General situation and status planning measures

Quebec is frequently seen as an example of successful language policy. Fishman (1991: 287) describes it as a “success story” of Reversing Language Shift (see also Bourhis 2001), while proponents of comparable movements in other regions draw inspiration from Quebec’s perceived successes (e.g., on Catalan: Maurais 1993; Cabre 2004; Budin 2010). The starting point, in the 1960s, was not promising. Despite the province’s large majority of Francophones, English had come to dominate its business sector. Commercial signs were predominantly in English, at least in Montreal (Bourhis and Landry 2002: 108). Due to Quebec’s integration into the Canadian economy, few large firms were owned by Quebec Francophones; in many, the language of work was English. Anglophones generally held posts higher up the corporate hierarchy, Francophones those further down (Corbeil 1980: 53). The former, even if monolingual, earned a higher average income than the latter, even if these were bilingual (Laur 2012: 89). There was also concern that new immigrants might prefer to assimilate to English rather than French.

From the late 1960s onwards, a series of language laws were enacted by successive provincial governments. The 1969 Law for the promotion of the French language in Quebec (Loi pour promouvoir la langue frangaise au Quebec) charged the French Language Office (Office de la langue frangaise) with elaborating proposals for making French the language of work in private enterprises and public administration. The 1974 Official Language Law declared French the official language of Quebec and made its use obligatory on commercial signs, although bilingual French/English signs were still permitted. In 1977, the French Language Charter (Charte de la langue frangaise), came into force. Also known as Bill 101 (Loi 101), it remains the most important and effective legislative measure in this area (Bourhis 2012: 27). As a result, most of the literature refers to Bill 101 and regards the various other language laws and regulations enacted subsequently as amendments to it.

Besides declaring French the only official language of Quebec (Corbeil 1980: 100; Bourhis and Landry 2002: 109), Bill 101 had far-reaching objectives in the fields of education, business, the linguistic landscape and the workplace. Future immigrants to Quebec, whether from outside or inside Canada, wishing to make use of public schooling were required to send their children to French-language schools. Access to English-language public schooling was thus effectively restricted to the indigenous Anglophone minority (English-language private schools, though, were exempt from these restrictions). All residents were given the right to be served in French by the public administration and by firms active in Quebec. Information about products and labelling was to be in French, commercial signs and notices exclusively so (Corbeil 1980: 100-102; Bourhis 2012: 27-28). According to Bourhis and Landry (2002: 109), these measures concerning the linguistic landscape had a high symbolic value for Francophones, who saw them as an assurance of their future as a linguistic group. By contrast, Anglophones, for whom the rules on linguistic landscape were also symbolically important, felt threatened. In the following years, the rules on commercial signs were contested in courts. That led to new laws permitting, first, signs in other languages inside stores and, later, additional signs in other languages, on condition that the French-language sign had greater visual impact (Bourhis and Landry 2002: 110-111, 118-119).

As far as the workplace was concerned, Bill 101 gave employees the right to work in French and made it illegal to terminate a contract because the worker was a Francophone monolingual. All firms in Quebec with 50 or more employees were required to implement a policy of “frenchification” (francisation) on the company level. This involved establishing a frenchification committee (comite de francisation) and obtaining a certificate (certificat de francisation) from the French Language Office (Corbeil 1980:103,110; Guillotte 1987; Bourhis 2012: 27). As regards immigration to Quebec, the provincial government was able to reclaim some decisionmaking powers from the central authorities, for example, the ability to influence the selection of potential immigrants and thereby to favour their integration into the French language community. (Given the low birth rates of native Quebeckers, immigrants’ decisions to integrate with a particular language community will significantly affect the communities’ relative sizes).

During the last few decades, the status planning measures adopted in Quebec have largely produced the desired results. It is true that in Montreal the percentage of Francophones has decreased slightly because allophone immigrants - that is, those who speak neither English nor French - have been settling there, while Francophones often outmigrate to the suburbs (Bourhis 2012: 30). However, the proportion of mother-tongue French speakers in Quebec as a whole has remained stable around 80%. Second, whereas in 1971 only 52% of Francophone workers reported to be working mostly in French, in 2001 and 2006 the figure was above 95%. Among Allophones and Anglophones, the increase in the use of French at work was also impressive (Bourhis 2012: 42). Third, a new income hierarchy has emerged : in 2000, Francophone bilinguals were the group with the highest average income, followed by Anglophone bilinguals and Anglo- or Francophone mono- linguals, the last two groups having almost the same average income (Laur 2012: 89). Fourth, the percentage of Francophones in administrative and senior posts has increased massively, as has ownership of firms by Quebec Francophones. Conversely, ownership by Canadian Anglophones and by foreign nationals has decreased (Bourhis 2012: 39). Finally, whereas most allophone immigrants used to adopt English as their new main language, French is now about equally as attractive as English. In fact, faced by linguistic conflict, many Allophones opt for French-English bilingualism (Bourhis 2012: 32, 35).

However, to a great extent the improvement in Francophones’ status has resulted from large-scale migration of Anglophones out of Quebec, and from the relocation and reorganization of business firms, a number of which have concentrated their Canada-wide French-language activities in Quebec. As a result, the language situation is moving towards territorialization, with French becoming stronger in Quebec but more vulnerable elsewhere in Canada (see Landry 2012). Several authors have voiced concern that the harsh treatment of Quebec’s Anglophone minority could have negative repercussions on the standing of Canada’s Francophones outside the province (Fishman 1991: 84; Bourhis 2012: 45). On the basis of the experience of Canada/Quebec (and Belgium), Nelde, Labrie, and Williams (1992: 403-404) were cautiously optimistic that linguistic territorialization could attenuate ethnolinguistic tensions under certain conditions: that it was limited in scope; that it was accompanied by measures to support minorities and exclude linguistic discrimination; and that each group was able to form its own networks. Yet, despite all the successes of pro-French language status planning during the last few decades, Quebec’s Francophones continue to view themselves in many ways as a threatened minority (Laur 2012: 78).

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