Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Amid Language Controversies, Quebec Government Gives French Watchdog More Teeth: Quebec Gov't to Language Watchdog: Bite More Often

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Amid Language Controversies, Quebec Government Gives French Watchdog More Teeth: Quebec Gov't to Language Watchdog: Bite More Often

Article excerpt

QUEBEC - Facing a barrage of linguistic controversies, the Quebec government announced Friday it is planning to give the provincial language watchdog more teeth.

Despite a hiring freeze across Quebec's public service, the government said it will hire 43 employees at the agency to fill vacancies left by departures.

That is on top of 26 who came on board several months ago.

The government is also asking the Office quebecois de la langue francaise to bite more often. It is urging inspectors to be more proactive -- and take action not only after they get complaints, but also beforehand.

Quebec laws allows the agency to take legal action and seek fines from commercial establishments that don't respect rules like French predominance on signs.

But recent news reports have offered anecdotes of the laws being ignored in Montreal, and that has created political headaches for the Charest Liberals.

The governing party, heavily supported by Anglos, has faced severe criticism from opponents who accuse it of being too weak in protecting French.

Language controversies began ramping up last summer, when the Harper government announced the hiring of people who can't speak French as Supreme Court justice, auditor general and senior government spokesman.

Since then stories about slights against the French language and anecdotes of people struggling to get served in French are frequent features of news reports in Quebec. The latest this week was the story of a patient in a Montreal hospital who struggled to be understood by staff.

The flare-up of such controversies has coincided with a rise in support for the Parti Quebecois, which has enthusiastically taken up the cause in recent months.

Christine St-Pierre, the cabinet minister targeted by the PQ, conceded Friday she's concerned about the status of French in Montreal. …

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