Quebec CAQ government plans to reduce English on its website

The Quebec CAQ government is planning to review its language policy and reduce the amount of space given to English on its website, The Canadian Press has learned.

Currently, English is optional.

Anyone interested in joining Premier Francois Legault's party can become a member of the CAQ in English, make a donation to the party in English, consult certain documents in English and request that they be corresponded with in English.

Just click on the "English" tab, fill out the form and check English rather than French in the "Preferred Language" box.

As a matter of consistency, it may seem surprising to see both languages placed on an equal footing from a party that tabled Bill 96 in May, which insists on the primacy of French and intends to make the French language the official language in Quebec.

But there is nothing illegal about this practice because neither Bill 101 nor the future Bill 96 requires political parties to have a language policy that promotes the primacy or exclusivity of French.

The four major parties (CAQ, Quebec Liberal Party, Quebec Solidaire and Parti Quebecois) each have their own approach and vision of language.

The English-language version of the CAQ's website was created in 2016, a project sponsored by the party's then-president, Stephane Le Bouyonnec, recently recruited by Legault with a mandate to expand internet access throughout Quebec, and Nathalie Roy, current Minister of Culture and early in her mandate Minister responsible for the Charter of the French Language.

The news release issued at the time made no mention of the fact that the French language is the only official language of Quebec, nor that it should become its common language.

As a party of Francophones, the CAQ wanted to reach out to the English-speaking community.

"We have an economic plan that also involves the English-speaking community of Quebec," Le Bouyonnec wrote. "This new platform will allow them to be up to date with CAQ news, and they will have access to the party's program."

Today, the English version of the CAQ website does not mention the tabling of Bill 96, unlike the French version.

The CAQ's efforts to diversify its membership have come to naught.

Legault's party remains a political formation that does not attract "Anglos": 99% of its members are Francophones. And the English-speaking community has shunned his party in elections.

The English version of the site does seem to generate some interest: in the last month, it was visited 822 times.

WE HAVE TO CHANGE THAT

In the wake of the introduction of Bill 96, a move to affirm Quebec's francophone identity, the CAQ admits to some discomfort with the bilingualism displayed on its site, the party's front door and signature.

"We have to change that," agreed the party's executive director, Brigitte Legault, in a telephone interview this week.

"We're going to re-evaluate the website in the next few months," she added. "The place given to English will be revised downward, as will the resources devoted to this language, both in the production of material and in the translation of documents."

From now on, only basic information will be offered to English-speaking visitors.

The suggestion is that the CAQ is giving up on the English-speaking electorate.

LIBERALS: FULL BILINGUALISM

The CAQ is not the only political party flirting with institutional bilingualism to appeal to the English-speaking part of the electorate.

The official name of the official opposition party in the National Assembly is the Quebec Liberal Party/Parti libéral du Québec.

On its website, the party's showcase, the team led by Dominique Anglade practices full bilingualism.

By consulting it, it is difficult for a recent immigrant to determine if this party has a penchant for one of Canada's two official languages and if so which one.

All digital interactions between a visitor and the QLP can be done in English only (become a member, make a donation, access all documents, get correspondence).

At first glance, both languages have the same status and occupy the same space.

You choose which one you want.

But the QLP does not share this reading. Internal sources say that the party has made a lot of effort in recent years to emphasize French and to ensure that the use of that language is "predominant" in its communications with members and visitors to the site.

It is argued that the website now opens in French and visitors wishing to interact in English must click on the English tab.

The QLP, which has a high proportion of English speakers in its membership, has no intention of changing its internal language policy.

At the same time, the QLP is trying to get closer to the French-speaking and nationalist electorate, which overwhelmingly rejected it in the 2018 election.

In April, the party put forward 27 proposals to make French the common language in Quebec.

One of the five principles stated in the Liberal action plan was to guarantee the rights and services provided to anglophones.

QS: UNILINGUALISM BY DEFAULT

The Quebec Solidaire (QS) website is unilingual French, but this is not so much a principle as an accident of fate. "If QS does not translate its website, it is mainly a question of resources. We do translation during election periods, but we don't have the means to translate our website and all of our communications into English," said party spokesperson Camila Rodriguez-Cea.

She added that if the left-wing party were richer, it would re-evaluate its position on language use.

PQ: FULL UNILINGUALISM

The Parti Quebecois (PQ), which passed Bill 101 in 1977 and has just presented its 'Emergency Plan for the French Language', is fully unilingual in French by choice.

There is not a word of English on its website some would say because it has long since given up trying to seduce the English-speaking electorate.

"As a political party, it seems obvious and necessary to us to issue our communications in this language, including on our website," said party director of communications Lucas Medernach.

-- this report was first published in French on June 6, 2021. 

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