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Jean-François Lisée presents new language policies at PQ convention

A Parti Québécois (PQ) convention in Quebec City this weekend will help to determine the party’s platform for the 2018 provincial election.

One of the biggest debates is likely to focus on the French language. Party members from across the province are weighing in on their new leader’s new plan.

“Never before have we proposed that 100 per cent of new immigrants and their spouses have a real knowledge of French,” leader Jean-François Lisée said in his opening speech, Saturday.

“It’s really the beginning of a new era,” said Joliette MNA, Veronique Hivon on what this weekend’s Conseil National means for the party.

Lisée also proposed a French exam for students at English CEGEPs and universities in order to receive their diplomas. He wants to extend Bill 101 to medium-sized business and businesses under federal jurisdiction.

Lisée’s speech got a lot of applause, but for some party faithful, his language proposals don’t go far enough.

“In the education system, we need to enforce law 101 in the CEGEPs,” said Marc Laviolette, former union boss and current Beauharnois riding association president.

Laviolette said he expects riding associations to propose an amendment to force francophone students to study at French CEGEPs and universities.

“That’s a position that was in our program in 2011 and that will be discussed,” said Martine Ouellet, MNA for Vachon.

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However, the government said Lisée’s position on language is an attack on diversity.

In his speech, Lisée said French is declining on the island of Montreal because only 50 per cent of people speak French at home – and he wants there to be a majority of francophones in Montreal in the future.

“This is one of those debates that really does more than irritate me, but worry me, when people put a focus on the language you speak at home,” said Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil.

“I think it’s so important to make that distinction and not to make people feel fearful about immigrants when they hear them speaking another language.”

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Weil added that many people in Montreal speak multiple languages, as well as flawless French.

The Parti Quebecois convention continues Sunday. Lisée is expected to answer questions about his vision for diversity Sunday afternoon.

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