Montreal Passes Resolution to Protect French Language, Calls on Province for Support

Montreal Passes Resolution to Protect French Language, Calls on Province for Support
People watch the annual St-Jean-Baptiste Day parade in Montreal on June 24, 2015. Officials are worried the French language is under threat, particularly in Montreal. (CP PHOTO/Paul Chiasson)
Justina Wheale

Montreal’s city council has passed a resolution confirming French as the city’s common language, while calling on the Quebec government to support council’s upcoming plan to preserve the language.

Passed on Dec. 14, the resolution calls on the Quebec government to support Montreal’s pending action plan to protect and promote the use of French. The city will unveil the plan next year but has already submitted it to the provincial government for review.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said in a tweet last month that she was worried about the situation of the declining use of the language, and that the province would need to support the city’s action plan in order to address it.

In recent months, numerous politicians and media reports have said the French language is under threat, particularly in Montreal.

The state of the French language in Quebec—particularly in Montreal’s downtown core and among immigrants—is an ongoing concern of nationalists, who have demanded for years the government reinforce the 1977 language law, known as Bill 101. Politicians and media personalities regularly lament how they are greeted in English in downtown Montreal stores.

The Office quebecois de la langue française (Quebec’s office of the French language), which is the enforcement arm of Bill 101, reported in 2019 that on the island of Montreal, the percentage of people who have French as a mother tongue declined from 52.1 percent to 46.1 percent between 1996 and 2016.

Last month, Simon Jolin-Barrette, the minister responsible for the French language, said he will introduce a bill strengthening the province’s language law when the legislature returns from its winter break in the new year.

Jolin-Barrette has said he wants to ensure that francophone Quebecers can work and obtain services in French and that French remains the province’s common language. He hasn’t provided many details about what his law will look like, but has said it will maintain the place of French as Quebec’s only official language.

“The objective will be very clear: protect, value, and promote the language of the Quebec nation, French,'' he said in a press conference last month.

Meanwhile, the federal government is also preparing new rules on the use of French in federally regulated workplaces in Quebec, media reports say. The federal government is planning to use an upcoming reform of the Official Languages Act to draft the new rules, according to a Dec. 15 CBC report.

Ottawa is under pressure from the Quebec government to introduce the new measures since companies in some federally regulated sectors such as banking and telecommunications do not fall under the federal Official Languages Act or provincial Charter of the French Language.

With files from the Canadian Press