Bill 14: An Act to Remember



Image Source: Flicker--Parti Québécois

While she was campaigning for provincial government, as the head of Parti Québécois, Pauline Marois "promised to widen the scope of Bill 101 (...) with the aim of further protecting the French language" (PQ pitches). Marois is attempting to make good on that promise by promoting Bill 14--An Act to amend the Charter of the French language, the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and other legislative provisions. As the name suggests, the objective of Bill 14 is to modify both the Charter of the French Language and Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms in a manner that is explicitly related to the promotion of the French language in Quebec.

Since its legislation, Bill 101--the Charter of the French Language--has been amended many times. Some of these amendments were the result of a provision of the Bill violating an article of either "the Constitution Act (1876) or, after 1982, the new Canadian Charter of Rights" (Bélanger). Other amendments were willingly made by the English and French in an effort to reconcile their positions (Bélanger). Bill 14, the amendment that is currently being proposed, however, is neither the effect of a violation nor the result of reconciliation; rather, it is a blatant attack on English businesses and communities by Pauline Marois and her Parti Québécois minority government.


Image Source: Flicker--Village Square

Attacking English Businesses
Many do perceive Bill 14 as an attack on English businesses in Quebec, but there remain some that contend the Bill is legitimate; Yosie Saint-Cyr happens to be one of those individuals. Saint-Cyr is "one of Canada's best-known and most-respected [Human Rights] Law authors" and is "the Managing Editor of the Human Resources and Compliance Collection from First Reference" (About Yosie).

In Amending the Charter of the French Language, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Other Laws, Saint-Cyr contends that many "of the proposed measures in Bill 14 are already in place or implicit, but are now being inserted or clarified into law" (Saint-Cyr).  However, this is not the case; the amendments are new restrictions on the use of the English language that further older regulations. The regulations of Bill 14 are nevertheless new measures. Moreover, if the measures of Bill 14 were already in place or implicit, then why would English businesses perceive them as an attack?

Some of the provisions of Bill 14 are concerned with the "francization of enterprises"; in other words, they are concerned with imposing French as the language of operation on businesses in Quebec (Bill 101). These particular provisions--provisions 37 to 46--complement provisions 135 to 156 of the Charter of the French Language (Bill 101; Bill 14). According to provision 151 of the Charter, the Office Québécois de la Langue Franҫaise "may (...) require an enterprise employing less than 50 persons to (...) implement a francization program" (Bill 101). Conversely, according to provision 45 of Bill 14--a replacement measure for provision 151 of the Charter--enterprises employing "between 26 and 49 persons (...) for more than six months during two consecutive years" are obliged to "implement francization measures" (Bill 14). Insofar as Bill 14's amendment to provision 151 of the Charter necessitates that enterprises employing less than 50 individuals must implement francization measures, this provisions is neither in place nor implicit, but the extension of established francization measures, an extension which tightens the noose around small and medium sized English enterprises.  

Another of these implicit measures, according to Saint-Cyr, is provision 19 of Bill 14, which modifies provision 46 of the Charter. In the chapter concerned with the language of labour relations, provision 46  stipulates that employers are prohibited from making "a specific level of knowledge of a language other than the official language"--the French language--a requirement for obtaining employment, "unless the nature of the duties requires such knowledge" (Bill 101). The catch; it is "incumbent upon the employer to prove" that the duties of the position require "knowledge of a language other than French" (Bill 101).  Adding provision 19 of Bill 14 to these regulations entails that businesses must "review such needs periodically" (Bill 14). This provision--without question--is the extension of an older regulation; the amended provision requires the periodic evaluation, as opposed to the singular establishment, of the linguistic needs relating to the position in question. This new measure is a burden placed upon English businesses in Quebec insofar as they must recurrently establish the need for English--the international language of business. Ridiculous!

I agree with Peter Hadekel's assessment of these particular amendments. In Peter Hadekel: New language law ignores business reality, Hadekel asserts that "the requirement that workers be bilingual is increasingly becoming the rule rather than the exception" only insofar as enterprises seek to expand their business beyond the borders of Quebec (Hadekel). As a columnist for the business section of The Gazette, Hadekel contends businesses in Quebec are making bilingualism a rule neither "to make a political statement" nor to act "out of disrespect for Quebec's linguistic majority," but to ensure that they can communicate with companies beyond Quebec's borders in  "the international language of business" (Hadekel). In essence, businesses that make bilingualism a rule are simply "recognizing the obvious," as they must "look outside Quebec, in a language other than French," if they wish to expand (Hadekel). Accordingly, Hadekel asserts, the amendments proposed by Bill 14 send the message: "if the shoe doesn't fit, wear it anyways" (Hadekel). I am inclined to agree.

