EXCLUSIVE: Quebec businesses cut off from service in English

Provincial government rolls out new language policy

Pauline Marois
Angelica Montgomery/CJAD

The provincial government is telling all its ministries and agencies to not communicate in English with businesses or organizations established in Quebec.

The policy is still in the roll-out phase, though some government bodies have already adopted it.

"The administration is to use French exclusively with institutions and businesses established in Quebec," says the 2011 provincial policy paper that the Charest government used to first launch the initiative.

The province's old policy, written in 1996, said the government could respond to companies in English if they were first addressed in that language.

It also once said that meetings with Quebec-based organizations should "generally" take place in French. The new policy says meetings must take place in French.

"I'm hoping that we would have been consulted on this policy," says Sylvia Martin-Laforge, says the director general the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN), the umbrella group representing English organizations across the province. "They should not be doing this behind closed doors."

"No wonder people are upset and discouraged and feel disenfranchised," she says.

While it is difficult to measure how many small businesses or self-employed Anglophones will be effected by the move, hundreds of small companies are listed with CEDEC, an organization that focuses on supporting English-speaking entrepreneurs.

The province's new language policy also includes a number of other measures. For example, it tells the administration that it should avoid translating the entirety of government websites into English.

Attempts to obtain a comment from the language minister's office were not successful.

However, Christine St-Pierre, who was in that office when the policy was first launched, says her government was reacting to complaints.

"They [businesses] have to contact the government in French and they have to communicate with the government in French if they want to do business with the government," she says.


Ministries and organizations have been told to re-write their own internal language policies to reflect the government directive.

Many, such as the Medicare board (RAMQ), Revenue Quebec and Service Quebec, told CJAD they have not yet finalized their revisions, though some of the provincial policies may have already been put into practice.

The Justice Ministry says its old policy remains unchanged: companies who correspond in English can still get a response in that language. A spokesperson says the ministry has re-read its former language policy and believes its practices already fall in line with the provincial directive.


The SAAQ, in the meantime, has added to the provincial order. The auto insurance board's new guidelines say questions or comments they receive in English on social media should only be answered in French.

The SAAQ says this is to ensure consistency since not all of their employees speak English.

Quebec-based businesses will not have access to English-language SAAQ forms anymore, and any forms that go to companies outside of Quebec must be stamped with "for companies without a Quebec address" to ensure that Quebec businesses do not use them.

The new SAAQ policy also says safety campaigns and information for compensating accident victims must be in French when distributed to hospitals and schoolboards, as well as other ministries and organizations.

An SAAQ representative says these two institutions are given as examples and it is just a coincidence that they have counterparts that work closely with the English-speaking community. Individuals can still receive English information, it says.

The auto-insurance board's new policy also says that people who have been in Quebec for more than three years can no longer complete their written drivers tests in a language other than English or French.

Although none of these provisions are specifically set-out in the province-wide framework, spokesperson Mario Vaillancourt says they do fall in line with it: "We adopted it according to the services we have."


The Quebec Community Groups Network says the fact that government bodies do not appear to be applying the province's directives in a consistent way is also a deep concern.

"How would you know that one cranky civil servant is not giving service because he or she doesn't want to give service or that its the policy of that ministry?" says Martin-Laforge.

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  1. John posted on 01/10/2014 07:01 AM
    Thank you Liberal government for getting the ball rolling on this stupid policy. /sarcasm

    Yeesh. When will anglos wake up and realize that the Liberals are even more willing to screw them over than the PQ?
    1. Adam posted on 01/10/2014 07:54 AM
      @John Realized it years ago, been ages since I voted Liberal.
    2. Peter posted on 01/10/2014 08:18 AM
      @John There is a major difference between the Liberals and the PQ, however: the Liberals may pass such policy, but we've never seen them enforced as much as under the PQ government.
  2. rg posted on 01/10/2014 07:14 AM
    unbelievable !!!
  3. National Voice posted on 01/10/2014 07:30 AM
    Destroying this province... a little bit every day. I don't think Quebec understands how important it is to keep businesses in this province.
    1. barb posted on 01/10/2014 09:45 AM
      @National Voice You are right, and that is why we are all in Ontario working using our English and our French to our benefit, and also the Ontario Gov't benefit. Quebec is losing out in Taxes for the thousands of us that have left and received jobs here that we would never get in Quebec. I love home, but it breaks my heart to see it being ripped apart for stupid political selfish reasons. please think long and hard Madam before you wreck this beautiful Belle Provience
  4. Barry posted on 01/10/2014 07:50 AM
    Considering this week's announcement about the exodus from Quebec over the past year I really do not believe policies like will do much to attract foreign investment. I do believe in protection of the French language but polices that are essentially designed to inconvenience a portion of the population will just further stall the wheels of this economy that is already struggling.
    1. Kat posted on 01/16/2014 08:14 PM
      @Barry This takes care of the money vote.
  5. clint posted on 01/10/2014 08:07 AM
    Next step....anyone who speaks English must wear armbands.
    1. Barry posted on 01/11/2014 04:34 AM
      @clint Why so we are easy targets? It's time we drew at line around Q. city and got rid of the bunch of separatist dictating goofs.
    2. Ari posted on 01/11/2014 06:40 PM
      @clint Feels startling close, doesn't it? What I am failing to understand is why the federal government doesn't intervene. This is an issue of well-rights, and democracy in Canada. I live in Quebec and it feels like a different country in all the wrong ways.
  6. Nica posted on 01/10/2014 08:45 AM
    It's becoming clearer every single day that there is no hope for a decent future in QC. I was in denial for a time, convincing myself that it was a temporary bump in the road, but it's obvious that rock-bottom is still a long way off after which it will only take years, maybe decades to recover from. Time to come up with a personal game plan as far as I'm concerned.
  7. Mark Broomer posted on 01/10/2014 09:00 AM
    I moved only 6km onto Ontario and let me tell you that the grass is greener on the other side. didn't even read this, makes me sick. the FED govern. is useless.
    1. Sam posted on 01/12/2014 11:48 AM
      @Mark Broomer If you did not read this then why is your comment valid? If your grass is greener then why not mow it rather then comment on things you apparently did not even read?
      Waste of time moderators please post comments from people who actually bring depth to the discussion
    2. Deb posted on 01/27/2014 02:11 PM
      @Mark Broomer This comment is valid.

