In addition to making an exception to a hiring freeze to allow 69 more jobs to be added at the Office québécois de la langue française to improve enforcement of Quebec's language law, the Quebec government is making changes to its regulations to allow some front-line enforcement officers to be armed, according to a story in Le Devoir.
"The violence against our language police has to stop," justice minister Jean-Marc Fournier said yesterday after the seventh death of a language police officer on the job. "Hopefully giving them access to firearms will make language criminals think twice before attacking one of our officers."
Language-related violence has spiked since the Office said it would push to have stores with English brand names to add French descriptions to their signs.
"Our inspectors are afraid to go out because they fear for their safety," said culture minister Christine St-Pierre. "We can't allow this to continue."
Under new legislation set to be introduced next month, OQLF inspectors would have a status similar to border guards and private security agents. They would be armed at all times when on patrol, but would not have police powers. They would not be able to arrest people, for example.
The opposition Parti Québécois told Le Devoir it supports the move, and that it should have happened years ago. Its justice critic also said the government should give the OQLF enough resources that it can send two officers on every inspection. "Nobody should be enforcing Quebec's language laws alone," he said.
If approved by the National Assembly, armed language cops could be on the streets by this fall.