Bill 101, hum… 101… The School Law

with 46 comments

montreal high school

Québec’s language laws limit access to English schools for most citizens of the province. That is true.

Yet, if any other Canadian provinces or American state wanted to offer it’s linguistic minorities access to the kind of education network Québec finances for it’s Anglophone minority, every single one of them would have to increase dramatically the number of minority schools it finances.

For example, if American states were expected to give their Spanish-speaking minority the same education rights that Québec gives to it’s English-speaking minority, then New Mexico, California, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Connecticut, Utah, Rhode Island, Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Kansas – all states that have more Spanish-speakers than Québec has English-speakers – would have to create a second publicly funded Spanish-language schools system.

Although all Canadian provinces have some minority education rights and schools, no other provincial minority has the vast network of schools, colleges and universities that English-speakers in Montreal and Quebec have access to. There are in Québec about 367 English public schools, 3 English public colleges called CEGEPs and 3 English universities.

In fact, if you use that standard definition of a major university as one that has both a law school and a medical school – New Brunswick’s Université de Moncton, the only autonomous French-language university outside Québec, does not have the latter – then Québec is the only state or province to fund a complete education system for it’s linguistic minority.

That’s if you accept the premise that English-speaking North Americans can be considered a minority at all…

In the 1970’s Francophones in Montreal became increasingly alarmed to see the vast majority of new immigrants to Québec sending their children to English Schools. That situation, combined with the demographic decline of Francophones in Canada and the availability of an extensive and totally free network of English schools in Québec meant that within one generation French-speakers could become a minority in Montreal.

Québec’s Francophones, representing over 80% of the population of Québec but barely 5% of North Americans were put in the position were they had to assist their neighbors in anglicizing immigrants.

Not only were Francophones being assimilated, but they were paying for it.

In 1977 the Québec government adopted the French Language Charter, known as bill 101, which made French the mandatory language of primary and secondary education. From that moment on, all residents of Québec – except the Anglophone minority – had to send their children in French schools from 1st grade through the end of High School.

Many people in Québec’s Anglophone community and in the rest of Canada were angered by this apparent limit to their freedom to choose their children’s language of instruction. Few noted that Québec was the only place on the continent where an actual school network made that choice possible at all.

In any case, the right of English-speaking Quebecers to a “separate but equal” public English-language school network was constitutionally protected. Parents who have been to English schools anywhere in Canada have the privilege to send their children to either school network in Québec.

It is only Francophones and new immigrants – those who make the informed decision of living in the French-speaking part of Canada – who are limited to French Schools.

In 1972, before the adoption of the Charter, only 10% of immigrants to Québec sent their children to French schools. Since the adoption of bill 101 the situation has reversed. Parents who send their kids to private schools can still send them to English schools as long as the school does not receive government funding.

Freedom of choice remains total when it come to higher education and students can study in English at college-level CEGEPs or in one of Québec’s three English-language universities.

In the decades since the law was adopted, some wealthy families figured out they could send their eldest child to an unsubsidized school – one that usually cost over 10 000$ a year – and then switch all of their children to the English public system the next year.

The National Assembly of Québec unanimously adopted law 104 to put an end to the loophole. The Québec court of appeals struck down the law in 2007 and the matter is now headed for the Supreme Court.

Click here for information of the Charter of the French Language’s sign law.

Written by angryfrenchguy

March 12, 2008 at 11:06 am

46 Responses

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  1. You are a racist making excuses for french canadian racism. I will be filing a complaint against you.


    March 2, 2009 at 10:27 am

  2. You need to check your facts, there are public French schools in all the other provinces to help you guys not to integrate.


    June 23, 2009 at 3:10 pm

  3. AngryFrenchGuy,

    Well firstly let me thank you for this site. I discovered it a few days ago and I’ve been reading the articles and user comments ever since. Fascinating and interesting reading. I can’t say I agree with a lot of what I’ve seen, but I certainly appreciate the viewpoints.

