A retired Quebec sociology professor says the French language is not vulnerable in Quebec, a trial challenging the sign laws under Bill 101 has heard.
Calvin Veltman took the stand at the ongoing trial of merchants who were fined for violating the commercial sign law under the Charter of the French Language, some of the fines going back to 1998. They are also contesting the law which they argue is unacceptable and unconstitutional that violates their Charter right to freedom of expression.
Veltman was sworn in as an expert witness on linguistic demographics. He shot down every argument ever made about French being vulnerable in the province, thus justifying the laws.
He testified that the growing number of immigrants to Quebec will assimilate into the majority Francophone community but that we have to be patient because it takes time, adding that the weight of the French-language population on the island of Montreal is irrelevant.
Veltman, testifying via videoconference from his current home in Amsterdam, said the language of signs has nothing to do with demographic factors such as birth rates and immigration, or the choice of language of immigrants and their children.
"The language of signs is about marketing," Veltman testified.
"There's a difference between marketing and structure," Veltman said, arguing that Bill 101 focuses on the language of work and education.
"It's not neighbours who make you French-speaking."
Veltman testified that it's in the self-interest of the language watchdog OQLF to favour more pessimistic research and studies that conclude the French language is always in danger. He also said there are no trends unfavourable to the French language.
The defence has rested its case and the crown and the Quebec government will present their own witness to dispute Veltman's claims.
Most of the fines the merchants have received relate to having signs with French and another language on them, mainly English, and the words in the two languages are the same size, which is illegal under the law, or the French words are not predominant, as stipulated by the law.
Other fines relate to packaging or web content with languages other than French.
Lawyer Brent Tyler originally represented 86 companies but the Quebec government dropped the fines against nearly half of them. Four of the companies no longer exist, so 28 cases remain.