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Charter of the French Language

The Charter of the French Language (so called Bill 101) is a fundamental law in the province of Quebec, Canada, defining the linguistic rights of all Quebecers and making French the sole official language of Quebec. It is a fundamental law that is 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 of Quebec on August 26, 1977 by the first Parti Québécois government of René Lévesque. Many of the bill's articles greatly expanded on the more timid attempt to promote francisation found in Bill 22, enacted by the Liberals in 1974. To promote the use of French as the main public language of all residents of Quebec, the role of the Office québécois de la langue française was greatly expanded as part of the law.

One of the Charter's goals is to increase the francisation of immigrants. To do so it limits access to English schools to children whose parents had attended English school in Quebec (or in Canada if they are Canadian citizens). Another disposition provides for State-funded French courses for immigrants.

Furthermore, in order to encourage the participation of Quebec's majoritarily francophone population in labour matters, the Charter makes French the official language in the workplace. Thus, current and prospective employees can not be subject to discrimination if they cannot or choose not to speak English. Also, internal written communications for all corporations in Quebec are required to be in French, but a translation in any other language can be included if the employer deems it necessary.

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 banned English-only signs claiming they violated the linguistic rights of the French-speaking majority; making French the only language on exterior signs.

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 in 1988, (see: Ford v. Quebec (A.G.)). The Charter was amended by the Liberals in 1993 with Bill 86. The current law specifies that signs can be multilingual so long as French is predominant, but businesses now voluntarily choose to put up French signs, and at times, change their registered trademarks following market forces.

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