2011/06/28

Legislation for a dying culture

I'm a staunch supporter of Québec's Charter of the French Language (a.k.a. Bill 101). Its purpose is to give new stock Québécois the means to integrate with the provincial majority. Without it, a rift would build between the population and its minorities. In most countries, such a legislation is superfluous, but Québec faces an uncommon linguistic challenge. Although not unique, it has very few parallels in the world.

Québec's Charter of the French Language is sometimes singled out as discriminatory by the average citizen. This seems odd to me. It doesn't prevent anyone from speaking or learning any language. And the government offers several programs to citizens willing to improve their command of the French language, skills that can only open new horizons.

I also happen to be a supporter of the Canadian Content legislation. You see... an industry servicing a market of 34M people doesn't stand much of a chance against a competitor almost ten times its size, especially since they both share a common language and similar cultural references. From where I stand, providing Canadians with adequate opportunities to appreciate the cultural production of their own country is commendable.

Does favoring artists on the arbitrary criteria that they were born North of the border seem discriminatory to you? It certainly doesn't to the average citizen. At any rate, anyone pointing it out in the name of international agreements would have a hell of a hill to climb with UNESCO's convention on the protection and promotion of cultural diversity.

I believe Canada's cultural production is a plus to the North American whole. I also believe Québec's cultural difference is an asset to Canada. I sometimes read on blogs and forums that any culture relying on legislation to ensure its survival is a dying one. Of course, such words take aim at the Charter of the French Language.

When I ask their authors for their assessment of the state of Canadian culture and their point of view on the Canadian Content legislation, I invariably get many thumbs down, but no replies.

47 comments:

Raman said...

Hi Michel,
Maybe you already know the existence of this document: http://www.tlfq.ulaval.ca/AXL/Langues/LOIS-LINGUISTIQUES-index.htm
Contrary to popular belief, linguistic laws are very popular around the world. (And, again contrary to popular belief, they exist even in the USA!)

This idea that there should reign some kind of free market where languages engage in a fair competition goes against the very concept of nation building. If a nation cannot make it so that all its citizens understand the language of its political majority, then we might as well ditch away any pretense that that nation should exist at all. We might as well let it dissolve.
Even though it usually comes coated in a garb of liberal rhetoric, unsurprisingly, that opinion is usually held by people who are attached to a language that is in a clear and overwhelming monopoly situation, at this moment at the global level: In our case, English, obviously. People who have an obvious interest in there being no consolidation of this French nation.

Michel Bolduc said...

Thanks for the link.

David said...

There is no American law that requires, for example, that children of those not born in the U.S., attend school only in English or that someone prove to the government that they are running their business in English. Many of the laws that the document cites are, in fact, referenda that anyone collecting a certain number of signatures can put on the ballot (doesn't make it law.)

Furthermore, if a law as restrictive as Bill 101 were to be passed by a legislature in America, you can bet it would be in front of the Supremes before you could say the word "unconstitutional."

Michel Bolduc said...

For schooling, the basic premise is that French is the language of instruction for everyone. But it does provide an exception for the children of those who received their education in English in Canada. This is a privilege I don't have. Shouldn't I be the one complaining? As for language at work, I must admit that the thought of a state needing to legislate so the majority has fare access to the work place strikes me as very odd. Perhaps we agree, although for different reasons?

"Unconstitutional" is the argument the National Rifle Association uses to defend to right of individuals to walk around with guns. Canada and the USA do draw the line between individual and collective rights at very different places. Many will argue that this is one of the main characteristics that makes Canada a different country.

Raman said...

David,

I simply cannot count anymore how many times I have had to repeat this: Bill 101 doesn't forbid English schooling. It forbids "public schooling" in English; and it makes a clear exception for English-Canadians living in Quebec. The key word here is: Public. You, or anyone else, are perfectly free to attend private schools in English, or in any other language. Your language is not being forbidden, as people ridiculously put it. But you cannot expect the people of Quebec to pay for the assimilation of immigrants, and for its own assimilation, into the English minority, either through school or the workplace, as was the case up until these laws were passed.
Now ask yourself what the reaction would be if the some 13 million Americans in the USA who are of French descent started demanding that they be granted a publicly-funded network of French schools today? Think honestly about it. And if you need a clue, check out the visceral reactions that do occur whenever similar demands are made for Spanish-speaking schools in the South. There goes the pretense that Americans would be more “democratic” than Quebec in this regard...

