Frenglish or Franglais? The Quebec Language Debate

By: Robyn Trudeau





“Bonjour-Hi” or as the recent decision by the Quebec National Assembly would have me say “Bonjour”. This probably doesn’t seem like a big difference, but isn’t it nice to know that the store clerk can speak to you in whichever language you prefer?

The Montreal Gazette ran an Editorial piece at the beginning of December last year. It addresses how the government’s support for this motion, to change the bilingual greeting to a unilingual one, undermines the government’s relationship with the English-speaking community in Quebec.

This issue might seem silly, many argue that because Quebec is a French province, employees should greet their customers only in French. They say that Quebec should be proud of its French heritage and that the “Bonjour-Hi” greeting is an ‘irritant’. But, the most obvious counter argument is that a bilingual greeting is simply good customer service that shows the customer that the clerk can address them in whichever language they prefer.

However, it might also be viewed as the latest act in the ongoing language debate. Some feel that policies such as this one creates a rift between the citizens. That Anglophones are considered a “them” instead of an “us” in Quebec society. While, others argue that this greeting has simply changed to keep up with the times and reflects the greater amount of bilingualism in the province.

This brings up a few questions: such as, what is the full story behind the language debate in Quebec? How do language policies affect businesses and the Quebec economy? Do they effectively protect the French language? Or are they overstepping? Do they benefit the citizens? Will it discourage tourism? And are Anglophones being pushed out of Quebec? Or is this simply an issue of the past?

As a Montrealer I want to get to the bottom of Quebec’s language policies. And this podcast will do just that. So, stayed tuned. And thank you for listening.


Week 2:

Macpherson, Don. “Don Macpherson: the secret of happiness for Quebec anglos.” Montreal Gazette, 1 Dec. 2017, Accessed 18 Jan. 2018.

This article from the Montreal Gazette focuses on the most recent language debate taking place in Quebec. The recent language debate focuses on the greeting of “Bonjour-Hi” commonly used to greet customers. Macpherson states in this article that the most recent ‘Bonjour-Hi’ argument is just another way in which English-speaking Quebecers are being isolated from the community. This is an interesting take on how the continued focus on language politics has created a rift in the community and it has illuminated the next step in researching the history of language policies in Quebec.

Hanes, Allison. “Allison Hanes: ‘Bonjour-Hi’ is just good customer service.” Montreal Gazette, 30 Nov. 2017, Accessed 18 Jan. 2018.

This article, also from the Montreal Gazette, focuses on whether the language issue is predominantly a generational one. Hanes argues that the new generation of citizens in Quebec are more multi-lingual than those of the past and can shift from one language to another with ease. She argues that while there may be some steps required to protect the French language in Quebec, it should not cause a divide between citizens. It is an interesting take on whether the language issue in Quebec are still as relevant to the newer generations as they were to those of the past. It offers a new avenue for research into this issue.

Week 3:

Busque, Anne-Marie. “Quebec Language Policy.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2 July 2006, Accessed 29 Jan. 2018.

This article is from the Canadian Encyclopedia that is produced by Historica Canada. This Encyclopedia is dedicated to providing authored, accurate and continuously updated articles focusing on Canada. This article by Busque explores the history of the Quebec language debate by showcasing and explaining two of the most influential policies regarding language in Quebec. These are the Official Language Act (Bill 22) and the Charter of the French Language (Bill 101). This article will be useful in my podcast as it gives a brief history of the language policies in Quebec and it also highlights two important laws concerning language in Quebec. I will need to use this article as a starting point in researching the history and laws affecting language in this province.

“Speaking out: Quebec’s debate over language laws.” CBC News, Accessed 30 Jan. 2018.

This article comes from the CBC, it focuses on the language laws that are in place in Quebec. It gives information on laws that have been passed and it also explores some of the challenges these Bills have faced. This article also lists a few of the legal cases that showcase the conflict between the need to protect the French language and the overreaching of those protections. This article provides an interesting new avenue of research, that not only explores the history but it also highlights interesting legal cases that could be researched.

Week 4:

Cooper, Celine. “Celine Cooper: Is it time for Quebec Anglos in exile to come home?” The Montreal Gazette, 18 Sep. 2017, Accessed 1 Feb. 2018.

This newspaper article from the Montreal Gazette addresses the issue of if Quebec is ready for the return of Anglophones to the province. In her article Cooper explores whether Anglophones are viewed as an asset or a threat to ‘Francophone’ Quebec. She states that Anglophones do not pose a threat to the French language in Quebec. Furthermore, she argues that without French it is very hard to find a job and earn a living. This article touches upon whether or not it is possible to live in Quebec as an Anglophone, though it requires further research.

Thomson, Dale. “Language, Identity, and the Nationalist Impulse: Quebec.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 536, Being and Becoming Canada (Mar., 1995) pp. 69-82.

This peer reviewed article addresses Quebec nationalism and how it is ethnonationalism. Thomson’s article identifies that the ethnic movement (i.e. the Language Policies) are for Quebecers to establish a positive identity. He further argues that the French language in Quebec is not only a distinguishing characteristic of ethnic identity but also a means to establish ethnic assertiveness. Dale analyses the origins of Quebec ethnonationalism and compares them to the modern Quebec Province. This article gives an interesting view of the history of Quebec identity and it attempts to determine if Quebec is different from the rest of Canada and if so, what the consequences of that might be.

Week 8:

Authier, Philip. "Passions cool after 40 years of debate over language law." The Montreal Gazette, 27 Aug. 2017, Accessed 4 Mar. 2018. 

This news article addressed the anniversary of 40 years since the implementation of Bill 101, The Charter of the French Language. This article states that while there are some who would like to reignite the language wars of the past, there is a more general unlikely concensous that makes it so that it is unlikely that any changes will be made. This article is useful for the first vignette in my podcast where I will be examining the history of the language debate it Quebec. 

"Point de presse de M. Jean-François Lisée, chef de l'opposition officielle, M. Nicolas Marceau, porte-parole de l'opposition officielle en matière de finances, et M. Alexandre Cloutier, porte-parole de l'opposition officielle en matière d'éducation, de recherche de persévérance scolaire et d'alphabétisation." Assemblée Nationale du Québec, 7 Dec. 2017, Accessed 4 Mar. 2018. 

This is the transcript from the debate that took place in the National Assembly. It specifically refers to the debate surrounding the use of the "Bonjour-Hi" greeting. This was the motion that was passed that the editorial I am basing my podcast on was referencing. In this debate M. Lisée describes the motion, his motives for proposing it, and the consequences this motion will have. This transcript is essential to my podcast because it is the central issue I will be focusing on.