Politics
Critics raise concerns about Bill 101's impact on business and English communities

Credits: REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger

BRIAN DALY | QMI AGENCY

MONTREAL - A beefed up Bill 101 would hurt Quebec's English community and paralyze small businesses, critics tell QMI Agency.

The Parti Quebecois, citing the "anglicization of Montreal," tabled a revised language law this week that would impose more French on subsidized day cares and companies with two to four dozen employees.

It's actually a watered-down version of the PQ's original proposal that would have barred adult francophones and immigrants from attending English community colleges.

But even in its scaled-back form, opposition parties have demanded amendments while Quebec's main English-rights group is sounding the alarm.

Sylvia Martin-Laforge, president of the Quebec Community Groups Network, tells QMI that the new Bill 101 would hurt English schools.

She suggests the bill would undermine the institutions' ability to teach students in both official languages and maintain the schools' bilingual flavour. English schools, hospitals and media are a bedrock for Quebec's 650,000 anglophones.

"Without our institutions, we don't have a community," said Laforge, whose umbrella group represents 41 English associations in Quebec.

She adds that French is already well-protected and tougher language laws aren't needed.

"A lot of Quebecers generally don't believe the dire pronouncements," she said, referring to French nationalist angst about the supposed decline of French in the province.

The new Bill 101 includes several provisions that have raised concerns among business groups, as well.

Companies with 26 to 49 employees wouldn't be able to bid on provincial contracts or receive subsidies unless they could prove French is their working language.

The law stipulates that "meetings and internal communications" must be conducted in French for any such company to receive crucial French-language certification.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says it's a mistake to extend language laws to smaller firms.

"The devil is always in the details," CFIB Quebec vice-president Martine Hebert said on Thursday.

She said small, seasonal tourist shops are among the companies that would be buried in red tape and excessive oversight.

"(Quebec is) the champion of regulation in Canada," said Hebert.

The new Bill 101 might not see the light of day unless Marois waters it down further.

The Liberals and the centre-right CAQ party have said they won't support parts of the bill that affect schools.

What's more, the CFIB and English-rights groups are expected to demand amendments when the revised law comes before a legislature committee in the new year.

THE NEW BILL 101

New French test for all high school and community-college graduates

More French in all subsidized daycares

Bill 101 extended to companies with 26-49 employees

No bilingual job postings unless a second language is necessary for the job

University-level French course required to join professional orders

"We have noticed a slide of French in Quebec, particularly in Montreal, over the past 15 years. The use of English as the working language is increasing. Bilingualism requirements have increasingly become the norm rather than the exception."

-Diane De Courcy, minister responsible for the French language-

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