Francophones, allophones should be forced to attend CEGEP in French, PQ says

In the past, many in the party had been uneasy at the idea of dictating the language of instruction for Quebecers older than 18.

Party members officially reversed the PQ's position on whether Bill 101 should apply to CEGEPs

Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon had previously opposed applying Bill 101 to CEGEPs, but has since changed his position. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

The Parti Québécois will push for the province's language laws to be applied to the CEGEP network, meaning it wants to force francophone and allophone Quebecers to do their collegial studies in French.

At an online meeting Sunday, party members voted overwhelmingly (94 per cent) to back a motion put forward by the PQ's youth wing to extend the application of Bill 101 to CEGEPs.

"We see it every day: our national language is losing ground. Taking strong measures is no longer an option; it is a necessity," the party said in a statement on social media.

It is a notable policy shift for a number of reasons. Current party leader, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, opposed the measure during his leadership campaign. The previous PQ leader, Jean-François Lisée, also left it out of the party's 2018 provincial election platform.

In the past, many in the party had been uneasy at the idea of dictating the language of instruction of Quebecers older than 18.

But concerns about the health of the French language have been running high in recent months. And the PQ's main rival on French-language issues is the governing Coalition Avenir Québec.

The government has promised to present plans this spring to beef up Bill 101, but it has ruled out expanding the scope of the law to CEGEPs.

"We're a democratic party. Either I don't give members and MNAs the right to vote freely, or this right is exercised freely and offers up a democratic result," Plamondon said following the vote.

He added the PQ would only support the CAQ's Bill 101 reforms if they include an expansion to CEGEPs.

Bill 101, also known as the Charter of the French Language, was passed by the first PQ government in 1977. 

Party members will have to meet again in the fall to vote on whether to include the proposition in the platform for the next provincial election, scheduled to take place in October of 2022.

With files from Radio-Canada and La Presse Canadienne