SHoes not fit.jpg

Image Source: Flicker--ReemaAm

The francization measures and linguistic demands of Bill 14 blatantly attack English businesses by imposing strict regulations that dramatically increase the cost of operations. While conforming to these amendments will "be a mere formality" for some English businesses, many others will likely crumble under "the cost and bureaucracy" that their implementation involves (Hadekel). An impact study conducted by the government suggests that it will cost retail businesses in Quebec "$23 million more" each year to conform to the proposed amendments, which is an amount that enterprises do not "have in the highly competitive retail world" (Authier). The same study suggests that it "would cost businesses up to $900" to simply switch to French keyboards (Plante). Having fallen between conforming and crumbling, the remaining businesses will doubtlessly attempt to circumvent these regulations by either reducing their number of employees or moving across the border into Ontario (Hadekel). In either case, Quebec suffers from a loss of available jobs by passing these amendments into legislation. Moreover, these amendments seem unnecessary given that "96 per cent of retailers" on the island of Montreal "are able to serve clients in French" (Authier).

In addition to attacking English enterprises, the measures and demands of Bill 14 are generally detrimental for enterprises in Quebec. They promote the isolation of businesses in Quebec from the international community by restricting the use of the English language--the international language of business. More importantly, however, these amendments discourage new English businesses from investing in Quebec because of the high cost of conforming to these regulations. Some will argue that there are measures permitting the use of English for international and interprovincial businesses, but conforming to the francization measures and recurrently establishing that the English language is an occupational requirement will remain an exasperating hassle that requires the consumption of valued resources.


Image Source: Flicker--J. Stephen Conn

Degrading English Communities
While Saint-Cyr pays the most attention to the amendments concerning language in business, she quickly passes over two important elements of Bill 14 that would have a dramatic affect on Quebec society, which is surprising insofar as she is a respected human-rights law author. The first of these amendments and its disturbing nature is best described by Anthony Housefather--"a lawyer and the mayor of Cote-St-Luc," a district in Montreal (Housefather).

In Opinion: A shocking attack on the Anglophone community, Housefather proposes that the most disturbing measure of Bill 14 is the provision that allows the Office Québécois de la Langue Franҫaise "to strip a municipality or hospital of its bilingual status" (Housefather). In the chapter on The Language of Civil Administration in the Charter, provision 29 stipulates that the Office Québécois de la Langue Franҫaise will recognize as bilingual, first, municipalities in which "more than half the residences have English as their mother tongue"; and, second, "health and social service institutions" that provide "services to persons who, in the majority, speak a language other than French" (Bill 101).

By adding new measures to the chapter on The Language of Civil Administration, provision 12 of Bill 14 stipulates that every "10 years following the recognition of a municipal body [as bilingual] (...), the Office shall evaluate whether the conditions justifying the recognition have been maintained" (Bill 14). The evaluation will in each case be "based on the information relating to language in the most recent census" (Bill 14). Furthermore, provision 12 provides the Office with the authority to conduct "such an evaluation (...) in anticipation of or following a major restructuring of the body" (Bill 14).

Hence, this provision of Bill 14 requires a review to take place every 10 years to assess the percentage of "English mother-tongue residents" in a municipality; and if the review determines that a municipality has "less than 50 percent English mother-tongue residences," then that particular municipality loses its bilingual status (Housefather). The same applies for health and social service institutions, but in relation to their clientele. This entails that families which indicate any other language as their mother tongue on the census form, even if they primarily speak English at home, are not considered a "part of Quebec's English-speaking community" and do not count towards "the number needed to qualify for bilingual status" (Housefather).

Something interesting to note is that Quebec is "the only jurisdiction in the world where municipalities are prevented from being bilingual unless a majority in their population comes from the minority community" (Housefather).  In Finland, for example, a municipality is provided with bilingual status if at least "five percent of a municipality comes from the Swedish minority" (Housefather).