While you’re at it, you might wonder how come those 13 million Franco-Americans do not form a distinct community in the USA today? What happened to the Louisiana French population? The deported Acadiens? The French-Canadians who massively migrated South during the depression? How about Detroit’s French quarter... Where is it now?
Dig into it and you’ll find a long history of French schools, hospitals, radio stations and newspapers being banned, along with French-speaking people being socially ostracized. All in a manner much more brutal than our very nice Bill 101.
A similar process, by the way, as occurred in Canadian provinces. And the only thing that kept it from happening here was our demography. Yet, even here, up until our language laws were voted, speaking French was the number 1 cause for being discriminated in the work place, where it was often forbidden through internal rules, even when the majority of workers were French-speaking.

The fact is, enforcing a common national language is a normal thing for any nation. And it usually happens in a very brutal manner. Often through legislation, but sometimes though policies and sheer social pressure. With Bill 101, Quebec only started doing what’s always been normal everywhere else. And we’ve been extraordinarily nice, gentle, and democratic about it. The only difference with the rest of the continent is, in Quebec, the English are the ones on the receiving side of it. I understand how frustrating it must be for you. Trust me, we know. But sorry, that doesn’t entitle you to whine, thumping your chest as you invoke imaginary rights to public funds for your community’s self-segregation.

Tony said...

Raman writes:

"The fact is, enforcing a common national language is a normal thing for any nation."

No, it's not.

If it was, we'd all be speaking Huron.

Or English, because that's the language of the majority in Canada.

No, Raman, what dictates "common language" are two things:

1) freedom of speech; and

2) freedom of association.

...and both of these values are, according to the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, outside the control of the government and in the hands of the people.

Bill 101 violates this basic tenet of freedom and, as such, should be repealed in its entirety.

Michel Bolduc said...

Tony,

People in Québec can speak whatever language they feel like and collectively defend whatever interest they deem worthy. What are you talking about?

David said...

I was merely trying to correct what might result in a misunderstanding about U.S. law. To elaborate on that point, U.S. courts and the Department of Justice have interpreted U.S. law to mean that any entity receiving federal funding (pretty much any level of government) must make an effort to serve LEP (low-English proficiency) persons. This means that if you speak only Korean, the gov't must still find a way to serve you in Korean. If they don't, they can lose all federal funding or actually be prosecuted by the Department of Justice for violating your civil rights as an American.

Now, I'm proud that my country views the situation in that way. Whether this is instructive for Quebec or for Canada is a matter for debate and will say here that I don't feel it is my debate. To be honest, I don't care what Quebec does, I'm just passing through (I hope that doesn't sound obnoxious, I'm just trying to be honest.)

And, Raman, one thing I would correct about your correction (and I don't know how many times I've had to explain this to people): the net effect of Bill 101 is that English schools are barred period. This is because Quebec subsidizes private schools (well, the vast majority) and the rule is if the school receives subsidies, private or not, the school has to toe the line on Bill 101. For an interesting exercise, look up all the private schools in Quebec (especially in Montreal) and see how many will accept pupils without a certificate authorizing English language studies.

Even more interesting is that the government of Quebec, in its infinite wisdom, classifies as "English" any school that teaches more than one class in English. So, a school that teaches 60% in French and 40% in English (with the goal of making its children fluently bilingual) is an English school and therefore is barred to those who are not eligible for a certificate.

Raman said...

Michel,

Tony is part of the part of the Park Avenue Gazette's gang of thugs. You remember, those who advocate that every Anglo in Quebec should stack weapons to defend themselves against the French "racists", and who called for Pauline Marois the traitor to be hanged.
http://www.parkavenuegazette.com/

There is no point arguing with this lunatic.

Raman said...

David,

Thanks for the clarifications. But I don’t feel you’ve brought any new argument.

Regarding US laws and the comparison with Quebec, I fail to see your point. I wouldn't be able to say whether this is included in any specific legislation but, to my knowledge, Quebec does not refuse services nor fails to recognize the rights of its citizens based on their low proficiency in French. Regarding the English minority, I would even say that it benefits from quite an extraordinary array of services in its language: From little schools to universities, to hospitals, to justice courts… All publicly funded, and to a higher percentage than what the English minority’s demography would call for.

Regarding schools, again, I fail to see how the situation here is different from anywhere else, including the USA. Could I move to Dakota (or to Italy, or Germany, or Spain…) and expect for the government to fund French schools for my children? Is that a fundamental right that I have?

Raman said...

(A little addition.)

