Quebec On a Mission to Save English in the World
It’s going to be a scorching hot summer in Québec City. In about a week the Philadelphia Flyers will put an end to the providential media blackout provided by the Habs’ unexpected early playoffs successes and Jean Charest’s Liberals, already busy with Mulroney-scale allegations of corruption, will also have to deal with their very first full-scale language crisis.
And if the word on the WiFi is true, Charest might just be about to take Québec’s already schizophrenic linguistic situation straight through the looking-glass.
Y’all of course remember that last year the Supreme Court of Canada invalidated Bill 104, a law that closed a loophole used by wealthy families to purchase the right to send their kids to English-language public schools, a privilege that in the spirit and letter of Québec’s laws, is supposed to be reserved for Québec’s historic English-speaking minority.
The Supremes essentially agreed that closing that loophole was a legitimate objective, but decided that the technicalities of Bill 104, the idea that all the time a student spent in a unsubsidized private school didn’t count as education in Canada, was too much. It gave the Québec bureaucrats one year to find a better way to close the loophole.
Evidently this is harder than it sounds and Charest government already missed its deadline.
In the Red corner, tenors of the English-speaking community have taken the debate way beyond the loophole and are arguing that short of a new source of students, Québec’s English-language public school system, and, by extension, all of Québec’s English-speaking community, is on the verge of demographic collapse. (The inconvenient fact that the size of the English system relative to the French system is stable, that interprovincial migration from English-speaking provinces to Québec is on the rise and that English as a home, work and higher education language in Québec is in the midst of a historic boom is conveniently ignored.)
Emboldened by a recent poll that suggests that for the first time in decades Québec Francos would support giving themsleves the right to send their kids to English schools, some are asking the Liberals to take this opportunity to give… everyone except Québec’s Franco’s access to English schools.
One of the solutions to the English schools demographic « decline » peddled by School Board—and appalingly getting support in some sovereigntist circles—is the right to public education should be extended not only to families who have received an English education somewhere in Canada, but also to those who have received this education in « English-speaking countries » such as the US or the United Kingdom.
Notice the two countries that inevitably come up when that solution is proposed: the US and the UK. What about Jamaica, South Africa, Belize, Nigeria and Cameroun?
An arbitrary choice of countries could never be justified on any objective moral grounds and would inevitably be struck down in courts as discriminatory. Eventually, the right to a subsidised English education would have to be extended to the children of parents who have been educated in English not only in Canada, but « to any children with at least one parent educated in English anywhere on Earth », as the Montreal Gazette suggested.
In other words, instead of closing a loophole that enabled wealthy Québec Francos and immigrants to purchase the privilege of a subsidized English education in Québec, these people are suggesting that we take the racket global!
Because make no mistake about it, « elsewhere on Earth » an English education is a privilege of the wealthy. In places like Pakistan, India, much of Africa and Asia, sending their children to exclusive private English-language schools is the local elites way of making sure they have first dibs on all the good government, justice and army brass jobs.
Ain’t globalization grand?
It is possible to argue that Québec’s English-speaking community has historical rights to its own institutions. But we would now be extending these rights to ALL English-speaking people, anywhere on Earth. Québec, of all places, would be the first Nation in the world to treat ALL THE WORLD’S ENGLISH-SPEAKING PEOPLES as a minority in need of special protection!
And all the Francos in the English language school board’s poll that want greater access to English schools? Too bad. They’d still be locked out.