Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.

   It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.1



Images Ted Wright

                           Other countries


Outlawed  Signs
Closing English Schools
Other countries
Useless treaties
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Every other truly civilized country except Canada treats the private use of language either as a matter of free choice or as subject to constitutional or legislated equality. No other country that pretends to be civilized in the Western tradition has a law that enforces language inferiority. 

In 1999, world language legislation was reviewed by a professor of international law at the Dalhousie University Law school. She wrote the review as part of her expert testimony in the Lyon and Wallrus case (reviewed in the section on Outlawed Bilingual Signs). The main conclusions are briefly reviewed below.

Laws Regulating Commercial Signage

Belgium                Unrestricted


French plus another language, or unilingual in some local dialects

Finland                    Unrestricted
Ireland                  Unrestricted
Italy                     Italian plus another language
India                     Unrestricted
Israel                     Unrestricted
Netherlands            Unrestricted
Sweden                  Unrestricted


Unrestricted or (one Canton) Italian plus another language


United States          Unrestricted
Rest of Canada        Unrestricted
Quebec        French only (billboards and public transit) or French twice as big (smaller business signs).

People in the Spanish province of Catalonia speak Catalan, a regional language. During the long regime of the Spanish fascist dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco, the Catalan language was suppressed by law. After representative government was restored in 1978,  Catalans regained the right to use their own language. The language law in Catalonia was summarized in a letter to CIT-CAN from the Catalonia department of Culture in Barcelona, quoted here:

"There is no legal or constitutional prohibition on the use, broadcast or display of any language in Catalonia.

The linguistic system of public schools in Catalonia is as follows:

a) up to the age of 7: free choice of the language of teaching (Catalan or Spanish)

b) From the age of 8 until the end of secondary studies: bi-lingual teaching (Catalan and Spanish) with a greater proportion of the use of Catalan.

c) University: free choice by teaching staff of the language for teaching.

There is no prohibition on the use of Spanish or Catalan in official business documents."

In Spanish autonomous region of Catalonia, which suffered a complete suppression of its native language for forty years, the language laws are a model of liberality by comparison to those of Quebec, a Canadian province where French has never been suppressed. Castilian, the language of the majority of Spaniards, has not -- and according to the Spanish constitution, cannot -- be suppressed in Catalonia. In Catalonia, Catalan, Spanish, and any other language can be used without restriction in private life.

French is the minority second language in Canada. It is not prohibited, restricted or suppressed anywhere in Canada, and French is used extensively by bilingual Canadian government. But English, the national majority language, is suppressed by in Quebec by the Quebec government in a way that the Catalan government has never treated the national majority language, Castilian (Spanish), even though Catalan was suppressed in Catalonia  by the Spanish national government during the forty years of the Franco dictatorship.

Other Canadian Provinces

Canada has several other provinces with substantial French-speaking minorities. In every province except Quebec, people whose mother tongue is in the French minority in that province are guaranteed their own school system, subject only to a provision that there be enough students in one place to justify a school ("where numbers warrant" is how it is interpreted constitutionally). And anyone whose first language is French -- immigrants or not -- can go to those schools. In no other province are there laws controlling the use of language in private business. In the province of New Brunswick, which is officially bilingual and where about thirty-five percent of its over 700,000 people speak French as their first language, both languages are used equally at all levels of government. In the province of Ontario, where about four percent of its over eleven million people speak French, road signs are bilingual, local government is bilingual where French-speaking people live, and there are French and English public school systems.

About eight percent of Quebec's population of about seven million speak English as their first language. English-speaking immigrant children are excluded from Quebec's English public school system, English (and other languages) are prohibited on billboards and transit advertising, and French has to be twice as big as all other languages on smaller commercial signs. Road signs, including safety signs, are in French only. Quebec discriminates against speakers of  Canada's other national language, and against all other languages, in the areas of commercial signage, public safety and service, and access to public schools.


1 William Pitt the younger, British Prime minister 1783 -- 1801, 1804 - 1806.

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