I know I come off as quite aggressive at times. But I get extremely pissed off at the constant depictions – sometimes very explicit, sometimes in the form of innuendos – of Quebec as a repressive, if not outright fascist, society.
Again last week, I was having a conversation with an acquaintance who mentioned how one of his McGill teachers taught that Bill 101 was a clear indication that Quebec is a fascist state. A professor, at McGill, in class, today… This, as I mentioned in an earlier post, is a very common narrative among English-Canadians (and Americans… thanks Mordechai!).
My whole point is that a very different set of logic is being applied to Quebec than for any other democracy in this regard. And the only reason for that is, sorry for repeating myself, that it is an English minority that is on the receiving end of it. A minority which has consistently shown that it will rather choose self-segregation over integration; and which cannot digest having lost the battle over the integration of Quebec’s immigrants. Regardless of the rhetoric employed, we all know that “free choice” will ultimately mean the dissolution and disappearance of this French nation. And that’s what’s really at stakes here. Overall continental demography, our federated status, immigration flux… presently, all such factors are stacked heavily in favor of that outcome.

If all nations have built themselves through encouraging, or often enforcing, a common national identity and language, only some haven’t had to do it through legislation. Those nations were either ethnically very homogeneous, or they were in a context where the geopolitical context and social dynamics did the job. In short, it’s easy to call for free market rules when you are in a clear monopoly situation, with no serious contestants. That is the case for the English provinces of Canada, the USA and England, which benefit from their language being the global one, and where people never shied from applying pressure to minorities so that they conform (see video below for a little example). And it is very interesting to see how calls are now increasingly often heard for language regulations to be enacted in the latter countries, in face of the growing Spanish-speaking population in the USA, and Muslim minorities in England. In both cases, those minorities are seen as defying integration.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNKWISYPdZ4

edgy said...

Raman:

Believe it or not, I appreciate your efforts. I am here to learn. I will admit that it is very difficult for me to see the perspective that you represent and I have tried. For instance, when Quebecois talk about "collective rights" what I hear is de Tocqueville's "tyranny of the majority." I guess my second grade civics teacher is to be commended for her success in brainwashing me so thoroughly.

I was going to pepper you with a lot of earnest questions, but (if you feel like indulging me), let me ask just one (well, and a half):

For what good reason would Francophones and immigrants be barred from attending a private school that teaches a 60% French/40% English curriculum? These schools are classified as "English" schools by the government of Quebec even though clearly their aim is to produce fluently bilingual students who are able to function in French in Quebec and yet interact with the rest of the continent in English? Can you see why many Anglophones would see examples such as this as mean-spirited and unnecessarily rigid?

For fodder, I will offer that bilingual, publicly funded programs are available in many school districts in the U.S.. It is true that they are not overwhelmingly common but this is due to demand, not to public policy. In fact, you can even attend New York City public school (mostly) in French:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/22/education/22french.html?ref=bilingualeducation

Tony said...

Michel asks me:


People in Québec can speak whatever language they feel like and collectively defend whatever interest they deem worthy. What are you talking about?


A violation of the Charter happens when legislation discriminates by virtue of one of the prohibited bases of discrimination.

"Language" is a prohibited base of discrimination. But this discrimination isn't just an exclusion but can be a "preference" as well...and bill 101 does this in several ways:

1) In its preamble Bill 101 states "Whereas the National Assembly of Québec recognizes that Quebecers wish to see the quality and influence of the French language assured, and is resolved therefore to make of French the language of Government and the Law, as well as the normal and everyday language of work, instruction, communication, commerce and business;"

This is discrimination by preference. You can't do that according to the human rights charter because all languages are "equal" (except of course when it comes to governmental services in which case an exception is made because, for practical purposes, you can't have a Tower of Babel for each of the 300-odd languages spoken in Quebec).

2) This discrimination also occurs in the francization provisions of Bill 101 which require communications to be done in a certain language. I know the argument is made that this is legislated only for businesses of a certain size and if they are corporations but I disagree wholeheartedly with that assessment.

Tony said...

Raman writes:

Tony is part of the part of the Park Avenue Gazette's gang of thugs. You remember, those who advocate that every Anglo in Quebec should stack weapons to defend themselves against the French "racists", and who called for Pauline Marois the traitor to be hanged.

I wasn't aware of the "weapons" stance over at the Park Avenue Gazette. Could you please point it out to me (by the way, I don't know why I would necessarily have to agree with such a position solely because I have a few times participated on that particular site)?

