Quebec HistoryMarianopolis College
 HomeAbout this siteSite SearchMarianopolis College Library

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

Manifesto of the Mouvement Québec Français
(Signed by Guy Bouthillier)

"All nations wish to live in their language. So does Quebec wish to live in French. That is what our ancestors wanted. And this is what we wish for ourselves. That is what those who will come after us will also want.

All nations give themselves the means to live in their language. That which is for all a condition to live is for French Quebec a condition to survive, placed as we are in the adverse circumstances that we all know, confronting the giant that penetrates among us by all the means that assure its strength and prestige.

To give itself the means to live in French, that is what Quebec has always sought to do. However, it is only recently that we have begun to do it in a just and efficient manner: particularly in 1977 when the National Assembly established its rights and affirmed its will to make French the language of the State as well as the normal and habitual language of work, teaching, communications, trade, business, in short, the language of the life of the nation.

Yet, what is nevertheless normal and natural for all the other nations, the leaders of English Canada do not recognise to us, because it confronts their interests, their habits and their ambitions. Thus, to the heavy weight that we already have to bear, they add the burden of their will, their organisation and of their means.

In this fight directed against Bill 101, and to sustain the English language among us, English Canada has resorted, in the last ten years, to a barrage of means. Could the constitution be of use? It was used and when its usefulness had been played out, another constitution was issued, more suited to its taste. Did it need instruments to act? It created them, and sustained others with money, with our money. Did it need an alibi? It suddenly realised that there lived some francophones within English Canada and that by helping them they could harm us. Did they need to mask the objective they sought? They took hold of the theme of individual rights, until then unheard of on the question of language, and it was made a weapon in the language war. Did it need to appeal even more? To those who have long dreamt of a bilingual Canada, they have proposed bilingualism for Quebec.

Evidently, in so uneven a contest between them and us, English Canada rapidly scored points, and piece by piece, article by article, word by word it has begun to dismantle our Bill 101.

Thus, we have been placed in the grave situation that we all know. Thus we are, ten years after the adoption of the great charter of 1977, faced with the same continental organisation, before the same political will of English Canada, in short confronted by the same menace for our language, but every day a little more bereft of means because we have been weakened to the point that we might not even wish to defend ourselves, so relentless were the attacks on our defence mechanism.

No! What is happening presently under our eyes is not, as our adversaries would like us to believe to better paralyse us, a fight between the Individual and the State, the fight between the individual rights of one and the collective rights of the others: it is a century’s old rivalry between two collective wills, two nationalism, two languages, theirs and ours. That which was true in the centuries of William Pitt and of John A. Macdonald, is not any less so today and will remain so as long as our two nations will live side by side. All that may change, all that must change, are the means, the context and the conditions under which the fight takes place.

No! What is happening presently under our eyes, and on our territory, is the fight that opposes one of the most threatened nation to one of the most ambitious giants of History who, not satisfied to have established its language on its territory, is actively seeking to spread it everywhere, around us and even among us.

The matter is grave, for what is being played out at the moment are the conditions to assure our survival as a nation. It concerns us all, indeed it summons each and every one of us. But this question is a grave matter, because what is at stake, fundamentally, is the right for a small nation to live by the giants of the world; this concerns and summons all the nations, all the cultures, all of the languages facing the same dangers.

The time is ripe. We must act, and do it immediately. The Mouvement Québec Français invites us all to answer the call of our language, regardless of our origins, our particular links, of our class.

In calling to battle, the Mouvement Québec Français is convinced that the slope of the rebilingualisation on which Quebec is once again sliding will only lead to a sad and slow disappearance of our nation. But this battle, this necessary struggle, the M. Q. F. has the equally strong conviction that we can win it. But we will win it only if we take back from our adversary all the pieces that were taken from us, and thus get back our Bill 101, and if we remain united around our language, linked together by this unity of hearts, minds and action that the M. Q. F. symbolises, within this movement where Quebecers from the economic, academic, artistic, literary and patriotic worlds have fought side-by-side for nearly twenty years.

