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. I, Tony Kondaks, say the following:

    “The French of Quebec are a minority in Canada.

    “Yet the English of Canada, through their taxes, fund the French Quebec minority’s education from kindergarten through to graduate school.”

    If you think the above statement is ridiculous, I agree; it most certainly IS ridiculous.

    However, it is less ridiculous and more grounded in fact than the tripe that AngryFrenchGuy has written above.

    Look, pretty much all of what AngryFrenchGuy writes above has already been debunked, corrected, and refuted by myself and others on this forum in previous of his posts. To go over, point by point, this new silliness of his would be redundant.

    But if there is anyone out there that actually buys into his propaganda, let me know which points of his you think actually make sense and I’ll address it.

    Tony Kondaks

    March 12, 2008 at 1:02 pm

  2. […] Click here for information on the Charter of the French Language’s School Law. […]

  3. No Tony, your statement is not ridiculous. It is absolutely true.

    Funding French Schools is a decision Canadians have taken and it is not my place, as a Québécois, to second guess it.

    I doubt many people feel that funding minority French schools in Canada that attract virtually no immigrants and that have not slowed the rapid assimilation of French-speaking minorities outside Québec, threathens the English language in any way, so the comparison, although tempting, is inadmissible.

    In real life, Québec’s school laws favour diversity and billingualism.

    A fictitious freedom of choice that does not exist anywhere in the world, does not.


    March 12, 2008 at 4:02 pm

  4. I understand your arguement angryfrenchguy, but hasn’t the situation for Quebec English-speakers changed since the introduction of bill 101? If you look at the statistics regarding migration patterns, you’ll see that their a serious brain drain thats taking place within the Quebec Anglo community. Approximately 62% of Anglo Quebecers that graduate from Qc universities leave the province. Anyhow, just food for thought..

    Alex F

    March 12, 2008 at 6:26 pm

  5. agf,

    as noted above – quebec is not suffering/enjoying a flood of english-speaking immigrants in the way southern united states are experiencing numbers of individuals arriving whose mother tongue is spanish. it’s ridiculous for me to make any assertion we are not being inundated in quebec by speakers of pick-a-language and the reason we aren’t can be tied to language laws.

    i can’t make the assertion because (wait for it) i don’t know. i have no empirical evidence that i can offer to support such a notion. what-if-comparisons or equations between apples and oranges never attracted me much anyway. but…..

    what is truly strange in all of this – is the fact that families coming to quebec – particularly from the usa could have their children educated in a second language at a fraction of the cost if they pursued the same goal say in oregon.

    if i were to attempt a guess at why quebec is not being flooded with americans – it would go something like this –
    individuals from the usa do research on a life-changing move and come to the conclusion that the rights they enjoy as americans are not protected in canada and quebec like back home. second choice new hampshire starts to look pretty good.

    de l’autre côté de la medaille – french speaking immigrants from around the world recognise quebec as a virtual paradise (and it is!) in comparison to the regimes they currently live under. and the taxes – what will we ever do with the ridiculous level of taxes.

    if quebec instituted a quiet low flat tax and wrote property rights into the law – learning a second language might be a lot more appealing. what if professional associations could construct a channel for immigrants to practice in their area of expertise. but you don’t need sovereignty or big government to do that. heart attack city for the collectivists. do people want a thriving country or socialism?

    in a thriving country – people can afford to dream.


    March 12, 2008 at 7:52 pm

  6. Alex

    Employer in québec require French skills.

    Québec’s Anglo universities – insanely – give diplomas to people who don’t speak French.

    Hence, the brain drain.

    This man called Bill Parker said it better than I ever could:


    March 12, 2008 at 9:32 pm

  7. agf,

    let’s not put the cart before the horse. once the cart is behind the horse – you have freedom of movement.

    english universities in quebec give diplomas to people who have earned them. it is not insane to award degrees/diplômes – the purpose of university is higher education. it is insane to think universities should recognise academic achievement based on the ability to speak a language. i got the impression you think french should be very important in qualifying for a degree.

    if quebec cannot meet their expectations – they will go where someone else will be happy to accommodate them. the alternative is what? more laws forcing educated freethinking adults to do something else? oh boy – is that ever going to be popular.

    your line of thinking with numbers and definitions of quantities – in short – identity politics; fails to recognise the numbers as human beings. why do you insist on promoting a political agenda above them?

    do you think there will be a really big discussion here at agf when a ruling comes through on 104? :)

    btw, bill parker has it half right. if made to feel welcome in their choice (which means opportunity and stability) – then there will be relief from university grads leaving. he’s wrong about government diktats. they will only produce a slow strangling of institutions, culture and economy. agf – are you ok with that?


