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It’s up to municipal elected officials to defend the bilingual status of their city, says Roberge

Photo: Jacques Boissinot The Canadian Press The Minister of the French Language, Jean-François Roberge, during a press scrum last January

The Minister of the French Language, Jean-François Roberge, hopes that the status of bilingual cities will become one of the decisive issues in the next municipal elections.

“The next municipal electoral campaign will answer many questions,” launched the CAQ minister on Tuesday in the parliamentary committee for the study of his ministry’s budgetary appropriations. He was responding to questions from Parti Québécois (PQ) MP Pascal Bérubé, who was surprised that the almost fifty Quebec municipalities inhabited less than 50% by English speakers could maintain their bilingual status.

Since the adoption of the Act respecting the official and common language of Quebec, French (Bill 96), these towns and villages had the obligation to adopt a resolution if they wanted to remain bilingual in the eyes of the Act and thus continue to use both French and English in their official communications. However, the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) confirmed last year that the 48 eligible municipalities had chosen to maintain their status.

“Except that none of the elected officials who made this decision have faced the electorate since,” remarked Jean-François Roberge on Tuesday. Adopted in 2022, Law 96 had in fact entered into force three years before the next municipal electoral deadline, scheduled for 2025. “I think that they [the elected officials] will have to be held accountable,” launched Mr. Roberge to his towards the PQ. “It should be an issue in the next municipal election campaign. »

Words that encourage Mr. Bérubé. “If there is a debate on this, interesting,” he was content to say in committee.

Among the municipalities having adopted a resolution, the OQLF includes Otterburn Park. In this city located 40 kilometers east of Montreal, only 7.2% of residents are English-speaking. This is the lowest total observed for a bilingual municipality in all of Quebec.

48 All 48 eligible municipalities adopted a resolution in 2022 and 2023 to maintain this status, although English speakers are in the minority.

In the township of Gore, in the Laurentians, the percentage of people whose mother tongue is English has gone from a majority, previously, to a total that “closes to 30%”, a noted its mayor, Scott Pearce, in an interview with Le Devoir, Tuesday. However, he doubts that his bilingual status, renewed in 2022, will become a decisive question in the next election.

On the other end of the phone, the man who is also the official representative of bilingual municipalities on the board of directors of the Fédération québécoise des municipalities recalled the importance for bilingual cities to take into account their own linguistic “heritage”. “It’s true that we don’t reach 50% of English speakers. On the other hand, the municipality was founded by the Irish in 1840,” he noted.

Mr. Pearce invites the minister to “let local leaders decide the issues that affect their community, and then, perhaps, [to] get out of our hands.” “When we passed our resolution at home, the vast majority of the crowd was French-speaking, and they applauded me,” he said. “There are other, much more important issues. »

A “soon” plan

Almost two years after the entry into force of Bill 96, Minister Roberge had to defend Tuesday the gains generated by the modifications to the Charter of the French language and the establishment of the Action Group on the Future of the French language (GAALF), which should make it possible to reverse the decline of French.

Liberal MP Madwa-Nika Cadet notably criticized him for having created a “flashy” vehicle with the GAALF, after the main measures of the action plan it was to develop were revealed in La Presse in the morning. The document would largely contain measures already announced, as well as the creation of a dashboard on the health of the French language. “Why did you raise expectations like that?” she asked Mr. Roberge.

According to the CAQ minister, “there are more things” in the action plan, promised since the beginning of 2023, “than what was revealed this morning.” Questioned by solidarity MP Ruba Ghazal, he maintained that the public could become aware of its content “very, very soon”.

By launching the work of the GAALF, he More than a year ago, Mr. Roberge was ambitious about his future fruits. “Today we stop trying to exist. We are going on the offensive to regain what we have lost over the last few years,” he said.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116