As for Pauline Marois being a traitor, where and when did I ever say that? If anything I feel the opposite...and, indeed, have been published saying the opposite: that Marois is a great Canadian because by joining in with all the federal political parties in Parliament in Ottawa and with the Liberal Party of Quebec and the ADP in Quebec City in supporting Bill 101, she stands arm-in-arm with all the Canadians and federalists.

As I wrote in my book, the #1 impediment to Quebec gaining its independence is Bill 101. Why bother with the chocolately mess of independence when you can violate human rights and promote the majority language all within the context of being a province within Canada? Why bother with separation?

Tony said...

Raman writes:

Contrary to popular belief, linguistic laws are very popular around the world. (And, again contrary to popular belief, they exist even in the USA!)

1) Certainly, Raman, you don't hold the view that merely by virtue of the fact that a certain type of law exists in numerous places around the world that this justifies the existence of a law?

2) "Even in the USA", you wrote. Well, I've seen the list (and thank you for the link...it's a great resource!) and although I haven't perused every law for the US that is in the list, a cursory checking of them reveals that they are limited to governmental services. This has to be distinguished from laws that seek to influence non-governmental areas in life, such as what Bill 101 does (and, yes, what sections of the federal Official Languages Act does as well). I will still contend that any country's laws that attempt to promote one or several languages in the private sphere violates free speech and freedom of association.

Raman further writes:

This idea that there should reign some kind of free market where languages engage in a fair competition goes against the very concept of nation building.

I disagree.

A "free market" in languages is precisely what I believe there should be...and that is exactly what I believe is the law according to the Quebec and Canadian charters of rights.

Both English and French get all that support from government as official languages. As such, this gives both of them an advantage over all other languages when it comes to the private sphere. Therefore, when it comes to giving a language a "boost" in the private sphere, both English and French should be at the bottom of the list of languages when considering which language to help! According to the charters of rights, you simply cannot discriminate (i.e. favour for our considerations) one language over another...and in the private sphere, French or English is no more important in Quebec than Swahili.

So you simply cannot legislate in favour of a language in non-governmental services areas.

Now, that doesn't mean you as a people can't privately associate together outside of government influence and promote your favourite language and culture. Go right ahead and do it! For example, instead of passing laws requiring French to be on commercial signs, why not tell store owners that put up English-only signs that you won't patronize their businesses unless they give you the good service you desire (ie, signs in French). This is the marketplace at work and does not require any laws. Indeed, I suggest to you that this will be even more successful than any law in preserving and promoting the French language. Bill 101 is passive; it doesn't require individual francophones to do anything to preserve and promote French and, as such, makes them inactive and lazy in daily life in achieving this goal. So, in this sense, Bill 101 works against the French language.

Tony said...

Gosh, Raman, now that I've had a chance to look at some of the language laws that are linked from the link you provided I must say that these are the last references you would want to hold up as an example for Quebec to follow!

Do you realize that many of those laws are giving language rights to the many indigenous languages that exist on their territories and elevating them to equal status to the colonialist, imperialist, White European language that is in the majority? You know, like French in Quebec?

This is the last thing that Quebec nationalists and French language supremacists such as yourself would want here in Quebec! May I suggest, Raman, that you actually read the links that you post here before posting them? You may find that they come back and bite you on the ass!

Michel Bolduc said...

Tony,

You haven't substanciated your claim about freedom of association, but I can imagine where you'd be heading.

You mention "preference".  I currently work in a world-class organization in Montréal.  Everytime I participate in a meeting where a single person prefers English, everyone complies to accommodate this individual while the task at hand doesn't call for it.  What this preference actually comes down to is that any English speaking unilingual (4.5% of Québec's population) can work there, but any French speaking unilingual (53.5% of Québec's population) can't.  Here's a few questions for you.

What would you see fit as a means to ensure that the French speaking majority isn't discriminated from such organizations?  Also (in regards to the main topic of my post), if you see value in Canadian culture and acknowledge its helplessness in countering the American hegemony without some sort of discriminatory measure, what is your opinion on the Canadian Content legislation?

Tony said...

Michel:

thanks for your comments.

1) sustantiating my "freedom of association" comments: I attempted to do just that by reproducing the preamble to Bill 101 in which it is states quite clearly that the Quebec government is resolved to "to make of French the language of ... everyday language of ... communication, commerce and business."

