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Readings in Quebec History


Last revised:
23 August 2000

Systematization of the Content Of the Language Laws of Quebec [December 1998]


Claude Bélanger,
Department of History,
Marianopolis College

Listed below, and broken into various categories according to the linguistic requirements, are the linguistic prescriptions as per the various language laws as they applied in Quebec in 1998. The requirements are into categories; the number listed after the requirement indicates the article that spells out this requirement. All the articles are from Bill 101 [or the regulations issued under its authority] unless specified otherwise. While a serious attempt has been made to be accurate and complete here, please refer directly to the applicable laws and regulations for legal information and decisions. The categories used here and the marginal numbering are my own and do not appear in the laws.

Part One
French as a Fundamental Right in Quebec

F-1French is the official language of Quebec [1]
F-2All individuals have a right to be communicated with in French; this applies to the Public Administration, health and social services, public utilities, professional corporations, trade unions and enterprises exercising their business in Quebec [2]
F-3During the deliberations at a public meeting, anyone has the right to speak in French [3]
F-4All have the right to work in French [4]
F-5Consumers of goods and services have the right to be informed and served in French [5]
F-6Anyone has the right to go to school in French [6]
F-7It is forbidden to an employer to layoff, fire, demote or replace an employee for the single reason that the employee only speaks French or that there is not sufficient knowledge of another language or that this employee has demanded the respect of rights as outlined in the language laws. [45]
F-8Businesses of more than fifty employees must obtain a certificate of francization [139-140]; businesses of more than one hundred employees must establish a Committee of francization [136]; the aim of francization programmes is to generalise the use of French at all levels of the enterprises of Quebec [141]

Part Two
Categories of Specific Language Requirements

Category 1 - Situations where only French may be used

1.1Name used to designate the Government of Quebec, its department or ministries as well as organisms of the Public Administration [14]
1.2Written communication from the Government of Quebec to other governments and to all corporate bodies [16]
1.3All written communications between the various departments of the government of Quebec [17]
1.4All advertising signs from the Government of Quebec [22]; for exceptions, see 4.2
1.5All road signs [22]; pictograms may be used as well
1.6The name of all professional corporations registered in Quebec [34]
1.7Public signs and advertising for commercial purposes outside of buildings, inside a shopping centre, on public transport vehicles, of businesses of more than 50 employees and of certain franchises [regulations issued under s.58]

Category 2 - Situations where French and English are required

2.1Proposed bills, laws and regulations of the Government of Quebec [article 133 of the Constitution Act 1867; s.7 of bill 101]; both texts are equally authoritative [7]
2.2Health services in designated anglophone establishments [Bill 142]

Category 3 - Situations where French or English may be used (choice)

3.1Pleading before the Courts of Quebec [Section 133 of the Constitution Act 1867; s.7.4 of bill 101]
3.2Clinical dossiers of social or health services [27]; these must be supplied in French if requested to do so by a person authorised to obtain them [27]

Category 4 - Situations where French and another language may be used (French is mandatory but another language, English for example, may be used as well)

4.1Signs erected by the Government if health and public security require it [22]
4.2Services offered by municipalities, school boards, social and health bodies if dispensing these services to persons in majority speaking another language [29.1]
4.3Signs erected by the establishments described under 4.2 [24]
4.4Internal communications, communications between two people in the public administration and the name of the organisations falling under 29.1 (this applies to work related matters and not to private conversations); [26]
4.5Job offers by businesses when printed in a newspaper published in a language other than French [42]; however, such job offers must also be published in a French newspaper if emanating from the public administration, a para-public organisation or a business of more than fifty employees [42]
4.6Collective agreements drafted under the authority of the Labour Code [43]
4.7Language requirement for a job; a language aside from French may be required by the nature of the job; if challenged the employer would have to demonstrate that the other language is required [46]
4.8All inscriptions on a product (labels for example), documents accompanying a product (such as warranties or manuals) must be in French; another language may be used as well as long as it does not have precedence over French [51]
4.9Catalogue, brochures, commercial directories must be available in French; they may also be in another language as long as a French version exists [52]
4.10Computer programmes must be made available in French when such programmes exist; these programmes may also be available in another language [52.1]
4.11Commercial signs must be in French; it may also be in another language as long as French is clearly preponderant [58] Note from Claude Bélanger: This article does not apply to signs of a political, religious, ideological or humanitarian nature as long as they are posted by non-profit organisations [s.59]
4.12Signs at an international event, a congress, an exposition, a colloquium [regulation issued under s. 58]
4.13Company name must be in French; there may also be a version in another language [68]
4.14Non profit organisations may have a name that is not in French as long as a French name is also used [71]
4.15In all cases where the law does not require the exclusive use of French, another language may be used alongside French [89]