    March 13, 2008 at 1:05 am

  8. Does anyone have any feelings about what the Supreme Court will do?

    In my opinion, if the Quebec Court of Appeals ruling is upheld and Bill 104 is shot down by the Supreme Court , then this will be a major blow to Bill 101. Everyone thinks of Bill 101 as “the sign law” but, to me, this is a minor part of it. The language of education provisions are the heart of it and Bill 104 effectively cuts it off at the knees.

    Without Bill 104, a cottage industry of schools offering just grade one will spring up to accomodate francophones, allophones and immigrant anglophones who want to send their children to English publicly funded schools in Quebec: complete the first grade in English at this private school and, voila, you can do the rest at publicly funded schools until you graduate (this is the loophole that Bill 104 tried to close).

    But Canada will not allow this to happen. Canada will, of course, side with the separatist/racist element and either of the following two possibilities will unfold:

    1) Supreme Court reverses the Quebec Court of Appeals ruling. This is most likely. As they did with the Ford decision (aka Brown Shoes decision) of December 1988, they will make a political decision to accomodate the separatist/racists that is NOT based on law and allow Bill 104 to stand.

    2) Supreme Court upholds the Appeals court ruling. There will then be a hastily introduced constitutional amendement to section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (this is the provision on minority language of education rights) by the National Assembly, it will quickly pass (both the PQ and the ADQ will support it), and then it will pass in Parliament. I am not an expert on this but I believe that the amending formula for matters such as education affecting just one province requires a resolution from just the Parliament of Canada and the provincial legislature of the province being affected.

    Thus, the anglos of Quebec will, once again, be screwed over by Canada.

    Tony Kondaks

    March 13, 2008 at 10:06 am

  9. What’s absolutely fascinating about your reasoning, Johnny and Tony, is that you are genuily convinced that bill 101 is the only legislation affecting what would otherwise be an absolutely free-market education system.

    At first I thought there was some bad faith involved, but I’m slowly starting to realize that you are really unable to comprehend that the english-language school system in Québec was designed and constitionalised to protect the privileges of one and only one minority.

    It is not and has never been something that was ever in any way ruled by the “Free Market”.

    You don’t realize that everything you say only makes sense if you consider the French-speakers of Québec as an ethnicity, not a society.

    And I’m especially disapointed at you Johnny, completely confusing offer and demand.

    Put 200 French schools, 3 French Colleges and 2 French universities in downtown Toronto and you might be suprised to see a slight demographic change in the T-dot.


    March 13, 2008 at 11:26 am

  10. AngryFrenchGuy, your misunderstanding of the term “free market” is profound.

    Tony Kondaks

    March 13, 2008 at 1:30 pm

  11. There is something that either you don’t know (or you don’t want to print). My brothers (2) and I were born here but my parents were not; they came to Quebec in the late 50s. For all the grumbling you do about immigrants having chosen English language schools instead of French ones in the past (before Bill 101), you forget to mention that many of (us) ‘immigrants’ weren’t allowed to attend the French ‘Catholic’ schools. My mother was telling me that ‘your’ schools did not let us register. The French speaking population in the past, I would guess because the schools were Catholic, did not want ‘the like of us’ to register, even when we tried. So don’t boo-hoo about how indifferent us ‘immigrants’ were to the French majority; we were not welcome in your world. On the other hand, every English Protestant school welcomed the ‘born in Quebec’ children of immigrant parents with open arms. What do you think we would choose in the end? Do a little homework before you chastise the ‘immigrants’ of the past and how ‘disrespectful’ we (supposedly) were to you. Perhaps it was the other way around….


    March 13, 2008 at 2:03 pm

  12. I’m quite familiar with the history you talk about Michelle.

    I’m now in the 21st century. Where are you?

    But if you are into history I suggest you read up on the the welcoming arms of McGill and other protestant institutions in the 40’s and 50’s.

