Québec is once again tightening French language laws across different sectors. Prospective and enrolled university students in Quebec are particularly concerned, as they may be affected by a new shift in language regulations.
The province’s education department has announced a plan to raise tuition fees and mandate French-proficiency for out-of-province students. The decision has been met with a backlash by some English-language universities, who have described the move as a “targeted attack.”
Official education representatives have defended the plan, claiming that the move is to protect the French language.
In addition to a fee increase from C$9,000 to C$12,000 per year, Québec will require that 80% of students from outside the province reach an intermediate level of French by the time they graduate. If the target is not met, universities would face financial penalties. These changes will come into effect at the start of the next academic year.
Other changes to education finances will see a larger portion of international student fees going directly to the provincial government, instead of their course operating budget. Those funds will then be redistributed to French-speaking universities.
A letter from Québec’s higher education minister Pascale Déry indicates that this means the province would spend less money subsidizing students from the rest of Canada, while helping to preserve the French language.
McGill University president Deep Saini said the plan was “incoherent” and based on “impressions and emotions, rather than evidence-based decision-making,” while Concordia University president Graham Carr told the Montreal Gazette that he believed the plan would lead to a drop in the number of students, damaging Québec’s reputation.
Both universities said that applications have already dropped by 20%, and that the changes could cost them C$150m annually. McGill University added it may have to cut up to 700 jobs.
Québec’s government is also making changes to the Charter of the French language, which impacts retail and business owners. From this January, business owners have a year and a half to ensure all signs on businesses and storefronts, apart from the company name, must be predominantly in French.
While businesses will be allowed to keep their names and logos in English, the new rules mandate that a description in French must take up two-thirds of the facade’s signage.
Minister of the French language, Jean-François Roberge said, “Most of the companies won’t have any changes to make,” – “But it’s important that 100% of businesses respect that Québec is the only state in North America where French is the only official language.”
Legal loopholes are being closed to make sure French is used as a standard official language in Quebec’s retail sector.
The draft regulation published in Québec’s Official Gazette, states “Public signs and posters of a trademark or an enterprise’s name visible from outside premises must be accompanied at least by terms in French, such as a generic term, a description of the products or services concerned, or a slogan.”
The update to the province’s French charter aligns with the government’s ongoing effort to protect Québec’s only official language, Roberge said.