For the PARTI QUÉBÉCOIS government a new language law was a high priority. After publishing a White Paper on the subject (1977), it introduced Bill 1, which was strongly supported by nationalist and union groups among others, and was just as sharply opposed by management circles and the province's anglophone population. The bill was withdrawn because of pressure from the Liberal opposition and reappeared as Bill 101.
Thereafter, this language legislation was significantly modified following a series of court rulings that changed its content and reduced its scope. In 1980 the Supreme Court of Canada supported a judgement of the Québec Superior Court that struck down the section of the Charte which declared French the language of the legislature and courts. In 1984 it was ruled that the CANADIAN CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS (article 23) limited the bill's power to regulate the language of instruction (see BILL 101 CASE); parents whose children had been instructed in English-language elementary schools elsewhere in Canada were granted the right to have them instructed in English in Québec (so was made void the Québec clause). In the same year, the Court ruled that the compulsory exclusive use of French on public commercial signs was contrary to the freedom of speech right. The Bourassa government then introduced BILL 178.
This series of judgements caused dissatisfaction in nationalist groups and some relief among anglophones. As expected, such challenges to Bill 101 were not met with indifference by the Parti Québécois. In the years following the 1995 Québec referendum, however, the party leadership succeeded in blunting the most radical of nationalist views regarding Québec's language policies.
Author R. HUDON
Links to Other Sites
The website for the Historica-Dominion Institute, parent organization of The Canadian Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Check out their extensive online feature about the War of 1812, the "Heritage Minutes" video collection, and many other interactive resources concerning Canadian history, culture, and heritage.