I tend to stay out of politics, but as a citizen of Canada and one who lives in the province of Quebec, I can be quiet no longer. Canada, as a country, is bilingual; meaning English and French are the 2 official languages.
In October 1995 Quebec held a referendum contemplating becoming its own country separate from Canada; it did not pass. The only comparison I have would be the state of Florida or Arizona deciding it wants to become its own country with Spanish being the official language. Yet, the new country would still want to use U.S. currency and be part of the health system already in place. Does that make any sense?
Quebec wants to be its own country, or I should say, this is a political agenda that is being pushed by our current government in the province of Quebec with Premier Pauline Marois. The language of French continues to be forced upon its citizens and one cannot be part of any professional order without passing a language exam. Again, Quebec is a province in the country of Canada which is bilingual as a whole, and then the province wonders why there are shortages in certain professions or why residents leave and move to other provinces. The new proposed bill is drawing a lot of attention and fortunately protest; Bill 14.
Mayor Anthony Housefather of Cote Saint Luc, Quebec, launched a website to get residents motivated to be part of the change process. Although Cote Saint Luc is a city that happens to fall above the 50% required to maintain bilingual status, this is not the case for all cities and towns across Quebec.
Under the law, the Office Québécoise de la Langue Française would automatically review the status of a bilingual city following the latest census. Should a municipality’s Anglophone populace dip beneath 50%, it could be stripped of its bilingual status. Quebec’s minister for Montreal, Jean-François Lisée, said he favours a 40% threshold, and told a group at Westmount Thursday that he wanted feedback from cities on the bill.
Since someone isn’t counted as an Anglophone unless that language is their mother tongue, historically Anglophone areas with high immigrant populations, such as the Town of Mount Royal, could lose their bilingual status. Currently TMR’s Anglophone populace clocks in at just above 20%, and its francophone populace is less than 50%.
We already have to deal with Bill 101, signs must be in French; English is allowed as long as the French lettering is larger. ‘Sign police’,as they are called, go around and ticket store owners and those that do not follow the rules. Honestly, the province’s money could be better spent elsewhere. Those that are allowed to send their children to English schools are limited and Quebec is one of the highest taxed provinces on top of all this.
Bill 104 was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. It was legislation passed in 2002 restricting students’ access to English-language public schools. The Quebec Court of Appeal first ruled that the law was unconstitutional in 2007. The ruling was then appealed in Canada’s Supreme Court by the Quebec government. The law prevents students who have undergone one year of instruction in private English schools from entering English public schools.
As an immigrant in Quebec, I am lucky that my spouse attended English school or our children would be attending French only schools.
Those that do not attend English school learn very little English in French school and are not able to function outside of the province of Quebec. They are in a sense stuck here. Personally, I believe the more languages one knows the better, especially from an early age. While French is spoken in other provinces in Canada, particularly in government positions where it is supposed to be mandatory, it is really Quebec that forces it upon its residents.
The new Bill 14 would force businesses with 26+employees to make French their everyday language. Businesses that serve the public would have to ensure that their employees speak to customers in French.
English speaking high school or secondary school students, with or without special needs, would have to master French prior to graduation, otherwise they would be forced to drop out of school. Section 1.2 #6 of Bill 14:
…raising the profile of the French language in the various spheres of activity in Québec society, so that it is used and respected in the business sector, in the workplace, in teaching and research environments, in cultural industries and in international institutions. In the health services and social services, if documents filed in clinical records are not in French, the institution concerned, at the request of any person authorized to obtain such a document, shall prepare free of charge a French summary of the file or a French version of the document or documents specified.
I doubt this will happen in the reverse where one who is English speaking can request that documentation in French be translated.
“The professional orders may issue temporary permits valid for not more than one year to persons who, elsewhere than in Québec, either were admitted to a profession, or acquired training or obtained a diploma allowing them to be declared qualified to practice their profession in Québec, but whose knowledge of the official language does not meet the requirements of section 35 of the bill.”
While Quebec has been busy debating its language laws, the province’s demographics have rapidly changed. The number of allophones, whose first language is neither French nor English, is rapidly rising.
Bill 14 would worsen already difficult measures for anyone who is anglophone (mother tongue of English) or allophone. I hope that more residents of the province of Quebec continue to share their unhappiness and dissatisfaction with the upcoming legislation as it awaits approval. May there be more demonstrations by French speakers, English speakers, and allophones, stating this is wrong and unfair. Quebec, in all matters should remain as part of Canada and follow the legislation that was put in place long ago to encourage bilingualism, NOT unilingualism , of French by force.
Written by Victoria Brewster, MSW
SJS Staff Writer in Canada
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