When two or more people communicate together, they are practising their freedom of speech and freedom of association. That's what I am referring to and in the private sphere the government has no business telling me or anyone what they can do or say...and the government CANNOT spend taxpayer money in order to do it, be it Quebec with Bill 101 or the federal government with certain sections of the Official Languages Act.

I hope that answers your question.

But where did you think I was heading?

2) Regarding your experience with your place of work in which the one English speaker is accomodated: A private business has every right in the world to require that, for business purposes, their employees speak the language that they, the employer, demand they speak. Are there rules to this effect where you work? If not, then why are those proud French-Canadians who work where you do being so accomodating to the one English speaker? Better ask them, not me.

No unilingual francophone or unilingual anglophone has the right to demand that a private business accomodate their language. An employee must be free to hire people who speak whatever language he wants and prospective employees are free to accept the job offer or not.

That's the way of the world.

I'm 5' 9" tall. I would LOVE to be 7 feet tall so that I can play in the NBA and make $10 million a year. But that simply isn't the case and no matter how much I wish for it, I won't get taller. Tough luck for me.

The francophones of Quebec, sadly, live in a sea of English...350 million strong. It is the language of commerce, communication, education, the internet, etc. Sorry, but that is the reality. Perhaps that answers your question as to why YOUR place of business accomodates the one English speaker.

But here's the lucky thing for francophones: unlike me who can't grow to 7 feet tall, THEY CAN LEARN ENGLISH, LIKE YOU DO MICHEL, so that they can get better jobs, expand their horizons, make more money and -- gasp! -- in the process actually protect and preserve the French language and culture in Quebec by doing the one thing that will accomplish this best: being affluent and self-sufficient.

Now Quebecers are dependent upon the Canadian teat which accepts and protects Quebec's right to Bill 101, which just makes French Quebecers lazy as it pertains to protecting French (nothing to do if the law does everything). That's why I am for the independence of Quebec: WHAT BETTER WAY TO GET ENGISH BACK INTO QUEBEC LIFE THAN TO HAVE TO USE IT BY NECESSITY? You see, Michel, once $8 billion in equalization stops flowing from Ottawa, billions in net transfer payments, and all sorts of sweetheart deals that Ottawa brokers for Quebec, Quebec will be forced to replace all this grandese by attracting money to come into Quebec from other sources...and that means they must attract unilingual anglos to come to Quebec to work, live, educate, invest and be entrepreneurs...and I've got news for ya: they ain't gonna come if they have to learn French.

And I hope by the above that I have answered your question vis a vis what I would do as regards Canadian content legislation (throw it all out with much of the OLA).

Michel Bolduc said...

"When two or more people communicate together, they are practising their freedom of speech and freedom of association. That's what I am referring to and in the private sphere the government has no business telling me or anyone what they can do or say."

Tony, the government is not telling you what language you should speak with whomever you're talking to in the private sphere. As for the rest... we're obviously not meant to agree. Thanks for the input.

Founding Fathers Myth said...

"the government is not telling you what language you should speak with whomever you're talking to in the private sphere"

It does make a strong suggestion to this effect in the preamble of bill 101 though.

Just because the Quebec government doesn't enforce its own "guidelines" in the private sphere doesn't mean that it wouldn't like to. It probably would like to, but is limited by feasibility (installing surveillance equipment at every corner, or putting snitches and cops there) and fear of international condemnation (where superpowers like the United States, Russia, or China can get away with certain excesses, small jurisdictions like Quebec can't). So the reasons are those of inability, not of benevolence.

Tony said...

Michel writes:

Tony, the government is not telling you what language you should speak with whomever you're talking to in the private sphere.

They are if my employees have the right to communicate with me in a language I don't understand.

Have you read the francization provisions of Bill 101?

Michel Bolduc said...

Founding Fathers, reading suggestions is a good way to foment unnecessary discussions.

Tony, you're wrong about the private sphere and, as I've mentioned, we're obviously not meant to agree about the workplace. Thanks for your input.

Founding Fathers Myth said...

There are 3 possibilities as to why English stubbornly persists in Quebec, in all the spheres of life mentioned in the preamble of bill 101: work, business, commerce, instruction, and communication.

One possibility is that the Quebec government never meant what it so ceremoniously proclaimed in the preamble to a major law ever to be drafted in Quebec.

Another possibility is that the government eventually came to its senses and deliberately backtracked on its original plans.

Third possibility is that the government was unable to enforce all the guidelines and therefore fell short on some major objectives.

It's up to you what you believe, but I have yet to see a government that comes to its senses, or a government that deliberately chooses to roll back its powers in a situation when it doesn't have to.

