High school kids targeted in new Bill 101

Posted By: Canadian Press · 12/5/2012 12:25:00 PM

The new Parti Quebecois government has tabled language legislation that toughens Bill 101.

It says high school students will not be able to graduate unless they can deomonstrate a mastery of the French language. That provision comes into effect in three years.

Bilingual municipalities, like Cote St. Luc and Hampstead, will be evaluated every 10 years and could have their status revoked if the percentage of anglophones drops below 50 per cent.

Also, students who go to Ontario to get an English education for a short time will no longer be able to use that to get into the English school system in Quebec.

But, the legislation will not extend language restrictions to CEGEPs, as the PQ promised in the election campaign.

Nor will it extend them to businesses with more than 10 employees.

If adopted the bill will, however, introduce French-language requirements for companies with more than 25 employees — which is a toughening from the traditional level of 50 employees.

It also says companies would not be able to require people to speak a language other than French, unless the job specifically required it. It offers a complaints mechanism to people who believe their right to work in French is affected.

The minority government had been hinting for weeks that its language legislation would be weaker than what it campaigned on because, with well under half the seats in the legislature, the PQ would have been immediately blocked by the opposition if it presented its originally planned bill.

A nationalist push for a new language law has emerged in recent years amid a steady drumbeat of news reports about Montreal companies forcing all employees to hold meetings in English because a minority can't speak French.

The frequency of these news reports mushroomed last year after controversies in Ottawa over the federal government appointing people who couldn't speak French to key positions — such as one senior government spokesperson, a Supreme Court justice and an auditor general.

The PQ picked up on the theme in its election campaign, and promised to bar access to post-secondary English college to non-anglophones. It also raised the prospect of applying the language law to family businesses, by saying its new bill would affect companies with 11 or more employees.

Neither of those provisions appears in the new bill.

The legislation in the new Bill 14 does say that Quebec's provincial Charter of Rights and Freedoms will be amended to declare that everyone in the province has a right to live, work in, and learn French.

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