Quebec's New Language Law is Pushing International Students Out of the Province
An effort to preserve and promote the French language is causing ripples among locals and international students alike.
The province of Quebec, home to Canada's largest population of French speakers, has passed a new law to preserve and promote the language. The law, known as Bill 96, has put pressure on English speakers and international students — causing some to leave the province entirely.
Here are three major reasons why Bill 96 is having such an impact:
1. Six months to learn French
Newcomers to Quebec will now have only six months to learn French. Government agencies are permitted to provide services in languages other than French for new residents, but only for six months. After six months in-province, only French-language services will be offered. If you can't master the language in half a year, you'll have to make do, as public services will be French-only. This could be a big problem for international students without strong French skills.
2. English instruction restricted
Quebec has also put a cap on the number of English-language courses that can be taught in French CEGEPs, and there's now a maximum limit on the number of students attending English CEGEPs. French-language instruction will be mandatory, even at English CEGEPs. Without a sufficient level of skill in written and spoken French, a student cannot receive a diploma.
(CEGEP is like a university prep school: Quebec students take two years of CEGEP after high school, before going to university.)
3. Accessing English services
The only people who will be able to access services in English are those who have attended an English school in Canada. There are some exceptions, including Indigenous peoples and students with serious health conditions, but most people in Quebec will not have access to English-language services.
The intent of Bill 96 is clear: strengthen the presence of the French language in Quebec. Unfortunately, the bill does so by restricting choices for citizens and international students. Due to a quirk of Canadian law, the bill can't be challenged as a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for a five-year period: 2027 is a long way off.
If you're already in Quebec, studying in college or university, you may not see many changes right away. Your studies will continue as normal. You'll be expected to communicate solely in French when accessing government services.
International students who are considering Canada, but don't have strong French language skills, should be cautious about choosing Quebec. On the other hand, if you're a French speaker, or you're eager to learn the language quickly, Quebec may be a good choice for you.
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