Tony said...

Raman writes:

A minority which has consistently shown that it will rather choose self-segregation over integration; and which cannot digest having lost the battle over the integration of Quebec’s immigrants.

1) I love my ghetto. As long as we are, by free choice, segregating, what's the problem? Do you not support freedom of association?

It is segregation of rights as created by Quebec laws that is the problem, such as what occurs with Bill 101's language of education provisions.

2) We didn't "lose the battle" over immigrants; Quebec used the tyranny of the majority to force immigrants to integrate (again, the language of education provisions of Bill 101 being the primary tool to do this).

Give all Quebecers freedom of choice in language of education and 90% of allophones will come back to the anglo school system, as was the case pre-Bill 22 from 1974...and good number of francophones-de-souche as well will flock to the anglo schools.

Michel Bolduc said...

Founding Fathers,

English will always have an important place in Québec, no matter what.  This is North America, a continent in which the majority of its over 330 million inhabitants speak English.

The Québécois recognize this.  Of all the Canadians who understand and speak both official languages, more than half are Québécois.

The government also recognizes this.  English has always been a mandatory topic in elementary and high school.  My provincial government even supports immersion programs for Francophones wishing to learn the other official language.  I know many young people who attended such programs in their second grade.  I, myself, benefited from a substantial grant to support my undergraduate education when attending an English-language institution.

As mentioned in the preamble of bill 101, the intent is to make the language of the majority the normal communication vehicle in work, business, commerce, instruction, and communication, as it is the case for any given society.  The intent is not to make French the only language.

In a different line of thought... what's your opinion on the Canadian content legislation?

Tony,

You exemplify rather well the reason why Québec, in its quasi unique situation, requires a framework to off  balance the hegemony of the English language.  Without Bill 101, French in Canada doesn't stand a chance, period!

I realize that you don't support such a framework and you don't need to emphasize that stance.  However, if you're willing to consider the premise that without something like Bill 101, a rift would build between Québec's population and its minorities, I'd be more than interested in reading your ideas on how it could be improved to avoid the discrimination you denounce.

Thanks in advance.

P.S.: I apologize for the belated moderation and reply.  My Internet access has been scarce lately.

Founding Fathers Myth said...

Yes, not the “only” language, but the “normal” and “everyday” language of work, commerce, business, and even personal communication. This statement is unequivocal. So yes, it’s probably true that English was meant to be allowed to stay and linger in the background (as a second language resorted to only when absolutely necessary, or during travels), but it was supposed to vanish from the foreground, and cease to be an everyday alternative to French in communication, work, and business. And that did not happen, obviously. So we’re back to the original question of why. And we’re back to the 3 reasons I proposed.

As for Canadian content, I’m not sure. I generally support protectionism when it comes to hard resources, for example, in that Bolivia should protect its right to its waters from the US-based corporations, Venezuela, Libya, and Iraq should manage its oil independently of UK, US, and French interests, etc…But when it comes to “soft” resources (arts, entertainment, language), I’m much more skeptical. For example, why should Nickleback be “protected” and given accrued air time? How does Canada benefit from their existence? Would Canada lose anything if this horrendous band got knocked off the market? Would Canada lose as much as the Bolivian people who are having water (probably the most critical resource) stolen from them? I don’t think so.

Michel Bolduc said...

"Personal communications" is not part of the preamble. This is your own interpretation and the interpretation of most detractors of Bill 101.

Nickleback is an anecdote and I wouldn't specifically associate them with Canadian culture. There is a need to provide emerging Canadian artists with a platform to blossom, be it airplay or funding. Without a grant from the Péquiste government, for example, it's not clear the Cirque du Soleil would have become the flagship it is today.

Yannick said...

Founding Fathers - I found the relevant preambule, and here's what it says.

"Dinstinctive language of a people majoritarily francophone, the french language allows the québecois people to express its identity.

The national assemby recognizes the will of the Québecois to insure the quality and influence of the french language. It is therefore resolved to make French the language of state and of law as well as the normal and common language of work, teaching, communications, commerce and business.

The national assemby intends to pursue this objective in a spirit of justice and openness, with the respect of Québec community intitutions of english expressions and that of the ethnic minorities, of which it recognises the precious contribution to the development of Québec.

The national assembly recognises to the First Nations and Inuits of Québec, descendents of the first inhabitants of the country, the right to maintain and develop their language and original culture

This principles are part of the universal movement of the revalorisation of national cultures that gives to each people the obligation to bring an individual contribution to the international comminity.

