Trudeau pans PQ push on language
QUEBEC—Justin Trudeau has pressed one of the hottest issue buttons in Canada, saying there’s no need to toughen Quebec’s language laws.
During a visit to Quebec City, the Liberal leadership candidate was asked yesterday by reporters about plans by the new Parti Quebecois provincial government to toughen language laws.
Trudeau’s response: the PQ language policy is unnecessary and counter-productive.
While he expressed support for the old Bill 101, pointing out that it has allowed French to thrive in Quebec and keep Canada bilingual, Trudeau said that adding teeth now to the language law risks needlessly reigniting old battles.
“I think we are revisiting old debates,” Trudeau said in French.
“The majority of people in [my Montreal riding of] Papineau, in Quebec City, and across Quebec are focused on their jobs, on the economy, on health care, and on the education of their children, in order to participate fully in this era of globalization,” he reasoned.
Justin Trudeau’s opinion on language echoes, to a certain extent, the position of his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who brought official bilingualism to Canada and criticized the French-only policies of the PQ.
The younger Trudeau is more supportive of past PQ language policies than his father was. However, the new PQ government has vowed to strengthen language laws, saying it needs to protect the French language and culture.
The PQ campaigned on a promise to extend the law to junior colleges and smaller businesses. It also has proposed applying it to day care.
In the wake of this week’s census data, the PQ calls the matter especially urgent.
But Trudeau isn’t alarmed by new figures suggesting a relative decline of French in Canada and on the island of Montreal, saying it is the result of demographics and a lower birthrate.
“My concern about reinforcing Bill 101 is that we will find it punishes Quebec francophones who want their children to develop a capacity in English, the language of international commerce,” he remarked.
“I don’t think this is a good direction.”