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Documents in Quebec History


Last revised:
23 August 2000

Documents on the Controversy Surrounding the Language of Commercial Signs in Quebec (Bill 178) December 1988

The Legal Clauses at Issue

A. The Clauses of the Charter of the French Language:

S. 1 French is the official language of Quebec.

S. 58 Public signs and posters and public advertising shall be solely in the official language. Notwithstanding the foregoing, in the cases and under the circumstances prescribed by regulation of the Office de la Langue Française, public signs and posters and commercial advertising may be both in French and in another language or solely in another language.

S. 69 Subject to section 68, only the French name of a firm may be used in Quebec.

S. 208 Any court of civil jurisdiction, on a motion by the Attorney General, may order the removal or destruction at the expense of the defendant, within eight days of the judgement, of any poster, sign, advertisement, bill-board, or illuminated sign not in conformity with this act.

B. The Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms:

S. 3 Every person is the possessor of the fundamental freedoms, including freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association.

S. 9.1 In excercising [sic] his freedoms and rights, a person shall retain a proper regard for democratic values, public order and the general well-being of the citizens of Quebec.

In this respect, the scope of the freedoms and rights, and limits to their exercise may be fixed by law.

S. 10 Every person has the right to full and equal recognition and excersise of his human rights and freedoms, without distinction, exclusion or preference based on race, color, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, civil status, age except as provided by law, religion, political convictions, language, ethnic or national origin, social condition, a handicap, or the use of any means to palliate a handicap.

Discrimination exists where such a distinction, exclusion or preference has the effect of nullifying or impairing such a right.

C. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

S. 1 The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

S. 33 (1) Parliament of the legislature of a province may expressly declare in an Act of Parliament or of the legislature, as the case may be, that the Act or a provision thereof shall operate notwithstanding* a provision included in section 2 or sections 7 to 15 of this Charter.

(2) An Act or a provision of an Act in respect of which a declaration under this section is in effect shall have such operation as it would have but for the provision of this Charter referred to in the declaration.

(3) A declaration made under subsection (1) shall cease to have effect five years after it comes into force or on such earlier date as may be specified in the declaration.

(4) Parliament or a legislature of a province may re-enact a declaration made under subsection (1).

(5) Subsection (3) applies in respect of a re-enactment made under subsection (4).

* [Note from C. Bélanger: hence the frequent use of the term notwithstanding clause during the debates leading to Bill 178]

© 1999 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College