Category 5 - Situation where French or another language may be used

5.1Contracts should be in French but may be otherwise if is the expressed wish of both parties to the contract. [55]

Category 6 - Cases where a language other than French can be used alone

6.1Texts or documents emanating from the Government and sent outside of Quebec; publicity placed by the Government in publications written in another language than French; correspondence emanating from the Government and sent to individuals when they have used a language other than French. [15]
6.2Contracts drawn between the Government and parties from outside of Quebec [21]
6.3Within organisations and services, two people may communicate in writing with each other in a language other than French [26]
6.4In schools where the language of teaching is not French, communications of a pedagogical nature is not required to be in French [28]
6.5Professional corporations may answer an individual in the language of that individual [32]
6.6Professional corporations may place publicity and communiqués in publications publishing in a language other than French [33]
6.7Professional corporations may issue a temporary permit to a person that does not have knowledge of the Official language [37]
6.8Trade unions may communicate with an individual in the language of that individual [49]
6.9The Office de la langue française is empowered to make agreements with Head Offices or Research centres to permit the use of a language other than French [144]
6.10Any sign put up by a non profit organisation for religious, political, ideological or humanitarian purpose [59]
6.11Nothing in the language law prevents the use of other languages in international organisations or wherever international usage requires them [92]

Part Three
The Language of Education

E.1Any person has the right to receive their education in French in Quebec [6]
E.2In kindergartens, primary and secondary schools education shall be given in French except under the conditions defined below [72]
E.3The requirement of 7.1 does not apply to institutions that do not receive grants from the government of Quebec [72]
E.4At the request of one of their parents, a child may be educated in English when one of the following conditions is fulfilled [73]:

1. if the mother or the father is a Canadian citizen and they have receive the major part of their primary school instruction in English in Canada;

2. a child who has a parent who is Canadian citizen, and who has received or is receiving primary or secondary school instruction in English in Canada, provided that such education is a significant part of their education; the siblings of such a child also have access to English school.

3. the children whose parents are not Canadian citizens but where one of them has received a significant part of their primary school instruction in English in Quebec.

4. the children who were receiving their instruction in English in Quebec before the 26 August 1977, as well as their siblings

5. the children whose father or mother resided in Quebec in August of 1977 and who had received the major part of their primary education outside of Quebec in English.

E.5School boards who do not already provide education in English may not begin to do so unless authorised by the Minister of Education [79]; however, all school boards must avail themselves of the provisions of article 213 of the Education Act to provide an education in English to any child that is admissible to it [79 second paragraph]

E.6Children who display great learning difficulties may receive their education in English at the request of their parents; the government may define the categories falling under this clause and the procedures to follow [81]
E.7A High School leaving certificate will not be delivered to a student who does not have the required knowledge of written and spoken French as defined in the programmes of the Department of Education [84]
E.8Children who reside temporarily in Quebec may be exempted to go to French school upon the request of one of their parents [85]
E.9The Minister may declare admissible to education in English a child for humanitarian or grave family situations [85.1]
E.10Article 73 may be extended to other categories when the government of Quebec enters into reciprocity agreements with another province [86] [Note from C. Bélanger: to my knowledge no such agreements have been reached with other provinces]
E.11May also be authorised to receive their education in English:
  • the children whose father or mother have received the major part of their education in English elsewhere in Canada and from which province the Government of Quebec deems that services of education in French are comparable to those offered in English in Quebec and for which situation a decree has been issued [86.1a]
  • the children whose father or mother have established their domicile in Quebec and who in their last school year received their education in English in a province for which a decree has been issued as outlined in paragraph a [86.1b]
  • the brothers and sisters of the children affected by paragraphs 1 and 2 above [86.1c]

Part Four
The Linguistic Rights of the Amerindian and Inuit peoples

N.1Nothing in the present law prevents the use of Amerindian or Inuktitut languages in the education of the education of native children. [87]
N.2In derogation to articles 72 to 86, the schools under the jurisdiction of the Cree and Kativik school boards, may teach in the Cree, Naskapi or Inuit languages as well as in such other languages as was used in these communities at the time of the signing of the James Bay Agreement of 11 November 1975. [88] These school boards undertake to teach French to the children under their responsibility so that they may pursue in French their higher education in the Colleges and Universities of Quebec [88 second paragraph];
N.3The Cere and Initio peoples are exempted from the application of the Charter of the French Language except for articles 87, 88, 96. This article also applies to the Naskapis of Schefferville [95]
N.4The Cree, Inuit and Naskapis organisations must introduce the use of French in their administration in such a way as they will be able to communicate with the rest of Quebec in the French language [96]
N.5The Charter of the French language does not apply to any of the Indian reserves [97] [Note from C. Bélanger: Indian reserves are under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government and any attempt to legislate in their respect by the provincial government would be unconstitutional; their treaty or other rights are also safeguarded in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms]

Part Five
Public Bodies Set-up under the Law

B.1The Office de la langue française: Its purposes are to conduct linguistic research and to develop banks of linguistic terminology and to see to it that French becomes, as soon as possible, the language of communications, of work, of business and of the public Administration [100]; the Office has seven members appointed by the Government [101]; it must help to define and elaborate programmes of francization [113] give advice to the government on proposed linguistic legislation or regulation [114], receive reports regarding the quality of the language used in the textbooks of the College and University levels [114f], assist various departments and organisations in improving the quality of the language used [116a].
B.2The Commission de Toponymie: This body is administratively attached to the Office described above [122]; it also has seven members [123]. Its purpose is to define criteria for naming sites and to standardise the spelling of geographical place-names; it attributes names to sites that have remained unnamed to this point and must approve all changes in nomenclature on the territory of Quebec [124]. They must also make an inventory of place-names in Quebec and serve to conserve them and make them known [125]. Once names have been approved by the Commission, their use become compulsory in all texts and documents of the Public Administration, on all road signs and in all of the manuals to be approved by the Department of Education [128].
B.3The Commission de la Protection de la Langue Française: Composed of three members [158], the Commission is appointed to insure the respect of the language law [157]. It has the power to inspect and investigate [166]; such investigations it may launched on its own or following complaints [167]. The Commission must refuse to act if the complaint is not received in written form, or if it is manifestly not founded or made in bad faith; it may also refuse to act if the circumstances do not justify its intervention [169]. The Commission has investigative powers and may demand for material to be submitted to it [172, 174 and 175]. When the Commission finds that there has been violation of a provision of the law, it may order that redress be effected and if its recommendations are not followed the dossier is to be passed to the Attorney-General for legal action to be taken [177].
B.4The Conseil de la Langue Française: This is a body composed of twelve individuals appointed by the Government and representing a broad section of ethnic, socio-cultural, business, labour and academic circles [187]. Its role is to advise the Minister in charge of the law on the application and interpretation of the law and on any matter of policy regarding the French language [186]. The Conseil must follow the evolution of the situation of French in Quebec as to its position and quality and bring to the Minister matters of concern regarding language [188]. Further, the Conseil may give and receive advice, study questions, inform the public [189]. It submits to the National Assembly an annual report [203-204].


© 1998 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College