    Please people. 2008. Reality. Focus. You can do it!


    March 13, 2008 at 2:41 pm

  13. AngryFrenchGuy:

    Please let us know what century you want us to focus on ’cause one day you want us to focus on 2008 and yet just a few days ago it was the plight of the New Brunswick, Ontario, and Manitoban francophones of the 1860s, 1910s and 1890s respectively.

    Make up your mind.

    Tony Kondaks

    March 13, 2008 at 5:12 pm

  14. let’s stick with 2008 – please. we have enough versions of what is happening today without delving into the past. the truth is – everyone’s got a story. and the more happy endings – the better.

    john stuart mill wrote:
    “If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity to exchange error for truth; if wrong, they lose what is almost as great a benefit – the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”

    i’m learning things here. and i understand the implications of your hypothetical education system in “trawna da good” –
    you’re right agf but only in in a virtual sense. will a virtual model guide decisions in the real world. this is an exercise for academics – not responsible governments.

    here in montreal there is a construction that nobody could have predicted and the difference between your virtual circumstance in toronto and the one that exists in montreal today is people – real people. nobody has organised this sequence of events. we all (like you and me) just live through it. i think you will agree that a better method is needed.

    you might not agree – you always surprise me.


    March 13, 2008 at 6:56 pm

  15. “you forget to mention that many of (us) ‘immigrants’ weren’t allowed to attend the French ‘Catholic’ schools. My mother was telling me that ‘your’ schools did not let us register. The French speaking population in the past, I would guess because the schools were Catholic, did not want ‘the like of us’ to register, even when we tried. So don’t boo-hoo about how indifferent us ‘immigrants’ were to the French majority; we were not welcome in your world. On the other hand, every English Protestant school welcomed the ‘born in Quebec’ children of immigrant parents with open arms.”

    Oh, no, not with open arms. I was quite a struggle. Nobody wanted these immigrants but as cheap labour.

    You are mistaken in thinking that 1) Quebec blamed the immigrants and 2) immigrants had no choice in the 1970s.

    The Gendron Commission report reads:

    “The immigrants arrived in Quebec to improve their material condition and to insure a better future for their children. They were obliged to work in English to live and they saw French Canadians give them the example. They observed that in Montreal at least, a part of the French-Canadian parents were sending their children to English schools and private schools, each time they had the financial means to do it. They therefore followed the same path. Their bilingualism seemed absolutely necessary to them, and they never stopped demanding neutral bilingual schools, so that their children could get the best possible training.”

    Quebec French speakers never blamed immigrants for doing what they were themselves obliged to do: work in English in a French province.

    The system of segregated Catholic and Protestant schools was designed when all immigrants were white Europeans, mostly British and Protestant. Obviously, this system was not at all meant for immigrants practising other religions.

    Robert Gagnon, historian author of “Histoire de la Commission des écoles catholiques de Montréal”. Montréal: Boréal, 1996, writes:

    “This idea that immigrant communities would have chosen English schools because Catholic ones refused their entry is one of the most persistent cliché of the past 20 years.”

    The subject is dealt with by the author in a series of Le Devoir articles dating May 1999. Search for “Pour en finir avec le mythe” and “L’école anglaise : le choix des immigrants” in

    Also, on the relation between the Jews and Protestant schools, read CORCOS, Arlette, “Montréal, les Juifs et l’école”, Montréal: Septentrion, 1997, 305 p.

    Mathieu Gauthier-Pilote

    March 16, 2008 at 10:53 am

  16. johnnyonline wrote:

    john stuart mill wrote:
    “If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity to exchange error for truth; if wrong, they lose what is almost as great a benefit – the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”

    If you like John Stuart Mill, you will appreciate reading his 1838 article entitled “Radical Party and Canada: Lord Durham and the Canadians”. You can find it on my site.

