Quebec's new proposed language bill has English communities in western Quebec concerned
OTTAWA -- English communities in the Pontiac are concerned about a major push by the Quebec government to strengthen and protect the French language across the province.
In Shawville and a majority of the Pontiac region, English is the predominant language.
"Well, we’re not very happy about it. I don’t see why the government has to do that to protect their language,” said Sandra Murray, mayor of Shawville.
"They want our tax dollars but with this new law they don’t want to send us any information in English. So if they want our money, they should accommodate us in our language."
The Quebec government's Bill 96 would make French the official and common language of Quebec. For businesses, it could mean stricter rules for French in the workplace and commercial signage.
"What we’re saying now is the majority of the sign has to be in French," said Quebec Premier Francois Legault.
"When services to citizens get impacted that’s the line in the sand for us, so we still want to understand what it’s going to mean and what kind of impact it’s going to have," said Andre Fortin, member of the National Assembly of Quebec for the Pontiac region.
That impact is a concern too for local businesses like Cafe 349.
"Seems like unfair rules, but maybe we should’ve been fighting harder 20 years ago," said Smiley Hahn, owner of Cafe 349.
She’s been there for over a decade and was part of language debate over Bill 101 in Shawville before.
"I don’t want to face fines and I don’t want to have police coming in and telling me what I’m doing is wrong. What I do is for my customers and respecting both languages," she said.
But other businesses aren’t yet worried.
"If the reason for it is because they feel the French language is being threatened, it’s a reactionary law and reactionary laws typically don’t work long term," said Josh Beardsley, owner of WePC Solutions in Shawville.
This bill would also put in jeopardy the bilingual status of municipalities.
Any regions where less than 50 percent of residents speak English would lose that status.
That means here in Shawville would be safe but other areas in the Outaouais, like Chelsea could have to fight to remain bilingual.