Linguistic obsessions

Like many states in the Western world, Québec isn't having enough babies to sustain its growth and needs to open its doors to immigration in order to compensate. Like all states welcoming immigrants, Québec expects newcomers to learn the language of the majority to integrate.

Unlike in other states, it is fairly easy to live a comfortable life in Québec without knowing the language of the majority. The availability of English-language media, culture and services is abundant. You see... Québec is a linguistic oddity; with close to 8 million people, it is surrounded by an ocean of 332 million English-speakers. And, unlike any other states, Québec needs a legislative framework to ensure newcomers have the opportunity to become functional in the language of the majority, hence the Charter of the French language.

The recent arrival of Bill 115 in Québec's legal landscape is one of many adjustments made to the Charter of the French language to remain in sync with the province's linguistic reality and comply with the Canadian constitution. Its purpose is to restrict a loophole that allowed Allophones and Francophones to buy an access to the English public education system through what is now known as "bridging schools". As it is often the case, it was the occasion for criticism.

Some people see xenophobia in Québec's linguistics laws. This is an odd perspective, considering the purpose of these laws is to promote a common communication vehicle. Much of Montréal's Jewish community speaks English. Arrived in the 30s and 40s, they weren't welcomed by French Roman Catholic schools. Had they arrived after 1977, French schooling would have been available to them.

Some people see in Québec's linguistic laws a drive for ethnic cleansing. They obviously have no clue about what ethnic cleansing is. Hinting any kind of parallel between the situation of English-speaking Québécois and the ordeal that the Jewish or the Tutsis in Rwanda have gone through is abusive to say the least. Above all, it's an insult to the survivors of such tragedies.

Some people see a desire to preserve cultural purity in Québec's linguistic laws. Is there such a thing as cultural purity? Traditional Québécois cuisine and music have strong ties to Ireland. Today's Québécois culture is a product of its European roots and its American environment. Québec's motto "Je me souviens" is an invitation to remember both its British and French roots.

Some people see in Québec's linguistic laws an intent to prevent its population from learning one of the most powerful language in the world. Québec's population is the most bilingual in the country. There's no plan in the program of any political party to prevent anyone from learning any language.

Some people see in Québec's linguistic laws an intent to isolate the province from the rest of the world. Other would argue that other provinces, with their closer ties to the USA, are the ones isolating themselves from outside the English-speaking world. More Europeans movies are watched in Québec than any other places in North America. Of course, much of these movies come from France, but that's not the only country Québécois film buffs are exposed to, for example, the rest of the continent will discover the Millennium trilogy (a Swedish-Danish production) years after Québec did. Furthermore, Québécois artists are behind some of the most successful Canadian cultural exports. Céline Dion, Cirque du Soleil and Just for Laughs, to name a few.

Some people see discrimination in Québec's linguistic laws. They're right. Like all immigrants coming to Québec, I don't have the privilege to send my kids to an English school. Of course, I would rather have this privilege. Would I use it? Maybe for a year or two... English is fairly easy to master. Oh... I'm sure I make mistakes, but I trust you get the picture.

In Québec, there are plenty of ways to learn English as a second language. Schooling simply isn't one of them.


Duceppe's USA visit

The Globe and Mail published a story yesterday about Duceppe's recent visit to the USA, "Quebec independence 'by no means settled,' Duceppe tells Americans." In the article, the politician is quoted: "I am here to tell you that the question of Quebec's political future is by no means settled." Note the difference between our national newspaper's headline and Duceppe's words.

To my Canadian friends... I know most of you are fed up with these neverendums. But you have to realize that, although not all Québécois are for sovereignty, the majority is fed up with the Canadian Constituquo. There's more to Québec's political future than independence or maintaining the current federal relationship. I sometimes get the feeling you're simply wishing this thing away. It's not going anywhere.

Now... if Québec's sovereignty can be achieved by the Québécois on their own, constitutional reforms require all Canadians. As naïve as this may sound, Québec's political future could be settled within Canada. Wouldn't you say that Canada is in deep need for an inspiring federalist politician who could sell our country with the same passion sovereigntist leaders sell Québec? Click here for Duceppe's complete speech.

I know... I'm not proposing much. I simply hope that some of you realize they're holding the key.