    Mathieu Gauthier-Pilote

    March 16, 2008 at 10:56 am

  17. mathieu,

    i am glad you decided to return to quebec – the “mouvement separatiste” in alberta would eventually have found you (no doubt on electric ave.) and used your articulate voice to their own advantage. ;)

    encore, merci. great document. you can see why i admire js mill. perfectly polite indignation and rational when he argued that stewards of the crown had abused their position and mill goes after their friends and supporters too! this man was nobody’s fool. he understood what responsibilties are inherent with power.

    the family compact and their corrupt ways was a breach of trust across the board – corrupt government officials up to the same tricks 180 years ago – sound familiar? but on the bright side – the colony (notably upper and lower canada) was empowered with resposible government and a path to confederation was made possible. all have prospered from this fact of history.

    and… the democracy was so robust, any assimilation entertained by the old guard was reduced to a footnote in history’s garbage bin of bad ideas.

    this is the part i like best:

    “At what time since Christianity existed has it been held, that success in injustice was a lot which patriots ought to desire for their country? That to prosper in evil courses was not a far worse evil than to fail in them—was not the strongest mark of divine displeasure,—permitted only that the example of the subsequent chastisement and humiliation might be more memorable? Lord John Russell would bring us back to heathenism. That love of country, which would rather see the success of our country than that of the right, is an essentially Pagan sentiment, and even as such, repudiated by all the great philosophers and moralists of the Pagan world.”

    allow me to paraphrase:

    since when has it become popular to follow an unjust course? since when is the successful accomplishment of an unjust policy better than the failure of an unjust policy? both will eventually be recognised as unjust – except history will judge the successful and unjust venture more harshly. Lord Russell (who was against democratic principles in the colony) and his ideas would return our civilisation to the dark ages. patriotic nationalism based on self-interest rather than the betterment of mankind is nothing more than a short-sighted emotion and every thinking man knows it.


    March 16, 2008 at 10:35 pm

  18. Amen


    March 17, 2008 at 12:04 am

  19. The Radicals lost. The ballot voting, the extension of the suffrage came much later.

    To continue the story from the perspective of a mind as clear and a heart as pure as that of Mill, you need to read Papineau. The forced union was a disaster for most Quebecers, and, no, from a Radical or Patriote POV, responsible government never actually came.

    Besides, this was NOT the central demand of the House of Assembly of Lower Canada from the 1820s to 1837, it was that of the moderate reformists of Upper Canada from the 1830s.

    The central demand of the House of Assembly of Lower Canada was the electivity of the Legislative Council, based on the constitutional precedent that existed, for example, in the institutions of the Province of New York. This is very clear in the 92 resolutions, in the petitions of 1828, etc.

    My favourite part of Mill’s article is:

    “Remembering all this; remembering that it is but of yesterday that the French Canadians have been admitted to any share of the honours and offices of their native country; remembering that the local oligarchy, represented by the Council, have done their utmost to inflame those national differences which enable them to identify their cause with that of the British settlers and even of the mother country; is it to be wondered at that such animosities [of race] should exist? But will any one believe that they are the cause of the discontents, or that the Council have made themselves obnoxious to the French by upholding the English, when the party which is opposed to the Council is a mixed party of French and English, and when, “of the members from the townships, where there are no persons of French origin, nearly as many vote with the French party in the Assembly as against them?” The assertion is one of the misrepresentations, calumnies we may venture to call them, of which, from their distance and the popular ignorance on the subject, the Canadians are liable to far more than we can at present meet; and of many others of which, the refutation, from the Commissioners’ Reports, might be made fully as conclusive.”

    The Tory Press then, the Corporate Canada Press today, practise the same policy of disguising a complex and highly intellectual political question as a vulgar “contest between races” . Only the vocabulary has changed from these times to ours.

    The worst calumny then was being called “disloyal” or “rebel”, today it is to be wrongfully labelled a supporter of “ethnic nationalism”!

    But wait! Would it not be more logical to question the motives of those traders and bureaucrats who violated a provincial constitution from 1791 until the day when a census revealed that the French Canadians had finally become a minority in a new United Canada?

    Hopefully, there are still some who see clearly through this and recognize a universal cause of justice when they see one, even if it means that by supporting it they will be called “traitors to Canada” by the unscrupulous gang who made a couple of faux-pas recently, yet managed to escape prosecution after the “enquiry” of the Gomery Commission.

    Patriotism, when enlightened by the highest moral and civic virtues, is a great instrument for the progress of the cause of humanity which is universal justice, not simply justice to those nations that already have a sovereign State at their disposal no matter how they got it.

