French, Quebec’s official language
In 1980, French was still the language of the majority of Quebec’s population. In fact it was the mother tongue of 82% of the population while English was the mother tongue of 11% of the population. In comparison to 1905, the major change was in the number of people whose mother tongue was neither French nor English. This group was known as “allophones” and represented 6% of the population. English was still spoken in certain areas of Quebec, especially in the west part of Montreal. On the other hand, many Anglophones were learning French. As a result (2% of Quebeckers were able to speak French in 1980. This was a big change in comparison to 1905.
Protection of the French language
For a while, Quebeckers had been concerned about the situation of the French language in Quebec. English was the language of business and the language spoken throughout North America. Many Quebeckers were afraid of being forced, over time, to speak more English at work and in everyday life. The Quebec government had passed laws to protect the French language with the 1974 Bill 22, which made French the official language of Quebec and limited the choice of parents to send their children to English schools. This law caused dissatisfaction with Francophones because they found it did not do enough to protect the rights of either Francophones or Anglophones because it limited the right of both.
The Charter of the French language
In 1977, the Parti Québécois government passed Bill 101, which made French the official language of work, education and institutions in Quebec. This law required parents to send their children to French public school, unless they had themselves been educated in English in Canada. It thus ensured that the children of newcomers go to French school and adopt French as their language. Bill 101 also forced business to advertise in French only. This law was meant to reassure Francophones about the future of the French language and to help accelerate the francization of Quebec. However it created some discontent with Anglophones who considered that their rights were limited by this law.
Author: Alexandre Lanoix
See also – Traces of the past: