Monday, May 16, 2022

Bill 96

I'm tired. I'm tired of the language merry-go-round in Quebec. Francois Legault's government is on the cusp of passing Bill 96, which would further restrict the rights of Quebec's English speakers. The Montreal Gazette reports that:

Quebec’s anglophone community rarely protests in the streets against government policy. However, many who came out Saturday said while they are in favour of protecting the French language and culture in Quebec, Bill 96 — which is expected to come to a vote in the National Assembly at the end of the month — would have disastrous consequences in education, language and health-care sectors.

The law would give increased powers to the Office québécois de la langue française, the province’s language watchdog, such as search and seizure without a warrant. It would also restrict service in English in health-care institutions and the courts.

The bill has also raised the ire of the province’s Indigenous communities who called it a form of cultural genocide, and asked to be exempted from it, to no avail.

“The Mohawk language was spoken here thousands of years before French was ever spoken,” [Kenneth]Deer said. “We are being recolonized again by the Quebec government because of Bill 96. We don’t force you to learn Mohawk. Don’t force us to learn your language.”

The Two Solitudes no longer exists in Quebec. It was there when I was a kid growing up in Montreal. But it disappeared thirty years ago. Nonetheless, Adam Bright -- who teaches English at Dawson College -- is worried:

“It’s kind of heartbreaking to see how few people actually understand what this bill is going to do to their opportunities,” said Bright, who teaches English literature at Dawson College. Bright believes he will lose his job if the bill is passed, because there will be less of a need for English instruction in the CEGEP system. “So many of us are investing in French in Quebec. My son is going to a French daycare and will go to a French elementary school, but the bill is based on a misguided notion that to learn English, it somehow imperils French.”

I taught high school in Quebec for twelve years. When Rene Levesque's Parti Quebecois came to power, it severely restricted the ability of students to enter English schools. When I began my teaching career, the school where I taught had 1100 students. When I left, it had 300. I told my wife we'd better leave before they turned out the lights.

I love Quebec. Growing up there opened my eyes to the world. But there is a paranoia that runs deep in in la belle province. And it never goes away. Quebecers always fear the barbarians at the gates. And, in every generation, that fear rises -- like a phoenix from its ashes.

Image: The Montreal Gazette


Anonymous said...

Bill 96 is all about firing up the base before the October election. Legault is selling the Quebec version of Tucker Carson's white nationalist "great replacement" con that led to 10 dead in Buffalo, NY.

Levesque's Bill 101 caused many businesses to flee up autoroute 20 to Ontario. You'd think Quebec would have learned a thing or two in the meantime about balancing the French language with jobs.


Owen Gray said...

That would be a rational response, Cap. But paranoia isn't rational.

John B. said...

It's the irrational fear that native French-speakers have of near-synonyms. It knows no bounds and is much stronger in Quebec than in the mother country of the language (probably in la whole damned Francophonie). A very shaky foundation on which to base their rapid form of patriotism. They should give over and get with the programme as the rest of civilization, and even Ireland, has. Of course, they could join up with America and see how long it takes before the collected scattered remnants of their language become a curious cultural oddity.

Bill Malcolm said...

Language is always divisive if it's imposed. And Quebec governments aren't even sly about it. Neither was the Ukrainian government when it legislated Ukrainian on ethno-Russians in Ukraine in 2014/15. No more schooling in Russian, in church services, all local government must be in Ukrainian etc, etc. Don't read about that in yer popular press here, though, do you -- not even mentioned. Arguably not as harsh as Quebec, since Ukrainian and Russian languages are supposedly very similar, but people on the receiving end of edicys and fiats tend to object rather strenuously.

Except Anglos in Quebec. From your post: "The law would give increased powers to the Office québécois de la langue française, the province’s language watchdog, such as search and seizure without a warrant. It would also restrict service in English in health-care institutions and the courts."

Authoritarianism by any other name. I do not expect the Mohawks or other First Nations will bow down, but the usual English speakers will gradually bail out. Quite what Quebec expects to achieve by being an isolated enclave in North America has puzzled me for nigh on 50 years. It's certainly not preparation for life in business. Who'd bother setting up shop there unless gifted the funds, like Moderna, which you can bet will pay zero attention to running its operations in French or telling their visiting American CEO and execs to speak it to employees. Trying that one on with the language police standing by to issue tickets would go down like a lead balloon.

Must be some kind of impenetrable Gallic logic which propels Quebec to cut off its hand to spite its face. What's wrong with bilingualism, pray tell? Especially as it's heavily loaded in favour of French as things stand now in Quebec. Nope, got to have it all, apparently. Good luck with that.

Owen Gray said...

They would have no patience with Quebec in the United States, John. they only recognize one language -- English.

Owen Gray said...

There are Francophones and Anglophones in Quebec who fully embrace bilingualism, Bill. Unfortunately, there are not enough of them.

Northern PoV said...

Be careful what you wish for.

I prefer a tRump playing patty-cakes with Lil'Kim, arm wrestling Xi and blowing raspberry kisses to Putin over the current bunch who are baiting the Russian bear, Chinese panda and Korean dingbat into nuclear war.

I prefer that the Quebecois play language games as long as the separatist threat stays dormant.

Owen Gray said...

It's easy to be sanguine about Quebec, PoV, when you have the good fortune not to live there.