Her Majesty, following the advice and consent of the national assembly, decretes the following :"

I'm not sure where I see mention of a private sphere.

Tony said...

Michel writes:

However, if you're willing to consider the premise that without something like Bill 101, a rift would build between Québec's population and its minorities, I'd be more than interested in reading your ideas on how it could be improved to avoid the discrimination you denounce.

My idea how to improve the situation:

Quebec becomes a separate, independent country. Within this independent nation is a province, called "Quebec West" in which the inhabitants are free of the hate law/race law Bill 101.

That's my solution.

Tony said...

Yannick writes:

I'm not sure where I see mention of a private sphere.

Yannick, what about It is therefore resolved to make French the...normal and common language of work, teaching, communications, commerce and business?

Since there is no mention of "private sphere" the reference includes the private sphere. Does not "normal language" and "common language" include the private sphere?

If it didn't, why the separate reference to "make French the language of state and of law"? If the intent was to make French the language of only the public sphere (ie, official language of government) they wouldn't have added the part about "the normal and common language...".

This is further compounded when one reads the sections of Bill 101 regarding francization in which communications in business are to be conducted in French. That, to me, is part of the private sphere.

Michel Bolduc said...

Tony,

The idea is to have these peole working hand in hand. We'd still have a rift building between the population and it's minority. Your idea isn't cutting it.

Tony said...

...then get rid of Bill 101...

Michel Bolduc said...

That's how it was in the early 70s and it doesn't work. Try again.

Founding Fathers Myth said...

Communication, not communicationS (as in Yannick's post). Communications (plural) would imply a subset of all communication. But they said communication (singular) which implies all communication.

What did they mean by "communication" then, if not personal communication? They specified law, government, commerce, business, instruction, and work, in addition to "communication". What other communication can it be, if you exclude all these? All that's left is the personal sphere.

But feel free to enlighten me. What did they mean by "communication"? Press releases?

Tony said...

Michel wrote:

That's how it was in the early 70s and it doesn't work. Try again.

Why? What didn't work?

Michel Bolduc said...

Founding Fathers,

Press releases?... yes, of course... among other things.  But making French the normal language between two citizens in their casual exchanges?... there's nothing in the Charter or in the actions of the government, be it Péquiste or Libéral, that supports such a statement.

Tony,

A rift was building between the population and its minorities.

Yannick said...

Founding father - the original was indeed communicationS. Mea Culpa. I simply translated the text as seen on the website of the Québec office of the french language. (see link - http://www2.publicationsduquebec.gouv.qc.ca/dynamicSearch/telecharge.php?type=2&file=/C_11/C11.html)

Maybe communications meant something different in 1970, but I can attest that in french it does not imply casual, inter-personal communications. It implies things like media, etc..

It's rather telling - if you look at the english wikipedia entry of "communications", (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communication) the article goes right to human communication, and specified oral, non-oral, etc..

But if you look at the french entry on "communications" (http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Ffr.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FCommunication&sl=fr&tl=en&hl=&ie=UTF-8), it's focusing much more on the science of communications, and speaks of governments, businesses, globalization and so on. Interpersonal communications is a single paragraph lost in the middle of the article.

Founding Fathers Myth said...

"Press releases?... yes, of course... among other things"

What other things? List a few for me.

"there's nothing in the Charter or in the actions of the government, be it Péquiste or Libéral, that supports such a statement."

The preamble of bill 101 supports such a statement.

Michel Bolduc said...

Founding Fathers,

A preamble states the reasons and intent of what follows; it's not meant to supersede what follows. When you read a preamble and find nothing further to support your interpretation of it, you're mistaken.

I read it is a generic term for communication to the mass that wouldn't perfectly fall under work, instruction, commerce or business... like governmental information, governmental services, advertising, movies (entertainment or cultural production in general), the WWW (eCommerce is not the only thing), media, radio, television...

I can only assume that for lack of a better argument against the Charter of the French Language, it is comforting to think that it aims at making French the normal language between two citizens in their casual exchanges. And if that's what you prefer believing despite daily evidence to the contrary... well... suit yourself... but I'd be interested in reading examples.

Founding Fathers Myth said...

“When you read a preamble and find nothing further to support your interpretation of it, you're mistaken.”

When arguing intent, we will not agree on this because of our view of human nature and the nature of power. You think that governments are entities that are there to serve the people. I don’t. I think they’re there to control and restrain the individual. And I don’t see the fathers of bill 101 as you do. My view of these people is probably a complete inverse of your view.