    I picked this particular article to introduce myself because of a comparison to 101 school laws that I’ve always noticed, but never see mentioned. That being the rules regarding who is allowed to attend French-language schools in other provinces.

    I’m an Atlantic Canadian and a unilingual Anglophone who went to school in English. And even though there was a French-language high school in the area, I wouldn’t have been able to attend that school. Why? Because I’m a unilingual anglophone, Irish, no familial ties to Francophones and only basic grade school french classes.

    Now, does this not seem remarkably similar to the rules regarding who can attend English schools in Quebec?

    Quebec is a province with a Francophone majority. It offers its Anglo minority schooling in English and sets rules on who can attend. My province has an Anglophone majority and French-language schooling is offered to our Francophone minority with rules on who is able to attend. Seems to make sense to me.

    The difference being that here there is no law. It is a school board rule. And there are certainly no real or perceived threats to English driving these rules.

    Kinda lost my train of thought there. Hopefully it made a bit of sense.


    October 21, 2009 at 9:55 am

  4. Hey John. I rarely read comment on older threads. Almost missed you there.


    October 22, 2009 at 8:07 pm

  5. I am from vancouver and i wanted to say that the language problem in Quebec goes back to 1837 when the people in upper and lower canada wanted to get their independence from England like the americans did during their war of independence from 1775-1783.Unfortunality it didn’t work out in canada.It was at that time that Lord Durham from england advised the gov. of england that it would be a good idea to get rid of the french language in canada.England was concerned that canada might get its independence like the U.S.A. did earlier on.
    Ever since then the gov.of canada has been trying to get rid of the french language in Quebec.Bill 101 was a good step forward for the french language,but the canadian gov.didn’t like that bill so it is still trying to block the french language.The supreme court ruling on bill 104 is a slander against the language rights of the french people of Quebec.It should be fought against by all progressive people in canada.

    stan squires

    November 9, 2009 at 6:52 pm

  6. Dear Stan,

    Bill 101 and Bill 104 are partially good in the sense that they protect the right of French speaking people, but at expenses of English speakers and allophones. I move to Ontario 10 years ago and for reasons BEYOND my control I have to move to Quebec (my wife took my kid here “temporarly” then divorced me). I speak no French, but I have not right to educate my son in English because I was not born in Canada. I did not come to Qubec, I came to Ontario, and by cirrcumstances had to came. Why the government is going to control the language of education of MY kid? Why the government is going to control the language of a sign I want to put in my business?

    Manuel Berlanga

    November 9, 2009 at 9:22 pm

  7. I am a 20 year old from QC and 100% French and proud of it. If you are against the language law, it’s that you are against French. If you look at New Brunswick, the percentage of the population who speaks French diminishes every day. Once this generation has passed, how many of mine will keep speaking French. Our businesses have to deal with the rest of the country everyday so English is a must. Not having the law, do you really think people would keep learning it? And with the lowering birth rate (due to schooling, careers and people waiting to be older to have children) we are under the reproduction rate. That means more immigrants will have to come in. They would of course, learn English, since it’s the language that opens doors. Again, in a generation, no more French. It would be as rare as someone speaking Latin.
    To Manuel: Your wife took your child to Québec KNOWING he would only be allowed to attend a French school. Think about that!


    November 25, 2009 at 9:53 pm

  8. Hi Ma Chouette,

    I am not against French, and yes, my wife took him without telling me that she planning to stay. She is French Canadian and I am not so she is not affected and what she did is selfish at least.

    If you need to protect your language by law, then your culture is in trouble! I do not think that French, being so beautiful and culturally rich, is in any trouble. It was here for 200 years without a law. A law to protect the right of French speakers was due in the 70s, but not in diminishing of the English population that is as Quebequer as you are Quebecoise.

    Bonne journée!


    November 26, 2009 at 10:55 am

  9. there are 4 CEGEPS. the 3 champlains and Dawson.


    March 27, 2011 at 7:38 pm

  10. America is starting to offer French in their schools, should the Americans not pay for it since we all know Spanish is more widely used in the US and not French?
    As for financing of English schools, part of the finance comes from the Federal government and do Anglophones in the province not pay taxes???? Last I knew they did, there was even an article that some Anglos contributing to English school boards are being taxed at a higher rate than French schools. Hmmm unfair right?!


    April 11, 2011 at 5:08 pm

  11. Furthermore, lets look at the picture as a whole here, Canada is our country (Quebec has not separated yet) and the Francophones are the minority in our country (as a whole) yet, Francophones in Quebec benefit from running an entire province w/very little input of the Anglophones here despite the fact Anglophones are a majority in Canada. Who is the better treated minority w/all the transfer payments etc…from our federal government? I this this is a no-brainer to be honest. It is quite evident who the best treated minority is, and it is NOT the Anglophones!


    April 11, 2011 at 5:11 pm

  12. Hi. I stumbled across this thread because I am currently looking up the law myself. I am an American, descending from a Francophone mother, instructed in english but now living in Quebec, and my son is getting to 5 years old so I was looking at the options.

    Here is what I don’t get about this whole thing. Why is there even a seperate English Language school board, and why are not all schools providing a complete bilingual education? Is it not plainly (and painfully!)obvious that kids need to be thouroughly instructed in both languages these days? I work here, and yes I learned french but I stuggle everday with the vocabulary and grammer, because I learned it as an adult and feel I will never fuly master it. Conversely, some of my colleagues with weaker english skills continually have to struggle with their own difficulties getting their point accross to our other colleagues in western Canada…there is definitely a language barrier. Thankfully, my son will never have to deal with either situation if he has bilingual instruction, AND he will be prepared for life inside and outside of Quebec.

    As an anglophone parent in Quebec, I have the upperhand. I can send my kid to french school without worrying too much about his English aptitude as long as I am doing my part at home. Now, if I was a unilingual francophone parent, I would be PISSED that I had to send my child to a french instruction school with a lack-lustre english program. I’d be like, “WTF Gouvernement de Quebec! I’m paying my taxes can you PLEASE invest in my child’s future!?” No wonder so many people here send their kids to private school.

    Who cares about history, or who is the minority, majority, blah blah blah : this is tripe. If you just take a moment to think about the future, about the awesome advantage a bilingual education offers to a child’s development as well as career opportunities..well then every child in Quebec should be taking advantage of the opportunity to master these two languages, and the government should be working harder to ensure that happens

    Because while your getting all passionate about your linguistic rights or lack there of, the next guy has already gotten over it.

    HE is sending his kids to get educated bilingually….

    And HIS kid is going to be competeing with yours for the jobs of the future…


    September 20, 2011 at 2:34 pm

  13. It’s amasing how English-speakers will deny reality to go on to bash Québec.

    Accept this fact : Québec treats it’s English minority better than Canada treats its French-speaking minority and MUCH better than USA treats it’s Spanish-speaking minority. Some privileges of the English minority WILL be reduced to what is generally granted to other minorities in North America.


    December 13, 2011 at 3:22 pm

  14. Hi Sarah, why isn’t every single school in the USA bilingual with Spanish and English? Isn’t it obvious most kids need bilingual education?

    Because that’s not how language rights work. Forcing everyone in Québec to learn English while sparing the Anglophones in Canada or the USA to effectiverly learn the other language is just plain Anglo-centric ego trip.


    December 13, 2011 at 3:25 pm

  15. Go back to France if you want to speak French.
    Canada is and will always be an English speaking country.
    It is about time French immigrants understand that and integrate and get back on the boat.

    Proud Anglo in Quebec

    May 6, 2020 at 4:26 pm

  16. Also “wealthy families” would have kept their kids in private school. They would not have switched to crappy public school system.

    Proud Anglo in Quebec

    May 6, 2020 at 4:28 pm

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