This fight that must be waged, first starts with the reaffirmation, in the face of the world, of our absolute right to live in our language and to have, to achieve this end, all the necessary means. This means that a vigorous campaign must be started immediately by our government to denounce all the insinuations, the disinformation, all the caricatures that are spread, here and elsewhere, against us, against our language and against our laws.

Next this fight must lead to the recapture of the means, of all of the means that were taken from us. This includes language, the State, education and the economy. More specifically, at the present time, this means to re-establish our right to post signs in French only, to proclaim it high and low and especially to apply it and to have it applied with firmness.

That is why the M. Q. F. demands that the government recalls Bill 178 and that articles 58 and 69 of Bill 101 be re-established. This demand is founded on three reasons: Bill 178 is based on the fallacious argument that the expediency and whims of merchants are elevated to the rank of fundamental rights; also that this law is another step backward, which like all the other backward steps taken before, announces and prepares another backward step in the future, leading to the reestablishment of advertising outside of businesses as this will inevitably flow from permission to advertise inside of shops; lastly, that the application of this byzantine law will bring ridicule upon the whole of Bill 101.

But presently, this fight must also be waged efficiently against Bill C-72, this new and extremely dangerous instrument that the federal government has adopted to counter our Bill 101, especially regarding the francisation of the workplace, precisely where the future of our language is being played out. This is why the M. Q. F. demands that the Government of Quebec take all necessary means to prevent Ottawa from stacking the deck, and call on the Federal Government to use this new law only to contribute to redress the incredible damage that generations of hostile and unjust behaviour on the Acadians and on our brothers and sisters that live in English Canada. In America, the only language that is threatened, seriously threatened and everywhere, in Acadia, in Quebec itself, is the French language; it is not English, which triumphs everywhere and is doing well in Quebec, including in amongst the francophone society.

To recall Bill 178, and to reorient the federal Bill C-72, that is what is most urgently needed to be done. This battle we can, and must, win. To yield on these matters would merely be to prepare further defeats, while winning here would arrest the decline on this slippery slope, redress the situation and allow us to find the road to a French Quebec.

To achieve fully this French Quebec that we all want, more battles will have to be waged and more cross-roads will have to be cleared. In particular, we will have to give ourselves, or rather reclaim for ourselves, all the means to attain our two most important objectives, that is the harmonious and fraternal integration of immigrants to the francophone society, and the establishment of French as the language of economic activities, that is to say as the language of production, management, conception and economic command. The struggle to realise these two objectives will be long and it will take many roads: reinvigoration of the francisation committees within businesses; reinforcement of the authority of the great bodies created under Bill 101; definition of the pedagogical content and creation of school structures more adapted to the demands of the formation of the citizens of the future; francisation of the welcoming structures for immigrants and of the procedure of naturalisation.

It is to these struggles, and to others as well, that the M. Q. F. is preparing itself and invites all of our fellow Quebecers to prepare themselves. These struggles begin with a reappropriation of Bill 101, of all of Bill 101. But they also extend beyond the confines of this law.

Whatever might happen, whatever the vicissitudes, our worries about our language will not die down, the menace threatening our language will not go away, and the fight will only ever be definitely won than on the day that our National Assembly, our Government, our State will have become master of the linguistic policy on our territory.

In concluding, the Mouvement Quebec Français

- SALUTES the men and the women of English Canada that are increasingly numerous to understand that their best chance to resist the external pressures that are brought to bear on their cultural identity is to lean on a proud and strong French Quebec;

- SALUTES the anglophones of Quebec, who are increasingly numerous to understand that the place that will be theirs in a French Quebec will be that much more fraternal and welcoming that they will not have refused to it the necessary means to redress the injuries inflicted throughout a history that is also theirs;

- SALUTES the Acadians and our brothers and sisters that live in the provinces of English Canada, and who are increasingly numerous to understand that it is in a proud and strong Quebec that they will find the best support for their language;

- INVITES all Quebecers, whatever their origins, whatever group they may belong to or their personal activities, to answer the call for a French Quebec and to struggle today so that we will have the means tomorrow to build a strong, fraternal and French society.

Source: Action Nationale, Vol. 79, No. 5 (May 1989): 417-422

© For the translation, 1999, Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College