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Office québécois de la langue française
The Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) (Quebec Office of the French language) was established on March 24, 1961 along with the Quebec ministry of Cultural affairs. Its mandate was enlarged by the 1977 Charter of the French Language, which also established two other organizations: the Commission de toponymie (Commission of Toponymy) and the Conseil supérieur de la langue française (Higher Council of the French Language).
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 Quebec National Assembly 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. In 2004, the organisation had a yearly budget of $17.8 million.
This governmental institution has the following mandate:
- To define and apply Quebec's policy pertaining to linguistic officialization, terminology and francization of public administration and businesses;
- To provide support so that French is the usual and normal language of work, communications, trade and businesses in the Administration and companies;
- To help to define and elaborate the francization programs of the law and to follow the application of it;
- To supervise the evolution of the linguistic situation in Quebec and submit a report on it every five years to the minister;
- To ensure the respect of the Charter of the French language, acting on its own initiative or following the reception of complaints;
- To establish the research programs necessary to the application of the law and to carry out or have carried out the studies needed by these programs.
In order to carry out these responsibilities, the office has the powers to:
- Take the appropriate measures to insure the promotion of French;
- Assist and inform the Administration, the businesses, individuals and groups concerning the correction and enrichment of the French language;
- To receive observations and suggestions on the quality of the language as on the difficulties of application of this law, and to submit a report to the minister on it.
Following its mandates, the OQLF offers the following services to the population of Quebec:
- Terminological and linguistic opinions;
- Online linguistic resources such as the Grand dictionnaire terminologique and the Banque de dépannage linguistique;
- Francization conselling
The OQLF became widely referred to as "tongue troopers" among English speakers of Canada after the American show 60 Minutes did a program on Quebec language laws and the term "language police" was used. In reality, the organization has no police power. In the majority of the cases, the office will convince businesses that it is in their own financial interests to respect the majority of the customers who speak French. Nowadays, it is pretty rare for English language businesses to ignore 6 out of 7 million people who speak French in Quebec. 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 percent 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. 40 to 50 percent of these complaints have to do with commercial products for which there is no available French manual or packaging, 25 percent have to do with signage in stores, 10 percent with websites and 5 percent with the language of service.
Since the 1988 court ruling, Quebec's language regulations require that French be predominant on exterior business signs as suggested by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Forget v. Quebec case. Since that time, the law has complied with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, and all court rulings on the matter.
- Charter of the French Language
- Forget v. Quebec (A.G.) (1988), (2 S.C.R. 90)
- Politics of Quebec
- Parti Québécois
- Quebec French
- Minority language
- Legal dispute over Quebec's language policy
- Office québécois de la langue française
- The Charter of the French language
- Regulations adopted under the Charter of the French language
- Infoguides on French language requirements (business, commerce, workplace)
- Quebec Statutes and Regulations
- FAQ on the respect of linguistic rights (in French)
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