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Office québécois de la langue française

Office québécois de la langue française

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The Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) (Quebec Board of the French Language) is a public organization established on March 24, 1961 by the Liberal
Parti libéral du Québec
The Quebec Liberal Party is a centre-right political party in Quebec. It has been independent of the federal Liberal Party of Canada since 1955....

 government of Jean Lesage
Jean Lesage
Jean Lesage, PC, CC, CD was a lawyer and politician in Quebec, Canada. He served as the 19th Premier of Quebec from 22 June 1960, to 16 August 1966...

. Attached to the Quebec ministry of Immigration and Cultural Communities, its initial mission, defined in its report of April 1, 1964 was "to align on international French, promote good Canadianisms and fight Anglicisms, [...] work on the normalization of the language in Québec and support State intervention to carry out a global language policy that would consider notably the importance of socio-economic motivations in making French the priority language in Québec."

Its mandate was enlarged by the 1977 Charter of the French Language
Charter of the French Language
The Charter of the French Language , also known as Bill 101 and Loi 101, is a law in the province of Quebec in Canada defining French, the language of the majority of the population, as the only official language of Quebec, and framing fundamental language rights for everyone in the province...

, which also established two other organizations: the Commission de toponymie (Commission of Toponymy) and the Conseil supérieur de la langue française
Conseil supérieur de la langue française (Quebec)
The Conseil supérieur de la langue française is an advisory council in Quebec, Canada, whose mission is "to advise the minister responsible for the application of the Charter of the French language on any question relative to the French language in Quebec." It works in close collaboration with...

(Superior Council of the French Language).

History


The Office was originally named Office de la langue française (OLF), and is still occasionally referred to as such. The OLF was renamed OQLF pursuant to the adoption of Bill 104 by the National Assembly of Quebec
National Assembly of Quebec
The National Assembly of Quebec is the legislative body of the Province of Quebec. The Lieutenant Governor and the National Assembly compose the Parliament of Quebec, which operates in a fashion similar to those of other British-style parliamentary systems.The National Assembly was formerly the...

 on June 12, 2003, which also merged the OLF with the Commission de protection de la langue française (Commission of protection of the French language) and part of the Conseil supérieur de la langue française.

The creation of a "Board of the French language" was one of the recommendations of the Tremblay Royal Commission of Inquiry on Constitutional Problems
Royal Commission of Inquiry on Constitutional Problems
Premier of Quebec, Maurice Duplessis, called for the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Constitutional Problems in 1953. The commission, chaired by Mr. Justice Thomas Tremblay, studied the problem of tax sharing between different levels of government and greater constitutional problems in Canada.The...

 which published its five-volume report in 1956. Such an institution was part of the list of 46 vows formulated by the Second Congress on the French Language in Canada
Second Congress on the French Language in Canada
The Second Congress on the French Language in Canada was held at Université Laval in Quebec City from June 27 to July 1st, 1937...

 held in Quebec City
Quebec City
Quebec , also Québec, Quebec City or Québec City is the capital of the Canadian province of Quebec and is located within the Capitale-Nationale region. It is the second most populous city in Quebec after Montreal, which is about to the southwest...

 in 1937.

Mission and powers


Sections 159 to 164 of the Québec Charter of the French Language
Charter of the French Language
The Charter of the French Language , also known as Bill 101 and Loi 101, is a law in the province of Quebec in Canada defining French, the language of the majority of the population, as the only official language of Quebec, and framing fundamental language rights for everyone in the province...

 defines the mission and powers of the commission.:
  • To define and conduct Quebec's policy pertaining to linguistic officialization, terminology and francization
    Francization
    Francization or Gallicization is a process of cultural assimilation that gives a French character to a word, an ethnicity or a person.-French Colonial Empire:-Francization in the World:...

     of public administration and businesses; (Section 159)
  • To monitor the linguistic situation in Québec and to report thereon to the Minister at least every five years; (Section 160)
  • To see to it that French is the normal and everyday language of work, communication, commerce and business in the civil administration and in enterprises; (Section 161)
  • To assist and inform the civil administration, semipublic agencies, enterprises, associations and natural persons as regards the correction and enrichment of spoken and written French in Québec; (Section 162)
  • To establish the research programmes needed for the application of the Act. (Section 163)
  • To make agreements or take part in joint projects with any person or agency. (Section 164)


In 2004, the organization had a yearly budget of $17.8 million. In 2005-2006, the budget rose to $18.5 million and in 2007-2008 to $19.0 million.

Members



In March 2011, the OQLF's eight members, appointed by the government for a maximum of five years, were:
  • Louise Marchand : Présidente-directrice générale de l’OQLF
  • Gordon Bernstein : Vice-président de Bernstein Delambre
  • Daniel Boyer : Secrétaire général de la Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ)
  • Monique C. Cormier : Professeure titulaire au Département de linguistique et de traduction de l’Université de Montréal
    Université de Montréal
    The Université de Montréal is a public francophone research university in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It comprises thirteen faculties, more than sixty departments and two affiliated schools: the École Polytechnique and HEC Montréal...

