Québec society crumbling

For the relatively young countries of North America, the province of Québec provides a unique and exotic escape from our traditional, modern surroundings. With a European sensibility, Québec often gains extensive tourism, but their increasingly damaging policies, laws and behaviour is garnering them widespread international criticism.

Québec’s newly proposed language law, Bill 101, which seeks to legislate the French language by ensuring it is protected from outside influences, is a perfectly understandable initiative. Naturally, Québec would feel inclined to protect their language and the culture it flourishes in. What the government of Québec seems oblivious to however, is the complete state of turmoil these attempts to protect their culture has ignited.

Some of the bill’s unjustified restrictions include minimizing how many English-speakers can work at a business and punishing any bilingual municipalities if their Anglophones out number their Francophones.

The bill also takes aim at Québec’s youth as it will restrict stationed Canadian soldiers from educating their children in English while also having the right to withhold a student’s high school or college diploma if the student isn’t deemed fit enough to actively participate in Québec’s society.

This seems highly unnecessary as a place like Montreal is by nature, a duel-language city. With tensions surrounding the government’s series of bills intended to protect the French language, it seems by doing so, they are consequently only working to restrict English.

Thousands of English-speaking Québec residents have spoken out against the bill for its infringement on their rights as Canadian citizens. Similarly, many English protestors feel they are subject to an unfair prejudice from Premier Pauline Marois of the Parti Québecois government (PQ).

With criticism over Bill 101, otherwise known as Québec’s Charter of the French Language (QCFL), it should be apparent to the PQ that they are not only upsetting English-Speaking Canadians, but their very own residents who now feel unwelcome in their native province.

Despite the controversy of the bill, it is apparent that the primary origin of Québec’s deteriorating social and political system rests in the hands of the PQ, who are narrowly focused on “protecting” French culture until the point of complete and utter ridiculousness.

Significant media attention has been given to what is now being called “Pasta-gate” in which an Italian restaurant in Québec was investigated, and later reprimanded for not having enough French dishes and names on its menu.

Apparently, the word “pasta” violated several language laws. It is almost completely impossible to defend such absurd actions. It is one thing to carry an agenda with meaning, but something completely different to do so until the point of international ridicule.

With education related riots, deteriorating infrastructure, government corruption and now, communist-like politics, it is apparent that Québec is crumbling. English speaking Canadians have long been taught to feel not only guilty, but responsible for what their ancestors did to restrict French culture.

I understand there is a legacy of bias or injustice, but at some point our nation needs to stop concentrating on past issues. It is our ancestral shame that provides this kind of opportunity which takes advantage of non-francophone citizens.

With a province that has been investigated for the mafia influence in the Montreal government as well as dangerously subpar infrastructure, it is a relief to see a more critical eye now being placed on the state of Québec.

If Québec wants to protect the integrity of their French culture, perhaps it’s time to focus their energy on fixing their infrastructure and political structure before worrying about what types of words are used to describe Italian cuisine.

letters@thecord.ca

3 Comments

  1. What an embarrassing pile of garbage. Bill 101 is not new, it was enacted as law 35 years ago. It has not caused turmoil at all, and is supported by the vast majority of Quebecers. It provided clear rules for the entire society on language issues, to replace the free-for-all of Anglophone business managements forcing the French majority to work in their second language. Language legislation is common all over the world, levelling the playing field anywhere a minority with economic clout (like the Anglophone business class in Quebec) ignores the language of the majority and obliges the majority to shop and work in the minority language, limiting the career potential of the majority in their own province, state or country.

    The inaccuracies (or lies) in this article are too numerous to mention, but some of the most outrageous must be countered. There are no “restrictions minimizing English speakers” in businesses. The law states that for businesses with more than fifty employees, the language of operations must be French. In BC (where I just visited), I don’t know of any 50+ employee businesses that don’t operate in the majority language of the province (English). Are the Francophones in BC (or the Sikhs, or the Chinese) hard done by because of this? No, because they are bilingual and know the majority language enough to get by. Most Anglophones in Quebec are bilingual.

    And municipalities are not “punished” for having too many English speakers. That’s insane. Some municipalities have a bilingual status and can carry on their municipal business principally in English, even though their populations are over fifty percent Francophone. There are proposals of some of them losing their bilingual or Anglophone municipality status. How many Ontario towns carry on their municipal business in French when the majority is Anglophone? Again, very normal.

    Many Quebec Anglophones like myself think the media in the rest of the country has gone off the deep end with their criticisms of Quebec. I was in BC recently and saw NO French ANYWHERE. At least in Quebec the signage is bilingual and English services are readily available practically everywhere. English Canada has a common public language, English, that Francophones, Sikhs, Chinese and First Nations peoples all respect and use in public interactions. No one is hard done by by this. It’s just the same in Quebec. But the common, public language is French. Simple.

  2. As for Pastagate, the word “pasta” did not appear as one of the offending words in the letter sent to the restaurant. The inspector did probably mention it to the restauranteur directly, but they were other, less recognizable terms that were cited in the letter (which has circulated in French media, but not in English media). Also, the problem is never with the fact that there is an Italian word, or an English word – it’s that there is NO ACCOMPANYING FRENCH. Bilingual signage, menus, documentation is all fine, as long as the French (the majority language) is there as well. Once again, perfectly understandable. But it sells newspapers when English media listens to one side of the story and blows everything out of proportion.

    There would be no need for language legislation if Anglophones in Quebec respected the common, public language of Quebec the way Francophones and other linguistic minorities respect English as the common public language in the rest of the country.

    Quebec is not “crumbling”. I’ve lived in BC, in Ontario and travelled plenty and it’s the greatest, most stimulating place to live in Canada, IMO. Most of my Anglo-Quebec compatriots would agree, or they would not be living here.

    It’s Quebecers themselves that are “placing a critical eye” on their own “state” (as this author so awkwardly puts it). Other jurisdictions in Canada would do well to take a look under the rug as well. Much of the graft and collusion the Charbonneau Commission is uncovering in Quebec isn’t even illegal in some provinces.

  3. Here’s another, less hysterical point of view, from some one who knows a little about what she speaks.

    http://www.mun.ca/sgs/blog/?p=1071

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