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Quebec lawmakers introduce bill to tighten language restrictions

Members of the Quebec National Assembly [official website] on Wednesday introduced Bill 103 [materials] aimed at tightening the province's language laws. The bill seeks to limit the number of students attending English language schools by increasing fines on schools established to circumvent the principle instruction in French required by Section 72 of the Charter of the French Language [text]. The bill also includes penalties on parents who try to utilize private schools to qualify their children for enrollment in English language schools. The bill was introduced to replace Bill 104 [text] which the Supreme Court of Canada [official website] struck down [judgment text; JURIST report] last October as "excessive." The Supreme Court suspended Bill 104 for one year to allow Quebec's National Assembly to review and replace the legislation. Bill 103 would also amend Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms [text, PDF] to emphasize the importance of French as Quebec's official language.

Quebec's strict language education laws have long been an issue of political debate. In 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously upheld [JURIST report] Bill 101, which requires French-speaking parents to send their children to francophone schools. Under the bill, parents must have received the majority of their own schooling in English to be able to have their children educated in that language. Eight families had sought to prove that Bill 101 was discriminatory in precluding their children from receiving an education in English. The court found that members of the linguistic majority have no constitutional right to an education in English, the minority language in Quebec.

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