French-speaking Quebecers and the majority of the Canadians are at odds on the Quebec government’s recent bill to amend Canada’s Constitution and to reform the province’s language law, according to a new poll that reveals the depth of divergence across the country.
The poll (pdf) is a national survey on Quebec government’s introduction of Bill 96, which proposes to amend Canada’s Constitution Act, recognizing Quebec as a “nation” and French as its sole official language.
The results of the survey show that 62 percent of the Quebecers believe that a province should be allowed to unilaterally amend the Canadian Constitution. By contrast, less than one-fifth of the Canadians living outside of Quebec share the same mentality.
The poll was conducted by Léger Marketing for the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) and the Association for Canadian Studies (ACS). A sample of 1,623 Canadians above 18 years of age were collected via a web panel from May 21 to May 23, 2021. A sample that size would have a margin of error of ± 2.95 percent, 19 times out of 20, the poll states.
“Canadians and Quebecers are clearly divided on this issue and we need to take the time as a country and as a province to truly understand the implications of what the Quebec government is proposing,” QCGN President Marlene Jennings said in a press release (pdf).
“This is a complex issue that needs to be studied and debated not only by our politicians in Quebec City and Ottawa, but also discussed with and understood by Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Only through knowledge and dialogue will we able to achieve a mutual understanding of what is really at stake,” Jennings said.
The opinions of the minority non-Francophones also diverge with the Francophones in Quebec on the issue of amending the Constitution. Among Francophones, 37.9 percent “strongly agree” while 35.5 percent “somewhat agree” that a province should be able to unilaterally amend the Canadian Constitution. As for non-Francophones, only 3.5 percent “strongly agree” and 18.6 percent “somewhat agree” with this statement.
On the question of recognizing Quebec as a “nation,” a total of 67 percent of Quebecers agree with the idea, and only 15 percent of total Canadians somewhat agree. Within the province, a total of 79.5 percent of the Francophones agree that Canada should recognize Quebec as a nation, while only 25.2 percent of the non-Francophones agree.
“Many Quebecers and other Canadians legitimately want to know what, if anything, such an amendment might mean for federal-provincial relations and minority-language rights,” ACS President Jack Jedwab said.
Quebec’s Bill 96 also proposes the most comprehensive reforms to the Charter of the French Language, known as Bill 101, a central piece of legislation in Quebec’s French language policy.
Over half of all Canadians (54.5 percent) and roughly three-quarters of Quebecers (72 percent) agree that Quebec should sign the Constitution of Canada if the province is recognized as a nation and French as its official language. In Quebec, a significant proportion of Francophones (77.9 percent) and a narrow majority of non-Francophones (54.5 percent) believe Quebec should sign the Constitution under such an event.
As of 2021, the government of Quebec has not formally approved the 1982 Constitution Act.
Bill 96 has introduced a series of policies to enhance the French language in Quebec, including capping the proportion of students being allowed in English-language CEGEPs—a publicly funded college system unique to the province of Quebec. If the bill is to be passed, a proposed limit of 17.5 percent of the overall student population will be allowed in English CEGEPs.
In an earlier poll conducted by Léger Marketing, over half of the respondents oppose capping the number of Quebec students who could attend English-language CEGEPs. Once again, French speakers hold conflicting views with users of other language. The vast majority of Anglophones (88.1 percent) and over two-thirds (69.8 percent) of Allophones disapprove of this measure. More than half of Francophones (57 percent) agree with this policy.