Under the new provisions of Bill 14, according to Housefather, a large number of municipalities in Montreal would not qualify for bilingual status, despite "more than two thirds of residences speaking English at home" (Housefather). While Housefather contends that this provision of Bill 14 is the most disturbing--and seeking a majority residency from a minority community is disturbing--I propose that there remains a provision that should be more feared.

The second amendment that Saint-Cry quickly passes over is an amendment that, according to her, would facilitate the integration of "newcomers to Quebec and speakers of French as a second language" (Saint-Cyr). This provision of Bill 14--provision 1--proposes to replace "the term 'the ethnic minorities' with 'cultural communities'" in the third paragraph of Quebec's Charter (Saint-Cyr). This slight alteration, however, results in a significant consequence best articulated by Pearl Eliadis--a law professor at McGill University and a human rights lawyer (Eliadis).

 In Opinion: Bill 14 chips away at English minority rights, Eliadis argues that Bill 14 fails to conform with human rights standards insofar as it employs "new and vague conceptual footings" (Eliadis). The term 'cultural communities' is an "undefined and highly problematic term" insofar as it does not have an "accepted international usage" and, furthermore, insofar as it does not "draw on human-rights principles" (Eliadis). To put it in Eliadis' words, "'cultural communities' have no rights. Minorities do" (Eliadis). While Eliadis contends that this amendment illustrates "the failure of the PQ Government to recognize (...) the realities and rights of English speakers as a historic minority community," I believe that Pauline Marois and the PQ government have not failed, but have intentionally disregarded the realities of Quebec in an effort to subjugate English to the French language (Eliadis).

Can Bill 14 be anything but an attack on English businesses and communities? Passing the francization measures into legislation is a bad decision that will only have worse consequences. Not only will they make it harder for English businesses to thrive in Quebec, their legislation will cause English businesses to reduce available jobs or reallocate jobs to provinces with more agreeable regulation. As opposed to providing incentives, these measures will discourage new English businesses for investing in Quebec because they regulate the use of the international language of business. On the other hand, allowing the government to remove a municipality's bilingual status if census numbers indicate that less than half of the municipality's residences define English as their mother tongue is certainly a disturbing attack, as that would require a majority residency from a minority population. Furthermore, the proposed conceptual alteration--changing the term ethnic minority to cultural community--can be nothing but an attack on English communities as well as other ethnic minorities, as the alteration would remove the protection provided to minorities in Quebec by international human-rights standards. By promoting Bill 14 and trying to fulfill her campaign promise, Pauline Marois and her Parti Québécois Government are attacking English businesses and communities, and it appears that this attack is intentional, so unless the English of Quebec demonstrate to Marois that we have rights too, she may just get away with this 


Image Source: Flicker--Dustin and Jenae

Works Cited:

About Yosie Saint-Cry. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17th, 2013, from Slaw: Canada's online legal magazine:

Authier, P. (2013, March 27th). Retain Council of Canada presents dramatic testimony at Quebec's Bill 14 hearings. Retrieved Arpil 14th, 2013, from Global Montreal:

Bélanger, C. (2000, August 23rd). The Language Laws of Quebec. Retrieved March 17th, 2013, from

Bill 101: Charter of the French Language. (2013, April 1st). Retrieved March 17th, 2013, from

Bill 14: An act to amend the Charter of the French Language, the Charter of human rights and freedoms and other legislative provisions.
 (2012, December 5th). Retrieved March 26, 2013, from Assemblée Nationale Québec:

Eliadis, P. (2012, December 11th). Opinion: Bill 14 chips away at English minority rights. Retrieved March 17th, 2013, from

Hadekel, P. (2012, Decemner 6th). PeterHadekel: New language law ignores business reality. Retrieved March 17th, 2013, from

Housefather, A. (2012, December 5th). Opinion: A shocking attack on the anglophone community. Retrieved March 17th, 2013, from

Plante, Caroline. "Language minister wishes for calmer spirits." 10th April 2012. Global News. 14th April 2013 <>.

PQ pitches tighter language restrictions to boost French. (2012, December 5th). Retrieved March 17th, 2013, from CBC News:

Saint-Cyr, Y. (2012, December 6th). Amending the Charter of the French Language, the Charter of rights and Freedoms and Other Laws. Retrieved March 17th, 2013, from

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