      This person now lives outside of this discriminatory province - why do they need to read yet another article that'll just justify their reason for leaving?

      Heck, I'm Deep, Deep, Deep, Deep GREEN with envy!
  8. Ray S posted on 01/10/2014 09:03 AM
    It truly is sad that there exists a seemingly large number of people who cannot communicate with others properly.

    In this day and age, one must wonder how this could possible happen? One must also pity them for they really have no future other than menial and mindless gov't jobs.

    I speak, of course, about the unilingual francophones who have been sold down the river in believing that they can survive (let alone thrive) speaking a language which, in the world and particularly North America, is an anachronism.

    We English-speaking bilingual Canadians living in the province of Quebec should pity these poor fools who will more and more rely on us to be able to put bread on their table.

    After all, it is still a few months before tante Pauline and her minions are booted out of office for their abject failure on the economy and their divisive stance in forcing a language that will only survive on its own because of economic reasons.
    1. gord b posted on 01/11/2014 09:35 AM
      @Ray S Ray,
      That is a very true statement. Pauline has been a traitor to the great French citizens placing them on an island of great wealth and future prosperity except they will not be in control of it. It was the French people without politics that took the time and courage to become bilingual and were advancing in an bilingual country. I too feel pity for those unilingual citizens in Quebec although it will give us bilingual employers a cheaper labour force in Quebec because they cannot leave the island.
  9. Steve Edwards posted on 01/10/2014 09:43 AM
    If Pauline is so proud of her "go it alone" goal of making Quebec a distinct country, then she should stop accepting all those dirty Canadian dollars from Western Canada. Are there going to be enough companies who are willing to totally operate in French to fill in for all those alienated from this backward province. Kind of reminds me of Zimbabwe
    and South Africa. South Africa chose to retain and respect the contribution of its white citizens and now is one of the most prosperous of African nations. Zimbabwe, on the other hand, stole the land of the white farmers and gave it to poor African farmers. They used to be the breadbasket of Africa, and are now barely scraping by. Is this the future for Quebec??
  10. Martin Clarke posted on 01/10/2014 10:34 AM
    I moved to Quebec and have struggled to learn French. Since I could not find work I am going to start my own business, however this latest news will force me to start this potentially global business in Ontartio. One can rent an Ontario biz address for less than 100/ mth. By the way.. I am not my language. My language does not define the kind of person I am, what I think. But when it comes to practical working in the Global world, unfortunately French doesn't cut it.
  11. Ernie posted on 01/10/2014 10:41 AM
    Absolute madness ..... just waiting until the PQ order construction companies to start building a giant wall around the province and place a lid on it......

    when are these morons going to wake up they may as well just tell all potential foreign investment and or business that want to establish themselves in Quebec not to bother go to Ontario or the U.S . how about a new PQ slogan... "Quebec Not only French but racist and third world " how inviting.

    Hey Barnum and Bailey is looking for clowns..... they are all here.... in the provincial Government.

    getting so Sick of this place.....
  12. Lee posted on 01/10/2014 11:01 AM
    This is Canada, we use Canadian dollars, which is written with both official languages on it. French and English. Services we pay for are with our Canadian tax dollars. How dare Pauline Marois and band of rascit bunch deny us more rights to English services. We are already experiencing services by public workers that can only speak french. Now we need to vote them out. Where are the liberals to fight this discrimination against their English community.
    1. JP posted on 01/11/2014 04:37 PM
      @Lee This policy came from the liberals in 2011.
    2. Simon posted on 01/11/2014 06:18 PM
      @Lee I agree completely with you. Pauline Marois is a disgrace to Quebec. I wish she would be removed from power. Most of us in Quebec are not racists like the PQ.

