The National Assembly of Quebec Tuesday adopted Bill 96, a controversial bill that overhauls the Charter of the French Language. The official title of Bill 96 is “An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Quebec.” Sponsored by Simon Jolin-Barrette, the bill reforms several pieces of Quebec legislation with far-reaching implications. 78 members of the National Assembly voted in favor of the bill, with 29 votes in opposition. The vote lasted only a few minutes.
The bill touches on many different areas, including a limit on how many students can enter English-language colleges. The bill limits the proportion of overall students in English-language colleges from exceeding the level it was at in the school year prior. Additionally, the proportion of overall students in English-language colleges cannot surpass 17.5 percent of the overall student population in Quebec.
The bill also says that government entities must “in an exemplary manner, use the French language, promote its quality, ensure its development in Quebec and protect it.” There is an exception to this, saying that a language other than French can be used by government agencies “where health, public safety or the principles of natural justice so require.” However, another section of the bill specifies that a government agency cannot “make systematic use of that other language.” The law states that judges will no longer need “a specific level of knowledge of a language other than the official language.”
Additionally, businesses with 25 or more employees have to have a plan to ensure French is the common language of the workplace. This involves having a French committee and a certificate from the government validating that the business’s common language is French. The exception to this rule is if the employer can show that another language is necessary for the work and that they “took all reasonable means to avoid imposing such a requirement.”
Bill 96 changes immigration procedures as well. Now, refugees and immigrants moving to Quebec will be allowed to get English or another language services six months after their arrival. After that period, all government services will be provided exclusively in French unless it falls under one of the exceptions of “health, public safety or the principles of natural justice.”