The changes will generally apply to federally regulated businesses, in the same way that Quebec consumer protection standards also apply to these businesses. There is clearly a potential for conflict with federal employment law, and one would expect the Federal Department of Justice to intervene in such cases to preserve federal jurisdiction.
As to why these amendments are being proposed now, it has to do with the nationalist nature of the current government, which places particular emphasis on promoting the French language and preserving what it sees as culture and the identity of Quebec. It is a political perspective that has resulted in restrictions on religious symbols in the public service, increased attention to immigration from French-speaking jurisdictions and now these changes to language law.
How would the changes proposed by Bill 96 affect recruitment, training and other human resource concerns for employers in the province?
There is no doubt that the changes will increase the regulatory burden when it comes to hiring and retaining employees in Quebec. Before making knowledge of English a condition of employment, companies will need to assess why this condition is required and document it. More care will have to be given to communications and documents provided to Quebec employees in general, because the scope of what must be in French will increase.
Concretely, companies may want to consider what is really necessary for their Quebec operations in terms of written documents and only provide Quebec employees with what is strictly necessary, in order to reduce the burden of translation.