      This is completely absurd.
  13. Paul Laflamme posted on 01/10/2014 11:01 AM
    I am surprised they took this long to pull the trigger on this . Another calculated move by the PQ to get more no voters to leave the province. They do not care one iota about the damage they do to individuals, families, businesses, the economy to achieve their misguided destructive dream. What a bunch of narrow-minded idiots! The liberals aren't much better.
    1. doug posted on 01/13/2014 12:04 AM
      @Paul Laflamme Paul. As you know I left a year ago. Best thing I ever did. Ontario is not perfect but it is much better and significantly cheaper for taxation. My business contributed around $150K to Qc government coffers. Now it goes to Ontario although the amount is smaller.
  14. Fred posted on 01/10/2014 11:05 AM
    Racisim is alive and doing well in Quebec.

    Things like that will help to drag the ecomy down, more people will leave, leaving those who stay to enjoy higher taxes across the board to pay for the social assistance programs, welfare etc.And the politicians will give themeselves another raise for doing such a great job. This province is on its way very fast to becoming a fourth world province.
  15. Dave posted on 01/10/2014 11:21 AM
    DISGUSTING! Which shows that Quebec is part of Canada in name only. They do whatever they like as if they were a separate nation.
  16. Richard posted on 01/10/2014 11:42 AM
    Where is the Federal Government. I thought this country was bilingual. When is Canada going to stand up to these bullies and fight for the rights of their fellow people. Who's running this country. The tail is wagging the dog in a big way. How sad!!
    1. Karen posted on 01/10/2014 06:13 PM
      @Richard Excellent question
    2. Zawisch Falkenstein posted on 01/10/2014 07:30 PM
      @Richard "Where is the Federal Government?"

      In Ottawa!
  17. cjadchz posted on 01/10/2014 11:46 AM
    I love it, dig Quebec in deeper PQ. Finally we can stop hearing that everything wrong in Quebec is the fault of anglos, immigrants, federal government. Any consequences in Quebec be it financial instability or lack of investment, social tensions is solely on the back of the PQ. Say what you want, compare as you will with other provinces however, how many provinces go out of there way to sabotage themselves? I can proudly say
    "je me souviens"
  18. George Grummett posted on 01/10/2014 11:51 AM
    And in other news today, Gilles Proulx in the Journal de Montreal writes about his indignation upon seeing a sign on a local small business which has one or two English words on it.

    I don't own a business, but have been in Quebec for 33 years now.
    I have done my best to fit in with the francophone culture.
    But nothing short of the eradication of my native tongue here seems good enough.

    My patience is wearing thin, and that's what they want, I guess.
  19. sweet posted on 01/10/2014 12:01 PM
    Poor her, if she only knew how we work at the city of montreal... half our terms are in english
    1. Silvurbak posted on 01/12/2014 11:45 AM
      @sweet shhh ... now she knows ... oh wait, she doesn't read english!
  20. Edgar posted on 01/10/2014 12:16 PM
    It's sad that the Quebec Government, not only the current PQ but the Charet Government as well, are slowly crippling our economy with bullsh*t policies like this one. Not only will it scar our economy but it will also scare away potential business opportunities from other provinces and overseas! This will push away more allophones into the arms of other provinces. We will once again lose money. Raise taxes to the skies!!! PQ!! Languages doesn't define our provinces history, it is a small part of our history! It will eventually cripples our province. Billigualism is the key to our growth, it is the key to our success!!
  21. Mike d posted on 01/10/2014 12:41 PM
    Get out as fast as you can and spread the word. This province is done!!
  22. Angela Magny posted on 01/10/2014 12:47 PM
    Having graduated and moved to Europe in 2000, I'm always nostalgic about life in Montreal.

    Even 3 weeks over Christmas in the cold didn't dampen my desire to move back with my young family...then I remembered the ugly and petty politics and the reason I left.

    The PQ have no place being in power if their priority is getting communications going out of province stamped rather than creating a favourable economic climate for multi-nationals and workers.
  23. Steven posted on 01/10/2014 01:11 PM
    Anyone want to buy my house ? I'm done . I have a feeling no one will want my place .Even if its half price .. I'ts never going to end here time to move on and have a happy life without this crap . I'll watch this place go down the plug hole from some where else.
  24. David posted on 01/10/2014 01:29 PM
    For 1/2 the services I'm sure there will be an equivalent reduction in taxes English businesses will be paying. I look forward to paying only 1/2 of what I pay now.
  25. poop posted on 01/10/2014 01:58 PM
    but english minorities in quebec are the best treated minorities everyone!!! isolating your minorities is a great way of treating them!
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