“like governmental information, governmental services, advertising, movies (entertainment or cultural production in general), the WWW (eCommerce is not the only thing), media, radio, television...”

Where you say governmental information and services, I can agree. Every nation state has the right to pick an official language. But movies, entertainment, culture, world wide web, commerce? Is that what was meant by "communication"? I hope not, because that would be dreadful.

“I can only assume that for lack of a better argument against the Charter of the French Language, it is comforting to think that it aims at making French the normal language between two citizens in their casual exchanges.”

That it’s doing it against the will of so many people is actually very discomforting. But that’s ok, just like there are people who will defend the Patriot Act to the death, there are people who will defend Bill 101 all the same. I guess some people like this type of structure, while others find it constraining. Different frames of mind, totally incompatible.

Michel Bolduc said...

For your information, the Charter does regulate movies and other areas of what falls under "mass communication". For example, American blockbusters can hit the screens in their original version only if the dubbed French version is available simultaneously. And this disposition does not prevent small productions from being shown in their original language exclusively.

But let's make this discussion as simple as possible. You put forward that the Charter aims at making French the normal language between two citizens in their casual exchanges. Can you give me examples?

Founding Fathers Myth said...

Bush never spelled out that his war was for oil, but you know that it was. Why do you believe Levesque and not Bush?

Michel Bolduc said...

This is a tough question. The Americans invaded Iraq in 2003, the world knowing it was under false pretense. In 2005, the CIA released a report saying that no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq. It took roughly two years to illustrate that Bush was lying.

The Charter has been effective since 1977. After almost 35 years, you can't give me a shred of an example of what you put forward. Why should I believe Lévesque, you ask?... a tough question in deed.

Seriously... how many years is it going to take Angryphones to admit that they're wrong about the intent of the Charter?... that Québec's geo-political situation is in a league of its own?... that the Charter simply aims at making the language of the majority the normal communication vehicle, just like in any given society?

I've encountered many people who are blinded by what they believe. Perhaps you'll be happy to know that you have a special spot in that list. There's a saying in French that perfectly suits you: "your slip's showing!" In other words... you've exposed yourself.

Raman said...

Hi Michel,
I'm looking for a reference, and thought maybe you would know it.

I remember seeing a documentary movie about the genesis of Quebec's language laws. (I don't remember if it was Bill 22 or 101. I believe the former.)
They mentioned that, prior to resorting to a law, the then government tried to apply voluntary incentive measures: Especially tried to get English-speaking companies to voluntarily switch to French. And only when they were met with wall to wall refusal did they resort to crafting a law.

I'm looking for the exact details on that: Which minister was involved, what year, etc.
Do you know anything about this ?

Thanks.

Michel Bolduc said...

Salut Raman,

I'm not familiar with such a documentary, but perhaps you could try here.

I would really be interested in knowing about this if you find anything. When opponents of Bill 101 say English Canada would have a much more positive attitude towards the French fact without the legislation, I always reply that there was a time when such laws didn't exist and that French is in much better shape now. A more positive attitude simply doesn't cut it.

Raman said...

I'll keep looking. If I find anything, I'll let you know.

Other than that, to go along with your point, you can fish for Radio-Canada's "Tout le monde en parlait", The episode "La Manic : la bataille du français à Hydro-Québec".
It's very revealing of the inter-linguistic climate before, during, and right after the advent of language legislation.

http://www.tou.tv/tout-le-monde-en-parlait/S06E06

Anybody who pretends that there was linguistic peace before those legislation should better watch it...

Erik said...

My understanding is that the law dictates which particular language a child may be immersed in for primary and secondary schools, based on whether the child has a parent who was taught in English.

Would it be better to simply require all Quebec's students to demonstrate, by yearly testing, a certain level of proficiency in French? As long as a child passes, the government need not care how the child got proficient. In a French speaking province, it seems reasonable to ask that all students learn French, no matter what the parent learned.

The parents would be free to choose a school conducted primarily in Mandarin, French, Arabic, English, or any other language offered privately or publicly. Many students will learn a lot of French from their parents and the social environment, so they can focus more on another language in school. Parents deserve more choices for language learning.

If a child fails one of those proficiency tests, he/she would be moved to an all-French school for remedial work. Presumably these non-French immersion schools would conduct a few of the classes in French and teach French grammar, to make sure their kids pass the tests.

Would this actually work?