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Master plan for a new French Quebec

The Story

"Lunatics taking over the asylum!" That's how one critic describes the Parti Québécois's detailed policy proposal (white paper) on CBC Radio. The white paper, authored by a PQ founding member Camille Laurin, declares French as the only official language of government, education and business in Quebec. All companies with more than 50 employees operating in Quebec would be required to function in French. Companies would need a "francization certificate," proving that all internal business was indeed conducted in French. French would be the only language allowed on commercial and road signs. Municipalities with English names would be replaced with French names. The white paper also calls for restricting access to English schools. All children, regardless of where they came from -- another country or even another province -- would be educated in French. The only exceptions being for children of parents who could prove they had been educated in English in Quebec. The reaction to the white paper is both jubilant and critical. 

Medium: Radio
Program: The World At Six
Broadcast Date: April 1, 1977
Host: Bob Oxley, George Rich
Reporter: Richard Inwood, André Selwyn, Dan Phelan
Duration: 9:29

Did You know?

•Bill 63 (November 1969) and Bill 22 (July 1974) preceded Bill 101.
• In 1967, the Saint-Léonard school board declared that all children of immigrants must receive their education in French. The decision led to violent demonstrations by the largely Italian population of Saint-Léonard. They wanted the freedom to educate their children in English. The incident led to Bill 63 (Loi pour promouvoir la langue française au Québec).

• Bill 63 was also an attempt to quell the increasing nationalism among francophones who wanted a more French Quebec.
• Bill 63, passed by Jean-Jacques Bertrand and his Union National government in 1969, was the first bill to promote French Language in Quebec. In reality, Bill 63 mostly guaranteed the right of parents to choose the language of instruction for their children. Bill 63 was despised by French Quebecers who said it was too weak. Bill 22 replaced it in 1974.

• Robert Bourassa's Liberal government passed Bill 22, or the Official Language Act, in July 1974. Bill 22 proclaimed French as the official language of civic administration, services and the workplace. The most controversial section of Bill 22 had to do with the testing of children as young as six years old. Children who failed to demonstrate "sufficient knowledge" of English were refused access to English schools.

• The anger over Robert Bourassa's Bill 22 led to a historic first-time victory for René Lévesque and the Parti Québécois on Nov. 15, 1976. Bourassa later admitted that testing children had been a mistake in his book, Gouverner le Québec (1995).
• The Parti Québécois had opposed Robert Bourassa's Bill 22 saying it didn't adequately protect the French language. The PQ had promised a new language law as its first priority if elected.

• The white paper on language policy was first tabled on April 1, 1977. It would be one of the most controversial and lasting achievements of René Lévesque and the Parti Québécois government.
• A "white paper" refers to an official report prepared by an appointed committee summarizing the results of an investigation into a proposed legislation.

• Camille Laurin is referred to as the "father of Bill 101." The mild-mannered psychiatrist and PQ hardliner was hailed as a hero by francophones and despised by anglophones who compared him to Hitler and said he was dedicated to linguistic genocide.

• Bill 101 was initially known as Bill One. Bill 101 differed from its predecessor in just two points. Bill 101 removed:

— The implication that only those of French mother tongue were true Quebecers.
— The notwithstanding clause. It would have allowed the application of the language law to override Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.


Fighting Words: Bill 101 more