French and English languages

For many years, most of the resentment towards anglophones in Quebec focused on language. The very first law governing the use of French was the Lavergny Law, passed in 1910.

According to this law, tickets for trains, trams and buses were printed in both English and French languages. In 1937, Maurice Duplessis passed a law requiring the French text of the laws approved in Quebec to prevail over the English text, reasoning than the French would better reflect the intent of the lawmakers.

Still, the situation was tense and far from being solved. In many cases, while French was the dominant language in almost every occasion, English was the language of business. Many companies required English to be spoken by their engineers, accountants, administrators, salesmen, economists… Obviously, this provoked an irate reaction from the French speaking citizens. In 1969 Jean-Jacques Bertrand's government introduced legislation ratifying the idea that people could choose the language in which their children should be educated. Dozens of thousands of citizens protested throughout the province against parent being given the option. The companies still wouldn't retreat.

In 1973 William Tetley, minister of financial institutions in Robert Bourassa's government, made pass a new version of Companies Act. Quebec businesses were now required to adopt a French name, but they had the option of having an English or a bilingual name too. Of the dozens of thousands of companies, less than three dozen of English speaking companies complied. Most of them argued that this was not in their interests.

In the face of this intransigence, the government introduced the first major law restricting the use of English. Bill 22, adopted in 1974, legislated French as Quebec's only official language. Immigrant children should be tested on their English before being allowed to go to English schools. Education minister Francois Cloutier stated that any increases in English school system would be based on children whose maternal language was English.

The English schools would not grow from francophone parents sending their children to English schools. They wouldn't use the influx of immigrants who were not anglophone. Although Bill 22 contained many provision protecting the rights of the anglophones of Quebec, the reaction to the bill was virulent. Protests were held in Montreal and some other communities.

Still, few French speaking Quebecers were happy with Bill 22. Indeed, the bill proclaimed French as Quebec's only official language, but it didn't resolve the language issue to the satisfaction of either francophones or anglophones. In 1975, the Parti Quebecois won the election and came to power…

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