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  • Nikki Mantell

Language reforms loom, are we ready?

Did you know that Bill 101, Quebec’s French-first language law, is set to be overhauled in 2021, and promises to be even more restrictive of minority languages in the province? Probably not — there are bigger things dominating the news and people’s personal lives these days. But in the midst of the biggest health crisis of a century, the CAQ government decided in September to take $5 million from its budget and spend it on beefing up the OQLF, also known as the language police. This, despite the fact that even francophone comedians regularly make fun of such Inspector Clouseau-like tactics (remember pastagate?). Or despite the less-funny fact that, while Quebec hospitals are chronically underfunded, Quebec hired more language cops to roam the streets with their rulers to make sure the English wording on commercial signs was inferior size-wise to the French wording.

Back in August, Simon Jolin-Barrette, the minister responsible for the French language and famous for drafting the controversial “secularism” law, Bill 21, announced he was drafting a “robust and global” package of reforms to the province’s language laws, which will cover everything from commercial signs to the language used in the workplace and shops. Word is now that when the pandemic crisis plateaus, get ready, because 2021 will be the year anglophones “are being drawn into another intense language battle” predicts the former Equality Party leader Robert Libman. And when interviewed by the Montreal Gazette last week, the English-rights veteran also said anglos and other language minorities are facing these big threats “alone and unarmed.”