More ridiculous discourse about bilingualism

12.10.02

Statistics Canada released new census figures this week, and now the PQ nitwits are falling all over themselves to decry a “lack of bilingualism” in Canada.

“It’s a dream, this vast bilingual country and this dream is not a reality,” Diane Lemieux said at a news conference after the 2001 census figures were unveiled. “This image of Canada being a bilingual country is an image disproven by reality. “It’s not true that French and English coexist as equals throughout Canada.” Lemieux said French would be better protected if Quebec were sovereign.

“The real solution is for Quebec to be a country,” she said.

The census showed Canadian bilingualism is divided along geographic lines, Lemieux suggested.

Of course, to the PQ, everything would be better if Quebec were sovereign.

But that’s not the point here. The point is that while the number of francophones in Canada (excluding Quebec) dropped a tiny bit – 4.4% down from 4.5% in 1996 – the truth is, both French and English-speaking populations dropped as the number of allophones (people with a mother tongue other than French or English) increased sharply. This is a result of increased immigration and multiculturalism, and only the PQ would see it as a BAD thing.

Wasn’t it Louise Beaudoin who was rallying about “rampant” bilingualism just a few short years ago? Of course, in that case she meant Quebec – where 83.1% of people speak French at home, compared to only 8.3% who speak English (down from 8.8% in 1996). Of course, to the PQ, bilingualism is only bad if it’s in Quebec. Their “raison d’être” is to preserve French, and of course there’s nothing wrong with that except when it’s done by criticizing other languages and groups.

Language has always been divided along geographic lines. That’s human nature. People tend to gravitate towards areas and communities where there are others who share their language and culture. In fact, the entire PQ argument for sovereignty is based on the division of language along geographic lines.

The problem is that the PQ has always seen the population of Canada as pieces on a chessboard, which they are free to position and manipulate at will. This was the reasoning behind immigration policies that would see immigrants forced to live in designated (outlying) areas instead of big cities. This was the reasoning behind efforts to shut down English schools and force all immigrants to send their children to French schools, even if they already speak English fluently. This was the same reasoning behind the law forcing all companies with 50 or more employees to conduct their internal business in French – even if all the people working at the company are non-francophone – and to advertise in French even if they’re targeting a mainly non-francophone market.

The PQ wants to hammer out a francophone society – whether the people like it or not. And now the same government that has been so restrictive of its anglophone minority is criticizing the rest of Canada for not being French enough! The difference, of course, is that in the rest of Canada, people are free to speak whatever language they choose. And this is apparently what the PQ finds so offensive. Maybe they ought to start targeting communities out in Alberta for “forced bilingualism” laws. Something tells me they wouldn’t get welcomed with a red carpet.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 anon coward 12.10.02 at 9:21 PM

Segacs, you cite French in Alberta and call language a market choice. But the fact is that if the Quebec public system assigned English the same role as French in much of Alberta — in other words, no public English schools (for anyone), health care, government services, signs, or anything else — then English in Quebec wouldn’t last all that long. While I’m glad that English is supported, I do recognize that support as state interventionism. Not always bad.

What’s idiotic about the PQ statement is not its content but its premise. Canada has never been bilingual. Nor has it ever supposed to have been. The national bilingualism policy was about availability of government services in Engish and French across Canada. If it ain’t a government service, it ain’t supposed to be bilingual. (Well, wasn’t envisioned as such. The bilingual thing did fire up people’s enthusiasm for things like French immersion schools. But that had nothing to do with the bilingualism policy, except insofar as it was a response to it.)

Instead the PQ beats up on the straw man that someone, somewhere tried to make Canadians a bilingual citizenry from coast to coast. It’s a straw man that’s convenient to the PQ, which is why they keep feeding it. But it’s a huge red herring.

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2 segacs 12.10.02 at 10:05 PM

When there’s a demand for services, like French public education, in French, it is provided – as is evidenced by the growing number of French immersion schools as well as the French public school sector in New Brunswick.

The difference is between “pull” or demand-initiated markets, versus “push” or supply-initiated markets. In Quebec, the government thumps down its big heavy boot on anyone who doesn’t want to toe the line. Quebec Francophones aren’t ALLOWED to send their kids to English school (unless they pay for private school), while English parents can decide to educate their kids in French. In a world where every additional language is an advantage, tell me again who these policies are supposed to be helping?

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3 Shlinkin 12.11.02 at 12:40 AM
4 Peter 12.11.02 at 3:40 AM

I love all those groovey francophones
up north.

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5 Peter 12.11.02 at 4:07 AM

I just read the JTA article. The first
round goes to democracy and truth!

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6 segacs 12.11.02 at 10:16 PM

Shlinkin and Peter, the article erred in saying Hillel was reinstated. It has NOT been reinstated. Hillel announced today that it will be pursuing legal action against the CSU. I’ll keep you posted as events develop.

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