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