The premier of Quebec, François Legault, has argued that the new law is “urgently required” to stave off the decline of the French language in a Francophone-majority province. “It’s nothing against the English Quebecers,” he said.
Other proponents argue that the legislation is necessary in a world in which the pull of English is so strong.
But critics of the bill say that stigmatizing bilingualism will prove damaging for Quebec. “Language should be a bridge to other cultures, but this bill wants to erect barriers,” said Ms. Le Dubé, whose bookshop is in Montreal’s Plateau-Mont-Royal, a neighborhood with a large Francophone community, street art and hip cafes.
To shield the bill from potential court challenges, the government has invoked a constitutional loophole known as the “notwithstanding clause,” which gives Canadian governments the power to breach some constitutional rights, including freedom of religion or expression.
Quebec’s quest to preserve French has echoes in other countries, including the United States, where more than 20 states, amid the proliferation of Spanish, have enacted laws in recent years to make English the official language.