Alliance Québec | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Alliance Québec

Founded in 1982 and disbanded in 2005, this advocacy group defended the interests of English-speaking Quebecers for over 20 years.

Founded in 1982 and disbanded in 2005, this advocacy group defended the interests of English-speaking Quebecers for over 20 years. The main thrust of its efforts was to protect the language rights of anglophones in Québec.

Historical Context

The Parti Québécois victory in 1976 triggered an unprecedented mobilization in the anglophone community, including the founding of several advocacy groups. The two associations that sprang from this re-organization in Montréal were Participation Quebec and Positive Action (more widely known as the Positive Action Committee), while outside greater Montréal the groups of note were the Townshippers Association in the Eastern Townships (1979) followed by similar groups in the Outaouais, Châteauguay Valley, Gaspé Peninsula, and the Québec City and Trois-Rivières areas.

The re-election of the Parti Québécois in 1981 brought into question the effectiveness of the approach of these organizations. In this context, and encouraged by federal financial support for francophone organizations outside Québec, Alliance Québec took over from Positive Action and Participation Quebec in May 1982. Although several regions preferred to retain their local associations while maintaining ties with Alliance Québec, new chapters were formed where no other organizations existed.

Defending Anglophones’ Language Rights

From 1982 until the 1995 referendum, Alliance Québec, armed with increased federal subsidies, dealt with language legislation and the accessibility of schools and medical and social services in English. Successive leaders (Eric Maldoff, Royal Orr, Robert Keaton and Michael Hamelin among them) knew how to work with the Québec administration while maintaining the confidence of regional associations, protective of their own autonomies and historical perspectives.

In 1983, Alliance Québec achieved its first victory when the Lévesque government agreed to amend the Charter of the French Language (commonly known as Bill 101) by passing Bill 57, which loosened certain legal restrictions on anglophone minority institutions and enabled anglophones to obtain certain professional certifications without having to take a French-language examination. The Supreme Court of Canada decision invalidating sections 72 and 73 of this charter (regarding instruction in English in schools in Québec) on the grounds that these two sections contravened section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was also seen as a significant gain by Québec’s anglophone community (see Bill 101 Case). So was the Ford Case in 1988, in which the Supreme Court invalidated the prohibition against commercial signs in English but affirmed that the requirement for French to predominate in such signs was legally and constitutionally acceptable.

The government of Robert Bourassa continued down this path of moderation in December 1988 when it tabled Bill 178, another piece of legislation to amend the Charter of the French Language. Bill 178prohibited outdoor signage in languages other than French but allowed indoor signage in both French and another language, so long as French predominated. However, this solution was criticized both by English-speaking Quebecers and by francophone nationalists. Alliance Québec’s failure to prevent the passage of Bill 178 cost the organization a great deal of support in the anglophone community. This loss of confidence also opened the way to the founding in April 1989 of the Equality Party, whose demands notably included the abrogation of Bill 101. This party managed to get only four members elected to Québec’s National Assembly (all of them in 1989) before it was disbanded in 2013. In 1993, the Charter of the French Language was amended once again with the passage of Bill 86, which allowed bilingual outdoor signage, so long as French continued to predominate.

Confrontation and Decline

After the near defeat of the federalist option in the 1995 referendum, long-simmering tensions that had existed between radicals and moderates broke out. This crisis resulted in May 1998 in the election of William Johnson as Alliance leader. He held the position for two years, favouring legal protests and confrontations with provincial authorities, an approach brought on by a perspective focused on the defence of individual liberties.

Johnson decided not to run in 2000, and on May 27, Anthony Housefather was elected to preside over a somewhat shaken association. He held the position until 2001, when Brent Tyler assumed the post. Tyler was succeeded by Darryl Gray in 2004, who led the organization until 2005. It was at this time that the Alliance ceased to receive federal funding, both due to the decline in its membership and due to its inability to provide a set of audited financial statements. Because federal assistance had represented 90 per cent of the group’s funding, Alliance Québec became insolvent and ceased operations.


Several key figures from Alliance Québec have played prominent roles in provincial and even in federal politics. Eric Maldoff (the organization’s founder, and its president from 1982 to 1985) served as an advisor to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. As elected members of Québec’s National Assembly for nearly 15 years, Russell Williams (Alliance Québec’s director of social affairs from 1984 to 1985, director of operations from 1985 to 1986, and executive director from 1986 to 1988) and Russell Copeman (director of social affairs and education from 1986 to 1988) defended the interests of voters in the predominantly anglophone Montréal ridings of Nelligan and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, respectively. Geoffrey Kelley (director of communications and research from 1986 to 1990), Thomas Mulcair (director of legal affairs from 1983 to 1985) and Kathleen Weil (director of legal affairs from 1985 to 1989) all served as ministers in the Liberal government of Jean Charest. Mulcair has been leader of the official opposition in the House of Commons since 2011, while Weil returned to political prominence in April 2014 when she was appointed Québec’s minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion in the government of Philippe Couillard.

As of 2015, most English-speaking associations in Québec belong to the Quebec Community Groups Network. This not-for-profit organization has 41 member associations scattered throughout the province. Its mission is to ensure the development and support and improve the vitality of the province’s English-speaking minority communities.



Eric Maldoff (founder)


Michael Goldbloom


Royal Orr


Peter M. Blaikie


Robert Keaton


Michael Hamelin


Constance Middleton-Hope


William Johnson


Anthony Housefather


Brent Tyler


Darryl Gray


Further Reading

External Links

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