Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Quebec Brings Back the 'Language Police' Inspectors Ensure That Francais Will Prevail on All Public Signs

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Quebec Brings Back the 'Language Police' Inspectors Ensure That Francais Will Prevail on All Public Signs

Article excerpt

Quebec's government is reinstating language inspectors, known to the English-speaking minority as "language police," or to their harshest critics as "tongue troopers."

"It's a move to put French at the heart of the government's priorities," says Louise Beaudoin, the minister in charge of Quebec's French-language charter.

"We all have to protect the French language," says Ms. Beaudoin. "This at a time when more people in the province speak French than at any time since ... 1867, when Canada first became a country." Fully 82 percent of the province speaks French as a first language; most of the rest can understand it.

The move appears to have further damaged any rapprochement between the province's English-speaking minority and the French-speaking nationalists of the Parti Quebecois government.

It is intended, say critics of the government, to calm the French-language zealots in the separatist party. There is no need for the new inspectors, says Michael Hamelin, who is head of an English-language rights group, Alliance Quebec. "This is a false crisis being created by the premier {Lucien Bouchard} to rouse or keep his hard-liners in tow."

Mr. Hamelin says his group commissioned a recent poll that showed 90 percent of Quebeckers - English and French - like the language law the way it is (loosely enforced) and don't want it changed.

By hiring inspectors to enforce the rules of the Commission for the Protection of the French Language, the government is escalating the language battle, say critics in the English-speaking community.

Few can understand why the economically hard-pressed province will be spending US$3.6 million to hire staff to make sure signs are predominantly in French, both inside and outside stores and restaurants. …

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