Are laws mandating the use of French in Québec morally legitimate?


I’m doing a research presentation on language legislation in Québec. Just from a quick search on Google, it doesn’t appear that this issue been discussed on CAF before. All kinds of laws have been passed throughout the years in Québec, including laws that mandate the use of French on public signs, laws that require children to attend French schools, and a number of other similar requirements. The argument of my presentation is that language legislation is the primary means in which the Québécois have attempted to protect French Canadian culture against the dominant influence of Anglophone society in North America. I’ve generally supported the idea, but I’ve begun to wonder whether such measures might actually be morally reprehensible. Could it be considered racist to attempt to preserve a society’s culture by mandating the use of a language? Is this discriminatory? What would the Catholic position on this subject be?


Why would it be immoral? Most countries or geographic areas through history have done the exact same thing. Some still think we should…


Such laws may be offensive to some but are not immoral. I do find it offensive to have traveled in Canada in the past and seen all road signs in dual language except in Quebec where signs were only in French. If that’s how it’s going to be then the rest of Canada should have signs just in English.


Are laws mandating the use of French in Québec morally legitimate?
Je pense que oui.


Many places have done this in the past to protect their culture or worse to force their culture on someone. The former I see no problem with, the latter I would think is immoral.
In this case there is no immoral behaviour, since no sanctions are placed on you if you speak English for example.


Many provinces do have road signs in English only. It is only in those provinces which have chosen to be designated bilingual that the signs are in both languages.

Quebec’s decision to promote and support their francophone culture comes from the fact that they are a cultural and linguistic minority within the larger country, no matter how much the language is given “official” recognition. You would be unlikely to find a Quebec Francophone who did not speak English fluently; outside Quebec, it is rather unusual to find an Anglophone who speaks French fluently. Recognizing that the language is such a significant part of the culture, and that it does need to be protected from a majority culture which threatens to overwhelm it, the impetus of the Quebec government becomes more and more understandable.


In Louisiana years ago the government ordered that English must be taught and used. People weren’t allowed to speak their native Cajun French in school or they’d be punished by whipping or other stuff like that. Because of that that generation didn’t teach the French language to their children. Now it is nearly lost and with it a large part of our great culture. So a government that is trying to preserve their culture is not bad in fact it is good. As long as they don’t punish people for speaking English


How is this a moral issue?

Racist? French is not a race.


The rest of Canada is not “English.” Parts of Ontario are, and parts of British Columbia are, but the rest of the country is made up of people whose ancestors come from all over the world, whose native languages are neither French nor English.

I respect the right of Quebec to consider itself “French” but the rest of Canada is multilingual and multicultural, and it is perfectly appropriate for both official languages to be posted on signs, and to be available in public places, since immigrants are given the choice of which language they want to learn.


Actually during the Napoleonic period there were a number of different languages spoken in France - French was yet another minority language in the area referred to as France. Indeed as late as WWI, there were French folks who didn’t speak French.

It is natural for folks to want to hang on to their heritage and culture via a ‘traditional’ language - it is just a bit of a pain in the butt for those of us that haven’t mastered it - c’est la vie!

Here in the UK, the Celtic languages are promoted in their home ranges. There are even a few Cornish folk desperately hanging on to their variant of Breton.

As for Quebec, ask why it is they persist in calling courgettes - zucchinis?

ps. Regarding the push for French in ‘Canucksville’, I personally blame Gen. De Gaulle and his ‘Vive le Québec libre’ speech!


The right for English and French parents to have their children educated in their mother tongue in areas where they are a minority is entrenched in Article 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That right only applies to citizens of Canada and Québec observes that to the letter – immigrants are not allowed to send their children to English schools because they are not entitled to do so under the Charter.

In other areas of Canada, the French schools welcome immigrants because a) they aren’t forbidden from doing so and b) because it increases their numbers and the money from the federal government. The numbers are not large enough to have a real impact on the provinces.


Just because you don’t like something does not make it immoral.


This happened in Hawaii too. People were punished for speaking Hawaiian.

Now like Cajun French, it is nearly lost.


Spain under Francisco Franco is a classic example of suppression of regional languages and cultures. Thankfully there was enough resistance to his policies that there is today a resurgence of e.g. Basque and Catalan cultures in the Peninsula.


It can be pushed too far.

Workers not allowed to speak their own languages in the workplace – even in the breakroom.

Italian restaurants targeted for using the words “pasta” on their menus.

Telling a game store owner he can’t sell any game that exists in another language if there is no French equivalent. As a matter of fact, if there are French versions, he can’t display the foreign-language ones if the French ones are out of stock.

I do remember a story a number where the Quebec language police threatened to seize an immigrant family’s business because they had received a complaint that the owners’ French skills weren’t good enough.


Actually this is the case in some sports or gambling employment places.

At the poker table, English only, or you have to talk to the big guy in the corner…

I remember in high school on the tennis team there is no coaching. You may encourage the player but you cannot coach. Many of the Spanish speaking players on other teams would try to receive coaching. Fortunately our tennis coach was the Spanish teacher…


This is completely false. I have lived 48 of my 56 years in Quebec, and have spent all but 4 of my 34 year career working here. I have never been prevented from speaking English to an anglophone colleague, in the office or the break room.

Francophone workers do have the right to work in their language and thus I am obliged to speak with them in French which is in any case my mother tongue… Customers have the right to be served in French, and all official documents must be in French, but the law does not prohibit English translations; it just doesn’t oblige them. Official meetings must be conducted I French if necessary, and official records in French, but if everyone speaks English a meeting can be in Engilsh even though official records must be in French.

There have been a lot of stupidities, but this isn’t one of them. I’ll write more about the language issue when I have more time but suffices to say it is a complex history with bigotry on both sides of the issue.


So because it didn’t happen to you, it has never happened? :rolleyes:

I’m not saying it’s endemic or maybe even particularly widespread. It has been reported in the media, and I only mention it with regards to when the government goes too far.

BTW, I can support a lot of the efforts that the Quebecois make to preserve their language. I can understand them not enjoying feeling like strangers in their own province because some do not bother to learn French, or provide services in French, etc.

But I believe sometimes the OQLF can go too far.


I mention it because there is no legal requirement to only speak French at all times in the workplace. Individual human bigotry is another matter. Yes, the OLF can go too far, but being forbidden to speak English in the workplace or break room isn’t one of them.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit