Photo: Adrian Wyld La Presse canadienne Dans sa lettre à Antony Blinken, Yves-François Blanchet plaide que le français «est en recul au sein du Canada depuis sa fondation même».
After Washington expressed its fears about the language of commercial displays in Quebec, the leader of the Bloc Québécois, Yves-François Blanchet, defends the language policy in a letter addressed to the American Secretary of State, Antony Blinken.
In this letter written in French, sent Tuesday evening, the Bloc leader assures that he wants to “ease any concerns that might be felt by American companies doing business in Quebec”, but defends Quebec's decision to tighten its rules on display.
Last week, the United States raised concerns about the commercial display provisions of “Act 96” and their potential consequences for American businesses.
American officials were referring to the draft regulation according to which businesses with a storefront in Quebec have until June 1, 2025 for French to occupy twice the space on their windows.
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“It seems clear that where the working or everyday language is not English elsewhere in the world, American companies wishing to do business there adopt the language of display and work, French, Italian , Japanese, Spanish, of these territories, approached first as markets. We believe that it must be the same in Quebec,” writes Mr. Blanchet in his letter.
The latter adds that French “has been in decline within Canada since its very founding.” “Quebec, the only French jurisdiction in North America, has a duty with regard to the sustainability of French on the continent and the cultural expressions of which it is a carrier,” he attests.
Not the ambassador
The Quebec lieutenant of the Liberal government in Ottawa, Pablo Rodriguez, responded Wednesday morning that the leader of the Bloc Québécois “is not the ambassador of Quebec in Washington, nor of Canada. »
“I would remind him that not only are there more Liberal MPs than Bloc members, but there were more Liberal votes than Bloc members. We Quebecers in the Liberal Party of Canada can very well speak in the name of Quebec, defend the interests of Quebec,” he chanted.
He did not commit to defending the linguistic laws of the National Assembly of Quebec south of the border, since his government “has enough, with [its] own jurisdictions”, but he is of the opinion that foreign companies that want to set up in the province must “understand that it is done in French”.
On this subject, Quebec Liberal Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, who moved this summer to the portfolio of Public Services and Procurement, argued that his government “has the responsibility, with our American partners, to make known and defend our specificities and our interests”.
Follow the rules
For its part, the government of François Legault assures that it wants to work with American companies that have difficulty complying with signage regulations. It intends to “offer quality support to businesses that have questions about Quebec language law,” wrote the office of the Minister of the French Language, Jean-François Roberge.
In a context of “vulnerability” of French, however, he will not shy away from Uncle Sam's concerns. “It is our duty to do everything to ensure [the] vitality” of the language, Mr. Roberge’s office said.
Last month, Le Devoirreported that the list of companies that have ceased their activities in Quebec in the wake of legislative changes is growing.
The draft regulation which clarifies the application of certain provisions of “Law 96” is still the subject of consultations until the end of February.
Yves-François Blanchet will be traveling to Washington at the beginning of March, and has also said he is available to meet American officials before this date, in Montreal or Ottawa.
With Boris Proulx and François Carabin