Canada: Liberals won't raise fines for language violations

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sun Sep 28 15:59:07 UTC 2008

Liberals won't raise fines for language violations

Party takes middle-of-road approach. Provincial government to seek
sweeping powers over broadcasting in Quebec

The Gazette

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Quebec's Liberals yesterday opted for a middle-of-the- road approach
to language and identity issues. They dropped plans for a big increase
in fines for language-law violations but still plan to hire a greater
number of what are being called "councillors," who will have the power
to visit more merchants - including small mom-and-pop dépanneurs -
than ever before. The party is also proposing the province attempt to
negotiate sweeping new powers over broadcasting in Quebec - to the
point of having a veto power on all decisions affecting the province
made by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications

Premier Jean Charest has already said the province is once again
interested in "cultural sovereignty," and yesterday the Liberals added
the goal of having the CRTC make "the quality of the language spoken,"
a criteria in the issuing and renewal of broadcasting licences in
Quebec. In a debate that lasted less than 45 minutes and with barely a
squeak of opposition, 400 members of the party's general council
adopted new policies on language, identity and the constitution. The
package is a leftover from its policy convention in March. The
Liberals ran out of time then to adopt them.

Charest - absent from the debate - is expected to react to the
resolutions in a speech and news conference today wrapping up the
two-day council in this town across the river from Quebec City. The
minister responsible for the language file, Christine St-Pierre, was
also conspicuously absent. An aide later said St-Pierre was on a
mission in Tokyo and her positions on language are already well known.

The measures were hatched in the wake of stories about the lack of
French services in downtown Montreal malls and complaints too many
workers are still working in English.

The Liberal adopted a series of motions designed to reinforce the role
of the Office québécois de la langue française, which has as its
mission the promotion of French and ensuring the Charter of the French
Language is respected.

Specifically, the resolutions say Quebec will:

n Hire a greater number of "francisation councillors," who will teach
merchants how to respect the charter, which requires them to provide
service in French. The councillors will be making regular visits to as
many businesses as they can.

n Take all necessary steps to defend the integrity of Quebec's
language laws before the courts.

n Require the respect of Canada's Official Languages Law and call upon
the federal government to restore the court challenges program used by
minority groups to ensure their rights.

n Demand federal political parties commit themselves - if elected - to
naming Supreme Court judges with a sufficient mastery of French to
hear cases. When it comes to ambassadors, heads of Crown corporations
and deputy ministers, the Liberals want them to be "perfectly

As for the constitution, the party re-adopted it's previous platform
calling for recognition of the province's "specificity," limits on
federal spending powers, a reform of the Senate and the constitutional
entrenchment of Quebec's powers over immigration.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Benôit Pelletier told reporters
Quebec is not asking for the immediate opening of constitutional talks
with the rest of Canada. He described the package as a long-term

"It doesn't mean it's going to happen tomorrow," Pelletier said.

Asked about the requirement that ambassadors and deputy-ministers be
bilingual, Pelletier said: "It's among our objectives, which is to
assure the expansion of the influence of French language in Canada."

pauthier at

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