More than 200 people opposing proposed amendments to Quebec's language laws held a protest in front of Premier Pauline Marois' office in Montreal.
Many of the protesters said they are worried about the Parti Quebecois' plan to strengthen Bill 101.
Beryl Wajsman, president of the Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal, said the PQ has taken its plans too far.
"This has been taken to a new level. This is one law too far. This is no longer just a bunch of people expressing their rage, it's anglophones, allophones and francophones who, frankly, are ashamed," he said.
"They're ashamed because the government is attacking the most vulnerable," he said.
Only one man showed up at the protest in support of Bill 14 and the PQ's plans for sovereignty.
"Anglophones attacked our rights and they continue to impose English," he said. "Here, we have Bill 14 that imposes a minimum of respect for French language in Quebec. English can be useful for the outside, for our communications with foreign countries if necessary."
The new bill would bring changes to the Charter of the French Language and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms in order to promote the French language.
Robert Libman, who created the Equality Party in 1989 – which focused on promoting anglophone rights -- said anglophones face some of the same issues they did 25 years ago.
"Our community has been marginalized politically for many years, and with the PQ as a government, many feel it is time to act," he said.
Richard Yufe, a member of CRITIQ – a group advocating for English speakers – said relations between francophones and anglophones are strained.
"We have an environment that is extremely hostile and it's directed at all non-francophones," he said.
Dan Lamoureux, president of the Quebec Community Groups Network, said the group has been fighting for anglophone rights for more than two decades and welcomes the presence of new anglophone support groups.
"I think... it's a concern of the English-speaking community of being swallowed up or being non-existent in the future. I think it's encouraging that other groups feel they need to voice their opinions," he said.
Amendments to the Charter of the French Language:
- Designation of a minister responsible for language matters, planning and policy.
- Educational institutions must take reasonable steps to ensure that students receive sufficient training in French to prepare them to interact and flourish in Quebec society.
- Businesses that employ 26 to 49 regular employees must make French the everyday language of the workplace.
- Businesses that serve the public must communicate with customers in French.
Amendments to the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms:
Half of Quebec's anglophone and allophone population have considered leaving the province in the past year, a new EKOS poll commissioned by the CBC suggests.
While only 11 per cent of francophone respondents said they had considered leaving, the top reasons why people said they have considered leaving weren't centred on language.
"The results are actually quite surprising. That's an awfully large number," said Frank Graves, president of EKOS research.
"It's a pretty drastic decision to actually vote with your feet and leave your place of residence. I was frankly a little surprised at how complex the reasons were."
Most people across all groups named taxes, jobs, political uncertainty and the economy as the most significant reasons they had contemplated a departure.
As part of an exclusive two-week series, CBC Montreal will look at what is pushing people to consider relocating out of Quebec, what is keeping them in the province, and what hopes they have for their future in Quebec.
A total of 2,020 Quebec residents were interviewed by phone between Feb. 10 and 18, 2014, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Suni Hope-Johnston, who moved from England to Montreal in the early 1970s, said she was attracted to Montreal because it had the flavour of Europe and was exciting.
"I can remember my husband and I dancing until 4 a.m.," she said. "We had a wonderful time, and then it stopped."
Hope-Johnston started a family, and her lifestyle changed, but so did the city that was once so attractive.
She said the present mood in Quebec is divisive and limiting.
"I think it's every young Quebecois's birth right to speak both languages," she said. "Every child should go to school to learn French and English. For the moment, this kind of separation, it's a tragedy."
She's considering a move to Ontario, which, the EKOS poll findings suggest, is common among people thinking about leaving the province. Forty per cent of those who said they were thinking about leaving — both francophone and non-francophone — said Ontario would be the best alternative. The U.S. was the second most popular alternative, with 14 per cent of all respondents.
Marc Stamos, a Montreal native, is also thinking about a move to Ontario. He said bilingualism used to be a source of pride, but language has become so politicized again in the province that it's become a point of contention.
"For the first time since the '90s, I feel like I have to assert my anglophone-ness, my English-ness," he said. "You know, things have been dormant and so calm for so long that my brother and myself and my friends were comfortable speaking French."
With a looming election, however, and the possibility of a PQ majority, Stamos said many people he knows are debating whether they want to go through "the whole roller-coaster" again.
Graves, of EKOS, said that while the number of respondents who said they'd considered leaving was higher than he expected, telling a pollster is one thing, and selling your home and uprooting your family is another.
He said it's unlikely many of those who had considered a move would go when push comes to shove.
In total, 16 per cent of respondents cited the economy as their main reason for considering a move out of province. It came in just behind political uncertainty as the top reason for potentially leaving Quebec.
Brett House, senior fellow at the Jeanne Sauve Foundation and the Centre for international Governance Innovation, says the economic picture in Quebec isn't as bleak as some of the perceptions, but the province is under-performing.
"We're mediocre right now — we're not doing great, but we're not a disaster either," he said. "We're improving a bit, but we could do a lot better.
"Quebec has the potential to be one of the two economic engines of this country, in addition to Ontario and yet, it's still performing far below what it should be."
About the survey
A total of 2,020 Quebec residents were interviewed by phone between Feb. 10 and 18, 2014, as part of this CBC-commissioned EKOS study. The margin of error for a sample of 2,020 is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Those surveyed included 782 anglophones (with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points 95 per cent of the time), 1,009 francophones (with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points 95 per cent of the time) and 223 allophones (with a margin of error of plus or minus 6.5 percentage points 95 per cent of the time).
Anglophones are respondents who identified their mother tongue as English; francophones are people who identified their mother tongue as French; and allophones identified their mother tongue as "other."
Percentages for total respondents have been weighted to reflect linguistic population make-up of Quebec.