  • Gilles Dulude : Président de Synergroupe Conseils en ressources humaines inc.
  • Marie Gendron : Directrice générale de l'opération sociétale de la Fondation Lucie et André Chagnon
  • Jacques Gosselin : Sous-ministre associé responsable de l'application de la politique linguistique
  • Marc Termote : Professeur associé au Département de démographie de l’Université de Montréal
    Université de Montréal
    The Université de Montréal is a public francophone research university in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It comprises thirteen faculties, more than sixty departments and two affiliated schools: the École Polytechnique and HEC Montréal...


Services


Following its mandates, the OQLF offers the following services to the population of Quebec:
  • General information service via toll free line, Web site and brochures;
  • Francization services:
    • Francization counselling (for businesses of 50 employees or more);
    • Technical assistance relating to Francization of information technologies;
  • Processing of complaints for non-respect of the law;
  • Terminology and linguistics tools and services:
    • The Grand dictionnaire terminologique
      Grand dictionnaire terminologique
      The Grand dictionnaire terminologique is an online terminological database containing nearly 3 million French, English and Latin technical terms in 200 industrial, scientific and commercial fields....

      ;
    • The Banque de dépannage linguistique;
    • Personalized terminological and linguistic consultation;
  • Publications of the OQLF:
    • Le français au bureau, a book for the general public pertaining to administrative and commercial writing;
    • Terminology works: dictionaries, lexicons addressed principally to specialists;
  • Libraries: one in Montreal the other in Quebec City;
  • Evaluation of competence in French by candidates to professional orders of Quebec;

Awards


Many distinctions are given by the OQLF to reward persons and organizations contributing to keeping French alive. They are given as part of the Grand gala des Mérites du français which occurs each year, usually in March during the FrancoFête.

The OQLF rewards outstanding francization efforts by persons and organizations. For over 20 years, it has been awarding the Mérites du français au travail et dans le commerce (French Merits at work and in commerce).

Since 1998, it awards the Mérites du français dans les technologies de l’information (French Merits in information technologies).

Since 1999, in collabration with the Union des artistes
Union des artistes
The Union des artistes or Artist union is a Quebec-based labour organization representing stage, television, radio and film performers in French-language media in Canada . It represents over 6,900 members and is affiliated with the International Federation of Actors...

 (UDA), the Union des écrivaines et des écrivains québécois
Union des écrivaines et des écrivains québécois
The Union des écrivaines et des écrivains québécois is a professional union of writers in Québec, Canada.Founded on March 21, 1977 by some 50 writers following th leadership of Jacques Godbout, it represents today some 1,200 writers...

 (UNEQ) and the Société des auteurs de radio, télévision et cinéma (SARTEC), the OQLF awards the Mérites du français dans la culture (French Merits in culture).

Since 1999, supplanting the former Mérite de la langue française (French language Merit), it awards the Prix Camille-Laurin to underline a person's effort in promoting the usefulness of quality of French in his/her social milieu.

Since 2005, in collaboration with the Association Québec-France and the Mouvement national des Québécoises et des Québécois
Mouvement national des Québécoises et des Québécois
Founded in 1947, the Mouvement national des Québécoises et des Québécois is a federation that groups together the various patriotic organizations in Quebec, Canada...

, it awards the Prix littéraire Québec-France/Marie-Claire-Blais to a French writer for his or her first work.

In collaboration with Québec Ministry of Immigration, it awards the Mérites en francisation des nouveaux arrivants (Merits in Francization of new immigrants). One is for a "non-francophone immigrant person", another for a "person working in the field on francization of immigrants", a "Community of institutional partner of francization", and a "business".

The president of the OQLF presides the Jury of the Dictée des Amériques (Dictée of the Americas), an international competition of French spelling created by Télé-Québec
Télé-Québec
Télé-Québec is a French language public educational television network in the Canadian province of Quebec. Known legally as Société de télédiffusion du Québec , it is a provincial crown corporation owned by the Government of Quebec...

 in 1994.

Complaints


Quebec citizens who believe their right as consumers "to be informed and served in French" is not being respected can file a complaint to the OQLF which is responsible for processing these complaints.

Contrary to a common misrepresentation, the Office does not process anonymous complaints. As per Section 168 of the Charter, the complaint must be written and contain the identity of the complainant. The Office does however ensure privacy of information as per the Act respecting Access to documents held by public bodies and the Protection of personal information. Also, the OQLF does not have the power to send an agent unless it has received a complaint. Doing so would require a vote by the members of the OQLF.

The statistics compiled by the OQLF for 2005–2006 reveal that some 1306 complainants filed 3652 complaints. 1078 (29.5%) complaints were from the region of Montreal
Montreal
Montreal is a city in Canada. It is the largest city in the province of Quebec, the second-largest city in Canada and the seventh largest in North America...

, 883 (24.2%) from the region of Outaouais, 386 (10.6%) from Montérégie
Montérégie
Montérégie is an administrative region in southwest Québec. It includes the cities of Boucherville, Brossard, Granby, Longueuil, Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Saint-Hyacinthe, Sorel-Tracy, and Vaudreuil-Dorion....

.

