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.