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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

Debates in the National Assembly
[December 20, 1988]

M. Guy Chevrette,
Parliamentary Leader and Leader of the Opposition,
Parti Québécois.


"I will remind my fellow citizens that in its judgement the Supreme Court, the highest tribunal of the land, declares that the French language is vulnerable in Quebec. The same judgement of the Court also tells us that by using a notwithstanding clause we can restore Bill 101 that has insured to Quebecers, to the whole of the francophone population, linguistic peace for eleven years. All of this is explicitly stated in the judgement of the Court. Quebecers must ask themselves: what is happening [...]?

"What is happening? This linguistic peace is presently broken. Why is it broken? Because the current Prime Minister of Quebec, at the head of his government, has decided not to restore Bill 101, but to diminish its effects so much so that the biggest losers in this debate are the members of the francophone community of Quebec. [...] How can it be that it is the francophone community that suffers the greatest losses and that it is the anglophones ministers of the government that resign?


"I will tell you that there are two values facing each other. There is a fundamental collective right and the Prime Minister himself has recognised it: I am at the head - and his head was swelling with every word - of the only government in North America where there is a francophone majority. Mr. President, the survival of a people is a fundamental right. This cannot be challenged by anyone. I believe that the Prime Minister himself recognises it by invoking the notwithstanding clause regarding outside signs. [...] But he also said that there were fundamental values. [...] He cannot make his bed on the linguistic question. [...] He tries to make the people of Quebec believe that the right to advertise in English and in French has become as fundamental a value as freedom of conscience, as total freedom of expression, or as freedom of religion. Imagine that! I am prepared to concede that commercial advertising is an aspect of freedom of expression, but nobody should try to have the entire population of Quebec believe that commercial advertising has become a fundamental, inalienable value in Quebec. [...] This is unacceptable coming as it is from the Prime Minister of Quebec [...].

"The Prime Minister of Quebec was not able to make a choice between the principles and the collective values of the francophone population and individual rights. He was not able to take sides. [...]

© For the translation, 1999 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College