Quebec Studies

Article 23 of the New Canadian Constitution and the Quebec Language Issue

Quebec Studies (1984), 2, (1), 70–81.


ARTICLE 23 OF THE NEW CANADIAN CONSTITUTION AND THE QUEBEC LANGUAGE ISSUE André Sénécal This article on the potential effect of Article 23 of the new Canadian Constitution was originally conceived as a forensic exercise and should be read as a position that anticipates an extreme judicial interpretation of the law. The reader should note that all of the 1981 census results needed to update the article were not available at press time and that consequently all the original quotes from the 1971 census have been retained. A part of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of the new Canadian Constitution is Article 23 which deals with official minority language educational rights. It stipulates that Canadi­ ans whose first language (French or English) learned and still understood is that of the minority of the province in which they live, or who have received their primary education in the official language that is the minority language of the province in which they live, have the right to have their children educated in that language. Article 23 is seen by its framers as a constitu­ tional guarantee of official language minority rights in educa­ tion. It is also seen as the antithesis of Article 93 of the British North America Act. Article 93 does not make reference to languages. It states that in all the founding provinces of the Dominion the local legislature has exclusive jurisdiction over education: "In and for each Province, the Legislature may ex­ clusively make laws in relation to education." At the same time, it obliges the Province of Québec to provide a Protestant education as part of its public school system. Historically, however, the religious education mandate of Article 93 has been politically interpreted as the sanction of the right of nonFrancophone Québécois to education in English. The annals of French/English relations since 1867 are somber reminders

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Author details

Sénécal, André