QUEBEC - Newly arrived immigrants will be required to have an "appropriate" working knowledge of French to be sworn in as Quebec citizens - even if the province is still part of Canada - if legislation proposed yesterday by the Parti Québécois is adopted.
Failing to learn French would bar an immigrant from holding public office at any level, raising funds for political parties, or petitioning1 the National Assembly for redress of a grievance.
The new rules would not apply to people already living in Quebec because they have acquired rights, the PQ says. But new arrivals - 40 per cent of immigrants to Quebec do not speak French - would be encouraged and assisted to acquire the language, which the new bill dresses up as a new "right" for citizens.
"It's like a Bill 101, but in the perspective of the identity of Quebecers," PQ leader Pauline Marois said at a news conference explaining the party's proposal, contained in Bill 195, titled the "Quebec Identity Act."
Marois tabled the bill in the National Assembly yesterday, beating the Liberals and the Action démocratique du Québec to the punch in the struggle to control the political-identity issue.
The PQ's bill is unlikely to become law, because it is doubtful the Liberals or the ADQ will support it. But Marois said that under legislature rules, it at least must be discussed, and that will put the PQ in the thick of a debate raging in the province.
The bill recognizes that since Quebec is not a sovereign country, however, it does not have all powers over citizenship. In fact, Article 49.2 of the bill states a person cannot earn the title of "Quebec citizen" if he or she is not also a "Canadian citizen."
New citizens would also be required to pledge - under oath - that they will be loyal to the people of Quebec and observe its constitution, which the PQ proposes the province draft - even before separation.
Marois said the proposal is no worse than any country's citizenship requirements, including Canada's, though the bill describes a three-year moral contract between immigrants and the state to learn French: They have to learn it; the state has to pay for it.
Under the PQ's bill, Marois conceded, a unilingual anglophone immigrant would not be allowed to run in an election to become mayor of Westmount. The person would need French to do the job properly anyway, she said.
Slipped into news conference was a proposal for a new crackdown on the use of English in the workplace. If elected, a PQ government would impose stiff fines on large firms that fail to acquire francization certificates proving they operate in French.