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Charter of the French Language
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Charter of the French Language

The Charter of the French Language (so called Bill 101) is a framework law in the province of Quebec, Canada, defining the linguistic rights of all Quebecers and making French, the language of the majority, the sole official language of Quebec. It is a fundamental law that is a part of Quebec's statutes along with other quasi-constitutional laws such as the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

Proposed by the Minister of Cultural Development, Camille Laurin, it was enacted by the National Assembly on August 26, 1977 by the first Parti Québécois government of René Lévesque. Many of the Charter's articles greatly expanded on the 1974 Official Language Act, (Bill 22), which was enacted by the Liberals to make French the sole official language of Quebec.

Table of contents
1 Objective
2 Titles
3 Dispositions
4 Anglophone and Aboriginal minorities
5 Legal discussion
6 See also
7 External links


The preamble of the Charter states that French is the official language of Quebec, of Government and Law, as well as "the normal and everyday language of work, instruction, communication, commerce and business". It also states that the National Assembly is to pursue this objective "in a spirit of fairness and open-mindedness, respectful of the institutions of the English-speaking community of Québec, and respectful of the ethnic minorities, whose valuable contribution to the development of Québec it readily acknowledges". In addition, it is stated that the National Assembly of Québec recognizes the right of the Amerinds and the Inuit of Québec, "to preserve and develop their original language and culture".


Title I defines the status of the French language in the legislature, the courts, the civil administration, the semipublic agencies, labour relations, commerce and business, language of instruction. It also defines French as a fundamental language right of every person in Quebec.

  1. The right of persons to have all government branches, professional corporations, employee associations and enterprises doing business in Quebec communicate with them in French.
  2. The right of persons to speak French in deliberative assemblies.
  3. The right of workers to carry on their activities in French.
  4. The right of consumers to be informed and served in French.
  5. The right of persons eligible for instruction in Québec to receive that instruction in French

Title II pertains to the linguistic officialization, toponymy and the francization of the civil administration and enterprises.

Title II establishes the Office québécois de la langue française, defines its mission, powers, and organization.

Title IV establishes the Conseil supérieur de la langue française.

Title V and VI define penal provisions and sanctions and transitional and miscellaneous provisions.


In order to achieve the goal of making French the normal and everyday language of Quebec, the Charter contains a number of key dispositions and various regulations. The Office québécois de la langue française (Quebec Office of the French language) is the government branch responsible to oversee the application of the Charter.

The Charter makes French the sole official language of communication of the State. This means that the government of Quebec and all its branches communicate primarily in French with its citizens. To this day, French is the de facto language of government and civil administration, however, the same cannot be said of enterprises. The francization programs for businesses were largely successful in the 1980s, however the 1990s saw the return of bilingualism and the exclusive usage of English in a number of new economic sectors that did not exist in Quebec before, for example the hi-tech industry.

One of the Charter's objectives is to increase the knowledge of French by immigrants so that they integrate the mainstream society. To do so, a disposition stipulates that children who attend the public school network must do so in French until the post-secondary level. It is possible to attend non-subsidised private school in any language if the parents choose to. An exception allows for children to attend English language public schools if either one of the parents received his/her education in English in Canada. With this exception to the rule, the constitutional right of the English-speaking minority of Quebec is respected. The original 1977 Charter made it legal only for children whose parent had received his/her education in English in Quebec. This had to be amended following the adoption of the 1982 Constitution of Canada, which defined the educational right of French and English minorities in all provinces.

Another disposition provides for State-funded French courses for immigrants who choose to reside in Quebec. This measure is quite popular with newcomers, however it has been inadequately funded by all Quebec governments.

The Charter makes French the official language in the workplace. Thus, current and prospective employees cannot be subject to discrimination if they are unable to or do not wish to use a language other than French. A regulation states that internal written communications for all corporations in Quebec must be in French, but a translation in any other language can be included if the employer deems it necessary.

After more than 25 years of application of the Charter, English is still often made a requirement by employers in Quebec.

Anglophone and Aboriginal minorities

When the Charter was drafted, the National Assembly had to consider the historical and constitutional rights of the English-speaking minority and that of the aboriginal peoples. The Charter includes several guarantees for the uses of languages other than French in Quebec. It provides, for example, that:

A number of exceptions are also made to the general rules for commercial production, signing and advertising:

Legal discussion

Although language is an undefined jurisdiction under the Canadian Constitution, the federal government of Canada and the Supreme Court of Canada have made interventions in regards to the Charter. Because of this, some of the Charter's articles have been changed since its introduction in 1977. The most well-known and controversial change affected the regulation of exterior commercial signs. In its first enactment the Charter made it illegal for businesses to hold commercial exterior signs in a language other than French.

Following a challenge, this section of the law was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms in 1988, (see: Ford v. Quebec (A.G.)). The Supreme Court judged that the Quebec government could legitimately require that French have "greater visibility" or "marked predominance" on exterior commercial signs, however it could not enforce the exclusive use of French. The Liberal government of Robert Bourassa invoked the notwithstanding clause of the Constitution to overrule the Supreme court ruling, however the Charter was nevertheless subsequently amended by the Liberals in 1993 with Bill 86.

The current law specifies that commercial outdoor signs can be multilingual so long as French is markedly predominant. Today, many businesses voluntarily choose to put up French only signs, and at times, even change their registered trademarks to adapt to the Quebec market. Nevertheless, English-French bilingualism quickly returned on exterior signs after 1993, especially in Montreal.

See also

External links