Quebec's 'historic anglophones' will be identified by Bill 101: Legault

MONTREAL – Quebec's "historic anglophones" will be dictated by Bill 101, Quebec's premier said Tuesday after at least one politician asked the CAQ government how it plans to figure out who qualifies for English services in the province.

“Is there some sort of secret password, secret handshake?” Quebec Liberal MNA Carlos Leitao asked Tuesday.

Anyone who went to English school in the province or is a member of an Indigenous group will be entitled to receive government services in English; everyone else will receive them in French only, François Legault clarified.

"As per the Bill 101. (If) your parents went to English school, you have rights in Quebec and we will respect those rights. If you're a new immigrant, you have to talk to them in French," he said.

This comes after Quebec Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette suggested Monday that newcomers to the province should be obliged to receive all government documents in French.

He added that only the “historic anglophone minority” should be allowed to communicate with the government in English.

“As (part of the) many, many measures announced recently by Simon Jolin-Barrette, this one makes me smile a bit, but it's not funny. In fact, it's quite sad,” Leitao lamented.

“He doesn't appear to understand how the real world works.”

Greg Kelley, an anglophone MNA who represents the West Island riding of Jacques-Cartier, agreed with Leitao.

"I have no idea what an historic anglophone is," he said, pointing to his own mother, who comes from Ontario and doesn't have so-called "deep roots" in the province.

"Would there be a registry of immigrants?" he posited. "Is it based on your last name?... When you get into the application of this, it doesn't really make sense in my mind."

Constitutional lawyer Julius Grey argued this is a "disturbing, new form of identity politics" -- something he said is spreading all over the world.

"It cannot be excused as protecting French because nobody is hurt and French is not hurt if somebody gets a Hydro bill or an income tax form or medical services in a public place in another language,” he insisted.

New measures for French services

The immigration minister’s comments follow a report that discovered provincial employees do not respect linguistic policies. In some cases, there are no guidelines at all.

“The quality of the French language is important to state employees,” Jolin-Barrette said.

He argued Quebec must stand firm to defend the French language, criticizing the previous Liberal government, whom he claims allowed linguistic policies to lapse.

The minister is promising new measures in the coming months to make sure Quebecers follow the province’s official language laws.

Who is a 'real anglophone' anyway?

Leitao had asked earlier in the day if there would be some sort of test to determine whether someone is truly an English-speaker or not – his comments possibly taking a dig at the government’s Quebec values test for immigrant candidates.

“I'd like for him [Jolin-Barrette] to explain what the difference is. Where does he set the line between an anglo, a ‘historic’ anglo and another sort of anglo?” Leitao asked.

-- with files from CTV Montreal's Kelly Greig.