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Canada Parti Québécois leader calls for new, stricter Quebec language law

Parti Quebecois Leader Jean-Francois Lisee speaks to reporters prior to a party caucus meeting at the legislature in Quebec City, on May 23, 2017.

CLEMENT ALLARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Only people who can speak French should be allowed to immigrate to the province, Parti Quebecois Leader Jean-Francois Lisee said Thursday in reaction to 2016 census data.

Lisee said if his party wins the 2018 election, it will introduce a new, stricter language law to stem what called a worrying trend in the use of French in Quebec.

"We say if we are in power, in the first 101 days we will table legislation to make sure all new immigrants will have to show knowledge of French before they can come to Quebec," he told reporters.

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Refugees are an exception, said Lisee, who explained people who claim asylum can learn French once they arrive.

The 2016 census data on language released last week indicated the percentage of people in Quebec who listed French as a mother tongue decreased to 78.4 per cent in 2016 from 79.7 per cent in 2011.

Census data also suggested the percentage of Quebec anglophones increased significantly across the province.

"If we keep going in this direction, it will bring us to a tipping point," the PQ leader said. "We never want to see that tipping point."

Lisee said his legislation would be called Bill 202, a reference to the legislation passed in the 1970s that is known informally as Bill 101.

"We saw this before," Lisee said. "In 1976, the indicators were very negative. We brought in Bill 101 and the trend turned over. And we feel it's time again to take measures to make the trend turn over."

Lisee added a future Bill 202 would force all companies in Quebec with 25 employees or more to conduct all business in French, which is currently the case for firms with 50 people or more.

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Quebecers who attend English universities and junior colleges would also need a degree in French proficiency before being allowed to graduate, even if they intended on moving outside the province.

"They can move any time they wish," Lisee said. "But if you want to have a degree of higher education in Quebec, it's just basic decency to give you the tools for your success. And one of these tools is for you to be proficient in French."

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