Posts Tagged ‘french in the workplace’
Who says Montreal should be French, anyway?
This is a complaint I’ve been hearing more and more from Anglophones.
Montreal is a bilingual city. Why should French have a special status?
Because if French didn’t have a special status Montreal would have the economic and cultural importance Akron, Ohio.
Bill 101 isn’t about wiping out English From Montreal. It’s about providing a counterweight to the massive power of attraction of English in North America and the world.
Bill 101 created bilingual Montreal.
Before bill 101 there was no bilingual Montreal. It was as Jane Jacobs and many others observed: “An English city containing many French-speaking workers and inhabitants.” About 70% of the inhabitants actually.
Before bill 101 there was no French in the workplace, there was no French in the boardrooms and there was little or no French in the shops downtown. Before Bill 101 the Canadian National Railway and the big banks could have their headquarters in Montreal and not have to hire a single French-speaking person above the second floor.
Before the French Language Charter became law bilingualism was such a valued skill in Montreal that in his book “Sorry I don’t speak French” journalist and new Official Languages Commissioner Graham Fraser recalls meeting the editor of the Montreal Star, a man who’s position would suppose that he was not only well read but that he also had some very sensitive antennas in all of the city’s communities, and that he did not speak French at all.
Before those darn separatists took power immigrants only learned English because that’s the only language they needed to earn a living. Anglos didn’t need to speak French to get a job. Francophones who wanted to rise above the shop floor had to consider an English education. The market value of bilingualism was sweet fuck all.
By giving the French majority the right to work in French the French Language Charter’s creator Camille Laurin reversed that. All of the sudden Anglos and immigrants needed to learn some French to compete with the bilingual Francophones. The French classes suddenly got more important in English schools and the very idea of immersion programs was invented.
The children and grandchildren of unilingual Anglophones are now proudly bilingual and this proficiency with languages gives them a unique advantage other Anglo-Saxons would pimp their sister for. This ability to speak two or more languages has kept bilingual English Montrealers right at the top of the earnings pyramid in Montreal, Québec and Canada.
It has also given them such a unique access to federal public service jobs that in the West people complain that Canada has been hijacked by Montreal lawyers.
The language laws probably saved Montreal’s economy. Contrary to popular myth, the decline of Montreal as the economic center of Canada was well under way when English was the only language of business. Toronto had already caught up with Montreal by the 1940′s, a good quarter of a century before the Parti québécois came to power.
In those days Montreal was slowly becoming just another English-speaking town on the outer periphery of North America’s economic heartland. A Hartford or a Pittsburgh. By making French a central part of Montreal’s business and commercial life, bill 101 positioned our city as a unique bridge between two of the world’s most vibrant cultural and economic spheres.
A position it holds alone, without the shadow of a challenger, in North America or even the world.
So why should French have a special status?
Because that special status paid for your Lexus, biatch!
All newly arrived immigrants to Québec, especially the French-speaking ones, take down this number:
The above number is the complaints line for the Québec’s consumer protection agency: the Office de Protection des Consommateurs du Québec.
If you came to Québec under the impression that you were entering a thriving job market in need of your education and skills of if our were led to believe that your knowledge of French would be an advantage to you, you should call this number.
You were lied to.
If you read the Immigration Québec website you will read that: “According to labor market forecasts, 640,000 positions must be filled by 2008.” You will also read that the current unemployment rate for Montreal is 9,4%.
Actually, hum… no. Immigrants who’ve been in Montreal 1 to 5 years have an 18% unemployment rate. Three times that of native Montrealers.
The Immigration Québec website also informs you that “Québec is committed to preserving and promoting its official language. French represents not only an essential communication tool, but also a common symbol of belonging to Québec society.”
Again.. Apparently not. According to a new study by our good fried Jack Jedwab of the Center for Canadian studies, an allophone who only speaks French is two times and a half more likely to be unemployed than one who only speaks English. A bilingual immigrant only gets a statistically insignificant advantage of 0.4% over one who only speak English.
These are the French-speaking immigrants we were told were going to put an end to the demographic decline of French-speakers in Montreal and Québec. The ones that would be the easiest to integrate. Well, the above numbers tell me something is already going very wrong and that it’s time we address this problem before it catches fire.
We owe it to these guys. They left country and family to come here out of many possibilities in a very competitive immigration market because we told them we valued their skills, culture and language.
To increase immigration levels to 50 000 new people a year when 30% of North Africans can’t find work is a curious way of increasing the market value of immigrants who are already here. A cynical person might say it only serves to keep wages down for Québec’s struggling manufacturing sector.
What seem especially treacherous is that it is done at the expense of Francophones who were told that speaking French would be an advantage to them in Québec, and who will slowly realize that it is nothing more than an obstacle to their mobility, further reducing their market value.
Of course the idea is not that immigration is a bad thing and certainly not that we should stop encouraging Francophone immigration. Quite the contrary.
There are jobs out there and an enormous amount of people not being hired for these jobs. Is the problem discrimination? Racism? Education? I don’t know but it seems urgent that we find out.
I only suggest that perhaps the current economic news coming from the US could be the signal that the time might be appropriate to re-examine not only our immigration policy, but the use and value of French in the workplace, and ways to increase it.
We are now recruiting immigrants based on the job market we want, not the one we have. Employers are still demanding that employers speak English. Is it always necessary to do the actual job or is it only because, well, English kind of became the default common language in the office? Is it only because the Toronto office only writes reports in English? Is it only because it makes meetings more efficient?
The right to work in French is only very loosely enforced in Québec and not much thought has been given on how to harmonise that right with the internationalization of the markets. Those are complicated questions indeed in a global economy.
As we figure these things out, perhaps it could be time to ask ourselves how filling Montreal with young overqualified and underemployed poorly mobile young people lured into Québec under false pretences is a desirable move as we head into a recession?