The law to protect French in Canada targets more French-speaking immigrants

Bill C-13 marks the first major modernization of our country’s official languages ​​laws in more than 30 years, says Ginette Petitpas Taylor.

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OTTAWA — The federal government plans to set a goal of bringing more French-speaking immigrants to Canada as part of a campaign to revive and protect French in the country.

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Official Languages ​​Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor presented a series of measures on Tuesday to stem the decline of French in Canada and modernize official languages ​​laws.

It includes plans for a targeted immigration policy aimed at bringing more French-speaking immigrants to French-speaking regions of Canada outside Quebec.

The bill aims to establish greater protection for French speakers in English-speaking regions of Canada, as well as for the English-speaking minority in Quebec.

It aims to take action to improve access to French immersion schools, as well as English-language education in Quebec and other French-speaking regions of Canada.

The federal government plans to help estimate the number of children whose parents have the right to have them educated in a minority official language.

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Petitpas Taylor, who is fluent in both French and English, said the updated laws would help preserve and promote French, which is in decline, and protect people from linguistic minorities.

The law is based on a previous version that failed to become law before the last election. It is more extensive and includes a number of new powers.

It would introduce new requirements for federally regulated private businesses, such as banks and airlines, as well as for trains and buses that cross provincial lines.

If the bill is passed in Parliament, people will have the right to work and be served in French in these businesses in Quebec and, ultimately, in regions of Canada where the language is commonly spoken.

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The bill, known as C-13, will introduce a new secondary law called the Act Respecting the Use of French in Federally Regulated Private Businesses.

The government plans to conduct consultations on which regions of Canada will be designated as French-speaking regions, likely using data from the new census. They are expected to include Acadian communities in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and Francophone communities in Ontario.

The Commissioner of Official Languages ​​will have the power to impose financial penalties of up to $25,000 on federally regulated businesses that do not comply with official languages ​​laws.

There will also be closer monitoring of federal workplaces to ensure that they are truly bilingual.

The bill specifies that official language rights must always be respected, even in an emergency.

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The federal Official Languages ​​Act, passed in 1969, guaranteed the use of French and English in Parliament and government. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, adopted in 1982, made English and French the two official languages ​​of the country.

The Official Languages ​​Act was revised in 1988. Petitpas Taylor said that this bill marks the first major modernization of official languages ​​laws in 30 years and will ensure the equality of French and English in Canada.

“Today is a historic day for advancing the language rights of Canadians across the country,” said Petitpas Taylor. “Thanks to real teamwork, we are taking an important step towards real equality between French and English.

Joan Fraser, board member of the Quebec Community Groups Network, said the bill focuses heavily on protecting French in Quebec and the French-speaking minority in the rest of Canada, and not enough on the English-speaking minority. in Quebec.

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“It’s really very disappointing, and it’s asymmetrical,” said Fraser, a former senator. “God knows that the French language and French culture will always have to be promoted in Quebec and everywhere else in Canada, but until now, the orientation of the official languages ​​policy has been to promote both official languages, by putting focus on minority language communities. ”

She added that it is a myth that the English-speaking minority in the province is better off than minority groups outside Quebec. On the contrary, poverty among Anglophones is higher than among Francophones. She would have liked the bill to address the low number of English speakers in the federal public service in Quebec, which she described as “abysmally low”.

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Despite criticism, the QCGN was pleased with certain aspects of the bill, including the optional funding of the Court Challenges Program, the emphasis on education to help people learn both official languages, and the requirement that Supreme Court justices are bilingual.

Meanwhile, the Bloc Québécois said the reform ignores repeated demands from Quebec, although it benefits other French-speaking communities in Canada.

Mario Beaulieu, the Bloc’s official languages ​​critic, criticized the federal government’s attitude, saying it had refused to recognize that French is the only minority language in Canada and the only official language in Quebec.

Jason Magder of the Montreal Gazette contributed to this report.

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