    Mathieu Gauthier-Pilote

    March 17, 2008 at 4:23 pm

  20. I’ll bet nobody here knows the pre-Contact names for Montreal Island, and for what is now the 450 area code…Please, this eurocentricity is killing me….


    March 21, 2008 at 4:56 pm

  21. Hochelaga.


    March 21, 2008 at 8:43 pm

  22. […] have themselves been to English schools in Canada.  That’s the rule as established by the Charter of the French Language 30 years […]

  23. […] Bill 101 isn’t about wiping out English From Montreal. It’s about providing a counterweight to the massive power of attraction of English in North America and the world. […]

  24. […] they will surely find comfort in the fact that they can always flee Québec and it’s horrible language laws for the riches and linguitic freedom of […]

  25. […] never been a strong supporter of defending French through legislation – except when it comes to the language of education – and I have always prefered to let my money do the […]

  26. Hi,
    So you mentioned lets talk about 2008 and forget about the history. No problem lets do it.

    You explained what you think about this law and I will explain how we new immigrant parents deal with it.

    First of all it is 100% discriminatory law. this law locates a group of population and gives this group less rights then to all the rest.

    Real example I have 2 neighbors french canadian’s both of them send they kids to English school across the street, from other side I cant send my kids to this school.(We pay same I taxes , I probably pay even more :-)) If the English school already exist everybody have to have same right to attend it , other wise it is closer to fascism then to democracy. Close it completely or keep it open in same way to all.

    If it is too difficult to understand I can make simpler example. Lets build a public park in the center of city an lets legislate a law that people of color are forbidden to enter this park.

    This situation will be exactly the same as the situation with Bill 101 school legislation.

    You identify a group by certain conditions and you limit they rights, it is 100% discrimination.

    Ali Baba

    September 21, 2008 at 6:17 pm

  27. “First of all it is 100% discriminatory law. this law locates a group of population and gives this group less rights then to all the rest.”

    Yes, you are right, Francophones have given THEMSELVES less rights than they gave to ANGLOPHONES.

    Everybody in Québec has to go to the same schools EXCEPT Anglos because of Canada’s racist constitution that says ANGLOS in Québec have a right to a SEPARATE school system.

    Bill 101 is the law that tries to end the racist situation. You are defending segregation, sir.


    September 21, 2008 at 6:28 pm

  28. […] Jew, a feminist from Palestine and a guy from Madagascar who are now staunch supporters of the education measures in bill 101 give their […]

  29. The point missing here, if you want to compare Canada to the United States, is that Canada is an officially bilingual country and the United States is not, despite the efforts of the Province of Quebec to become a unilingual corner of Canada. Quebec, and its engine specifically (Montreal), was built by both English and French hands, for the last 300 hundred years. In fact, it was the very predominence of the English in business and power that caused so much resentment among Francophones. Thus, Quebec belongs to both Enlgish and French Quebecers, and the English have been operating as a distinct community within Quebec for hundreds of years, building their own self-funding institutions along the way, that is until the francophone majority changed the rules, nationalised education and healthcare, and redefined Quebec as French, to the exclusion of one of the founding memebrs of our Province, the English.

    Second, the reason why Jewish schools exist, is because up until a few years a go, there was only a Catholic School Board and a Protestant School Board. Why not allow minorities to have their own curriculum, which by the way is semi-private and not fully funded by government. In fact the deal is, Jewish schools get tuition covered for the same amount it costs the Quebec government to fund a student in the public school system. Parents make up the difference. Every time a majority in Quebec redefines itself,

    Lastly, Francophones did not/do no fund the English school board exclusively. Remember, English language speakers contribute their fair share to the Quebec tax system themselves. In fact, if you left schools to be funded at the local/municipal level, i’m sure you would see a vibrant English language school system fully funded by English dollars, just like English language schools and hospitals were before they were nationalised. Your logic reminds me of the thief who steals the television and then demands thanks from the victim for leaving the stero behind.

    Lastly to the ridiculous logic regarding racism and segregation of the english school system. The difference here is choice. The English have been operating in Quebec for well over 200 years. They attend the English school system VOLUNTARILY. The injustic of segregation is when a minority or majority is FORCED to be separated. The English of Quebec have a choice, its the French who are restricted from choosing what’s good for themselves and their children.


    November 17, 2008 at 1:50 pm

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