Breaching of Section 51, the language of products (labelling, packaging, instructions manuals, directions, warranty certificates) (article 51) amounted to 43.0% of the total. 13.8% were for breaches of Section 52, language of catalogues, pamphlets, business directories, and 9.6% were for breaches of Sections 2 and 5, the language of service.

Between April 1, 2005 and March 31, 2006, the OQLF closed 2899 complaints. There were 797 resolved cases, 523 unfounded complaints, 430 where the product was ultimately retracted from the market, 199 complaints found to be out of order, 183 cases of translated products. For the year 2006, there were 127 infractions ranging from $250 to $5000.

Negative perception in English-speaking Canada


The OQLF was created to promote the everyday use of the French language
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 in Quebec. The OQLF is also one of the most visible manifestations of Quebec's tense linguistic situation and language laws, which, prior to 1988, was responsible for enforcing a regulation whereby French was the only language authorized on outdoor commercial signage.

The term "language police" was possibly first used by the American television show 60 Minutes
60 Minutes
60 Minutes is an American television news magazine, which has run on CBS since 1968. The program was created by producer Don Hewitt who set it apart by using a unique style of reporter-centered investigation....

, which ran an investigative report on Quebec language laws. Legally, the organization has no police power, although they may impose fines or, in extraordinary situations, shut down businesses. In the majority of the cases, the office will convince businesses that it is in their own financial interests to respect the francophone customers, as they constitute roughly 80% of the province's population.

However, there have been cases where businesses have been fined and even shut down for violating these laws. According to the statistics of the OQLF, 95% of all complaints by citizens which are judged to be valid are resolved without resorting to legal sanction. In an average year, the OQLF receives between 3000 and 4000 complaints from citizens. Forty to fifty percent of these complaints have to do with commercial products for which there is no available French manual or packaging, 25% have to do with signage in stores, 10% with websites and 5% with the language of service.

Today


Originally, Bill 101 required that all commercial signage be in French and no other language. In 1988 Ford v. Quebec
Ford v. Quebec (Attorney General)
Ford v. Quebec , [1988] 2 S.C.R. 712 is a landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision in which the Court struck down part of the Charter of the French Language, commonly known as Bill 101. This law had restricted the use of commercial signs written in languages other than French...

the Supreme Court of Canada
Supreme Court of Canada
The Supreme Court of Canada is the highest court of Canada and is the final court of appeals in the Canadian justice system. The court grants permission to between 40 and 75 litigants each year to appeal decisions rendered by provincial, territorial and federal appellate courts, and its decisions...

 ruled this was unconstitutional. After massive protests in support of the legislation, the Bourassa
Robert Bourassa
Jean-Robert Bourassa, was a politician in Quebec, Canada. He served as the 22nd Premier of Quebec in two different mandates, first from May 12, 1970, to November 25, 1976, and then from December 12, 1985, to January 11, 1994, serving a total of just under 15 years as Provincial Premier.-Early...

 Government invoked section Thirty-three of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Section Thirty-three of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Section Thirty-three of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is part of the Constitution of Canada. It is commonly known as the notwithstanding clause , or as the override power, and it allows Parliament or provincial legislatures to override certain portions of the Charter...

, allowing the laws to remain static for a period of five years, after which they would be reviewed. In 1993, the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 ruled that it was outside of the government's jurisdiction to limit freedom of expression in this particular way. Also in 1993, but not due to the UN ruling, Quebec reviewed the law and modified its language regulations to require that French be markedly predominant on exterior business signs, as suggested by the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in the case of Ford v. Quebec.

See also

  • Académie française
    Académie française
    L'Académie française , also called the French Academy, is the pre-eminent French learned body on matters pertaining to the French language. The Académie was officially established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII. Suppressed in 1793 during the French Revolution,...

     of France
    France
    The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

    , arbiter of the French language in France
  • Charter of the French Language
    Charter of the French Language
    The Charter of the French Language , also known as Bill 101 and Loi 101, is a law in the province of Quebec in Canada defining French, the language of the majority of the population, as the only official language of Quebec, and framing fundamental language rights for everyone in the province...

  • Ford v. Quebec (Attorney General)
    Ford v. Quebec (Attorney General)
    Ford v. Quebec , [1988] 2 S.C.R. 712 is a landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision in which the Court struck down part of the Charter of the French Language, commonly known as Bill 101. This law had restricted the use of commercial signs written in languages other than French...

    (1988), (2 S.C.R. 90)
  • Legal dispute over Quebec's language policy
    Legal dispute over Quebec's language policy
    The legal dispute over Quebec's language policy began soon after the enactment of the Charter of the French Language by the National Assembly of Quebec in 1977....

  • Politics of Quebec
    Politics of Quebec
    The politics of Quebec are centred on a provincial government resembling that of the other Canadian provinces, namely a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. The capital of the province is Quebec City, where the Lieutenant Governor, Premier, the legislature, and cabinet reside.The...

  • Quebec French
    Quebec French
    Quebec French , or Québécois French, is the predominant variety of the French language in Canada, in its formal and informal registers. Quebec French is used in everyday communication, as well as in education, the media, and government....


External links