Minister tasked with anglo relations sticks to Bill 101

The Parti Québécois' newly appointed minister tasked with building relations with Montreal's anglophone community said he will stick to his party's stiff language laws.
Parti Québécois cabinet Minister Jean-François Lisée was put in charge of building relations with Montreal's anglophone community. (CBC)

The Parti Québécois' newly appointed minister tasked with building relations with Montreal's anglophone community said he will stick to his party's stiff language laws.

The PQ's 100-day plan 

Throughout the election campaign, Marois made various promises she said would be implemented within the PQ's first 100 days in power.

Jean-François Lisée was put in charge of building bridges with the English community in Montreal. The long-time party activist was also named the PQ's minister of international relations, francophonie and trade.

"For many years, I've been advocating a new dialogue to not divide, but add up the objectives of linguistic security for the historic minority that is the English community, the majority and First Nations," said Lisée. "I think these things can be added up, and it can be a win-win-win situation."

During the election campaign, Quebec's newest Premier Pauline Marois said her party plans to strengthen Bill 101, the province's language bill, within the first 100 days of her mandate.

The bill was originally adopted in 1977 to make French Quebec's common language.

The PQ's amendments to the bill would require all businesses that employ 11 or more employees to use French in all staff communications. The current law applies to businesses with more than 50 workers.

The party also wants to stretch the language bill to CEGEPs, trade schools and adult education centres. It also plans to shut down bridging schools – private institutions to which anglophone students can go before transitioning to English public schools.

"The minister responsible for Montreal" is not an official portfolio, said Lisée. But he said it shows "a willingness to mend fences [...] and start a dialogue."

Dan Lamoureux, president of the Quebec Community Groups Network, said his group wants to address ongoing concerns with the PQ, such as employment for anglophones, protecting English services and maintaining English school boards.

"I look at it as an opportunity for us to reach out to him and the PQ in general and Marois, to show we are Quebecers and we want to live here," said Lamoureux.

Lamoureux adds that many English-speaking Quebecers have gone to great lengths to become bilingual and send their children to French schools.

The anglophone community criticized Lisée for an article he wrote titled "Ici on parle English," or "Here, we speak English," published in L'Actualité, a French-language news magazine.

In the cover story, Lisée suggested that Montreal anglophones were not well integrated and their use of English as a primary language may actually be threatening French in Montreal.