Scrapping Bill 101

Perhaps, you've read about Maxime Bernier's recent stance against Bill 101. The Globe and Mail didn't actually publish the story, but it did cover the stir it created in French-language media. Yeah... yeah... I know... French media are obsessed with these language issues. But you know... English media are obsessed with the French media's obsessions. Don't they make a nice couple?

Anyway... back to Mr. Bernier's blurt. The Conservative MP bases his opinion on a poll published last summer in The Gazette. It shows that 61% of French-speaking Québécois support the right to choose the language of education. No surprise here... the question is about the right to choose something. Who in his right mind would answer "no, I'd rather not have the choice"? Come to think of it, it's kind of odd that so many did give that answer. I can only assume they realized the social implications of this freedom of choice.

At any rate... Mr. Bernier concluded that since a majority of Québécois support the right to choose the language of education, this same majority feel that Bill 101 is no longer needed. Hmmm... a truly edifying intellectual shortcut.

In reality, a recent Angus Reid poll [in French only] concludes that 79% of Québécois feel the 34 years old law is a "necessity" in Québec; this percentage reaches 90% among Francophones. Why such an overwhelming proportion you wonder? No, no, no... the population hasn't been brainwashed by the méchants séparatistes; it's much simpler and much less Machiavellian than that.

Despite the fact that Québec is the only officially French province in the country, it has the most bilingual population (40%). New Brunswick, the only officially bilingual province, is second (33%). There are more bilingual Canadians in Québec than in the rest of the country. There you go... isn't that nice?

"But... more and more, Anglos in Québec speak the language of the majority... isn't that the idea?" you say. "Absolutely!" I reply. Bilingualism among English-speaking Québécois has been steadily rising, from 58% in 1991 to 66% in 2001. So, why not consider relaxing the reach of Bill 101?

Well... you have to realize that the provincial law was devised to counterbalance the hegemony of the English language in this continent. Looking at the numbers, this goal is yet to be reached. Bilingualism among Anglos in Québec is still lagging that of Francophones in other provinces by almost 20 percentage points (85% of Francophones living outside the province spoke the language of the majority in 2001). It's rather clear that without Bill 101, the knowledge of French among Québécois whose mother tongue is another language would steadily decline and stir unnecessary social tensions in the long run.

Like the majority of Québécois, I feel that the vibrant culture of my province is an asset to this country and that French is a prerequisite for this vibrant culture to continue evolving. Without Bill 101, Canada would lose this asset.


James said...
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Michel Bolduc said...

The Angus Reid poll also shows that 84% of Québécois deem it important to speak both official language. That percentage drops to 39% among Canadians in other provinces. There is no doubt that the vast majority of Québécois are interested in learning English.

Immersion programs to support this do exist. My nephews spent the half of their first elementary school year in total immersion. The bulk of the curricula was covered in the remaining half. They are now bilingual. Such programs, however, are not within the reach of everyone.

Knowing a second language is an asset. The average Québécois recognizes it more than the average Canadian. Although it promotes it only one way (to non-Francophones), Bill 101 is all for bilingualism, as could testify me nephews.

James said...
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Michel Bolduc said...

Access to immersion programs is great, but I don't think the state of bilingualism in New Brunswick is such an inspiration. If you look at StatCan's tables, you'll see that it reaches 71% among Francophones, but only 15% among Anglophones (in 2001).

Although I don't support it, I don't think applying Bill 101 to CEGEP would be that great a lost for those wanting to learn English. There are so many French-speaking students there that it almost defies the purpose. I did my undergraduate studies in an English-language institution (you can read about this experience here) and mixing with Anglophones (the key to improve one's language skills) required a constant effort on my part. Many of my French-speaking colleagues didn't have the presence of mind to do the same and fell short of reaching the level of fluency I managed.

Take a look at this. Interesting debates ahead...

The Middle Me said...

I'm not sure why French has to be forced and English all but banned. I think some would rather it be that way but it seems very backwards in a free society. I understand preserving French and would not want the people who speak French to be forced to speak English, but doing the opposite isn't right, either. Also English is the language of business and those who want to major in business and want to learn English to advance their skills should of course be allowed and encouraged to do so.