called charter of quebec values which it plans to table when the national assembly resumes sitting in September.

Emerging from a three-day caucus meeting in Carleton-sur-Mer on the Gaspé Peninsula, Premier Pauline Marois said her government would let the bill die rather than water it down any further.

The opposition Liberals have taken a firm position against the proposed changes, which, among other measures, would give the government the power to revoke a municipality's bilingual status and would increase the powers of the so-called "language police."

The third party in the national assembly, the Coalition Avenir Québec, has been in discussions with the minister responsible for the bill, Diane de Courcy, about further proposed amendments in exchange for CAQ's support.

"We've put about 20 hours of work" into those discussions, Marois said — principally over the bilingual status of towns and cities.

"We want to get the law passed, but if it's not, we can't force the issue… It will die on the Order Paper," she said. "It won't stop us from working on the language front, however."

Bill 14 highlights

Amendments to the Charter of the French Language:

  • Designation of a minister responsible for language matters, planning and policy.
  • Government would have the power to revoke a municipality's bilingual status if the anglophone population drops below 50 per cent.
  • Educational institutions must take reasonable steps to ensure that students receive sufficient training in French to prepare them to interact and flourish in Quebec society.
  • English CÉGEPs with limited space would have to prioritize anglophone applicants before considering students from the French-language school system.
  • Businesses that employ 26 to 49 regular employees must make French the everyday language of the workplace.
  • Businesses that serve the public must communicate with customers in French.

Amendments to the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms:

  • French is defined as the official language of Quebec and a "fundamental factor of its social cohesion."
  • Every person has a right to live, receive an education and work in French in Quebec.
  • Immigrants to Quebec have a right to learn French and to benefit from reasonable measures to facilitate their integration.

Marois made it clear the government's priority this autumn will be pressing ahead with the secularism bill, the so-called charter of quebec values.

"We want to clarify the fact that the state must remain neutral and that religion is a personal issue," Marois repeated.

She said the adoption of the charter "will permit us to live better together, to better respect each other, to better welcome diversity."

"I hope for a serene debate, so we can reach the necessary concensus that will allow us to make changes to our laws and to adopt guidelines for reasonable accommodation," Marois said.

Her government plans to present the details of the proposed charter on Sept. 9, a week before the national assembly reconvenes for its fall session.