27 November 2011

William Johnson: The legal status of English in Quebec

During the 1995 referendum, I maintained in The Gazette that a referendum did not confer a right to secede unilaterally and that, if Canada was divisible, Quebec was also divisible. That shocked even good anglos but my position was confirmed in August 1998 by the Supreme Court of Canada ...
In their analysis of Bill 22, Frank Scott, John Humphrey (who had drafted the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights), Irwin Cotler and four others wrote: "Section 1 which provides that French is 'the official language of the province of Quebec' is misleading in that it suggests that English is not also an official language in Quebec, which it is by virtue of Section 133 of the BNA Act and the federal Official Languages Act."
These eminent legal authorities asserted: "To promote the two cultures on the basis of equality and to allow them freedom for their natural growth and development is, we believe, the only proper policy for Quebec and for Canada, and the only one consistent with contemporary international standards of human rights."
In his initial draft of what became Bill 101, Camille Laurin had this in Section 1: "Le français est la seule langue officielle du Québec." But he was persuaded to drop seule when he was told that it would certainly be struck down by the courts, thus confirming that English was also an official language of Quebec ..

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